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How video game companies exploit the holiday season

Dec. 29, 2017
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Ah, yes, merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, etc: ‘tis the season to be with family and give gifts. For some of us, those gifts may or may not include video games and accessories for them. But those winter-season buying spurts have effects few of us consider. 

As we all know, Cyber Monday and Black Friday are two days where retailers like Walmart and Gamestop go crazy with sales. People push, shove, and line up at least an hour before opening. Once, I lined up at Gamestop when I was younger in the name of that cheap PS4 and Fallout 4 bundle. The price had been cut by something like $100. Crazy, right? Well, guess what:

The PS4 remained the same price after Christmas. That’s right—gaming companies typically use Black Friday to kick off permanent price slashes instead of offering limited-time deals. 

It’s an old trick: they mark Black Friday by releasing new, expensive products (like Game of the Year editions of certain games), while dropping prices of older product in the name of a “Black Friday deal.” And they make money this way, because we fall for it every time: we rush out to buy something that will be that price—or lower!—for years to come. Do you know what else that means? 

Companies release overhyped games with limited mechanics and old ideas just in time to have their prices cut on Black Friday, then they release the good ones normal price. 

Because these companies know the money is almost guaranteed, they release overhyped knockoffs of big-name games: first person shooters that try to be Call of Duty; sports games that wish they were NBA2K; adventure games that dream of being Tomb Raider. And it goes deeper—many gamers feel buyer’s remorse after Black Friday purchases because they spent all of their money on these wannabe games while the good ones are released after for regular price. In short: congratulations, you rushed and bought a low-quality game instead of the real triple-A game, all because a company told you to do so! But it isn’t your fault; after all, your mind isn’t designed to rip people off—theirs is. This year, do yourself a favor and wait until January: get good games for close to the same price online. 

I wish that was all of it, but it isn’t. There is another aspect to talk about—the politics of pre-ordering. Yes, some people are so concerned about getting their games or game system immediately upon release that they order ahead. Let me break this down for you: 

  1. You pre-order.
  2. The game designers put in less effort because they already have your money—for example, they will only add what they show in the commercials, in the process making other parts DLC or just taking them out to save money. You know how sometimes you’ll see an ad for a horror movie and get excited, only to discover that the movie isn’t scary because the ad had all of the scary parts? It’s like that.
  3. They release parts of the core game as DLC instead because they know you preordered the season pass.

With this new knowledge in mind, and with the post-Christmas sales now upon us, all I ask is that you think before you buy. Don’t feed the machine. Every person not buying is another person speaking out against the monopoly these companies have!