System seller?

Pete from Dragonchasers recommends Fire Emblem: Awakening, saying “If you have any interest at all in strategy-RPGs, get this game, even if it means buying a 3DS to play it on. Yup, it is a system seller, in my opinion.”. In Europe the limited edition 3DS XL with Fire Emblem: Awakening is coming out on April 19, and it costs €219 ($285). While that isn’t completely unaffordable, it still is a heck of a lot of money for a single game. Is that worth it?

The more general problem here is that game platforms appear to be multiplying. There are different consoles, with yet another generation currently being announced from various companies, and being incompatible with previous generations. There are different handheld consoles. And there are different tablet / smartphone platforms. Do I really want to have an Android tablet plus an iPod/iPad plus a Windows 8 tablet plus a PSP Go plus a PSP Vita plus a Nintendo 3DS? And that would just be the handheld gaming platforms, in addition to which I’d still need several consoles and a PC to cover the rest.

The other option is going for just a few platforms (in my case PC, iPad, PSP Go, and PS3), and missing out on the games that are exclusive for the platforms I don’t have, like Fire Emblem: Awakening, or Skulls of the Shogun. As my growing library of unplayed Steam games proves, even with that limited selection of platforms I already have more choice of games than I have the time for. Just like there are more games for the PC than for the Mac or Linux, there are more games on iOS than on Android or Windows 8. The consoles are more a matter of what *type* of game you like, with certain genres being more prominent on certain consoles. Thus by making some strategic platform choices you can, while not covering every single game, still cover a majority of them.

So I’m questioning the concept of a “system seller” game. When is it still a viable option to buy a system to play a game, and at which point do you just have to give up and realize you can’t play everything?

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5 Responses to “System seller?”

  1. Hagu says:

    I buy into the conventional wisdom that dedicated-gaming handheld devices are, if not going away, are becoming much more niche.

    Most people have an iOS/Android and those get replaced most quickly. Say new phones every 18 months versus and slowing PC replacement (recently PC sales declined) versus new consoles every 7 years.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moore%27s_law means a current smartphone/tablet will have a hardware advantage over a 3 year old gaming device.

    So in a shrinking market, it seems reasonable that a title focused on really pleasing a segment would make sense.

  2. Michael says:

    It is absolutely possible to buy a system for just one game, and that still being a rational and reasonable thing to do.

    Consider an alternative, buying and watching a movie. A movie provides perhaps 2 hours of entertainment. It costs perhaps $5-10 streaming, $15-20 on dvd, $25-30 on blue ray, call it $20 average. So you pay $20 for 2 hours of entertainment, or $10 per hour.

    Pay $200 for a new system, $50 for a new game. If the game doesn't hold your attention you might spend 10 hours on it. If it really appeals, it could provide 50+ hours. Call it 25 hours for a game in a genre you care about with good review scores. That's $250 for 25 hours, or $10 per hour, same as the efficiency from buying movies.

    So even at the first game, you've already broken even. But let's suppose you hate that first game, play it an hour and give up on it. And then this happens again with another game. But then you run into one that gives you 50 hours. Total cost, 250+50+50+50=400, total hours of entertainment, 2+2+50=54, or $7.69 an hour.

    Games are just so horribly efficient at turning money into hours of fun. I say if there are two reasonably long games on a system you don't have, that you're interested in playing, go ahead and buy the system.

    I heard the next Megaten game is going on the 3ds, and saw reviews of fire emblem awakening, so I just bought a 3ds. Now that the system has already 'paid for itself' in generated enjoyment, I can look at other games like harvest moon, animal crossing new leaf, etrian odyssey iv, etc, and these will all just increase the efficiency of the initial system purchase, making it ever a better deal.

    And after saying all that, it seems quite damning to me that I still don't have a PS Vita, nor any intention of ever buying one. WTF, sony, get some games. XD

  3. Silvanis says:

    I think your list of hardware contains the answer to when a system seller is needed. The PSP has no new games coming out for it, and Apple is aggressive about obsoleting their hardware. (If that's a 1st gen iPad, it can't use the newest iOS. I'd expect iOS 7 to not be available for iPad 2.)

    So, assuming you have bought what you wanted for the PSP Go, you will be in the market for a new system sooner or later. When that happens, you need something to draw you in; while library size is definitely a consideration, most people will make the final choice based on one or two games that are exclusive to that system. Thus system sellers will always be necessary for each new generation of hardware.

  4. Woof says:

    I have preordered Fire Emblem Awakening and the black 3DS. It's definitely a system seller for me. I can't find any other game like Fire Emblem Awakening on the market on PC, PS3 or PS Vita.

  5. Abrann Salvador says:

    The 3DS is a system worth getting, and I would definitely categorize Fire Emblem Awakening as a "system seller." The 3DS XL is a relatively new console, so I don't see it being replaced by a new Nintendo handheld anytime soon. It's a sound purchase, with more games coming your way, like Animal Crossing New Leaf, Pokemon X and Y, and Castlevania. I'd stay away from special edition versions of consoles, since they tend to be too pricey.

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