Is it Still Worth Buying Games at Launch?

There was a time when ultimate editions, enhanced editions and game of the year editions were unfair to fans who bought games at launch. The argument was that such editions were often cheaper overall than the launch versions and there was and is indeed some truth to that; later editions of games often include all DLC in the asking price and they’re sometimes sold at a discount versus the launch version. These versions of games, however, have been accepted as a part of the normal life cycle for a long while now because the launch experience has been worth the extra cost. Over the past couple of years, though, that value has been eroding and it’s only getting worse.

505 Games recently revealed Control: Ultimate Edition. It’s the standard, all-inclusive version of the game gamers have come to expect over the years in terms of content. It’s priced at about forty dollars and includes all content released for Control up to this point. There’s one key difference between it and every other version of the game though: it includes a free upgrade to the PS5/ Xbox Series X version of the game. Everyone else, including those who rushed out and bought the game at launch, will have to either do without or shell out another forty bucks if they want to be able to play the best version of Control on their next-generation system. That’s forty dollars on top of a possible $85 fans would have spent if they bought the game and its season pass. Not exactly a good deal for launch day buyers, is it?

This story comes on top of the now-routine launch issues seen with many major game releases. The list of major launch offenders is itself exhaustive, with games like Fallout 76, No Man’s Sky, Star Wars: Battlefront II and Batman: Arkham Knight continuing to conjure up sour thoughts long after their initial release windows. Not every game has a disaster launch, thankfully, but it’s no longer surprising to discover major issues in one’s brand new game. It should be, but now all it seems to inspire are thoughts like “hopefully the fix doesn’t break the save file.” Lately, launches feel more akin to beta tests than actual launches and betas aren’t exactly worth full price.

It used to be that the biggest difference between launch versions and complete versions was content. Now, though, it’s both content and overall experience. By the time the complete version comes out, developers have often had at least another year to iron out all the major problems discovered at launch. The complete version therefore usually offers its players a much more consistent and enjoyable experience, albeit without the launch window excitement. Combine that with the included DLC, the often cheaper price and even free upgrades in cases like that of Control Ultimate Edition, waiting for the complete version seems like the better option.

For many, the excitement of launch day may still make it worth buying their games at launch. After all, it’s still fun to participate in the discussions surrounding games when they first come out. Early adopters, however, are getting an increasingly raw deal for their money. Major games tend to be buggier at launch now than they have in the past, and they usually have some sort of expansion pass for later content. Games are also at their most expensive at launch too. Compared to the complete version with all the bugs fixed, all the content included and possibly even more extras for a cheaper price, the advantages are obvious. Hype is only worth so much and the day may soon be coming where it’s not enough to balance out all the downsides of buying games early.