Do You Feel Lucky? The Thrill and Peril of Being an Early Adopter

Buying a new video game console as soon as its's released.  It's a lot like a business investment, except it isn't.  What it's called is being an Early Adopter, and it's something you should never do unless you're prepared.  But if you're anything like me, you already have.  The question is, did you regret it?

As most of us know, a truly new video console will be released on average every six years.  Company's will develop new platforms and release them within a similar timeframe, to compete for the attention of the consumers.  Usually multiple systems will be launched anywhere from a couple of days apart from each other, or up to a year.  This may seem like a large gap, but it really isn't, when you consider how long it usually takes for a system to become widely popular.

Because this trend of companies releasing systems simultaneously every few years, a pattern has become so apparent that we can call each new change in consoles a generation.  It's like how their are multiple generations of iPhones, except more impactful due to the longer wait periods for new devices.  Right now, we are in the Eighth generation of video game consoles.

This regular schedule for releasing new systems is the reason gamers and corporations put so much emphasis on early adoption.  Each generation doesn't just add little tweaks and upgrades, they are entirely new machines.  And these machines require a lot of time and money, both from consumers purchasing of them and using them, and from the developers creating them, which requires an extraordinary amount of resources.  Certain people will really want the new system, and the developers desperately need installed base on their devices as quickly as possible, so being an early adopter becomes influential for the success of a new piece of hardware.

The current machines available in this generation are the Nintendo Wii U, the X Box One, and the Playstation 4.  These systems were released within the course of a year, from 2012 to 2013, and now that we've had some time with them, the early adopters are able to determine if their investment will either pay off, or be a waste of their money.

Be aware that people's ideas of what makes something worthwhile varies, so it would be foolish to try and say there's one, undisputed reason your early purchase of a console was the right decision.

The more common definitions of success are how many games are available on the system, how many other people bought the console, how more advanced it ended up being over it's predecessor, or just simply how much fun you've had with the machine.  These are the criteria most people try to meet when determining if their investment was sound.  These are all well and good, and appropriate, but they are also major sources of disappointment when the buyer is not prepared to handle when the early purchase of a large investment goes poorly.

You never know how well a system will do, or what a company will after a system is initially released.  So if you're someone who has a hard time handling when something does not go your way, then you really should hold off on buying a console.

For me personally, no system better demonstrates how rough it is being an early adopter than the Nintendo 3DS.  This system cost $249.99 when it first released back in March of 2011.  The priced seemed a little high, but when the early adopters considered Nintendo's history of creating top-selling handhelds, it seemed to be worth it.  Then the system was released.  The machine was as good as it was expected to be, but for whatever reason, Nintendo did not released any highly desired games along with it.  In fact, it was months after the system's launched before any noteworthy games were released.  This caused the 3DS's sales to tank.  The outlook for this handheld seemed dire, but Nintendo was able to salvaged the sales, through means that made many of the early adopters angry.  Just six months after the release of the system, Nintendo reduced the price of the 3DS 169.99.  This meant that if the early adopters would have waited not even a full year to make their purchase, they would have saved eighty dollars.

To Nintendo's credit though, they did offer the early adopters twenty free digital download games as compensation, but the fact remains that everyone took a hit on buying the handheld early.

You have to be careful when you buy a system as soon as it's available.  It is fine if you don't care about the cost and are just doing it to have fun, but if you want to see it as an investment and reap the most benefits of owning a successful system for the longest amount of time, then you need to be prepared for when your new toy doesn't meet your expectations.  Systems will not sell, good games will be far and few in between, price drops will happen, and what you need to accept is that you were the one who decided to take a chance on the uncertain future of a new platform.


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