The Xbox One is launching on March 11, 2014.
You can argue that you’ve had your system for a few months before that, but let’s be honest: All these features that are being rolled out alongside Titanfall should have been there at launch. Twitch streaming is coming, the party system will finally be fixed, and all sorts of odds and ends will be improved or added. You’ll get what is likely to be one of the biggest games of the year for free if you purchase on March 11, and in the UK you’ll pay less money for the hardware.
The better this does for Microsoft the more likely we are to see Sony sweetening the PlayStation 4 bundles as well. The early adopters always pay more, and they almost always get less. Prices come down, games are bundled with the system and features are added in firmware updates. Buying a console on day one is a terrible decision if you’re a rational person.
But since when are those of us who love games rational?
Buying early isn't a smart move
Anger directed at Microsoft about the price drop and bundles makes sense on some levels. It does appear as if the people who waited are getting a better deal than those who supported the console since launch. If you’re voting with your dollar starting on day one, surely you deserve some recognition and deference, right?
Launch day is the best time to sell your system for higher prices and with fewer pack-ins, although no one in the industry is going to say this out loud. The people who feel strongly about the fight between Sony and Microsoft, and these people are legion, aren’t as sensitive to price. There are also those who simply must have every console at launch, and this group is also willing to pay more than your average consumer.
Electronics attract a certain kind of devoted fan, and they don't need the coaxing of a lower price or a free game to get them excited.
The true believers pay more for less; even those who vehemently disagreed with the Xbox One’s pricing tended to argue that the system would sell out all initial allocations. The question isn't about who has the better system in the first week, it's about who can put the most units on store shelves.
This first wave of buyers are players who are the members of this or that "defense force," they know when the embargoes drop for big reviews and they will then discuss the scores given by different outlets. They are plugged in, passionate and they'll often discuss what prices mean for the companies releasing the consoles while operating on the assumption that they'll be buying most systems regardless of price. They are the tip of the spear, and charge into each console war with loud battle cries on their lips and the love of gaming in their hearts.
These players will never get the best deal. You are always rewarded for waiting when it comes to games and systems. Those rewards include lower prices, more stability and content and a knowledge that the product will more or less work the way it was intended. Those of us who have had the Xbox Ones and PlayStation 4s since launch have been beta-testing the hardware and software for you, and you’re welcome.
It's possible that we’re only just now seeing the tapering of this first wave of consumers, and the updates, sales and bundles that both Sony and Microsoft will begin offering to entice the second wave will be good for those who had the patience to wait.
So why are so many happy to pay into this system that more or less plays us for suckers?
Being irrational is fun
The enjoyable things about early adoption are hard to explain to people who aren’t already part of the club.
The act of waiting in line can be fun, especially with people who share your passion for games and hardware. People tell stories, they bring games to play and share and everyone is there for one purpose. It may be cold and you might get rained on, but being a part of something where everyone is sharing enthusiasm for something, even consumer electronics, is enjoyable.
They charge into each console war with battle cries and the love of gaming in their hearts
The communal energy is part of the attraction, and you’ll always have the story about that time you camped out for the new game system. There are likely people reading this who find the whole idea silly, and we’ll hear from them in the comments, but there are others nodding their head in agreement. They know how fun the line can be, and for some people that activity is half the reason they go out for the new phone or game console.
Is early adoption a wise move, or a waste of time and money? The good thing about being an adult is that we don't have to take part in that argument. We only have so many years on this planet. Judging other people by how they connect with others like them and have fun, as long as they’re not hurting anyone else, is a sign you need to remove from the more unkind aspects of your soul. Going out and enjoying the wait for a system is a better use of your time than complaining about the actions of others who just want to enjoy their hobby.
It's always interesting to see what a system is like at launch, and to track the way its improved, fixed and changed as time goes on. Being there while a system breaks down isn't exactly fun, but it's an interesting time for the hardware's life and many of us like to have a sense of the history and evolution of the hardware we use.
These foibles and annoyances may only be interesting to the people who really care about the business of games, but what of it? I'm not fascinated by these things because it's my job, this is my job because I'm fascinated by these things, warts and all. I know I'm not alone.
People who buy an Xbox One on March 11 will be getting a much better deal, and in some ways a better system, than those of us who have had one since launch. Sony will soon follow suit with a fresh deal or pack-in, and if nothing else the PlayStation 4's firmware will improve and the game selection will widen.
On the other hand, who cares? The experience of buying early, of being there first, is worth more to some people than the money or time they would have saved. These days my consoles are either given to me by the platform holders or in some cases provided by my employer, but even so I enjoy going to the big launches to talk to people, think about games and wait for a system that may already be in my living room.
It doesn't make sense, but things that bring you pleasure don't have to make sense. Early adoption is its own reward, and we're only given the opportunity to enjoy a system launch every few years. It's time to stop judging those who make the most of it.