Sometimes, you don’t know how much you want something until you realize it may have already slipped through your fingers. That’s what I told myself on Saturday, as sunk-cost fallacy convinced me to feverishly calculate how much it would cost to buy a Warframe suit that had been completely free less than an hour prior.
Warframe players had a lot of reasons to be excited over the weekend. TennoCon, the game’s annual (and temporarily online) convention, heralded the arrival of big news about the MMO-shooter’s upcoming Heart of Deimos expansion, which will include a new open world with randomized underground passages created by giant worms locked in an eternal struggle that also dictates the planet’s day/night cycle. No, I’m not making any of that up. For folks who aren’t all the heck about giant worms, there will also be new customization options that let players transfer powers between different frame by feeding them to a slobbery flesh-mouth. The expansion launches on August 25, but to tide players over, developer Digital Extremes also gave away free items throughout TennoCon’s series of Twitch presentations. You just had to watch certain sections of the event for 30 consecutive minutes.
The first drop window lasted for most of the day, so claiming the Athodai Hand-Cannon, a powerful sidearm, was a piece of cake. I ended up watching the stream for over two hours during the Hand-Cannon’s drop window. I’ve only been playing Warframe for a couple weeks, so lore-laden panels on art and sound design didn’t really feel like they were for me. But they were enjoyable enough—and, more importantly, I didn’t want to take any chances.
But then I, a fool, took chances. TennoCon’s other big Twitch drop window was briefer. Near the end of the day, Digital Extremes hosted TennoLive, the portion of the show in which it announced all that good, gooey worm stuff (and other news). This lasted only one hour, but players still needed to tune in for 30 consecutive minutes if they wanted to claim Hydroid Prime, a free mega-powered version of a frame that’s not easy to come by otherwise. In Warframe, acquiring new Frames isn’t as simple as looting a conspicuously well-kept set of armor from a monster’s bottomless gullet. You have to figure out how to construct each individual part (which is sometimes literally impossible, when it comes to Prime frames), scour the galaxy for resources, and then wait literal days as a forge aboard your ship assembles your new gear. The payoff is worth the wait; frames play very differently from one another. But it’s still quite a wait. Instant gratification in the form of, say, a fully-assembled Prime version of a frame, then, is rare indeed.
TennoLive began, but I ended up having to step away for what I thought would only be a few minutes. It was fine, I figured. My browser was open to Twitch. I was still “watching” the event. Nothing had gone awry all day, after I’d spent multiple hours actually watching the event, so what could possibly go wrong now?
I returned to my computer at around the 45-minute mark of TennoLive. My screen was dark. My PC was in sleep mode. It should not have been. My guess, at this point, is that one of our cats stepped on the power button (or the exact right series of keys on my keyboard) while taking a casual stroll across my desk. In any case, I had no way of knowing if I’d successfully watched for 30 consecutive minutes, or if my PC had gone to sleep before then. I feared the worst. I was furious.
This, some tiny voice cut through my din of rage to say, was not normal for me. I don’t usually care much about in-game items or giveaways. But thanks to the pandemic, I’ve been spending a lot more time with Warframe than I normally would. At this point, I care perhaps more than I should about my very good space ninja son and his box of interplanetary toys. When it’s impossible to accomplish much in the real world, you set your sights elsewhere, I suppose. On top of that, I’ve been trying to play the game in as self-directed of a manner as possible, but one side effect of that is that even though I was nearing the 40-hour mark at that point, I still only had one complete frame. I wanted a new frame, darn it. Plus, hadn’t I earned it? I’d watched so much of TennoCon. Who cares if, due to an unfortunate twist of fate, they weren’t the exact right parts?
So that’s how I found myself furiously Googling both how to purchase in-game items from other players via a third-party site and how much it would cost me in real dollars to acquire a frame that’d just been free. It would’ve only been around $5—not too bad until you factor in the shame tax. As I researched, I worried that whoever I bought the full set from would judge me. Everybody knew, after all, that Hydroid Prime had just been free. What kind of moron buys one using an in-game currency that’s worth actual money mere moments later? What kind of clumsy, spaghetti-pocketed chucklefuck screws up such an easy golden opportunity to get a free frame?
But then, aha, I came up with a mental justification: Perhaps these sellers would think I was being savvy, buying up Hydroid Primes when demand was at its lowest so I could later manipulate the market and turn a profit. Yes, I hoped desperately, clutching my few remaining shreds of pride like a moth-eaten safety blanket, that is definitely the exact thing they would think. And of course, they certainly wouldn’t just sell me the item, be happy they made some quick money, and not think about me at all. That would be far too reasonable.
About three-fourths of the way through this process, I was gripped by the calming, masseuse-like hand of common sense. I logged into Warframe, you see, and players were complaining that they hadn’t received their Hydroid Primes yet. Traffic had overwhelmed Digital Extremes’ servers, so the process of distributing the frames was taking a while. This in mind, I decided to wait before purchasing one. There was still hope that one might magically show up in my in-game inbox.
I logged in yesterday and checked my space closet expecting to find nothing but the same old well-worn ninja pajamas. To my surprise, I discovered in my inbox a fully assembled Hydroid Prime. It sounds like Digital Extremes widened the eligibility parameters a little bit, so in the end, after a mental spiral that began with a spell of bad luck, I lucked out.
But was it all worth it, you ask?
Yes. Yes it was. I now have a frame that summons tentacles from the ground and dangles enemies aloft like some kind of horrible hentai monster. It’s dope.