The 2012 holiday season is gone.  In its wake are the tattered remains of my wallet.  From my own rationalized purchases ("There was a sale!") to holiday gifts I walked away with Dishonored, I Am Alive, Assassin's Creed 3, Mark of the Ninja, Far Cry 3, Vanquish, El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Skyrim Dragonborn DLC all along with a remaining and unused GameStop gift card.  I definitely don't need any more games for the next few months (or the next year).  I should revel in my gaming riches and be satisfied.     

I may not need more games but I definitely want more.  But the age old dilemma is which one?

Inexplicably, I want more games.  In fact, I just bought Portal 2 (but this was for retail therapy and I finally found a copy for $20).  Despite my best efforts, I am already daydreaming and weighing my 2013 preorder options.  My wallet has tried to talk sense into me wishing to keep that gift card as a buffer between itself and my gaming purchases.  Let me explain.

Despite an apparently mutating backlog (I put Fallout 3: GOTY aside for Dishonored and have yet to return) I rationalize a preorder purchase by putting all other games aside and immediately playing the preorder.  This time last year, my only video game wish was for Mass Effect 3.  In my preorder excitement I grabbed the collector's edition which cost "only" $80 and included both physical and digital treats.  I enjoyed the upgrade for such a highly anticipated game and I hoped that more developers would offer the more affordable $80 collector's edition.

The $80 or $150 collector's edition?  Let me consult with my bills first. 

Suddenly, Irrational Games and 2K Games announced an $80 collector's edition for BioShock Infinite's release on March 26, 2013 including art work, a keychain, and in game boosts.  Sure, there is also a $150 "Ultimate Songbird Edition" that adds a large Songbird statue but at that price the edition is not even on my radar.  My early 2013 preorder was set with the "Premium Edition."  Maybe I would even look into the BioShock Infinite: Siege of Columbia board game, after all I would already have a board game figurine.

A figure?!  I don't need that $100 in my wallet.

My decisive decision making was short lived after Square Enix announced a Tomb Raider collector's edition.  Tomb Raider releases on March 5, 2013 which is in direct competition with the release of BioShock Infinite on March 26, 2013.  Two games in one month and funds for one game. 

The Tomb Raider collector's edition is $100 but includes a figurine!  My mind figured that if I was already spending $80 for BioShock Infinite's premium edition then for a mere $20 more I could acquire a Lara Croft figure.  Indecisiveness set in along with a new rationalization, if I was considering $100 reasonable then for merely $20 more I could get the original versions of both games for a total of $120.  Somehow, I had rationalized an initial $60 fun treat into double the amount.  Yearly, I preorder about 2-4 games and I try to heavily consider my picks as an informed and responsible gamer who also geeks out at gaming swag.  Now perhaps a break down of the merits of each game will clearly show the better value. 

7 months from the initial release to a cheaper GOTY edition with all the DLC included. 

The majority of video games decrease in price rapidly.  We pay for the privilege of preorder bonuses and immediate access to the game.  Last fall, as I studied the 2012 fall release schedule I realized that 2011 fall releases were often less than half price of the release day cost.  From GameStop to Amazon (my two top stores for buying video games) released September 20, 2011 Gears of War 3 is now available for $15, Batman: Arkham City Game of the Year Edition is at $30 when the game dropped on October 16, 2011 and the GOTY edition with all of the DLC included was released seven months later May 29, 2012, Assassin's Creed: Revelations debuted on November 15, 2011 is at $25, and so on.  Based on the price decrease in games I only buy day one releases as preorders in order to get a little "extra."  However, a preorder is risky without the option to read reviews and peruse other gamers' opinions.  Few games don't have a quick price drop.  Most notably from 2011 is Skyrim which remains at about $50.  An infinite amount of detail goes into how quickly a game decreases in price such as popularity or a lack of driving a price cut to spike interest, whether the developer or publisher intends to recoup more money from DLC than from game sales, and the likelihood of a GOTY bundle with all of the extra content for less than the day one price.  For my preorder dilemma, my guess is that Tomb Raider as a reboot is likely to undergo a price drop quicker than BioShoock Infinite in order to compete with other more established in this generation franchises.

Gamer expectations shape the actual game experience.  I am a huge fan of the original BioShock.  And I own BioShock 2 but I have waited on my return to Rapture.  My topmost praise of BioShock is that thus far this gaming generation BioShock has provided the most complete narrative experience.  The game's storyline had a clear beginning, middle, and end with no teaser after the credits.  After my playthrough I felt that my journey through Rapture was complete and that any return would minimize the one game that had a very clear and satisfying ending.  With Ken Levine, one of the original BioShock creators but he and his team were not involved in BioShock 2, returned for BioShock Infinite expectations are sky high for a game to reinvent the possibilities within gaming.  Yet, the satisfaction I felt upon the ending of BioShock is a hard experience to emulate. 

A revised Lara Croft, now featuring pants.  

For Tomb Raider, I have no previous expectations aside from an appreciation of the franchise from afar.  I never played the previous games.  I only saw Angelina Jolie's approximation of Lara Croft in the films.  My most anticipated expectation is that I highly support Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix rebooting the franchise into a more realistic female protagonist (after all we are discussing video games).  I try to act as an informed gamer in part by supporting companies I value by buying their products whether a new game or DLC.  My fall 2012 preorder was Dishonored as support of a new IP and I grabbed the mega franchise, Assassin's Creed 3, during a Black Friday sale.  I want to support a strong female lead by showing the companies behind the game that such a protagonist is financially viable.  Especially as we enter into the new console generation during which game developers and publishers look to take chances on new franchises.    

Both games offer different experiences and gameplay but what do I want to play the most?  Despite shooter mechanics with a twist via plasmids, or specifically vigors in BioShock Infinite as accompanying powers to gunplay I don't particularly want another shooter.  In the past year I have played Mass Effect 3, Halo 3, Far Cry 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, and Gears of War 2.  My backlog includes Crysis 2 and Vanquish.  My shooter itch is scratched.

As an Xbox 360 owner, I haven't hunted treasure in Uncharted and I cannot anticipate juggling resources for survival in The Last Of Us.  Tomb Raider is advertised as a survival/treasure hunting experience.  Coupled with the franchise history of platforming, puzzles, and exploration I have high hopes for gameplay mechanics that aren't in my current game queue.  Presently, I am playing I Am Alive which is a great survival game but as a XBLA release the game size is limited.  The survival aspects become teeth grinding frustrating because the survival gameplay is incorporated into the save system as long ranges between checkpoints (an age old issue) are combined with sudden death within a few hits resulting in constantly replaying sequences.  I have high hopes that a full release survival game can provide more diverse and less maddening gameplay.

The original BioShock cover stands out amongst the plethora of "man with a gun" covers.  

For BioShock Infinite my main concern is the cover.  Yes, a controversy over cover art as too mainstream can be dubbed silly.  For me, the concern is how much is the game catering to a more mainstream audience.  Irrational Games is more than capable of stunning art which is clearly evident in the alternate covers provided.  Also, I understand marketing decisions designed to maximize sales but advertising the game as a male oriented first person shooter removes the unique display that mirrors the game's premise of upending standard genre labels.  The lone male hero is well represented and the BioShock franchise is built on new ideas.  The visible focus on the mainstream makes me wonder how committed Irrational Games is to the "mainstream player."  Without multiplayer BioShock Infinite is not luring players from Call of Duty so perhaps BioShock Infinite has an identity crisis. 

For Tomb Raider, as a reboot, I have no previous reference to understand the gameplay.  Released footage fails to communicate just what the game is.  There is a shipwreck, hunting, and chase sequences.  Is the combat style determined by the player or more determined by limited resources that requires unraveling the solution or mostly triggered quick time events?  Open world or linear?  Fast travel or hoofing across a map?  Bow and arrow or gun and knife?

A video game box packaged like luggage?!  I am so easily swayed.

As I wrote this blog I crept closer towards a decision.  I am unsure if my pick became evident in my writing.  Then Deep Silver announced Dead Island Riptide: Rigor Mortis edition for $80 for its April 23, 2013 release.  How can I pick just one?  Now I have to start all over, lets try this again...

How many games do you preorder a year?     

Do you preorder games or buy soon after release when paying full price?

Do you buy collector's editions?

What is your top day one purchase for 2013?

Thanks for reading!