Now is the worst possible time to buy a new game console
Gather ’round the fire, kids, and Grandpa Jason will tell you something he’s learned from his long, wasted years as a gamer.
This holiday season saw the launch of a brand new generation of game consoles. Now that the XBox One and PlayStation 4 are out, you might be thinking it’s time to turn in your old Xbox 360 or PS3 and pick up one of the New Shinies.
The worst possible time to buy a new game console is right when it first comes out. There is literally no upside to doing so.
Why? A few reasons:
- Price. New consoles are as expensive at launch as they will ever be during their lifecycle. As time goes on, they will only get cheaper; they usually drop to 50% or less of their launch price before their lifecycle ends. In other words, you’re paying a stiff novelty tax if you buy a console when it first comes out.
- Reliability. New consoles frequently have hardware bugs and glitches that aren’t really fully ironed out yet, like the XBox 360’s infamous “red ring of death.” There’s generally a revised version of the hardware released a year or two after launch that takes care of all these problems. So why pay for the privilege of being a beta tester? Let some other schmuck do that for you.
- Poor game library. New consoles typically ship with a few high-profile launch titles, but other than those, there’s nothing to play on them. It takes time for game developers to learn how to develop for new hardware, so the first year of a new console’s life is typically a wasteland of poorly-implemented ports from older systems and ambitious titles designed specifically for the new hardware that don’t really work quite right. Why buy a new console if it’s just going to gather dust while you wait for something good to come out for it?
What’s more, if you take all those issues and look at them from the other side, you discover that right now is the best possible time to buy an old game console. Last-generation systems are super cheap right now, because retailers want to clear out their unsold stock. Their hardware has gone through several generations of tweaks and revisions, so all the problems they had at launch are long since resolved. And there’s an absolutely huge library of great games available for them — many of which you can pick up for pennies now, by buying used through channels like eBay from junior high school ADD cases who are frantically dumping their whole libraries to raise enough money to buy a New Shiny.
The only reason I can think of to buy a new-generation console today is because you absolutely positively cannot wait a few months. Which, not to put too fine a point on it, but what the hell? We’re talking about video games here, not dialysis machines. Nobody ever died because they had to wait six months to play the latest Call of Duty.
So: if you’re an impatient person with poor impulse control and more money than you know what to do with, go ahead and splash out on the New Shiny. Everyone else, your money is better spent enjoying the cream of the last generation while you wait for the next generation to get its act together.