By now, you’ve probably seen Sony’s PlayStation 4 press conference, which took place a week and a half ago. You’ve gotten a glimpse of the slick new controller, seen the amazing footage of Watch Dogs and InFamous: Second Son. You’ve seen the Twitter, Facebook, and forum posts all saying the same thing, “DAY ONE!” You’ve checked your budget and figured that by scrimping and saving you will be able to afford the PlayStation 4 when it launches. Now, all you need to do is pre-order your system.
Not so fast there, champ.
While it is enticing to have the PlayStation 4 (or any system for that matter) right at launch, it may be beneficial to hold off on your decision. Not that the system won’t be worth owning, mind you (I know I’m getting one). But, by using this past generation as a guide, early adoption may not be the best idea, especially if you’re gaming on a budget. Now, I know the PS4 isn’t available for pre-order yet through any American retailers (though it is in the UK), but here’s why you might want to hold off on pre-ordering even when you can.
The PlayStation 3 launched with $500 and $600 price tags – and that was with a paltry hard drive (at least by today’s standards). Almost twenty months later, Sony dropped the price of the 60 GB model by $100.00. I know that several components were removed, such as backwards compatibility, so the value of the system is really in the eyes of the buyer. Purely from a financial perspective, though, a price drop that big is always appreciated. A year after that, Sony dropped the price of the 80 GB PS3 by another $100.00. Another year, another price drop. Eventually, the PS3 Slim released at $300 – half the price of the launch model.
That doesn’t just apply to the PS3. Microsoft dropped the price of the Xbox 360 by $50 almost two years after it first launched. And again a year after that. And again. Then, the Xbox 360 S was announced, with added wi-fi. I was also one of the fortunate few to pick up a 3DS at launch, and look how that turned out (but at least I got a ton of free games out of it). So history shows us that by just waiting, you can obtain the system for a much lower price. But you’re not just benefiting from the lower price. You’re also getting a much more reliable system.
It’s very sad to say, but I consider myself lucky that I’ve only had to buy one replacement Xbox 360. Some gamers have it much, much worse. Releasing a flawed system is not a good way to instill faith in your product. If I hadn’t already invested so much money in digital content, and had it not been on sale for $200 on Black Friday, I may not have purchased a second Xbox 360. Hell, the NES that I got for Christmas in 1987 still works to this day. Yeah, I know systems today are much more complex, but the fact remains that the Red Ring of Death pissed off many a gamer. Microsoft did offer to fix the affected systems with an extended three-year warranty, but unfortunately mine, and many others, died after that warranty expired. Thankfully the Xbox 360 S alleviated that problem, and now we have a much more stable console.
The PlayStation 3 is not perfect, either. Although nowhere as close as common as the Red Ring, the Yellow Light of Death forced some gamers to re-buy their system as well. Again, Sony took the necessary measures to make sure this didn’t happen to future systems. I’m sure that the hardware manufacturers are learning from their mistakes and taking extra precautions for this generation, but you never know what could happen. The point here is that by being patient, you can let the early adopters be the guinea pigs and you reap the benefits. I know had I waited I would have saved myself $200. Which brings me to my next point.
PS3 Slim. PS3 Super Slim. Xbox 360 S. 3DS XL. The weird Wii Mini that came out of nowhere. Going all the way back to the NES Top-Loader, systems have been under constant revisions. From fixing hardware issues and increasing capacity, to decreasing energy consumption and system size, these improvements resulted in a much more reliable system. I picked up my PS3 Slim in 2011 (ironically a week before my 360 RROD’d on me) and haven’t had a single issue with it.
When the PS3 and Xbox 360 launched, their hard drives didn’t top 60 GB. Now, the systems are well over 300 GB in capacity. The explosion of digital content this generation showed us all that a large hard drive is a necessity. My PS3 Slim’s robust 120 GB hard drive couldn’t even handle one year of PlayStation Plus membership. It would be ridiculous if a system today launched with a sub-100 GB hard drive. Wii U, I’m barely giving you a pass only because you allow external hard drives. Point being, by waiting, I was able to double my hard drive space for half the price. And you can guarantee that it’s going to happen again. Granted, Sony is definitely choosing the right path with their cloud service, so that is definitely a step in the right direction.
The advantages of holding off on your purchase don’t stop at the system. If you give it a few years, the prices of games will be significantly lower. You can pick up two or three games for the price of one if you only wait. Retail prices of games these days drop faster and faster. Just look at Dead Space 3. Only a few weeks after release, the title was temporarily marked down to $39.99. Add this to the fact that most systems come bundled with games after a couple years, and you’ve got yourself a sizeable catalog at a fraction of the cost. Some of my favorite games this generation were in the InFamous series. The God of War franchise is one of the best exclusives for the system… now look at the bundles. The InFamous Collection and God of War Saga are about half the price of a regular, $60-game. That’s an amazing deal for three and five games, respectively.
At this point, I’m sure you’re saying, “Yeah, waiting a year or two makes sense financially, but what am I supposed to do while I wait for the inevitable price drop and revision?” Well, that’s easy.
Attack Your Backlog
How big is your backlog? Mine is about twenty games deep, not counting all the digital games and PlayStation Plus perks. This generation of video games is the longest we’ve ever had. There were a lot of quality games released over the past seven years, and I’m sure you haven’t played all of them. Have you tried Dark Sector? It wasn’t perfect, but it was still a great game. And you can get it at GameStop for only $2.99! What about Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet? Anyone who enjoys the “Metroidvania” type of game would love this one. Look at the bevy of HD Collections that came out as well. That’s three or four games loaded into one package! Your wait will not seem so bad when you look at all the games you’d be missing out on if you bought your system early. Not only will you be able to catch up to your backlog, but by the time you’re done, all the best games for the next-gen systems will be at a much lower price.
But Don’t Pre-Order Yet…
If this generation taught us anything, it’s that those who waited to buy their system got the most out of their purchase. At the same time, owning a brand new system at launch is what we all, as gamers, really want. It’s very tempting to be first in line to pick up that brand new system when it hits. To be among the chosen few to play those launch games. To be the envy of your neighbors, your co-workers, the other kids. Your heart says “Go get it now!” but your mind (and your wallet) tell you it may be better to wait. If you do wait, though, it won’t be easy. You’ll be watching from the sidelines as everyone else gets to play the brand new games first. You have to tiptoe around forums, hoping nobody spoils an important plot point. Early adopting has its advantages, and you certainly aren’t making the wrong choice by buying a launch system. Ultimately it’s your choice: if you have the income and the passion, then go for it. You don’t have to abandon your current systems just yet; they’ve still got some life left in them. But if you’re like me, and want the most bang for your buck, it may be in your best interests to give it some time. It may be time well spent.