Oct. 28 2013 05:40 PM

What's a consumer to do when the game you pre-ordered is pushed back?


    I pre-ordered a PS4 in early September. To be more specific, I ordered a Sony Playstation 4 bundle, with two controllers, a camera and a particular game—Watch Dogs

    I'm not a person who waits. I thrive on instant gratification, with the instantaneousness itself a form of gratification. That goes for my hunger for fast food and my historically lackadaisical attitude toward saving for retirement. Yet, I committed to waiting until Nov. 21 for this console, which could very well be the largest luxury purchase I've made in my adult life.

    What's also remarkable is that I've not owned a gaming system since the Sega CD / Genesis combo about 20 years ago. It's a distant memory, and I remember beating Sewer Shark with my little sister and never quite figuring out how to get anywhere in the "interactive horror movie" Dracula Unleashed. A few years later, I'd play PaRappa the Rapper, Oddworld and some pro-wrestling game on a friend's original Playstation, but even that was a lifetime ago. 

    I credit my newfound interest to three factors:

    1. I believe that the visual and mechanical grammar of contemporary video-game systems will deeply influence the 3-D environments that will evolve in modern computing. I want to catch up now before it's too late to overcome the learning curve.

    2. Earlier this year, I burned through Constellation Games, a science-fiction novel by Leonard Richardson about the Earth after an anarchistic collective of several-dozen different alien species suddenly turn up on Earth's doorstep. Richardson's protagonist is a game designer who sets off to understand all the myriad alien cultures by playing their ancient video games and reviewing them on his blog. The book redefines the genre in an age in which everyday life is almost indistinguishable from science fiction, and it instilled in me a powerful new appreciation for the cultural value of video games. 

    3. Watch Dogs. I returned from San Diego Comic-Con with gushing enthusiasm for the upcoming game from Ubisoft. You play a hacker who can tap into basically any networked system in Chicago. If it wasn't for this game, I probably wouldn't have plugged my credit card into Target's online store.

    The butterflies have been fruitful and multiplying in my belly. I congratulated myself every morning for discovering patience. 

    Then Ubisoft cancelled the Watch Dogs release, pushing the launch back to as late as June 30, 2014.

    Seven months. At first, I was inconsolable, angry, heart-shattered. No other launch title (and more seem to be postponed every day) grabbed me as much as Watch Dogs. First-person shooters are too stressful. Sports bore me. What use is a PS4 without a game to play on it? Now I'm faced with the dilemma: Should I cancel my pre-order, or just suck it up and pick out something lesser to hold me over?

    I decided to ask the author who got me into this. In his email back to me, Richardson said we were of like minds on consoles: He bought a Wii, not for the hardware, but because it was the way to play a game that excited him—Super Mario Galaxy

    "If the game that makes you want to buy the console is delayed, I think you should wait," he wrote. "We're talking like six months? A lot can happen in six months. For one, the price of the console might go down." 

    He cited reports that, with the PS3, players who waited six months bought 60GB models for the price the early adopters paid for the 20GB launch model. He added that there might also be hardware problems for Sony to fix after the first distribution.

    I called Target to find out if it was offering another game. It wasnít, but it was putting a $100 gift certificate in the mail. 

    "Does that mean Target is effectively giving you $100 off the PS4?" Richardson wrote. "If so, you can go ahead with the preorder, buy a big Lego set with the gift certificate and play with the Lego set until Watch Dogs comes out." 

    Legos? I stop playing with those when I got Sega CD.

    I haven't made a decision yet. Even though Target's a corporate giant, I feel bad about accepting its $100 and then taking my money elsewhere. I'm watching previews for other launch titles, such as Knack, which was created by the same guy who developed the PS4, and Contrast, a Moulin-Rouge-y puzzle-adventure set in the 1920s. 

    Like I said, I'm not a person who waits. 

    Email davem@sdcitybeat.com or follow him on Twitter @Maassive.


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