The nights are drawing in and it’s getting cold outside. Keeping  the kids entertained in November, whilst trying to keep back a bit of budget for all those lovely Christmas gifts, can be a tough balancing act. So, for the month of November, we are showcasing five slightly cheaper games so you can ensure everyone is having fun and still stay on budget in the run up to the big day.

This seems particularly apt this week, where it seems like every major game franchise is releasing a new iteration, from Fallout to Call of Duty to Tomb Raider. Games are at their most expensive on the pre-order stage and on Release Day, so it’s worth bearing in mind that the prices may drop substantially in just a few weeks from now if you are planning for multiple video-games to make an appearance in Santa’s Sack. Also worth remembering is that due to quirks in the way that games are made and released, a game on Release Day contains the least amount of content and the highest number of bugs it is likely to have in it’s lifetime. For die-hard fans, this is the pay-off of early adoption – they get to play the game first but are aware that it’s a Buyer Beware situation, with game-breaking glitches an ever present fear.

For younger players, these kinds of frustrating problems can cause serious disappointment and disillusion, as well as for parents who’ve hawked out all that hard earned money for a product that is not yet in it’s optimum condition. As time advances, error reports will be received by the game’s creators who will then implement permanent fixes known as “Patches” or temporary fixes known as “Hot-Fixes” which download over the internet to repair issues with the game. Usually all major issues are resolved within a few weeks of the game’s release. A “Day One Patch” may download over the internet and add itself to the game when it is played for the very first time.

Additional game content, such as more missions or weapons, will be created by the development studio and can be added to the game for free, or may be sold in digital bundles known as “paid DLC” (DownLoadable Content.) Usually this occurs a couple of months after the original game has been released for sale. This is value-added content and not the same as Patching, though we are seeing a trend of DLC being released for sale earlier and earlier, prompting push-back from gamers wanting to know why it was not included in the game when it was originally released for sale.

To see a rather good example of this kind of glitch-patching process happening in something akin to real time, take five minutes to enjoy this quick article on The Verge. It’s aimed at a game-playing audience, but with your new-found knowledge of terms such as Day One Patching, you’ll find it easy to understand. Nobody wants to stay stuck in a lift for the rest of their digital life! Note how the issue was not entirely resolved by the patch, which had to be downloaded and manually installed, with the issue of the non-opening doors resolved but the trade-off being the audio files containing the lift music no longer function. These kind of little hacks and compromises are par for the course when playing a game so close to it’s release date.

Bad experiences can spoil a player’s enjoyment of the game, which is doubly an issue if it was intended as a special gift. As the web’s first and only video-game advice service for parents, we try to look holistically at all aspects of the gaming experience that might be causing parents, teachers and guardians concerns, and a disappointing gift is upsetting for everyone involved, including the gift-giver. Our advice when buying a brand new game as a gift is to try to wait a 2-3 weeks after the release date, in order to allow time for these major bugs to be ironed out. If you are lucky, this sometimes corresponds to a slight drop in price, say 5-8% depending on the platform (eg. Xbox, Playstation, PC, etc) you are purchasing it for. If the child is a major fan of a particular game franchise and cannot be persuaded to wait, encourage them to moderate their expectations, and (because so many teachers have asked us to say this ) not to stay up all night playing with their new game when there is school in the morning!

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One thought on “A Pre-Christmas Treat – but perhaps it’s not such a good idea.

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