This may be a United Kingdom phenomena but it’s a growing trend that started as a novelty and is now almost the rule that all new video games follow.
Before I explain myself, let’s step back in time, not too far but just enough to set the scene. How far you say? 1 year? Not enough. 2 Years? Maybe just too far. OK, it’s not that important to be precise as it’s not an exact science anyway, but somewhere roughly between 12 months and 24 months ago UK gamers will have noticed the start of a worrying trend. I’m going to tag it the ‘£17.99 bargain theory’.
Initially it was a bonus when you found a gem at a bargain price, a retailer who took a chance with a loss leader by heavily reducing a recently released game in the hope that you bought a few more things when you logged on to buy their bargain of the month. Usually it was one of the exclusively online retailers with no high street overheads to cover that took this chance. Then rivals cottoned on to the popularity of this opportunity for bargain hunters and the “£17.99 bargain” started to spread like a virus. You could now guarantee that in the monthly online sales you would find a relatively recent release for £17.99 but inventory was limited to only a few and you had to be quick off the mark to secure your bargain. At this stage we are still dealing in the region of at least 6 months between release and the £17.99 threshold being breached. Six months is a long time to wait to play a game and most gamers would not have made the choice to wait 6 months in the hope they were lucky enough to grab one of these bargains. It is simply too long a time period and any spoilers would almost be impossible to avoid.
Now we get a bit closer to the present day and the reason behind this article. Those monthly sales are now weekly, ‘Monday Madness’, ‘Wacky Wednesday’ sales and you are now guaranteed at least one £17.99 headline bargain per platform and the inventory levels for the game is usually enough to last until the end of the sale. Every major retailer is at this so if you are patient you can almost guarantee that the major release you have been patiently waiting for will be £17.99 in one of them and if it’s not then you only have a week to wait until it starts all over again.
Sure I can hear you say that everything reduces in price over time and as long as you don’t want cutting edge technology of the latest version of a AAA game then anyone can end up paying far less than someone who bought it on Day 1. But, herein lies the issue and one that could ultimately hurt the gaming industry as more and more game buyers take the decision to wait and save a few pennies. The time period between release and a game hitting the magical £17.99 price is now 4 weeks! Take these as examples of big releases that in the past week have been on sale for less than £18. Alan Wake (Metacritic 83/100), Split Second (Metacritic 82/100), Blur (Metacritic 82/100), Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands (Metacritic 75/100). Not second hand but brand new versions. Four weeks is not a long time at all to wait to know that you can save at least 50% on a new release and with the volume of great titles released this year, you have loads to choose from to play while you wait.
More and more on forums I see a reply from someone stating that they are waiting until a game is £17.99 and the time they need to wait is now much much shorter. It’s fantastic for gamers as we can load up on games for bargainlicious prices but at what cost in the long run?
(As you were reading this, you may find that you are able to relate to this even if you live outside the UK and we’d love to hear your feelings and thoughts on the comments below).