'Tis the Xbox 360 Season
Nov 16, 2009 9:34 AM, By Jason Bovberg
It seems that every November, I experience a reawakening of my passion for all things Xbox 360. The Thanksgiving season often sees the release of several blockbuster games, and I suddenly have a strong interest in Black Friday shopping for otherwise insanely expensive games. The titles of interest this year? Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Left 4 Dead 2, and Borderlands. But aside from hunting down game bargains, I also get reenergized about using my Xbox as a media extender—that is, using the game console to enjoy media from my computer.
As a consumer of a few different kinds of media, I've always been a bit frustrated about the pricing structure of gaming software. On release day, new games almost never sell for anything below retail price. It's easy to find fabulous deals, any time of the year—even on new-release Tuesday—on music, books, DVDs, and now Blu-ray discs. But games? Perish the thought. To afford games that have a typical retail price of $60, I usually have to wait as long as a year before discounts start to appear. The only exception to this rule is Thanksgiving time, when all kinds of aberrant bargains spark into existence in that competitive retail juggernaut called Black Friday.
By having a little patience, I've managed to grab some high-profile games on Black Friday for nearly half price.
Of course, that's what it all comes down to, right?—the patience to let release day go by and wait weeks or even months before buying a hot game, all while your friends are deathmatching night after night, and bragging about it, following release date. Therein lies the secret to huge sales despite the gigantic price on new-release Tuesday. No one wants to get left behind. Gamers constitute one of the most captive audiences around.
I suppose if movies or books or music had the same kind of interactivity that gaming boasts today, retailers would have the freedom to charge exorbitant prices for new releases. But fortunately for those consumers, those are much more solitary pursuits. For now, we must stand in utter awe of the way Xbox Live has transformed the massive financial opportunities of an increasingly dynamic and huge gaming community. If you're an avid online gamer, these are the best of times—even though some of those days can be trying on your wallet. But if you're patient, and you value games more for their single-player or co-op experiences, Thanksgiving is the time of year for you.
I fall into that latter group. I'm a rather patient fellow who doesn't need to join in the frenzy of activity surrounding release day. I'm not one of those Mountain Dew-addled gamers who buys titles at midnight parties and stays up all night, gritty-eyed, tearing through the game. I like to play only casually with friends online—thereby avoiding the crush of teenaged, foul-mouthed, full-time game-careerists—and I also tend to enjoy the single-player game experience better than the multiplayer experience.
Which might make you wonder why I bother subscribing to Xbox Live—itself a pretty expensive proposition—in the first place. The answer lies in the Xbox 360's ability to do much more than just give you a dynamic gaming platform. (Oh, and that $50 Xbox Live Gold subscription? It's pretty easy to find that for much cheaper on discounted prepaid cards.)
This time of year, with all my increased gaming after Black Friday, I also rediscover media sharing. As we have family over to enjoy the holidays, I find myself assembling photo slideshows on the computer and inviting people to enjoy them in the theater, thanks to the Xbox 360. An even more eye-opening experience is sharing HD home video, edited into mini-movies from our camcorder, through the console.
But as my passion for the Xbox 360 is rejuvenated, I have wonder why my feelings for it tend to ebb and flow. It can certainly be a frustrating machine: I, like many Xboxers, have experience the Red Rings of Death, requiring a return to Microsoft for repairs. Whenever I play, the specter of another crash hangs in the air. It's also a very loud console, sounding like a box fan set to high, and the roar often becomes distracting, particularly while watching a quiet home-video moment.
When the drama of the holidays dies down, and prices are no longer dropping briefly to reasonable levels, these flaws and frustrations settle in, and I don't find myself using the console very often. Call me a bipolar gamer, but the Xbox 360—with its strange combination of great joys and dismal failings—is worthy of the high passions it provokes.