The Digital Revolution in game distribution has grown our collections dramatically, causing gamers to suffer Overchoice when searching their backlogs for something to play, and to dread the thought of their “pile of shame”. But as much as it may feel like an unstoppable natural phenomenon, our game backlogs only grow when we buy new games.
Easy fix, right? Let’s just stop buying new games until we’re done with the ones we have! Theoretically, yes, but that approach is likely to fail for the same reasons you might not stick to an overly-aggressive diet. A more sustainable, moderate approach is likely to yield better results. We’ll consider why we sometimes choose to buy new games instead of playing the ones that we already have, and then discuss some tips for making well-informed purchasing decisions.
Why do we buy?
The release of a highly-anticipated game is an exciting community event. Fans of a studio or franchise follow the development of a game from the first rumors of an announcement, with each new bit of information or preview content generating endless discussion. On release day, the wait is over and discussion shifts instantly from speculation to breathless analysis of the new game’s strengths and weaknesses, innovations and shortcomings. Fans who are part of such a community may feel compelled to play a new release sooner rather than later out of a desire to experience the game alongside with everybody else and be a part of the conversation.
Getting in during this period of heightened enthusiasm can feel particularly important for games with a strong focus on social multiplayer. For co-operative games like Destiny, The Division, or Sea of Thieves, it may be easier to get friends to play while it’s still fresh and novel, before they play it without you or move on to the next shiny new thing.
Even aside from social or community pressures, gamers may be tempted by the desire to be playing the games with the most cutting-edge graphics, especially if they’ve already invested in the latest and greatest hardware. (How did we ever play games without 4K HDR anyway?)
New releases are exciting, but community hype is a result of marketing and only reflects what people expect or hope that a game will be, not its actual quality. More than a few games have launched in a state that doesn’t align with community expectations. Even if a game ultimately does earn critical and popular acclaim, tastes differ and one person’s favorite game will utterly disappoint or frustrate another. It’s worthwhile to take the extra time to do your research about a new game to determine whether it’s something that you, yourself, will really enjoy.
We have greater access to game content than ever before, so there’s seldom a reason to go in blind. Before you buy, consider checking out some reviews, gameplay videos, or Twitch streams. Even if you want to avoid “spoiling” the game for yourself by learning too much, some basic due diligence can help you avoid the costly mistake of spending time and money on something we don’t end up liking.
Even if a game looks great and you’re confident that you’ll love it, you might not want to buy it right away. The reason we have game backlogs is that we don’t always play through new games as soon as we get them. Before buying a new game, ask yourself whether you’re actually going to play it immediately. At launch, games are the most expensive that they will ever be. If you’re unlikely to play a game before it goes on sale, it’s almost certainly better to wait until you are ready to play it.
…and even then you might want to consider waiting.
I know, I know, but consider this: a lot of games receive additional post-release content in the form of DLC (downloadable content) that is later bundled together with the base game in a “Complete” or “Game of the Year” edition, often without the individual pieces of DLC ever being discounted. Even if the base game is on sale for a significantly reduced price, you might end up paying more for all of the content than if you waited for the bundle.
That isn’t to say you should always wait for a better deal! As a rule, games continue to get cheaper over time, but getting to play a game now rather than later has value as well. The important thing is to make an informed and rational decision about when it makes sense to buy in.
Checking your Hype
The question we should ask ourselves when a new game comes out isn’t whether or not it’s worth $60. (Quite often, the answer is yes!) Rather, we should ask ourselves whether the experience of playing that new game now is worth $60 more to us than the experience of playing some other game from our backlog.
I could buy Spider-Man or God of War tonight with almost complete confidence that I would have a great experience worth the price of admission. On the other hand, if there is even one game in my collection that I haven’t finished and am equally as excited to play, I could pocket the money and be just as happy.
A useful way to make these types of decisions is by maintaining a prioritized wishlist and backlog. Our wishlist consists of the games that we don’t have but want to play, so prioritizing it helps us keep track of the games that we most want to add to our collections. If you also maintain a prioritized backlog including the games that you do have and most want to play, then you’ll always be equipped to make an informed decision about whether buying and playing a new game is really the best use of your limited money and gaming time.
To make this easy, AllMyGames supports adding your wishlisted games to your prioritized backlog so you can keep better track of which games you’re most excited to play, across all platforms, whether or not you already own them.
As exciting as it is to play a brand new game at release, it can be even more rewarding to finally play a game you’ve been overlooking for months or even years. Your next favorite game might not be in the store, it could already be in your library!