Pomegranate Seeds

I can think of about half a dozen good games that I've played over the past ten years that I bought as soon as they were released. Going back all the way to the beginning of my illustrious gaming career, that number perhaps doubles.

For those of you who are counting, that's a dozen games in more than twenty years.

Now I'm willing to admit that my memory fails me from time to time, and that there might be a game or two from the past two decades that I'm forgetting, but the basic fact is that I just don't buy games when they first come out.

By way of an explanation, allow me to suggest the following equation:

Describe the number of games you'll be able to purchase this fiscal year as a solid integer X (GameGuru, please stay out of this). Now multiply that number by two.

2X

The result will be how many games I can buy relative to you, with the same amount of money just by waiting a few months.

2X = more_games

This suggests another equation.

If the original price of a game were expressed as ($$), time in months were expressed as (t) and the price of the same game after a few months were expressed as ($), then the following equation would hold true:

$ < $$

What's astounding to me is not the fact that the above equation is true, but that, knowing it is true, a lot of folks still shell out bodacious bucks for games and consoles as soon as they hit the shelves. As if exposure to the air will cause them to ferment and become less than what they were. When the truth is, as any good vintner will tell you, fermentation tends to make a great many things far more than what they originally were. But I digress ...

Perhaps there's some sense of satisfaction that comes with owning an item as soon as it's released that I'm incapable of grokking. Perhaps the joy of possessing a freshly pressed game is some mathematical constant which exponentially increases the owner's satisfaction factor. Or perhaps there is an equation which can explain the decay in excitement over a period of time for a game in the months that follow its release.

Let's see if we can work it out. Those of with your trusty Ti-80s, please follow along!

If the joy bestowed by a given game were represented as ( ), the amount of time the game has been available in weeks were represented as (t), the price of the game as ($), the quality of the graphics as (HD), a reviewer's circulation as (IGN), the amount of money spent by the publisher on advertising as (EA), the presence of multiplayer modes as (MP), the presence of celebrity voices as (Samuel_L_Jackson) and a license as (STARWARS), then the following equation may apply:

= [($ x HD) + (IGN x EA) + (MP x STARWARS)² + Samuel_L_Jackson] ÷ t

For some reason the above equation holds no sway over me. Perhaps because I have patience. That is why last week, when a lot of people were grabbing sixty-dollar copies of Kameo and Madden 06 for a console that hadn't even been released (grand total: US$120.00), I was in the EB buying pre-played (10% off thanks to my EBEdge card, thank you very much) copies of Resident Evil 0 and Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem for the GameCube (Grand total: US$25.00).

I played about three hours of RE0 that very same evening hoping for an experience somewhat similar to that of RE4 (which I enjoyed a lot more than I expected to) and was not entirely disappointed. RE4 was the first Resident Evil game I'd played since Code Veronica on the Dreamcast, and it was somewhat of a departure (which is why I enjoyed it so much). RE0 however is much more of a kind with the original (of which I played about three hours on the PS1 before losing interest). Same difficult control scheme, same stilted camera angles, same stupid typewriter-ribbon save system. The presentation is nice and the atmosphere is plenty scary though. I may play it through or I may not. Depends on how desperate I get this winter.

Although the real success story of my cheapo game buying spree is Eternal Darkness. In spite of some camera issues and one particular enemy (aptly named The Horror) that refuses to die no matter how many times I hurl my controller at it, Eternal Darkness is the best action/adventure game I have played in a long time. Not only is it fun to play, it is also apparently fun to watch. As evidenced by the fact that my girlfriend would repeatedly get up from the couch, retrieve my controller and hand it back to me so that she could watch me play more. Or die more as it were.

This is how we passed a leisurely Saturday evening. I would play, become engrossed in the story, revel in the gameplay and then get beaten down by The Horror, become horribly frustrated for a few minutes, take a potty break, refresh my cocktail and then get right back in the game.

The fact that I was simultaneously attempting to roast a slightly frozen 7-pound chicken (thereby delaying dinner until approximately midnight) probably contributed to the frustration level. So I'm willing to say that minus the Frozen Fowl Frustration Factor, Eternal Darkness is about as perfect a game as I've played recently.

Now imagine my surprise when I decided to save and shut down for the night and discovered (thanks to the handy counter on the save screen) that I'd only been playing for about six and a half hours and (if the reviews are to be believed, and this game truly does clock in at 20-90 hours) that I was potentially only one fifteenth of the way through the game. A game for which I spent only US$9.99.

This suggested yet another equation:

If Patience were represented as (pomegranate_seeds), the quality of a game as (awesome) and price as ($), then:

= (awesome x pomegranate_seeds²) - $

To those of you who who'll be spending the months ahead humping your Xboxen360, waiting for the interesting games to arrive or repeatedly slitting your wrists because of the shortages I say this: as you're looking at your bank balance attempting to justify the expenditure of almost $1000 (or more) for the right to possess that shiny yet relatively barren console, try not to dwell too much on the fact that next year I'll own that exact same console with the exact same games, perhaps with a better processor and definitely with a much, much lower price tag and will have spent the winter playing a back catalog of fresh, exciting games for the very first time. And, because I have patience, I'll be enjoying the experience a lot more.

Not that I'm bragging or anything. Happy Holidays!

Comments

Funny, the last game I bought immediately after release in ages was just two weeks ago, Civ IV of course. Not even Half-Life 2, the game I wrote my thesis on, was purchased just after release. It's probably due to this place I got into the hype, with all the pre- and post-threads filled with tha Civ passion. It's a social thing, of course. Being part of the group that plays it right of the bat, joining multiplayer sessions while it's still hot, keeping track of emerging game strategies and trying out others yourself.

That said, I absolutely love digging in the budget bin, hoping to find that one jewel that got over 90% in PCGameplay but never sold a copy because people are plain stupid. Just recently I found Startopia in a multimedia megastore for 10 euro's, a game I had never been able to find anywhere else. Magic! Yes, they call me Collector. Often, I don't even play these games for long. But I DID get a good deal on them, haha!

I'll probably get a EB gift card or two fro christmas... probably about $75-100 worth... Lets see thats 1.7 new games or probably 4 or 5 used. Gee I wonder which I'll be picking up... do I care that EB will make 10 times as much off me if I buy the used ones? of course I do! will it stop me from buying used? HELL NO!

I gotta get me one of those Edge cards! (Still $10?)

It's a passion of mine to find cheap ass games that I know I missed out on.

*slits wrists due to shortage*

Fletch, I could not agree more with your article. Very rarely will I buy a game right out of the shoot. Even the games I am over-the-top excited about must wait until they go down in price. Part of this has to do with the extremely tight household budget I have. But most of it has to do with me being a cheap SOB! I don't think that I have missed out on anything this way, though. I recently bought MoH:Rising Sun for under $15 and I am loving it. It's a great game at a great price. So, here's to you "Mr. Bargain Gamer Man."

I love shopping bargain bins! I've picked up Fatal Frame, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, and Chrono Cross all for $15 or less, and that's some great gaming there. I shudder whenever I pay more than $30 for a game, as if something inside me is going to kerplode. Probably my Jew-brand Cheapskate Alarm going off.

Are you sure you don't have a little Jew in you, Fletch? You want I should make you some kugel?

I'm right there with you, too. Civ IV was the first game I picked up fresh since WoW; I just can't bring myself to pay full price for something that'll drop soon. (Rome: Total War is a whole different story - it's dropped maybe $10 since it came out, driving me a little more mental every time I drop into a game store to see if it has dropped to a reasonable price yet.)

Thankfully, most of the rare times that I grab game at release, it's worth having; see WoW, still going strong a year later, and cIV, keeping me up and making me late for everything day after day after day...

I note that your "equations" fail to take into account the online-play-curve factor. This is how important to the player is the chance to play online with others. Excepting a few games like WoW, there is a definite drop-off of available players as the game gets older and newer ones "become shinier".

I, too, almost always wait for bargains or significant price drops before I purchase, having a general price point of $20/game, slightly adjusted by reviews.

However, I'm now finding that waiting isn't working out as well as it used to. Maybe the problem is that my $20 should now be adjusted up (for inflation?), but here are a selected list of games for which I have been waiting, and continue to wait. The price is the best one I've found to date, and need not be currently available at such.

Bard's Tale ($30) Jun 2005
Doom 3 ($30) Aug 2004
Fable: The Lost Chapters ($50) Sep 2005
F.E.A.R ($50) Sep 2005
Freedom Force vs. The Third Reich ($30) Mar 2005
Indigo Prophecy ($40) Sep 2005
Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords ($30) early 2005
Lego Star Wars ($30) Apr 2005
Myst V: End of Ages ($50) Sep 2005
Pariah ($40) May 2005
Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory ($30) early 2005

As you can see, I'll likely be waiting quite a few more months for these. None of these is newer than September and there has yet to be any noticable price change.

Thus, I must dispute your "wait a few months" and the price is half initial claim, at least for the better and more popular games.

Bargain Bins are the best. Usually my gaming budget goes like this. I search around for bargain bin games for a few months, find some gems, and love every minute of it. Then I get some money or some shiny new releases, go crazy and spend the equivalent of 6 months of bargain bin gaming on like 3 games, then hate most of them. I usually have way more fun with bargain bin gaming.

Finally, the thread to unite all misers!!

My rule for years, like croaker, has been to spend no more than $20/game. For some I only have to wait a few months. For gems like Beyond Good & Evil, not even that. For others, as croaker states, its an inordinately long wait. Doom 3 and Half-Life 2 being prime, although somewhat understandable, examples. I find it more confusing that good adventure games (yeah, both of them) want to stay high longer. Syberia was $40 until Syberia II came out, 2 years later. SII is still $30-40

But I agree that online play seems to be the cattleprod that causes the spastic leap to the head of the check-out line for so many gamers. And maybe its me, but it seems even more prevalent with console games, where there's a much more social aspect to gaming. I'm a PC gamer, and my social gaming comes from online, not my living room. So I'm finding my own community once I get around to forking over my crumpled up, hard won 20-spot. If you want the biggest community (obviously MMORPGs being the exception to this), you need to jump on the bandwagon fast. BF2 seems to be a great example of this. How many folks are still playing BF 1942? I can attest that, while picking up the original Tribes was a steal 24 months after release, the online play was, shall we say, like finding a Republican at an Al Franken book signing.

And I find the bottom line for me is that I enjoy the bargain shopping as much as the game, half the time. I don't mind hating a game I paid $7 for. I HATE not finishing (read, playing a second time) the game I got for $50.

Now to go finish Magic Carpet 2.

I hate to be the bearer of logic, but your math is faulty Fletch.

A number multiplied by itself is that number squared (X^2), not that number doubled (2X).

To clarify, let X = 10.

2X = 20
X^2 = 100

Not even close. Just, you know, for the other math/logic geeks.

duckilama wrote:

I hate to be the bearer of logic, but your math is faulty Fletch ...

You're clearly mistaken

This was a fun and timely read, Fletch. Thanks for writing it.

Also: You bastard! I was totally going to incorporate "pomegranate seeds" in the title of one of my upcoming articles. No joke.

Lobo wrote:

Also: You bastard! I was totally going to incorporate "pomegranate seeds" in the title of one of my upcoming articles. No joke.

Sorry I was thinking on patience and winter and Persephone was the first image to come to mind. That's one of the hazards of working with other classics scholars I suppose

KaterinLHC wrote:

Are you sure you don't have a little Jew in you, Fletch? You want I should make you some kugel? ;)

I must have had some influence on you! I must have had some influence on you! Great article! The game really was great but the Horror sucked! I thought the worst part though was when you die it plays a screen explaining how you failed and the Darkness will take over and you have to wait like 5 minutes before you can load the game and try again.

Oops... Double post...

princesspeach wrote:
KaterinLHC wrote:

Are you sure you don't have a little Jew in you, Fletch? You want I should make you some kugel? ;)

I must have had some influence on you!

Aha! I knew there was some Jewyness going on here. I have Jewdar.

I think it would be more correct to say that I occasionally have a little of me inside of a Jew, but let's not split hairs

I never buy a game just at release. Even if it is close to release I wait for the sale papers to see who is going to have it at least $10 cheaper then the other places. I know it takes lots of time and money to design and produce these games but I'm too cheap to pay for it. I have to justify to myself "and my wife" why I would pay so much for a game.

My biggest issue though is, If I do find that game that I really like and did purchase I then always want to upgrade my computer in one way or another. Thats what hurts my pockets and the back of my head as my wife slaps it.

I do love finding the bargain game at <$10 at EB. and you dont have to pay extra for the dust.

let's not split hairs

Small enough to split hairs...surely you jest Fletch!?!

You know they have procedures to fix that now...fletch...? you there?

Also, not to be mean or anything, but that formula looks very premature - you fail to account for variables such as TT (the tease factor where you can post in the forums with those that have a game vs those that will have the game a year from now), the ID constant, represented as a value found somewhere between 0 and 2 that determines whether or not your experience will be more challenging to become a master at it before all the guides and walkthroughs are out, and the variable of BuRNz, which is a variable based on a detailed chart, whereas the consumer's satisfaction is decreased over time each time he buys a TA follow on, or Meat Puppet, or GC2 at full retail, and can never part with the knowledge that he paid full price for sh*t...

You also failed to to normalize your last equation, since (pomegranate_seeds) and the (awesome) variables are factors that must be converted to $$$, or you can't then subtract $. And if so, then must be in Dollars, but then if your satisfaction is in $$, does that in effect make us all prostitutes to the gaming industry --- and if we are all prostitutes, would you not rather have a fresh hooker than one that was used by half the gaming industry --- although, then variables must come into play with whether you like a mature experienced hooker or a twentysomething with little if any experience. This is complicated by factors such as hair color and the ability to properly appreciate a brazilian wax job...but I digress...

I used to have a barrier at $30, but a string of really good games coupled with good times with GWJers online has sort of removed that barrier.

Games I've bought in the last year or so:
Joint Ops: 48 hour madness ~$35
WoW: ~$50 x2
GuildWars: ~50 x2
CoH: ~$20 x2(I think, might have been $30)
BF2: $50
Civ4: $50 x2 (would happily have paid $60)
Burnout3: $50

And that's about it. For a couple of years. So, I figure, I'm not playing a lot of games, I just play games a lot, and since I shoot for quality over quantity, I'm ok with paying full price for the few games I do play, especially if that means I get to play with the GWJers from day 1ish. If I played enough games that I was buying a new one every month, I'd probably be more vigilant about the bargain bin, or at least waiting for the 48-hour Madness, but as it is, it's just not worth it to me. I'd rather play online with friends than save $20.

What are you spending that extra money on anyway, fletcher, world peace?

What are you spending that extra money on anyway, fletcher, world peace?

I am going to take a wild guess here and say, food, water, rent, power etc. You know the non essentials.

souldaddy wrote:

What are you spending that extra money on anyway, fletcher, world peace?

Extra money? What the hell are you smoking? I work in theater, bub. I'm lucky to get paid at all.

mmmm, pomegranates.

Great to see you back to writing front page articles Fletch, you truly are putting in some overtime at the virtual offfice, and I hope it's duly rewarded in your Christmas bonus. I earmarked my donation for that, just so you know. That alone should push you up into the lower double digits.

Oh, and leave it to Pigpen to go from gaming to prostitutes in a single post, although at first I thought I was gonna have to admonish him for any implied agression toward Fletcher. Besides, it's not correct to say that a prostitute's satisfaction is measured in $$, it's more like someone ELSE's satisfaction is measured in $$, so there's where you went wrong PP. Clearly, the manufacturers are the prostitutes, we're the Johns and Johnnas. I think we all know who the pimps are.

croaker wrote:

Bard's Tale ($30) Jun 2005
F.E.A.R ($50) Sep 2005
Pariah ($40) May 2005
Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory ($30) early 2005

Prices at which these games' cost = value:
Bard's Tale $10
F.E.A.R. $30
Chaos Theory $60

I might be a little biased towards games that allow me to shoot at semi-intelligent opponents.

Fletcher wrote:

Extra money? What the hell are you smoking? I work in theater, bub. I'm lucky to get paid at all.

Well, I naturally assumed from your pic that you were a well-paid hitman with a high sense of style.

souldaddy wrote:

Well, I naturally assumed from your pic that you were a well-paid hitman with a high sense of style.

'High' being the operative word, I mean, just look at the smile plastered on the guy's face!

souldaddy wrote:
Fletcher wrote:

Extra money? What the hell are you smoking? I work in theater, bub. I'm lucky to get paid at all.

Well, I naturally assumed from your pic that you were a well-paid hitman with a high sense of style.

I'll have you know, Mr. Assume-a-Lot, that my avatar is a man who once was a caveman until he fell into a crevasse, where he froze. Then, thousands of years later, some scientists unfroze him and he became a lawyer. Yes my friends, I'm talking about Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer.

Fletcher wrote:

Yes my friends, I'm talking about Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer.

I'd like to see him in court opposite Jack Thompson.

TWO MAN ENTER
ONE MAN LEAVE

Two things I want to add:
1) Waiting for a price drop before buying creates anticipation, which makes it that much sweeter when you do finally get it for $20 or under.
2) Do you ever worry that it will just drop off the shelves before it makes it to the $20 mark, or
3) That it will make it to the $20 mark but you won't find it in a store before it's all gone?
4) Some games stay up in premium price range and don't move from that spot. For years. These are generally blockbuster titles like Halo or Starcraft. I fear Civ 4 is going to be the same. And the gogamer sale was a missed opportunity for me.

Okay, so that was four.

Fletcher wrote:

:D = (awesome x pomegranate_seeds²) - $

Pigpen wrote:

You also failed to to normalize your last equation, since (pomegranate_seeds) and the (awesome) variables are factors that must be converted to $$$, or you can't then subtract $. And if so, then must be in Dollars, but then if your satisfaction is in $$, does that in effect make us all prostitutes to the gaming industry

Ha! I completely glossed over the units until Pigpen pointed it out. Awesome!

In the same vein, isn't it interesting that, as patience decreases, so does happiness? By this formula, those with no patience can never actually be happy with their games. Take that, freshly-minted X360 owners!