Or does it? Has the advent of digital download titles aided in the purchase of video games during the holiday crunch, or has it led us to the slaughter? Steam Sales tend to throw big name titles into the price chopping block, leaving them vulnerable for an impulse purchase. More than once I've found myself buying games I can't even play on a Mac just because they were so reasonably priced at the time.
So who really has the advantage when it comes to attracting the wallets of the world? Has the age of the brick and mortar store finally come to a close? Well, that's a loaded question, and I'm not an economist, so I won't answer it! But I will examine the Top 4 Reasons to shop online for your video games, and they aren't what you think.
(Fully disclosure, they are probably the reasons you're thinking)
4) Less Chance of Feet-Related Murder
It seems like every year we read about new and absurd ways people are getting hurt on Black Friday. From getting curb-stomped at Walmart to being stabbed at a Target, shoppers enter a dangerous battlefield when they choose to brave the arena of pre-holiday sales. And for what? A $199 50" flatscreen? Spend the extra $45 and have it shipped.
Or, since most sales actually last long past Black Friday, just wait a few days and pick it up after the rush has ebbed.
I worked in retail at a big box store for four years, and I learned to loathe the holidays. Not so much for the rush of people, as that actually made the day go faster for me. It was the way the quality of humanity dropped in time with the prices. Having PS3s on sale somehow meant that I was less of a person and could be talked down to like a 17th-century slave child. I was cursed at, threatened, and even physically assaulted during the holiday hours, and by people I'd helped before without incident. Something about the Christmas Muzak and big yellow sales tags flipped switches inside these shoppers' brains.
Why You Should Shop At Home
Everybody ships for free on the holidays. Amazon's prices can certainly be matched in stores (at least, if they want to stay relevant and open), but that instant gratification has to be measured with absurdly long lines and downright criminal levels of surliness. Why waste time breathing in someone else's Dorito burps just so you can have Call of Duty in your grubby mitts when you leave the store? Instead, order that online and wait a day--or even better, download it to your system in an hour and then you don't even have to worry about the disk getting scratched.
At home, you have the advantage. Anyone attempting to disrupt your play has to navigate the network of traps and puzzles you've set up around your man cave (or woman cave. Everybody games. Deal with it. #GatersBeHaters) Why set up a labyrinth around your TV and console? Well, what else are you gonna do with the extra 6 hours you didn't spend at Best Buy? Read a book? Exercise? Nonsense.
Any shopping you need to do can happen while nestled on a beanbag chair near a fire--which is a terrible place for that type of flammable furniture. Heck, you can do it all from your phone while you visit the Porcelain Palace. I've made purchases on Steam while on hold with my cable company (which one? The bad one) and had it downloaded before they answered.
And it's not just the dangers of other people you'll avoid.
3) Supply Shortages Ruin Shopping Trips
We've all been there. You've spent months researching an upcoming title. You've watched every possible video available and read up on every rumor. Your excitement level could not be higher, and the day is fast approaching for purchase. You make plans to head to your local gamery to buy the disk, making sure to have your will notarized and sealed with wax. Bidding your loves a fond farewell, you saddle up and head to town.
After waiting months for the game to launch, and hours standing in a line full of psychos, you finally get to speak to a sales associate. The man is battered and broken, a shell of humanity, but he attempts a smile all the same as you approach. "Do you have Super Awesome Splosion Man VII: The Splosioning? I'd really like the special edition, if you have it left."
You can tell by the way the associate immediately cries rivers of blood that you are not leaving this store happy. He apologizes profusely through swollen lips that they ran out around 2AM, back when he had a full set of teeth and any faith in humanity. The strength leaves your legs and you faint like a fainting-goat.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare sold a reported 3.7 million copies in the US alone. On day one! Think there were a few folks going home empty handed?
Why You Should Shop at Home
At home, on the miraculous Internet, there are no supply limits. In fact, if you pre-order a title, you can pretty much guarantee it will arrive on your doorstep the day it launches.
And let's say, for argument's sake, that you are one of those people who doesn't pre-order. I get it. Some folk like to let the market test a product before laying down their hard-earned simoleons. In that case, the Internet will allow you to guarantee a product will arrive within a few days. Amazon has two-day shipping free for PRIME members (which is totally worth it, if you buy more than three products a year). And as I said before, shipping is normally free on the holidays anyway.
Instead of showing up in the middle of a mom-and-pop mosh pit in order to retrieve your copy of Assassin's Creed: Why is This Franchise Not Dead Yet, you could be laid out on your couch, fishing Pringles crumbs out of your belly, while enjoying a Scrubs marathon. The game is on the way from the warehouse, where inventory never runs out.
And let's not forget that all of this mad-dash purchasing is happening at a time when you should be fighting with relatives.
2) Spend the Holidays with Family, Not Frenzy
When I worked retail, we opened the doors for Black Friday shoppers at a brain-frying 5 AM. Since I flew home for the holiday, that meant eating a huge turkey dinner, grabbing a few hours of sleep, and then catching a red-eye back to California so I could be there to welcome the unruly mob. Luxuries like that are relics of a long dead past.
Walmart recently announced that they will opened for Black Friday at 5 PM Thanksgiving Day!
Pardon my language, but are fucking kidding me?
The reasoning behind this asinine decision is that families will be able to get their shopping done ahead of dinner, and then have more time to enjoy the holidays together. People who say such nonsense clearly have never been to a Black Friday event. Forget the fact that people started lining up outside stores on November 1st, NOBODY gets in and out of a big box store in less than four hours. And that's only when you actually reach the store.
Why You Should Shop at Home
Do you know how long the wait is at home? Zero fucking minutes.
You can actually set up all of your purchases ahead of time, placing them gently in your online cart while you fork down your sixth plate of stuffing and yams. Just about the time Grandpa Joe starts in on how the other races are ruining this country, you can be planning out how you'll spend all this money you're saving.
You will miss out on nothing because you will be home this entire time, enjoying the wondrous calamity that is a family gathering. Has your sister really started shacking up with a drug dealer? You'd never know if you were sleeping it off in a tent outside your local Cost Plus.
And why on Earth would you want to anyway?
1) Doorbusters are F***ing Worthless
A Doorbuster is a product a store uses to get you through the door. It is a TV that is ludicrously low priced, or a DVD box-set on clearance. It's a free hot dog with every bloody nose. In other words, it's a waste of your life.
I worked four Black Fridays, and each one had worse Doorbusters than the last. We sold a 50" TV for $399 back when that was super cheap (nowadays they give those away when you ask politely). It was an off-brand, and lacked certain features that are usually considered mandatory (such as quality). But people lined up for miles for a chance to get one.
And here's the kicker. We ended Black Friday with six left in stock. SIX. People knew how crappy they were and didn't actually buy them.
So why do this at all? Why spend your holiday with strangers, fighting for a measly ten dollar savings, when you could be doing all your shopping butt naked with pumpkin pie smeared on your face?
Why You Should Shop at Home
Forget the deals. Black Friday is about keeping big box stores relevant. And, let's face it, they aren't anymore.
As someone who worked in the industry, and who still has friends employed at those stores, I understand. Seriously, I get it. And I'd hate to see my old workplace shut down in the way Circuit City withered and died. But I also hate seeing my friends sucked back into that netherworld of toil and suffering when they should be relaxing with family.
Thanksgiving is not the holiest of holidays, nor is it even my favorite (let's hear it for Arbor Day!) but it is a time for family. Whether you like your folks or not, this is a day for gathering together and being happy to have people in your life. Maybe you do a Friends-giving and leave the family back home, or you go to a Denny's and freebase some maple syrup, it doesn't really matter as long as it's what you want to do.
Stay at home for your shopping needs. You'll save time and money (and isn't time also money? So really, you're saving Time+Time). If the Best Buys and Walmarts and Targets of the world fail because they can't make enough money throughout the year, then that is their own fault for not adjusting to the changing market. They do not have the right to rob you of your family time for the sake of a few dollars.