Opinion-Bytes: Backlog Collecting – Why It Makes Sense

Backlog Pain

You know what I’ve been hearing a lot as of late? “Why do you need so many games?” How do you respond to that, especially when the question comes from your wife/significant other? Sorry, that’s a trick question – There’s NOTHING you can say to justify adding more titles to an already ginormous backlog. If that question is being asked, the game’s already over. That person simply can’t fathom a reality where someone ‘needs’ more games, despite having several months of backlog awaiting their time to shine. You can explain the situation to your heart’s content, but don’t fool yourself – The party already scratching their head will never ‘get it’, and nothing you ever say or do will change that. All you can do is share your point of view, and move on. Anything beyond is little more than a fool’s errand.

Now, I’m not trying to paint those who don’t understand this means of collecting in a negative light. Everyone has different tastes, and I both understand and respect that. From a certain viewpoint, I know that stockpiling games can sound a little silly, if not the sign of an unhealthy mind. The first thing that comes to their minds, surely, is that we MUST have an addiction. Yes, there are plenty of people who are genuinely plagued with game addiction, but snatching up games faster than you can play them isn’t a telltale sign that you’re going mad. That’s really the only point I wish to make in general, and I’ll do so by explaining the very rational thought process that goes into my video game buying ‘habit’.

Here’s something most of us can probably relate to – You’ve been following the development of a game for at least a year… perhaps longer. The release date is upon you, aaaaand… you just can’t afford the damn thing. You might have a vacation you’re saving up for, bills to pay, or whatever. So the game comes and goes, and because there’s always another great AAA title being released, that other title just slips into obscurity… but only temporarily. One day that very game will drop in price, and when it does, it will go back on your radar faster than you can say BLIP. You might not have time to play it right away, but a $20 price tag is low enough for you to bite. You’ll get to it eventually, right? CHA-CHING! Out comes the wallet and down goes the cash. Transaction complete.

Price is an important factor in collecting games. Obviously, it’s difficult to run out and buy every title you want the moment they’re released, so price drops are always attractive. This is especially true for someone like me, because I buy new games (almost) exclusively. When a game hits the bargain bin at Wal-Mart or gets a reduction via the ‘Greatest Hits’ treatment, I’m hard pressed to think of a better time to buy. Also, there’s something to be said about picking up three games for $60 total, as opposed to buying a new one for the same price.

Only willing to buy new copies of games becomes a problem in and of itself, though. Once those bargain prices start to appear, it’s the equivalent of being flagged with “Buy it now, or forever hold your peace.” There are a TON of games that get released, and most of those copies get sold around the time of launch. Retailers have limited space, so they couldn’t care less about stocking a decent collection of old and now obscure titles. They want their fancy glass showcases or shelf space reserved for the games that will sell, and I certainly don’t blame them. However, this means that the more time you let slip by, the less chance you’ll have to find and buy the game. Instead of just walking into a store, pointing at the game and telling the clerk “That one”, you’re going to have to hunt. You’ll have to spend time looking at the in-store inventory via retail websites, calling the stores just to make sure they have it in stock, or you may even find yourself running around town while wasting precious time and gas. Eventually, you may have to resort to buying the game from a third party seller on Amazon, and although I’ve tried to avoid such a thing, I’ve resorted to doing so on a few occasions. Again, I may not have time to play the games I’m buying, but I will eventually, and if I don’t pick ‘em up while they’re right in front of me, I may later come to regret my indecisiveness. That may be one of the most important lessons I’ve learned – Great pricing often goes hand in hand with limited availability.

Also, there are times we all go out and do a little window shopping. We just want to splurge a little bit without spending a fortune, and for a gamer, coming across a great game at an unexpected price makes for an ideal impulse buy.

These are all the practical reasons to keep buying games even if you have a backlog awaiting you at home, but there’s also some personal ones that are merely a matter of preference. For me, there’s nothing better than finishing a game, looking at my library and having to ponder what I’m going to play next. Depending on what I’ve snagged in my travels, I can pick and choose merely based on how I feel that particular day. I’m not always in the mood to play certain genres, so it’s nice to be able to have options between FPS games, RPG’s, HD remakes of classic games, survival-horror or third person action platformers. Playing the kind of game I want WHEN I want means I’m going to milk the most enjoyment out of every title.

Having multiple games on hand even allows me a bit of flexibility in the respect of keeping things fresh. For example, I just recently dumped about 20 hours into my first playthrough of Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, and I’ve enjoyed my time with the game immensely… but from what I understand, I’m also only about 25% through the main quest. I don’t mind a lengthy game in the least, but all the leveling and grinding has taken a temporary toll on me… but no matter. Having multiple unopened games at my disposal is the perfect way to break the monotony. At first, I took a break with the first Metal Gear Solid game. I played Ni No Kuni a bit more, and now I’ve started Far Cry 3. Once I beat it, I’ll go back to Ni No Kuni a bit. This offers a far more enjoyable gaming experience in the long run, as opposed to the ‘buy one title until I beat it, and then buy another’ method. If you’re only stuck with a single game to play, you might end up getting bored or frustrated when all you really needed was a break. I’m more than willing to invest 50+ hours in a game (Dark Souls, Final Fantasy and Skyrim, I’m looking at you), but that’s a sizeable investment. I probably did over 70 hours in Skyrim, but that was over the course of a year.

If you buy games on a regular basis, you’re probably aware of the dreaded dry spell that plagues us every summer, as well as part of the winter. The most significant release windows range from September to December, and then again from Feb/March until late Spring. The summer and just after the holidays are veritable dead zones, and gamers are often awaiting the rush of AAA titles that are sure to come in the final quarter of the year. Know when these dead zones become a non-issue? That’s right – When you have a backlog to whittle down.

Also, some people collect just to collect. That’s not how I roll, as I only buy the games I’m absolutely sure I want to play, but to each their own.

Anyway, I think that’s pretty much all the reasons I can come up with to explain the rationale behind actively collecting a backlog…

…but what about you?

Do you buy a new game only when you’ve finished the last one? Do you collect games whenever it’s convenient, backlog or no backlog? Or, do you go out of your way, buying a bunch of games you’ll probably never get around to playing anyway (those special Steam sales make it easy to end up in the latter categorization)? Feel free to comment and share your thoughts and opinions on the matter, regardless of where you stand on the issue.

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One response to “Opinion-Bytes: Backlog Collecting – Why It Makes Sense

  1. I currently have a huge gaming backlog thanks to this most recent Steam Summer Sale. In my defense I justify the backlog because I don’t regularly buy games throughout the year, I don’t pay attention to the Steam Store page, and I rarely buy games at full price. So I wait until the summer and winter steam sales to stock up on AAA games and it usually lasts me for that half of the year.

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