Once again this morning I am sitting down to write about what I did last night… but finding it that I can’t really discuss anything I did last night. As a result I am searching the depths to find a topic to talk about that doesn’t break those three magical letters… N, D and A. The big news today… are things I don’t really want to talk about… so I want to talk instead about a few paradigm shifts that have really made a difference in my life, and changed the way I look at things.
Steam Sale Season
Right now it is essentially Christmas for PC gamers… because the ever increasingly insane Steam digital distribution sale is going on. For the last three summers, Steam has brought us PC titles discounted as much as 80% off retail price and quite frankly I have gotten used to this concept. What the Steam sale has done for me… is made me realize that if I wait a bit… I don’t have to pay the retail price for a game. While this concept seems simple… it has permeated the way I view gaming in general.
Essentially I have reach a point where most games just are not worth the ubiquitous $60 price tag. They are worth something to me… enough so that I wouldn’t even dream of pirating a game these days… unlike the heady college days of downloading whatever I could get my hands on. The problem is… the amount of money I am willing to pay is far from what the game companies want to charge.
It is like I have developed these containers in my head and as something comes out I immediately slot the title into one of them based on my interest. The first bucket is… that I want the title at release and am willing to preorder it. This bucket seems to have the least number of titles that fall into it… and is reserved for those game series that I absolutely love and will happily consume anything that is released as part of it. See The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, and Bioshock’s of the world.
The second bucket is… I am interested in the game, but only willing to buy it if the price drops. This is a larger group of games, and most of these are things I think I would like but don’t necessarily align to my “favorite” types of games. I am always looking for a deal… and I am willing to entertain these games if a significant deal arrises. The third bucket is… I am interested in the game, but only willing to buy it on one of those insane steam summer sales. I am talking about when a $60 game sells for $4 type sale.
Finally of course there is a bucket that the game genres I just have no interest in. The odd result of all of this is that I only really pick up games if they are on sale. I find myself less and less willing to pay even $40 for a new game… but instead am willing to wait out the good deal. This has trickled down into all aspects of gaming… and I find it particularly jarring now that I have re-engaged with the console gaming world. A world where essentially you have three options… pay $60, wait for the red banded edition for $20 or buy them used.
Coming from the steam world… console gaming feels fundamentally broken. Most games are not worth $60 to me… and quite frankly a large number are not even worth $20. For console titles… I tend to snap them up when they are $15 or less… that is the price point I am comfortable taking the risk on. So as a result… I pretty much only buy my games from pawn shops and other non-gamestop used game sellers. All of this is 100% a direct result of the training that steam has given me… to always look for a deal… and that I can always get the game cheaper somewhere else.
Another huge shift for me was when I decided to pony up for the $70 a year that upgrades your Amazon account to Prime. The free video streaming sounded tantalizing… but quite honestly they are so far behind the curve in letting you filter the content… that we never end up using it. For me the real meat of the prime deal is the fact that it gives you free second day shipping on any item you order that supports the prime program. This has completely changed the way I look at shopping in general.
I have never been a big showroomer, in that I went to the store… and then ended up purchasing online. Quite honestly if I can skip the whole going to the store experience I will every time. The decision point always came down to… wether or not this was something I needed quickly. If so I would end up trekking out to Best Buy and dealing with the annoying blue shirt mafia just to get the item I needed. Instant gratification has a price… and it was both a monetary and annoyance price for me.
The thing that Amazon Prime does is change the equation entirely. How often do you actually need an item without a few days notice? I have come to realize that most of the time there are very few absolute emergencies that necessitate me going out to a store to buy something. Even in those situations… Prime members get a significant reduction in next day shipping as well. In almost every case over the last few days… I have been able to wait the few days it would take for it to arrive. Previously it used to take roughly a week to get an item from Amazon, but lowering that shipping time to two days… was a complete game changer.
The only negative effect is it drives my wife insane. She feels like we are always receiving a package from Amazon, but in every case… these things are items I would have had to go out to a store to purchase. I would much rather do my research online, do my price comparisons online… and finally order online. Being an introvert, anything that keeps me from having to deal with salesmen is always a positive. Additionally there are a lot of things I simply cannot get in a store around me. Tulsa is not exactly a huge market… for example the closest IKEA to us… is six hours away.
For example… yesterday while running around town we decided to pop into Ulta to see if they still had the pomade I use. It is the only product I have ever found that adds hold and body without making my hair feel “crunchy” like a gel. The stuff is fairly expensive, but it literally takes me 2-3 years to go through a container. After roaming around the store we finally asked a guy stocking the shelves… and he indicated that they no longer carry it.
Previously my choice would have been to find a new product, which involves a lot of trial and error and a lot of buying expensive containers that you end up not liking, or I could have gone to the other Ulta locations in town hoping that there was an off chance that one still had it on the shelves. Instead my wife whipped out her phone, looked it up on Amazon… and I will have my container here on Tuesday. Essentially knowing we have fast and free shipping on whatever we want to order has completely changed the flow of our purchase decisions.
The Next Thing
I am not sure what the future will bring and what new paradigm shift will come with it. I feel that television and movies are fundamentally broken right now. In order for them to survive they will have to come up with a new and more equitable system for the customers. A prime example is that my wife after returning from the forensics workshop wanted to watch some of those early episodes of CSI… back when it was more focused on the science and less on the interpersonal drama.
We got home… fired up Netflix… and while CSI Miami and CSI New York were available… the original was not. I checked Amazon Prime and the same thing was true. I fired up a trial account for Hulu Plus only to find they had access only to CSI Miami. If your television show is not available on any of the three major streaming services… you are essentially fucking over your fans. I checked Amazon, and it would have cost $1.99 an episode… or $24 a season. Quite frankly a television show is just not worth that to me, and I have no real desire to own media… I just want streaming access.
Instead we went out to a local used chain… Vintage Stock and paid $10 for a DVD copy of Season 1… and I am now in the process of ripping and converting them to digital format. All so we can consume the content in the way we choose. This entire process is broken… and hopefully someone will fix it. I feel like the whole concept of broadcast television is equally broken. Having to wait for a show to come on in the world on on demand streaming just feels extremely archaic.
Hopefully someone will come along and design a system that provides one subscription with all you can eat programming and make it work in a way that the old media dinosaurs can profit from. Ultimately companies are going to have to realize that some money is better than no money at all. Had we struck out on getting a used copy of CSI… I would have pirated the content out of spite. Essentially they gave me no legal means to stream their content. Customers want to give you their money, but they want to do it in a way that makes them feel like they are not getting bent over in the process.
Well we are just about to watch some of those said CSI episodes… but I have been delaying the process since I type much faster when I do not have to filter out the television. As a result my wife has been patiently waiting for me to finish up this post. I hope you all have a great Sunday, and that the start of the work week begins in a not too painful way. Mine will be a hassle since I was gone a full week.. and often times various bits of work stacks up waiting on me. Thankfully now that I have some awesome co-workers they tend to take care of 90% of it.