I had prepared for my first trip to PAX the way I must prepare for everything else: through rigorous research, planning, and incessant pestering of my friends. What kind of water bottle should I bring? Collapsible. Pain killers? More than one kind, just in case someone you’re with is allergic to one. Hand sanitizer? Apply liberally to everything. Even that child? Especially that child. Sneakers? Don’t forget the gel insoles. Zinc and vitamin C? Begin a rigorous course three weeks prior and bring some with you just in case.
The jig is up. “Black Friday doesn’t care about nerdy people.” There, I said it. Before you get your tweets twisted in a bunch, let’s try and reason it out, together. I’m here to save you from a buyer’s-remorse-laden Saturday after Black Friday. You’re welcome.
Now, I’m preaching to the choir. Let me be clear, this isn’t so much about buying gifts as it is finding deals. What I’m talking about here are the nerdy essentials: computers, video games / hardware, movies, and music. If you’ve got a lot of people on your holiday list, looking to save a little extra in a tough economy, or just generally like to participate in shopping mayhem, by all means – don’t let me stop you. However, for the discerning nerd out there, here are some points to carefully consider to help you keep it in your pants… your wallet, that is.
- Movies and Music: Who buys physical media anymore? You can buy all of your music, digitally, from a number of fine e-retailers. Movies require a little more rational thought: DVDs are hardly relevant to the conversation. If you want DVD quality movies, you’d be better served by streaming over Netflix, or buying from aforementioned digital e-retailers. Blu-ray discs must be considered on a per title basis. For example, do you really need a high-def copy of Superbad? How many times are you going to watch it, really? The film is already 3 years old. And, is it that much funnier in 5.1 surround compared to streaming solutions? You can see where I’m going with this. PS Netflix will send you blu-ray discs in the mail for a couple extra bucks per month. (Verdict: Not Nerd Appropriate)
- Computers: “Almost, but not quite”. That’s what you should be thinking while carefully combing over the ads at your in-laws, as you drift off into a carb and tryptophan induced coma. What is advertised is usually almost the thing that you want, but not exactly what you want. As a nerd, are you prepared to make such sacrifices? (read: fps) If you’re worried that your current rig won’t survive the impending Cataclysm, you might make a case here. But, there’s something to be said for spending the extra bucks to maximize your happiness. Put another way, if you’re already spending $500 for an e-machine with an i3, why not spend an extra 3 bills to get the i5/i7 Dell with dedicated graphics? Think in terms of the money spent compared against the performance of the system you already have. (Verdict: Not Nerd Appropriate)
- Video games: The bread and butter of the discerning nerd’s view of Black Friday. There are three categories:
- New games: You’ve got games like Halo Reach and Fable III in this category. The price points for these games are in the $35-$40 range. Considering that some of these games were pre-sold with $20 gift cards, the net is about the same. Also, for example, while Fallout: New Vegas will be on sale at most retailers, Black Ops and AC Brotherhood are not. It’s not a blanket deal, you’ll want to lean on your loyalty programs and stashed rewards to really make a splash here.
- The “Classics”: Oh, wow, MGS4 for $9.99? Slow down, cowboy. Have you checked Half.com lately? Most of these types of deals have come and gone at some point in time before now. And, by the by, if you’ve waited this long to play Force Unleashed, you may as well just start with FUII.
- Whaa? games: Not quite old, not quite new, and not quite best-sellers. How many hunting-gun peripheral attachments do you require for your Wii? Try looking into House of the Dead: Overkill or Dead Space: Extraction if you want some positive gun-play experiences. Are you trying to tell me that MW2 for the PS3 wasn’t $29.99 two weeks ago? Look, if you didn’t pick these games up then, you probably won’t now, and especially not Friday. It’s just not worth your time.
- (Verdict: Nerd Appropriate, but Tread With Caution!)
- Video Game Hardware: Seriously, if you haven’t figured it out by now there are no “sales” on console hardware. There are bundles, which only maximize value if you want those games, but its mostly smoke and mirrors. They call it “value added”, which roughly translates into “stuff we can afford to give away”. So a $199 4GB Xbox, despite whatever games are bundled with it, will always cost you $199. And you’re not going to pick up a Kinect for $75 with a free game, it’s just not going to happen. If you were prepared to buy a PS3 before Black Friday, then do it and score a couple of games in the process. If you are looking at hardware alone, keep your eyes on the prize, invest in a 250GB Xbox with Kinect. You’ll save $50 off the price of the Kinect and $30 of the price of the HDD, if both were added separately. (Verdict: Not Nerd Appropriate — or at least don’t change your plans).
As I was making your mind obese with knowledge you’ve mostly like already formulated a strategy for the big BF. Here are just a couple of final “intangibles” for those still sitting on the fence with respect to your purchasing plans.
- Your Time: Your time is the most valuable thing you have. For most people Black Friday is a “free” day, spilling over into a glorious weekend mini-vacation of gaming and tv season marathons. Think about what you could be doing instead of standing in line at Starbucks at 4:30am waiting for your triple tall no-foam soy peppermint mocha. You can sleep off the tofurkey, and stand in line at Starbucks at 10:30a, then put in some valuable hours prestige-ing for the 5th time in as little as 3 weeks. Shop online if you have to, but skip the long lines, stay safe out of traffic, and keep your couch warm. With video games were talking about an actual savings of about $5-$10 per title, only you know if that’s worth your time.
- Your Inventory: And while were on the subject of video games I’ve got about 3 that I’m working on completing at any given time, and usually 5 more sitting in the shrink wrap. If what you’ve already got takes you well into the new year, then you’re set. Fill the rest of the void with your Hulu Queue and Netflix instant watch. If all else fails, get back to grinding that “Seriously” achievement in GoW2. Most modern games will devalue over time, and rarely is there ever a true shortage of any title. Don’t believe me? There are still limited edition copies of Halo:Reach and Black Ops collecting dust at Best Buy as I type. And, you know what’s going to happen on New Years Day? You guessed it, another sale. Stay put, soldier.
You may have some shopping to do on Black Friday, but it probably isn’t going to be for yourself. Keep a cool head, have a plan, and drink plenty of coffee. Meanwhile, I’ll be catching up on my backlog, protecting the Age of Rock from the forces of evil with Jack Black. The best way to “save money” is not to spend it, happy gaming.