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Post-Break

Cyber Monday now behind us, it is time to take stock.

First, I did not buy a PS4. The loss of the +$50 Gamestop/+$60 Kohls gift cards was simply too great, psychologically. Well, that, plus I could not find a normal $200 PS4 deal to save my life. There was a slight chance of some late shenanigans involving Office Depot selling $100 Gamestop gift cards for $80, but why go through all that trouble – especially having to go outside – if none of the $200 deals are around? Having said that, apparently Gamestop sells Amazon gift cards, so one could imagine someone going through the hassle of stopping by multiple stores in order to achieve a 20% discount at an online retailer.

Second, I have been playing No Man’s Sky and it has consumed my life. I’m 30 hours deep already.

Third, I did end up buying a phone. Specifically, the Moto G5 Plus from Amazon. I waffled on the Honor 6X because ~$150 seemed like a lot for +1GB RAM and +16GB space over my current 5X. Well, the G5+ comes with 64GB internal memory and 4GB RAM straight up. Yes please. I played the holiday pricing game a bit too close though, and missed the $180 deal for a new phone, so I settled for an Amazon Warehouse resell for like $160. There aren’t supposed to be any scratches on the screen itself, but you never know until it shows up.

Finally, I took all this week off. No particular reason, other than I had to use time lest I lose it. My original plan (beyond normal IRL errands) was to give FF14 it’s one last huzzah before they take another $15 from me. While it’s still possible, No Man’s Sky makes it unlikely. We’ll just have to see how the rest of the week goes.

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Full Circle

I saved almost $400 this Black Friday! By… not buying anything, thanks to bots.

Truth be told, it might not actually be due to bots, but I have my doubts. Specifically, both the GameStop $199 PS4 + $50 voucher deal and the Kohls $199 PS4 + $60 voucher deal were sold out by the time I got up on Thanksgiving morning. I am sure there are still technically $199 PS4s floating around (Edit: Looks like a no), but considering those vouchers were almost the equivalent of all three of the PS4 games that I would have played, I’d rather take my wallet and go stay home.

Then again, maybe it was all normal people pulling annoying arbitrage bullshit like WoW AH goblins. Out of curiosity, I went to eBay to look at the current listings of things.

PS4old1

Seriously?!

WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?! Both the clueless idiots still capable of navigating eBay but un-savvy enough to not look for deals with a simple Google search, and the swindlers preying on them. This is all a prime counter-example to show whenever someone tries to win an economics argument with the assumption of rational consumers. We are all irrational as hell.

Alas. Perhaps this entire episode is doing me a favor by not enabling me to buy three $20 PS4 games at technically $86 apiece. Even if I had gotten the voucher, they still would have been the equivalent of $66. In almost all other cases, I would prefer to play games on my PC, which already has a Blu-Ray player. Now, I may have eked out a bit more value from the free games from PS+ each month, but considering that my PS3 has gotten zero use in the last year, that’s still debatable.

I also passed on the Honor 6X for now. It actually went on a flash sale for $145, but in the process of looking at it closer, I realized that I bought my Honor 5X back in June 2016. Seems a bit silly to buy a new phone 1.5 years later when my current one is still functioning at 100%. People spend way more money on new iPhones every year, but those people are irrational.

What I did end up picking up were Far Cry 4 and No Man’s Sky, for about $13 and $20 after discounts, respectfully. I’m still on the fence about Destiny 2 at the moment, but I might take the plunge with some of my $90 in Blizzard credit from having sold WoW gold a year ago; I should still have enough for the next WoW expansion since Destiny 2 is on sale. That should be enough, right?

…right.

Wishlist

Black Friday and the frenzied consumerism of the holidays is close upon us. It’s probably a bit silly to be thinking about buying more things considering I have more Steam games to last two lifetimes, but… Capitalism, ho! Here’s what I will be keeping my eye out for:

  • Playstation 4 ($199 + $60 Kohls Cash)
    • Final Fantasy XV
    • Horizon Zero Dawn
    • The Last Guardian
  • Huawei Honor 6X Phone (< $150)
  • Steam Games
    • Far Cry 4
    • Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
    • Divinity: Original Sin 2
    • Oxygen Not Included
    • NeiR: Automata
    • Dead Cells
    • Salt & Sanctuary
    • No Man’s Sky
  • MMOs
    • GW2: Heart of Thorns & Path of Flame

The PS4 purchase is probably the most excessive of the bunch, considering how infrequently I have used the PS3 since purchasing it five years ago. Of course, I didn’t really have a good setup at the time – projectors are cool, but sitting down and pressing a button is easier – and things have changed since then. There is a certain symmetry in how I basically bought the PS3 for The Last of Us, and The Last of Us 2 is one of the driving factors for a PS4 purchase (albeit a few years from now). If/When I end up getting Destiny 2, it will be on PC though.

Phone-wise, I’m in the stereotypical “my phone works, but there’s a better one out there” pinch. My SO’s phone died a couple months ago, so I of course created a Google doc comparing all the different phones available to map out the best bang for the buck. That’s when I realized the upgrade potential between my 5X and the 6X: +600MHz processor, +1GB RAM, +16GB storage, and +340mAh battery. Is that worth $180? Ehh. Is it worth $150 or less? That’s much closer, especially considering how much gaming I do on my phone.

The Steam list is a bit eclectic, but they are all games that weren’t on sale, not on sale far enough, and/or not out of Early Access yet. No Man’s Sky is a bit odd on there considering how much negative press it has received over the last year, but the last sale had it at $24. If it hits $15, I feel like it’d be an easy decision for a kinda-sorta temporary Minecraft experience. I have certainly made worse purchasing decisions.

Finally, the MMO section is just GW2. There have been a few Heart of Thorns sales for $15 that I have missed, but I feel like we might see a combo deal better than the original $50 set. I’m sure there will be yet another sale for the FFXIV expansion too, although every day I become less and less interested in the supposed great plot in the game. If your call to fame is a great story, but the only way to get to said story is to spam dungeons… yeah. No thanks.

I (We) Did It

[Blaugust Day 22]

A (realistically unnecessary) GTX 970 graphics card is on its way.

The overall purchase decision was not as uncertain as I was perhaps making it seem. I actually have a birthday coming up in the next few weeks, and the only other viable present to myself would have been something like a PS4. Which was tempting, mainly because I technically “own” 34 PS4 games by virtue of PS+. But as I was going over the spreadsheet last night – hey, the PS+ interface is pretty awful and doesn’t let you easily sort games – I realized that majority of those titles were indie games that I already owned on other devices. The Vita might have given more value in that regard, but let’s be real: 99.9% of the time, I’m going to be in front my PC.

Once that last synapse fired, it was time.

Now was the matter of where to purchase it. In yesterday’s post, Whoom commented that Newegg had that same GTX 970 card I had been talking about for $309.99. Same as Amazon, but this time including the Metal Gear Solid V gift. Hmm… let me just compare that with the Best Buy deal again, this time with the 10% off coupon…

Uh... lol?

Uh… lol?

NewEgg it is!

Of course, the savings here is really just deferred taxes. Which I will totally pay next April. Absolutely. Not even a question. I will just pencil that in under… whatever the category is for voluntarily paying taxes for things the government will never realistically be able to figure out. Probably near a subsection B or another.

So there it is. Now, I just have to spend even more money buying games that will use the power.

PR Disaster Watch: Destiny Edition

June has not been a good month for game company PR departments. Or maybe it has been an excellent month in demonstrating the necessity of their existence in the face of designers with a bad case of verbal diarrhea. But while I have been focused on ArenaNet and Blizzards’ debacles, the true disaster that is Destiny’s expansion, The Taken King, has slipped me by. Until now.

The story is more or less the same, as if ripped from an identical playbook: an expensive expansion, and an even more expensive version with includes content that the player already owns. The deal this time is with Destiny’s Collector Edition, which includes the base game and prior expansions along with emotes exclusive to this package. There is no way to purchase these emotes individually, and no value whatsoever added if you already own everything already released to this point. So, basically, Heart of Thorns 2.0.

What elevates this to another whole level was this interview with Luke Smith, Bungie’s creative director for the expansion. I highly, highly recommend you read the entire thing because it is comedy gold. Or you can simply read this exchange, and despair:

Eurogamer: I get that it is big but it is also the same price as the base game. That had four areas rather than one and more missions than the Taken King. Why is it the same price?

Luke Smith: All I can do is answer that with the same thing I just gave you… We’re really comfortable with the value we’re giving to players this autumn. I believe that once we begin to share more, players will be even more excited. And for existing players it also comes with the Founder’s pack with a new Sparrow, shader and emblem.

Eurogamer: Just not the emotes.

Luke Smith: It doesn’t because they come with the Collector’s Edition.

Eurogamer: Final question on prices –

Luke Smith: Is it also the final question on the emotes?

Eurogamer: I’m not going to mention them again. I can’t get them.

Luke Smith: But you can if you buy the Collector’s Edition.

Eurogamer: I’m not going to buy the game and the two DLCs all over again.

Luke Smith: Okay, but first I want to poke at you on this a little bit.

Eurogamer: Poke at me?

Luke Smith: You’re feeling anxious because you want this exclusive content but you don’t know yet how much you want it. The notion of spending this money is making you anxious, I can see it –

Eurogamer: I do want them. I would buy them –

Luke Smith: If I fired up a video right now and showed you the emotes you would throw money at the screen.

Eurogamer: What I’m saying is that fan frustration is not because they don’t understand the proposition. It comes regardless of how cool the exclusive content is. The frustration – and mine as a fan – is that the method of acquiring it requires me to re-buy content I bought a year ago.

Luke Smith: [Long pause] It’s about value. The player’s assessment of the value of the content.

I would like to imagine that the “long pause” moment included a return to sanity for Luke Smith, the awakening from a fugue state. Or just a realization for how unconscionably stupid he was just moments prior. I say this because he would finish the interview with a somewhat rational approach to the nature of time-sensitive content and the noting that one cannot go home again.

In any case, Bungie’s now-existent PR department rang up Eurogamer at 9am the next day to update everyone that there will be nameless Veteran rewards forthcoming with the expansion, that will be “even better” than the ones found in the Collector’s Edition. Which really makes you wonder about all those Veterans who already “threw money at the screen” over exclusive emotes, and if they can get refunds of said Collector’s Edition.

Or not, at least according to Bungie community manager David “Deej” Dague, who says in the updated post:

“The Collector’s Edition is mostly sold out, so the people who found that stuff valuable jumped at the chance,” Deej added in a separate post. “You’ll likely see it sold on eBay for much more than what we’re asking. But that’s not the point. Right?

Right.

I suppose the takeaway here, besides the entertainment value of all these high-profile face-plants, is that players are going to likely (successfully) call bullshit when they see it going forward. And a large part of that is going to be any expansion being released without some sort of added value given to the very people that made a game or franchise successful enough to warrant an expansion in the first place.

Is that player entitlement? Or is it a renegotiated business transaction with more favorable terms? I dunno, maybe haggling indicates a deep, moral failure on the part of the buyer. What I do know is that all current and future Destiny players are better off today than they were two days ago. And that’s enough for me.

Edit: Also, apparently you get an exclusive quest in the expansion if you buy a can of Redbull. You can’t make this shit up.

Beach and the PS4

So, I have been and will continue to be on vacation at the beach with family until the end of the week. The internet service down here is absolutely abysmal – we’re talking 5 Mbps shared across 40 rooms – which is why I have not been on top of the comments and general news. I suppose that might sound bad, caring about frivolous internet things while at the beach. But honestly, if I knew it was going to be vacation back to 1994, I might have passed. Also, the ocean seems saltier this year and there was a fly in my soup.

That said, how ’bout that PS4 news?

If you have not been keeping abreast of the latest developments, Sony basically “won” the show. You can read Liore’s coverage of the event or even similar things in this CNN article. Bottom line?

  • No new restrictions on used game sales.
  • No internet connection required.
  • $399 vs Xbox One’s $499

It wasn’t all good news – a Playstation Plus membership is required for all multiplayer, just like Xbox Live today – but it was a fantastic PR coup for Sony to have been quiet all this time before launching into these consumer-friendly revelations.

A couple Apologists skeptics from around the web have tried to paint Sony with the Xbox One brush over the used games quote though:

“The DRM decision is going to have to be in the hands of the third parties. That’s not something that we’re going to dictate or mandate or control or implement.”

“Aha!” the Apologists cried. “Same thing as Xbox!”

Not really. In fact, not at all. The key point here is that Sony’s strategy is unchanged from the current generation. Remember Online Passes? Those were 3rd party attempts at mitigating secondary game sales, all of which happened in this generation. If EA suddenly changes their mind vis-a-vis reintroducing Online Passes, Sony isn’t going to stop them, but at least it isn’t turned on by default as it is in the Xbox One scenario. As Destructoid put it:

The major difference between PS4 and Xbox One, of course, is that Sony hasn’t made it easier for corporations to control the behavior of their customers, because the PS4 doesn’t tie your copies to your accounts, or initiate checks to scrub traded game data off your system. Basically, Microsoft designed the Xbox One to make it as easy as flipping a switch to eradicate any possibility of sharing your games, while Sony is maintaining its policy of this current generation.

Or you can go with the Game Front article for even further clarification:

“The Online Pass program for PlayStation first-party games will not continue on PlayStation 4. Similar to PS3, we will not dictate the online used game strategy (the ability to play used games online) of its publishing partners. As announced last night, PS4 will not have any gating restrictions for used disc-based games. When a gamer buys a PS4 disc they have right to use that copy of the game, so they can trade-in the game at retail, sell it to another person, lend it to a friend, or keep it forever.”

This is good news for gamers, indeed. In a nutshell, you can buy a used single-player game for the PS4 and play it all you want. If you want to go online with it, you may have to deal with some sort of publisher-determined DRM, be it an Online Pass or whatever.

Basically: #PS4Life

Not that I’m going to buy one anytime soon – I just bought a PS3 last Christmas. But it’s nice to know that whenever I do hop aboard the next console generation, I will have the opportunity to catch up on all the games I’ve missed by hitting up Amazon or some local place and not be paying full MSRP out the ass for 2+ year old games.

The Next Xbox May Have Always-Online Requirement

The rumormill is a-churning away on this piece of news:

“Unless something has changed recently,” one of the sources told us over email, “Durango consumer units must have an active internet connection to be used.”

Durango is the codename for the next-gen Xbox.

“If there isn’t a connection, no games or apps can be started,” the source continued. “If the connection is interrupted then after a period of time–currently three minutes, if I remember correctly–the game/app is suspended and the network troubleshooter started.”

Lending a sort of credence to the entire affair, and once again proving that people become drooling morons on Twitter, is this series of Tweets from the Microsoft Creative Director, Adam Orth. I will go ahead and transcribe them here instead of just posting pictures of tweets like the dozen lazy websites I checked before realizing that no one else was going to do it:

Sorry, I don’t get the drama around having an “always on” console. Every device now is “always on”. That’s the world we live in. #dealwithit

I want every device to be “always on”.

Alex Wells: Off the top of my head I know 5 people who own 360’s who current have no access to the internet. They would be screwed.

@TheonlyAlexW Those people should definitely get with the time and get the internet. It’s awesome.

Manveerheir: Did you learn nothing from Diablo III or SimCity? You know some people’s internet goes out right? Deal with it is a shitty reason.

@manveerheir Electricity goes out too.

Sometimes the electricity goes out. I will not purchase a vacuum cleaner.

The mobile reception in the area I live in is spotty and unreliable. I will not buy a mobile phone.

Microsoft apologized for the tweets by someone “not a spokesman for Microsoft” a day later.

Personally, I feel this is one of those rumors stupid enough to be true. Microsoft is already requiring the Kinect to be running the entire time the Xbox 720 is on, because somehow it’s important to Microsoft for there to be a camera trained on your living room the entire time you are playing Halo 5. Besides, this is not even the first time we have heard about this – here is an article back in February from an insider saying that Xbox games will require an online activation code and installation to the HD, thereby making the disc worthless to anyone else. It is not much of a leap to go from online activation keys to always-online.

Lost in all of this, of course, is what possible benefit there is to the consumer. Always-Online is not a feature, no matter how hard EA’s COO spins it, it’s a restriction. You have to be online to pay an MMO, or PlanetSide 2, or whatever other multiplayer game, yes, but that is because those individuals are not in your house. The single-player campaign or indie game or whatever is in your house and doesn’t require outside intervention except arbitrarily. Remember the SimCity fiasco? There were zero server-side calculations, or at least calculations that needed to be sent out to EA’s bank of super-computers (…lol) to process. Even if you could argue that Leaderboards or cloud saving were worthwhile features, no rational arguments were given as to why they could not simply have been optional.

Adam Orth’s analogy with cell phones is particularly instructive in regards to these corporate drones’ idiotic thought processes. Does your smartphone simply shut down and become unusable the moment you lose coverage? Or can you continue playing Angry Birds or taking photos or listening to music you saved to the device? Whether I am always-online already or not, there is no benefit to the requirement.

In any case, I cannot possibly imagine a better advertisement for the PS4 than the next Xbox coming out with an always-online requirement. Will it sway a majority of people away from the Xbox? Probably not. But as the margins in the console business continue getting slimmer, perhaps there will be enough losses that these anti-consumer practices will stop making their way out of the fevered wet dreams of CFOs everywhere.

And if not, well, there is always the $99 Ouya, right?