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Free or cheap: Post-November discounts on current-gen gaming

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The patient consumer is rewarded in most hobbies, and gaming is no exception. Be it holding out for a discount or simply ignoring a waffling title until some credible reviews roll in, waiting pays off in this industry. With the advent of a new console generation just days away, gamers who plan on staving off their next-gen cravings until 2014 (or later, for the truly steadfast) and those who plan on keeping their current system despite their next-gen purchase both have the same question on their tongue: Will PS3 and Xbox 360 games be cheaper once PS4 and XOne hit?

As it stands now, the answer is a resounding "probably not." Although the PlayStation 2 and original Xbox saw a price drop of their own upon the release of PS3 and 360, today’s circumstances aren’t quite so wallet-friendly. Most important is the fact that the console environment has evolved beyond the box-o’-games into a full-fledged hardware ecosystem; owning more than one system is more beneficial than ever for consumers, and manufacturers are keenly aware of this.

Sony has already declared their plan to support PS3 for several years, and Microsoft expects the 360 to keep chugging into 2016, and with 100 new games in tow. Clearly, current platforms will remain active even after their next-gen brethren start sharing their media center, which significantly decreases the odds of Microsoft and Sony suddenly being afflicted by outpouring generosity. But hey, MS is giving Xbox Ones out for free and Sony has three “secret” gifts for PS4 buyers in-box, so who knows.

PS Vita

Why couldn't this be part of that goody bag, Sony?

All is not lost in the world of bargain hunting, however, and many gamers are already aware of it. In the past week, we’ve seen two games receive free DLC. Courtesy of Naughty Dog, all Uncharted 3 players, including those playing online via the game’s free multiplayer component, received all multiplayer map packs and a brand new map free of charge. (Hintety hint hint, Infinity Ward.) Shortly after, Konami got the generous bug, slashed the price on Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, and gave out two of the game’s three available DLC packsJetstream and Blade Wolf—to owners of the game absolutely free.

Blade Wolf

Like this has to be free for people to want it

These may seem like inconsequential spikes of free, but the timing is suspicious. Both games, which are by no means small-time titles, pushed out their free content just weeks before the mid-November rush, not as the Christmas cheer infected them. Equally notable is that, in the case of Revengeance, only customers who’d already purchased the game received free DLC. This suggests that publishers are hoping to eke out the last bit of sales on current-gen games before they focus on next-gen endeavors.

Consider this: If all you had to do to receive free DLC is purchase a game that you were already planning on getting, and a publisher or developer were to announce in advance the free release of DLC, what would you do? Odds are, you’d run out and buy the game in a heartbeat.  

An influx of free content—i.e. available content—on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 would play right into Sony and Microsoft’s hand. For starters, it encourages current-gen owners to hold onto their system and, in turn, continue buying games for it. Multiplatform development will migrate to PS4 and Xbox One quickly, but multiplatform will equate to cross-generation for some time. As such, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 will still be viable markets for software sales, which is to say nothing of the lucrative digital content opportunities therein.

These freebies would also benefit the holiday console surge. As much as Sony and MS hate to admit it, every human being on the planet won’t be buying their system this holiday. Whether it’s an already daunting “to play” list or the entry price, the next cycle of consoles won’t be for everyone—at the very least, not at first. However, by continuing to support their current system and, more importantly, flaunting the availability of free content—and in some cases, free games—Sony and Microsoft can sell systems to the otherwise forgotten minority this holiday—gamers (likely parents) who don’t own but want to buy a console without shelling out $400+. This would also allow Sony and MS to wrest some control of parents from Nintendo’s tyrannical, 2DS-shaped grip this holiday, and let the two hold onto players who are tentative to make the next-gen jump.

Nintendo 2ds

You clever, cheese-wedge-shaped devil

This leads us to what is arguably the most important demographic: 360 and PS3 owners who plan on waiting before upgrading. Despite what the general mentality may say, there’s no law of allegiance regarding consoles; PS3 owners could pick up an Xbox One as easily as 360 owners do a PS4. Sony and MS are fighting a PR war of attrition, and will be for months, and it all comes down to who burns out their support first. By fueling today’s systems and greasing their players’ palms with free content, they can save face, so to speak, and effectively steer their supporters away from the competition. What right-minded PS3 owner is going to jump ship if, say, Infamous 2 were to throw its content out on the street, with Infamous: Second Son just around the corner?  

It may not be the 50 percent price cut current-gen die-hards were hoping for, but free content is always nice, and it could quickly become a trend among PS3 and 360 games. And as an avid Uncharted 3 player and massive fan of everything Platinum Games touches, it’s a trend I could get used to. 

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Austin Wood
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