Monday, December 12, 2005

Byte: Skinflint

I was out in Guildford yesterday, doing some Christmas shopping with my girlfriend, and paid my usual visit to GAME. While I was there, something quite unusual happened: I *didn't* buy anything.

Normally, a visit to GAME is a cast-iron guarantee that I'll pick something out of the Xbox pre-owned bin, or at very least pick up something interesting for the PC on budget, but yesterday, despite spending a good thirty minutes browsing the shelves, I somehow managed to come away empty-handed. And that was *after* my girlfriend told me that I *could* get something if I wanted, because she'd spent £20 on a new jumper and she said it's only fair for me to spend money on myself if she does for her.

It's not like there wasn't anything in store I was interested in. Both Mario Kart and Touch Golf were in stock for the DS, but I simply baulked at the thought of spending £29.99 for a tiny little plastic cartridge. There was also Star Wars: Republic Commando and Super Monkey Ball Deluxe on Xbox for £14.99 each, but I couldn't bring myself to buy one of those, either.

I just couldn't justify the cost to myself; I didn't want them enough to warrant buying any of them. Which is odd, because I don't usually find much trouble justifying a game purchase to myself. Maybe it's because I've got too many things in the pipeline to review before I sod off for Christmas on holiday. Maybe it's because I've just put £330 on my credit card to pay for our flights to Basel and back. Or maybe it's because I've just gotten used to acquiring games for free these days.

Pretty much the only games I've bought this year have been for the DS (which I can't get via Pro-G, because Ninty don't send us anything, the mean gits), a few things for the Xbox from the pre-owned bin and practically nothing at all this year for the PC (at full price, at any rate). Case in point: Just last week I was sent Battlefield 2 and its expansion pack, Special Forces, so that I can review the expansion. Even though BF2 was very well received, it's not something I actually would have spent money on, even though I like the online shooter genre.

I'm getting mean and picky in my old age, and since I get so many games for free now, I've become exceptionally choosy about what I actually spend my money on. Another case in point is Ninja Gaiden, which is now just £15 on the Xbox, and is allegedly one of the console's best titles. At fifteen quid you would have thought it's a certain purchase, but no: the beat-'em-up genre isn't one of my favourites, and it's also reputed to be very, very hard, which is also rather off-putting, since my reflexes aren't what they were ten years ago...

I wonder if this is a problem that may be unique to games reviewers. Since you get so used to playing (invariably good) games for free, it becomes that much harder to want to fork out money on something that's not just a hobby, but a career (or in my case, a second career - albeit one I don't get paid for). I've been toying with the idea of signing up to World Of Warcraft again, though what puts me off that isn't just the monthly expense, but the horrors of patching the game after a couple of month's hiatus, plus the sheer amount of time the bloody thing eats up. I might wait until the expansion pack comes out and take it from there. Other than that, because I've got so much to play in the meantime, I think I'll wait until the post-Christmas sales in January, to see if any of the titles I want come down in price a little more...

We Scots don't have a reputation for being tightfisted for nothing, you know.
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