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I’ve mentioned my love for video games many times. You won’t meet a more genuine and inclusive community. From Fallout to Fall Guys, FarCry and Fallen Order there’s something for everyone.
But we all have our flaws. So here are my 5 things us gamers could learn from the advice regularly given in the personal finance communities…
1. Delayed gratification
Something regularly mentioned in the blogs and forums in the personal finance communities is trying to use the method of delayed gratification to stem unnecessary spending. Methods such as putting items in your online basket and coming back to it in a week/ month to see if you feel the same way about wanting to buy it are good ways to see if the value you’ll get from that item is worth the cost.
Video games are one of those things that quickly become considerably cheaper from the moment they’re released.
I can’t think of any consumer item that experiences quite the dramatic drop other than maybe brand new cars. If you’re willing to ignore the hype of a new release you can regularly find those games at 40/50% of the price just 6-12 months down the line, if not more.
Nintendo are sometimes the exception to this rule, but this only really applies to their big name IPs such as Mario and Zelda. It’s why you’ll still find Mario Kart on the Wii for about £15-£20, even in second-hand shops like CEX.
Delayed gratification can be difficult with all the hype that comes with some new releases, but being able to put that to one side can see gamers get considerable discounts down the line. Plus, there is such a huge library of fantastic older games to tide you over in the meantime, those 12 months will fly by.
2. Loud marketing doesn’t always mean a good product
And speaking of hype…
Video games can look as good as many Hollywood films nowadays, and their promotional materials leading up to their release are no exception.
But when so much effort is put into advertising a product over actually making the product playable, we can run into some issues.
Ignoring marketing spiel is one of the first things we need to do when we’re looking to organise our finances. High street shops and online stores are full of it, but sifting through the noise and stopping unnecessary spending on brand that bring no additional value to our lives can set us on the path of financial success.
We also see this a lot in the investment world with funds. Terry Smith of Fundsmith Equity has been quoted as saying, “most active managers hug the index and charge you for it”. In other words, their funds are rarely more specialised than the index, but giving it a fancy name and adding a few ‘niche’ holdings entices investors to believe that this fund manager knows something no other manager does.
The game Cyberpunk released late last year and is a great example of this. Originally announced in 2012, this game was 7 years in the making, but released an utter buggy mess; it got to a point where Sony even pulled the PS4 version from their store.
But you bet your bottom dollar the lead up to this game’s release had all the marketing bells and whistles you could ask for. They even had a billboard in Times Square. You probably even saw it on your TV over Christmas. This sort of marketing budget is usually reserved for the likes of FIFA and COD and they’ve become a bit of a joke in the gaming community over the last few years.
Not only that but they fully fuelled their Hollywood sized ego by employing Keanu Reeves as one of their unconvincing lead characters.
People have enjoyed it, and on some platforms it’s been playable, but like many active fund managers, there’s a lot less going on than the marketing noise suggests.
And this isn’t an isolated example. Fallout 76, Pro Skater 5, AC: Unity are just some of the many, many examples of this.
3. Time is your greatest asset
Time is an investors greatest asset. It lets us ride out any market crashes or corrections and allows compounding to work its magic. Sometimes us gamers should take note of this and apply it to our beloved pastime too.
With the rise in ‘as-a-service’ gaming, publishers are increasingly pushing out half completed games to then release ‘day 1 patches’ and continue working on the game to patch any inevitable bugs or issues.
This is putting unrealistic deadlines and profit over quality and further proving why gamers should heed point 1 above and wait 6-12 months after release to give developers time to fix issues that are potentially game-breaking.
But not all is lost if you purchase a game on release date and it’s a broken, buggy mess.
Gamers can deploy what is often quoted as being an investors greatest asset: time.
No Man’s Sky is a great example of this. First teased in 2013 by indie studio Hello Games, this game quickly caught the attention of the gaming community and rode the hype train all the way to MoneysVille.
Its Lead Director, Sean Murray promised the world – no, quite literally promised Galaxies – and after acquiring promotional funding from ‘big lads’ Sony, went on a media spin unlike any other from previous indie studios.
According to Murray, you’d be able to explore quintillions of unique planets and star systems, trade with interesting species, duel with warring factions in space missions and discover plants and lifeforms that no one else playing the game would likely to have seen before. It sounded incredible, and honestly, I was duped too.
Come release day – and muggins here buying it at full price – the game fell under a critical storm like no other. So much so, Sean and his team were forced into a social media blackout, not to be heard from again for nearly a year.
Little did the gaming world know, behind the scenes, Hello Games hadn’t just taken the money and run for the hills like other studios might have done. Sean and his team, it turned out, were truly invested in the project and have since released update after update for free, with the game now resembling something along the lines of what they originally promised.
I bought the game in 2016, stopped playing a month later, decided to hold onto it and that patience has paid off. Five years later No Man’s Sky is a solid exploration game, and the team at Hello Games have answered most of their critics biggest gripes.
It turned out to be a solid ‘buy and hold’ and it took just a little patience and willingness to not sell into the noise.
Other games have also experienced this resurgence. Battlefield 4 was trash at release but became a fantastic first person shooter. GTAV’s online offering was literally non-existent at launch, but has since become an absolute money tree for Rockstar and is a really fun gaming experience. There was also Final Fantasy XIV, Rainbow Six Siege and Diablo 3. And again, there are many more examples of this.
4. There’s never a one size fits all answer
When trying to organise our finances, or choosing how to invest our hard earned cash, there is never a once size fits all solution.
We’re all different after all. We all come from different backgrounds and earn different amounts. Advice that applies to a Director on 150k a year isn’t necessarily going to be the best advice for a recent graduate in their first job on 17k.
This is also true of the gaming industry. There’s a wealth of choice out there of consoles, games and accessories.
But some gamers – usually the loudest – will champion a specific console or gaming series with absolute certainty that this is the best game ever created, and shun anyone that either disagrees or just prefers a different option.
Objectively they’re all fantastic pieces of kit – technologically and pound for pound they’re probably some of the best pieces of tech you can get for their price point so why do we need to take sides?
One person will love the new big AAA title, others will hate it but love the indie game made by one person with next to no budget; some are committed to Xbox, others Playstation or Nintendo. Some loved the Wii U, whereas most…didn’t…
I, myself, hated The Witcher 3 despite it being one of the most critically acclaimed games of all time. I also don’t like the Fallout series (the good ones, not 76); it’s just not for me.
Much like the world of personal finance, the gaming industry gives us a whole host of options to choose from. As long as we’ve done our due diligence and have a good idea what we’re doing and don’t just choose our path because some random on the internet told us to.
5. Watch out for additional costs
The world of investing and banking is stuffed with additional costs. They’re not always a bad thing, but we have to be aware of them and weigh up whether they’re worth it or not.
Is it worth going with X broker despite charging a little more per trade or to use their platform? Is it worth paying £X for my debit account for the insurance or extras it comes with?
The gaming industry has experienced these little extras creeping in over the last few years with the rise in online gaming.
Micro-transactions have become a hugely controversial topic and one that looks like it’s here to stay.
They’re often rife in games popular with younger age groups where the kid has somehow managed to get access to the parent’s card and splurged on multi-coloured clothes for their character or a new emote. If you have a kid that enjoys gaming make sure your card isn’t saved to their account.
And then there’s the pre-order bonus packs. Pay more money to order a game before release and you might receive a tacky, plastic figure, a cheap ‘collectible’ coin and/ or some in-game bonuses. These are usually absolute trash and often require forking out at least 50% extra on top of the price of the game.
Again, we’re weighing up are these little extras – which all add up – worth it? Are we really getting value from these extra costs?
So those are my 5 lessons for the gaming community that we can take from the personal finance communities.
But there are a lot I think the personal finance communities can learn from gaming. But that’ll just have to wait for another post…