I’m generally not a patient person, but the philosophy of “patient gaming” is one I strive to live by. The benefits are real, and it’s actually not as hard or inconvenient as it sounds. Definitely worth it.
What Is Patient Gaming?
The term “patient gaming” comes from the /r/patientgamers community on Reddit, where the definition of a “patient gamer” is anyone who waits until at least six months after the release of a game to play it.
Some people take it to the extreme, waiting anywhere from a year to a decade before touching a game. Others aren’t so willing to endure, choosing to wait three months, or even one month, before a game becomes “okay to play.” And in this market landscape, some might say that anyone who abstains from pre-ordering games is a patient gamer. This label mainly applies to video gamers, but can also describe board gamers.
At its core, patient gaming simply means waiting before you buy and play a game. To me, it doesn’t matter how long you wait—that’s a personal decision—as long as you willfully make that choice to wait.
But what’s the point of subjecting oneself to this waiting period? Is it just an exercise in discipline and impulse control so you can brag about your iron resolve? No! There are several practical reasons to adopt the patient gaming mindset.
1. Avoid Deceptive Hype and Marketing
The biggest reason to be a patient gamer is protecting yourself against an industry that, on the whole, cares more about draining your wallet than respecting you as a consumer.
The launch of No Man’s Sky is a prime example of a deceptively overhyped product. Players were promised a procedurally-generated universe with “18.6 quintillion unique planets” but were given a product that didn’t live up to the spirit of all the marketing hype leading up to its release.
Waiting also protects you against the perils of Early Access, where you might buy into the promise of a game that morphs into something entirely different over the course of development—or ceases development altogether, leaving you with an unfinished game without possibility of a refund. Look no further than DayZ and Godus for striking examples of this.
And let’s not forget the risk of relying too much on pre-launch or launch-day reviews. Since most reviewers are pressured to publish as quickly as they can, many game reviews fail to fully represent the entirety of what a game offers and can mislead you into buying games that are novel but without lasting appeal.
Waiting mitigates all of these risks. It usually takes a few months for a game’s honeymoon period to end and for its deeper flaws to poke through, and you are then better equipped to make a truly informed decision.
2. Play After Critical Issues Are Patched
Even well-made games from reputable developers can suffer technical issues that sneak by their QA teams, and it could be several months before those issues can be addressed—or in the case of apathetic or incompetent developers, the issues might never be addressed.
Take Diablo 3‘s auction houses, which were problematic even from the very beginning when it released in 2012. After much outcry from players, Blizzard admitted they’d made a mistake (in 2013), and it wasn’t until 2014 that the auction houses were finally removed. If Blizzard had chosen to keep them in, today’s happy Diablo 3 players might’ve been regret-filled ex-fans instead.
SimCity 2013 provides an even more cautionary example, what with its massive launch day server issues that prevented users from logging on, coupled with the much-hated requirement to always be online even when playing alone. EA refused to refund the game and took more than a month to add a gimped offline mode that didn’t really address player concerns.
Patient gamers can rest easy knowing that they regularly dodge these kinds of bullets, only jumping into a game when it’s truly ready to play.
3. Go at Your Own Pace
Acquiring and playing a game at release can trigger a kind of subconscious mental fuse. You might feel compelled to race through the game and finish as quickly as you can, as if to keep up with everyone else who’s playing the game, or to stay ahead of spoilers so your own experience isn’t ruined, or to enjoy memes as they’re posted to Reddit.
But this pressure to play fast is non-existent when you’re late to the party, meaning you’re free to take your time and absorb everything as it happens rather than zooming through progress for this reason or that.
4. Get More Bang for Your Buck
Because most games drop in price over time, a game’s price at launch is usually the most expensive it will ever be. And unlike physical products, digital video games don’t wear out over time. In fact, with patches, they actually tend to improve (save for the occasional game-ruining update).
If you have good timing with sales and bundles, you can obtain hundreds of dollars worth of games at a fraction of their retail price. But you can only take advantage of this if you’re a patient gamer since games usually don’t go on sale or participate in bundles when they’re brand spankin’ new.
Patient gamers also come out ahead in DLCs. Instead of buying the base game at full price, then each additional DLC at full price, you can wait for GOTY editions that combine the base game with DLCs at a massive discount. The savings are enormous and quickly add up over the years.
5. Escape the Hardware Treadmill
As someone who’s never had a cutting-edge PC, sometimes I feel like I’ve been pushed into the patient gaming lifestyle out of necessity, not choice. My system can’t handle modern games, and I probably won’t be able to play them until I build another mid-line PC in a few years. (Or when Google Stadia takes off!)
But I’m fine with that. It frees me from the pressure of upkeep. No need to sink money into new CPUs, new GPUs, and completely new builds unless I really want to and can afford it. Also true for console gaming.
In the same way that game prices drop over time, hardware components get cheaper over time. Upgrading every two years is way more expensive than lagging behind by two years, and you’re still able to experience two-year-old games on ultra-high settings the way everyone else did—all without draining your bank account.
The Downsides of Patient Gaming
You miss out on the collective launch experience.
Sometimes a game becomes so hyped that being able to play it when everyone else is playing it is more joyful than the actual gameplay. It’s like the difference between watching Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead live versus solo-binging the latest season long after it’s already over. Or watching the Superbowl as it airs versus watching a recording the next day.
There’s something special about doing things with others and partaking in the same experience. It’s human nature. Being a strict patient gamer means you miss out on that.
Multiplayer games may die before you get to them.
Multiplayer games, especially competitive ones with matchmaking, throw a big fat wrench into the whole “patient gaming” idea. By definition, a multiplayer game needs to be played with other people, which means the ideal time to play such a game is when everyone else is playing it—and that’s usually at launch. If you wait a year, you might log on to find that everyone has already moved on.
True, we can all conjure examples of multiplayer games that grew over time, and patient gaming would’ve been fine in those cases. But for every League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, there are hundreds of games like Bloodline Champions, which can now only be played by rounding up a few of your friends, or Star Wars Galaxies, which can’t be played at all because it was taken offline.
Even if a game survives long enough to hop in years later, you’ll be at a competitive disadvantage because everyone else has more playtime than you. That may not be important if the game is World of Warcraft, but could be frustrating for Paladins or Fortnite.
Compatibility issues if you wait too long.
All code eventually becomes outdated. Software is always written with certain dependencies for specific platforms, and those dependencies and platforms can change. Try playing the original Command and Conquer on a brand new PC—even if you have the CDs, you likely won’t be able to get it running.
Sometimes games are re-released for modern systems, sometimes a workaround is made available, but neither is guaranteed. Waiting too long can be a huge downer.
The Pros Outweigh the Cons
Patient gaming isn’t right for everyone. If you’re flush with cash, if you need to play new games at the same time as everybody else, or if you don’t care when a developer swindles you with what turns out to be a flawed or broken game, then yeah, you probably shouldn’t be a patient gamer.
But for the rest of us, we stand to gain a lot by being patient gamers.
Remember that semi-patient gaming is always an option too: wait before buying as a general rule of thumb, but when there’s a hot new release you just can’t resist, go for it! It doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. Do what’s best for you. It just so happens that waiting is usually the best thing to do.