When Waiting Reduces the Value of a Purchase

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Darren writes in:

I’ve been thinking a lot about how you wait for pretty big sales before you’ll buy a computer game. You mention the Steam sales and free-to-play games like League of Legends a lot, too.

A lot of my friends play computer games together. We have a circle of about six of us that will dive into a title, play it frantically for a few months, then move on to another new game.

This is my primary hobby and it can be kind of expensive. Let’s figure I’m buying a new $50 computer game every two months. That’s $300 a year on that hobby.

If I waited, like you suggest, I would wind up saving a significant amount of money on the games each year, but I would lose the fun of playing games with my friends. To me, there’s a lot of additional value in buying early rather than buying late.

Darren brings up a very interesting point. Often, when you’re considering a purchase, the element of time can be a very important one.

To me, every single purchase I make is a value proposition. If I spend the money right now to buy an item, it’s going to return some value to me as I use it. Is that value greater than the cost of the item?

The catch is that the value returned to me isn’t always going to be the same amount. At certain times, the value is going to be higher. At other times, the value is going to be lower.

A used guitar purchased on a whim is going to have a lower value than a used guitar purchased the day after someone gifted me ten hours worth of lessons, for example. Darren’s example is another good one – games have much more value for him when he’s purchasing them at the same time as his friends. He’s going to play it more, plus he’s going to get more social value from the experience.

How much is that additional value worth in terms of dollars and sense? You have to make peace with that yourself. I usually try to stick with the “dollar per hour of focused use” metric. In Darren’s case, if he’s playing 10 hours a week with his friends for two months, it’s probably worthwhile. On the other hand, if he’s not going to be playing socially, the time using the game will go down drastically, moving the game into the “not worth it” camp.

However, there are a few approaches for Darren to try that could be the best of both worlds for him and his friends.

Suggest some games for your group that are lower-cost. Instead of playing the newest AAA game that costs $50, why not dig into an independent title like Awesomenauts? There are many, many great games out there that are made by smaller companies that aren’t rolling millions into a marketing campaign and passing that cost along to you. There are many great games to be found for $10 and under out there. Do some research and suggest some games.

Dig into some of the best “freemium” computer games. Games like League of Legends and Path of Exile are top-notch games that are free to play. The companies make their money by selling special character costumes and other visual enhancements. If your friends want to dump in their money, they can, but you can get all of the gameplay enjoyment for free.

Dig back into an older game you all loved. Instead of just jumping to a new title, spend a few weeks playing a game you all played a great deal a few years ago. Most of you likely still have it sitting around somewhere (and if not, it’ll be cheap to pick up). This just extends the value of the games you already have.

Toss up some of these suggestions to your group. You might find that others are happy to jump on board with this idea, as it saves every single one of them some money while preserving the fun of playing together as a group.

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