It’s Monday and time for Ask Kotaku, the weekly feature in which Kotaku-ites deliberate on a single burning question. Then, we ask your take.
This week we Ask Kotaku: Do you usually buy consoles near launch?
As a kid, new consoles were a rarity in my household. It’s funny telling people that I basically went from the Super Nintendo to the original Xbox with just a couple of handhelds in between. It’s a total first-world problem, but I missed out on a lot of stuff that served as foundational experiences for other video game people.
Only recently have I started to fill in that backlog. A few years back I bought a PlayStation 2 and a PlayStation 3, and I’ve enjoyed going back to fill in the gaps of my knowledge. But this is the first console generation where buying these plastic doo-dads is almost a requirement for me to do my job. I plan to get a PlayStation 5 as soon as possible; I need it for work, and the Demon’s Souls remake looks too good to miss.
Before now, I mostly only bought Nintendo consoles at launch. My folks surprised me with a Wii for acing my SATs in high school—they were still super hard to find at that point—and I was excited to grab a Wii U when that came out, if only for the promise of some great first-party games. I vividly remember worrying that my local Target would sell out, both because of Nintendo’s perpetual inability to meet demand and the employee allowing the guy ahead of me to purchase a huge stack of Wii Us. I assume he was banking on the console being as hard to find as the Wii and making a quick buck. He must have been disappointed.
I guess that’s my long way of saying, “It’s complicated.” My little Switch has served me well so far, but there’s always the worry of buying a launch console and running into early adopter problems like software bugs and hardware malfunctions. Crossing my fingers that the upcoming $500 behemoths have a smooth launch.
These days I tend not to. But I used to, sometimes. As a kid I was privileged enough to receive Game Boy, SNES, Sega CD, PlayStation, and N64 around their respective Christmases. So those’d count.
The first launch-hardware I bought with my own money was 1994’s Atari Jaguar; a magazine of questionable repute had tricked me into thinking people should have them. Launch day! That took some coming to terms with. Then on September 9, 1999 I drove two hours each way to retrieve a Dreamcast at a slight discount. The hapless indie store was out of the promised Soul Calibur, but Hydro Thunder, Sonic Adventure, and a beat-up copy of N64 Mischief Makers sufficed. As far as launch satisfaction goes, Dreamcast was tops. The rural driving adventure felt justified.
That was it for a long time. My first nerd-job imported a launch PS2 in March 2000, which was a sobering experience that sapped any potential excitement for the American launch. Later that year said job wanted me to score a retail one anyway, which is how, on October 26, I found myself trying to nap in a flower bed outside of Best Buy. A low point on several fronts.
For 360 and PS3 I didn’t yet have an HDTV, so waited. Wii inspired a last-minute bout of FOMO so I found myself lined up outside a Sears (RIP) at 7 a.m. I won a drawing to purchase one of the six Wiis they’d received! I should have just given it to the hopeful mother I’d been chatting with but instead I went home with Twilight Princess, which I didn’t really care for. Bad karma. Finally, I made the same FOMO mistake with PlayStation 4, my least-played major console to date. (I only use it for exclusives.)
PS5 or Xbox Series X? Nah, not yet. A few months ago I felt like 20% FOMO on PS5 but then Sony revealed the design and I was promptly cured. Bring on the inevitable slim. In the meantime, AMD’s Zen 3 means it’s finally a good time to build another forever-PC.
Just as a Delta flight must come with a screaming baby, a new console generation, apparently, must come with a new Assassin’s Creed. In 2013, with the launch of the PlayStation 4 (and some less-reliable black box), it was Black Flag. Back then, the question was: Do I want to plunder the Caribbean as a 16-abbed pirate with ocean-bleached hair? Or do I want to plunder the Caribbean as a 16-abbed pirate with ocean-bleached hair in high definition? That’s a simple question with a simple answer. What do you think I did?
We’re fast approaching another console generation and, potential delays notwithstanding, another Assassin’s Creed. I’ll be honest: It’s less clear-cut this time around. I haven’t seen a good case as to why Assassin’s Creed Valhalla will be a meaningfully better experience on PS5 compared to PS4. (Yes, Assassin’s Creed’s performance is my metric now.) I’m sure it will load faster and look prettier on next-gen machines. But it’ll still perform just fine on my PS4. I’ll still be able to terrorize Ancient London with my Viking-y ways. And I won’t have to spend multiple weeks of rent to do so.
New York City’s eviction moratorium expired at the start of the month. It feels like, every Friday, we hear more news about more of our talented colleagues across the digital media industry suffering merciless layoffs in the middle of a horrifically mismanaged global pandemic. So maybe I’ll pick up Assassin’s Creed Mars for the PS6. But given the current circumstances, it’s wait-and-see for the PS5 (and whatever that other next-gen box is called).
I began working for Kotaku in November of 2006, weeks away from the launch of the PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii. Since then then I’ve managed to get a hold of every new console released by Nintendo, Sony, or Microsoft on day one. I cannot abide the thought of working in this industry without having the means to play the latest games as best as possible. I’ve got the PlayStation 5 pre-ordered. I am hoping to possibly review the Xbox Series X, but we’ll see what happens. If not, I’m sure I will find some way to justify the cost in our family’s meager budget. I mean, I can always write it off on my taxes, right?
There have been times when I’ve made the conscious decision to ignore a new console launch. Every new iteration of the 3DS—the XL, the 2DS, the New 2DS XL—I felt as if I could safely skip without losing out on new games. Each time, as the release date approached, I would develop incredible FOMO. We’re talking anxious sweats, an empty feeling in the pit of my stomach. I did manage to at least avoid buying the original 2DS, but I was at several stores on launch day and held several of them in my hand. I’m sure one even got into my shopping cart before I talked myself down.
That’s why I am really looking forward to November’s new consoles. Once I acquire them I can stop worrying about having the latest hardware and go back to worrying about every damn thing else.
When I was younger, my parents would buy my brother and me new consoles a few months or years after they had been released, usually for Christmas. In the latter case they were cheaper, had more games, and the games were usually cheaper too. And as a young kid, I didn’t care. I didn’t know I was playing an old console. I was happy to be gaming. But as I grew up and started reading gaming mags and checking online news, I became more aware of the new consoles and how much they would cost.
For a long time, I would scrape together money, some borrowed, some from selling games, and some from working with my Dad doing construction. That’s how I got an Xbox 360. (Remember layaway?) It took me months of saving and payments, but I got it eventually, about five months after the console came out. The PS4 was the first console I ever got on launch day, and I barely pulled it off. But today things are different. I have more money, a steady job, and savings. So I decided, some months ago, to safely and responsibly budget away enough cash to buy both new machines at launch. Why? Well, for two main reasons.
First, I can do it. It feels good to finally be at a place in my life where I can afford some expensive dumb toys. I’m not rich, but I’m comfortable and I want to have a bit of fun after being so responsible. And secondly, because why not? 2020 sucks. 2021 will probably suck too. I rarely leave the house. I don’t get to see friends anymore. I’m worried about 200 things at all times and nothing seems to be improving quickly. So, buying two fancy new consoles at launch is a good way to have some fun and forget about all the bullshit. And for me, that’s worth $1200.
Hell no. The launch games are bad. The launch consoles often have first-run manufacturing flaws. Plus who just has hundreds of dollars lying around? Not I. At least not until seven years ago (oh my lord, how has it already been that long?) when the PS4 and Xbox One launched. I had a stable white-collar job, no mortgage, and no kids, so I decided to treat myself to a launch PS4 to help stave off the spiritual heat death that often accompanies doing bullshit office work. I just really needed to feel something, so I plopped down $400 to play Killzone Shadow Fall and marvel at its gorgeous magic-hours lighting effects. I don’t remember if I eventually did. What I can say is that nearly a decade later I got some real mileage out of this thing. My launch Switch also turned out to be regret-free, even if the Joy-Cons were busted.
After that I bought the New 2DS XL right when it came out. I sold my used purple 3DS on eBay the week prior to help pay for it. I still remember walking out of the mall’s GameStop during my lunch break beaming for no good reason. I’d be lying if I upgraded for any other reason than I liked the look of the shiny new thing. I think it was also a way of me making up for all the times I’d stared at Game Boy Advances and DS Lites in magazines knowing I’d never be able to get them when they came out. A home console and a handheld? Out of the question. Now I’m about to plop down $800 on next-gen hardware this November, and I still don’t even have a 4K TV.
Mostly that’s just because of my job. I think if it were still just a hobby I’d be happy to wait, especially since Spider-Man: Miles Morales and every other upcoming blockbuster I’m interested in is cross-gen. Having crossed “standing in line for a launch console” off my bucket list, I can get back to what I felt like as a kid when I was content to play good games when I got to them, no matter how much later than everyone else that ended up being.
How About You?
Kotaku’s weighed in, but what’s your take? Do you score your next-gen machines early, or play the longer game? And how come? Have your say. We’ll be back next Monday to deliberate and debate on another nerdy issue. See you in the comments!