E3 Thoughts So Far After Day 1

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This is the first year I’ve ever rally paid a lot of attention to E3, which is a little ironic but we’ll get to that. I’ve watched the Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo press conferences and checked out some highlights of all of the other press conferences. It’s a good year to be a gamer.

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Microsoft Put on a Great Xbox Show

Microsoft’s set it off right with a killer conference showing a ton of upcoming games, albeit with some somewhat awkward presentations in between, and then put he rumors to rest by pulling a sweet “one more thing” move and officially unveiling Project Scorpio. Overall, it was a great showing that got me excited about the Xbox brand again. I even liked the Xbox One S, though it might have some sales issues given that they already have released details about the upcoming Scorpio to be released next year. I imagine that’s a core gamer mentality though, and there will be a ton of people who could care less about picking up the most powerful console in history and just want a smaller, sleeker, Xbox One.

Microsoft is pushing their Windows 10 gaming platform, nearly every game shown off was labeled as a “Xbox One and Windows 10 exclusive.” It’s a bold strategy that could grow  their brand and get them some good will with their “Play Anywhere” feature. Play Anywhere allows cross play between both a Xbox One and a PC with a single purchase. Personally, I’m psyched for Forza Horizon 3 and some of the great looking indie games that ID@Xbox showed off like Inside and We Happy Few. All told, Microsoft knocked it out of the park and couldn’t have done much better.

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Sony is All About the Games

Sony came out next with a more epic styled showing, mostly due to full orchestra. They contrasted Microsoft and focused much less on the people bringing games out and much more on the games themselves. Sony went from one trailer to the next, rarely with anyone speaking in between. Microsoft is working on getting away from their initial Xbox One platform focusing on one total media box to do everything in addition to playing games, and Sony capitalized on that with a complete focus on games. They opened with a restyled God of War, one with a new setting in Norse mythology and updated gameplay mechanics to bring it in line with contemporary conventions. The action was gritty and close up, in comparison with the animated and zoomed out style of previous entries. The Last Guardian finally has a release date, and Kojima’s new project definitely looks interesting even though we won’t see it for years.

Sony is doubling down on PSVR, as they should, and showed off a ton of games coming out for it in addition to a release date and price point for the peripheral. The announcement that the Kitchen demo that I have heard so many people refer to was actually an early preview of Reident Evil 7 blew me away. The fact that you can play the entire game in PSVR as well as on the console is also nuts. From the looks of the preview, I’m not sure I actually want to play in VR because it looks scary as shit in a very good way. It became a little difficult to tell which games are coming to PSVR and which are not due to to their being no segues in between the trailers, but you can see which ones seem more fit for the platform.

One thing that was a little bit of a surprise given the fact that Microsoft had already presented was the lack of any mention of the PS4K. Microsoft confirmed the existence of their iterative console that morning and Sony has already confirmed their new console’s development outside of E3. One thought that’s been floating around is that Sony might be working on some further development on the Neo. Given the current consoles narrative and Sony’s dominance based almost purely on a more powerful machine, they might be redeveloping based on Microsoft’s statements about the performance level of their upcoming Scorpio console. That could be huge for Microsoft if they manage to get their new console out before Sony, as Sony might decide to redesign aspects of it.

I’m a fan of both consoles right now, even though I own neither. This arms race of console power that’s developing might be a pain for Microsoft, Sony, and any game developers out there, but its nothing but good for consumers and gamers.

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Nintendo’s Focus is Away from E3

To finish out, Nintendo showed their Treehouse 2016 stream this morning. It was nowhere near the spectacle that Microsoft and Sony put on, you can tell the bulk of their resources are focused elsewhere as they see the faults of E3. They released a gorgeous looking trailer for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and then moved on to a sedate gameplay demo of the new Pokemon games. The games look great, but the presenting pace was slow compared to everything else I’ve seen at E3. There are probably a ton of people who were super into the gameplay demo though, so I can’t fault Nintendo for taking advantage of the spotlight that Zelda gave them.

Nintendo seems to give no shits about E3, but they know Zelda will get them attention, and for good reason. The new entry in the series looks amazing and seemingly shakes the series up in a ton of well thought out ways that will add to the experience. It’s an open world with gear, weapons, and and ton of content off the beaten path to keep players interested. It was shown on the Wii U and looked great, so I can only imagine how sweet it’s going to run on the NX since its been confirmed on the system.

What a Year to Start Paying Attention to E3

All in all, this has been a great year to give E3 my attention. I haven’t been able to watch many of the presentations live, but the breadth of content around the event has made it easy for me to catch up whenever I have some time. The interesting part of this being the first E3 I have given my attention to is that this is the year in which E3 seems to be losing relevance. I watched the Giant Bomb day 1 wrap up video, and they hit on the amount of open space at the event many imes. Seems like in years past, this event was packed to the brim with journalists and publishers, that is not the case this year. Many publishers and studios have given up their space to save the huge cost of entry for more meaningful ways to reach out to their audience.

In the era of social media and a connected world, there might not be as much value in an event focused on industry professionals when its cheaper and more effective to reach directly out to the audience that supports the game makers.

Image Credits: E3 Expo, Microsoft, Kotaku, Sony, and Nintendo

Iterative Consoles and Playing Games on a Budget

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Uncharted 4 might be the best looking game ever

Iterative Consoles Could be Great for Consumers on a Budget

With rumors swirling about iterative consoles from both Microsoft and Sony, many console fans are angry about the companies forcing them to upgrade. When people picked up their PS4 or Xbox One, the industry was set in long console cycles. Consumers expected, with good reason, to be up to date on hardware for around 8 years based on the industry’s history. Things seem to be changing, hopefully we’ll know officially after E3 2016, but the rumors seem to be at least somewhat true.

Console makers are looking at other electronics segments with annual updates and taking note. Criticism from gamers about consoles being years out of date when compared to a current PC have assuredly weighed on console makers as well. Leaked information puts the rumored Xbox “Scorpio” on pace with competitive PC graphics cards with benchmarks around 4 times more powerful than their current machine. Technology is advancing too fast for traditional console cycle lengths, and that works for me. It might work out for the best for you as well.

Unlike some tech enthusiasts, I don’t need have the latest and greatest that companies have to offer. My phone is great, smartphones still amazing me, but it hasn’t been top of the line since 2013 and I only bought it 6 months ago.

I love reading and keeping up on the latest tech, but like the current car industry, many electronics are plateauing right now. New versions are only marginally better than the best of last year, or even a few years ago. I look for deals and buy the best thing for the money, which is usually a year or 2 old at this point. Most things that were top of the line last year, or the year before, are still damn good today. That’s taking annual generations into account, at this point there has only been one PS4 and one Xbox One. They’re each the best version you can get, its a little different than phones, but similar enough.

Upgraded Consoles will Prime the Used Market

Each machine is already selling well and competitively priced, so if a new model of either is introduced, prices will bottom out and there will be a healthy pre-owned market from people who upgrade. It sucks if you just bought one only to find out that new versions may be on the horizon, but you probably got a pretty great deal and the console will remain relevant. I owned each of the current gen machines briefly and decided to sell them, but I still might jump on a great deal after the Neo or Scorpio come out.

With the recent release of Uncharted 4, I’ve heard a ton of members of the gaming press talk about how little we need new hardware to produce amazing looking games anyway.

I bought my PS4 just for Bloodborne, but there are a few other PS4 games that won’t be making the jump to PC that could make a “last-gen” PS4 a tempting deal. Even better is the fact that Sony is taking care that all games still perform well on the original PS4 even if they’re being mainly developed for the new version.

Original Consoles will Maintain Support

I love gaming, but I do it on a budget and I’m not alone. New hardware will definitely make some consumers happy. I’ll be with the group who is excited to take their outdated, current-gen console off their hands. Some people may be mad, but there’s really no essential reason to sweat upgrading either console right now. Maybe we’ll see a mind blowing demo at E3, but it’s pretty unlikely that any news will change how inessential the new versions are. Sony has already sold 40 million consoles to their faithful fans and will not stop supporting them. The Neo will just give hardcore fans a better way to play without alienating anyone with the original console. No harm in that, and there will be plenty of used consoles in great condition to pick up for crazy deals.

So, with that in mind, what do you think of shorter console cycles? There will be a more powerful option for people who want to shell out for one. Everyone sticking with the console they already own should remain about the same, and there will be pre-owned and older model deals for people to pick up cheaper. It seems like it might not be worth it for Sony and Microsoft, but more choices should serve more consumers. Let me know what you think in the comments below and thanks for reading!

Microsoft is Going All Out on New Xbox, Partnering with Oculus Rift

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New Microsoft Xbox “Scorpio” Rumors to Compete with “Neo”

As you have probably heard by now, details have leaked about Microsoft’s plans to iterate on the Xbox One by not only releasing a slimmer version of the box, but also by releasing a more beefy, PS4K-esque, Xbox next year. Kotaku reported that multiple sources have leaked information to them about plans for the new-ish consoles, saying that Microsoft is “moving toward an iterative approach for their consoles, not unlike Apple.” Polygon also corroborated this discovery from sources of their own, adding that Microsoft aims to make their new xbox significantly more powerful than the PS4 “Neo” that Giant Bomb leaked details about a bit ago.

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Awesome chart courtesy of Polygon

Microsoft Going All In on Xbox Performance

The story of this generation has been all about Sony’s consistent messaging and the PS4’s slight graphical edge that have made it a better buy in many consumers’ minds. Performance benchmarks of the original PS4 and Xbox One put them at 1.84 and 1.32 teraflops respectively, where reputable sources have put the PS4 Neo at 4.14 teraflops. According to Polygon’s sources, the next Xbox evolution, code-named “Scorpio,” will clock in at 6 teraflops.

That’s more than 4 times more powerful than the current Xbox. If true, this should give it a significant performance edge over the competition, assuming the Nintendo NX isn’t even more powerful with it’s industry leading chips. Combined with Phil Spencer’s much more consistent messaging around the console, the promise of the Windows Universal Platform, and a growing backwards compatibility library, this new version could give Microsoft the edge in consumers’ eyes that Sony has been enjoying so far. Will it be enough to convert a large amount of the over 40 million people who currently own the PS4 though?

Xbox One Destined to Support Oculus Rift?

Microsoft might have one more surprise in the future though. As hinted by their partnership with Oculus to bundle Xbox One controllers with the headset, the significant performance upgrades in the new console might be in order to bring it in line with the requirements of the Oculus Rift. The PSVR is definitely on its way, but Facebook’s Oculus is still the biggest name in VR. They could give Microsoft the competitive advantage that they’ve been looking for.

Keep in mind, all of this information is currently leaked rumors with no official word on the accuracy of them. The console game definitely seems to be changing though. We’ll know for sure when these plans from Sony and Microsoft are officially confirmed, but they seem like solid rumors. What do you think about the evolving landscape of game consoles as they move to shorter cycles in a more phone like production model?

 

Images and references courtesy of Oculus, Microsoft,

Kotaku, Giant Bomb, and Polygon.

I Bought, Then Sold, Both Next-Gen Game Consoles. Here’s Why

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I decided to get back into video games a little over a year ago. I had an Xbox 360 and had enjoyed it for years, but it had become almost a dedicated Netflix box over time. I had invested in the Microsoft ecosystem, but it seemed like a a ton of people had and now were going with the PS4. I had over a year of Xbox Live support built up at that point so I decided that my end game would be to get a Xbox One and capitalize on Xbox Live Games with Gold. The only thing getting in the way of that was the fact that I’m obsessed with Souls games and Bloodborne was only on the Playstation 4…

So, I thought I could go on Craig’s List to pick up and PS4 to play Bloodborne, and then sell it to go toward a Xbox One. I make a game out of buying and selling electronics on Craig’s List to get the best deal anyway, so this idea was nothing new for me. I got excited and bought a PS4 potentially too quickly, but I got a decent deal on it. I picked up a used copy of Bloodborne and I thought that I actually might stick with it rather than going for a Xbox One. Here’s why I didn’t.

I Loved Bloodborne on the PS4, But…

I loved Bloodborne, and I definitely would still be playing it to this day if I had stuck with the PS4, but I had some issues with my PS4. Most notably, I was having a ton of issues with my HDMI connection when I first turned on the system. I looked online and found this was a common issue with a simple fix, bend a pin in the system back in place. The issue with mine was that the pin wasn’t bent out of place, all of the connections looked great physically. I noticed from there that it looked like the system end of the HDMI cable couldn’t fully plug in to the PS4. It wobbled noticeably while plugged in and I needed to fumble with it nearly every time I turned on the system. I tried several cables to no avail, and then found online that this was an issue with some of the early systems, the connection was poorly engineered and could develop issues with use. This is when I started questioning my excitement with next gen systems.

My Xbox 360 had been bombproof in every way since I bought it. I had an earlier model, but had never had any issues with the RROD, I had no issues with connections or the interface, and it had more games and apps than I could ever use. I had sold my Xbox 360 after I bought the PS4 unfortunately. Why were people so wild about Sony’s new system when a ton of people had such fundamental problems with it? Why had I turned my back on Microsoft when they had never let me down? I listed my PS4 and my games on Craig’s List, both as a bundle and separately, and began my search for my Xbox One.

Financially I made out, I paid $330 for my large PS4 bundle and then $30 for Bloodborne. I sold Bloodborne for what I paid and then 2 of the other games that I never played for another $40. I found a guy selling a large Xbox One Kinect bundle with some games I already wanted for $400, but I needed to unload the PS4 first to cover the cost. I listed my remaining bundle for $400 and sold it for $380 in a few days. Not a great deal considering the bundles offered now, but I had bought a PS4 and the only game I wanted to play and made money doing it.

I then contacted the person with the Xbox One bundle that I wanted on Craigs’ List. Turns out, he had just bought a PS4 and wanted to sell his Xbox quickly since he had already replaced it, but he was firm on his $400 price. I wasn’t crazy about that price, then I compared some email signatures and it turned out he had just bought MY PS4! I asked him to confirm it and we agreed on the same deal I had given him to just make it a trade, so I got it for $380. My opinion, I got a way better deal on the trade than him. Now, let me tell you about the Xbox One…

Then the Xbox One Let Me Down Too…

You know how games still come on discs most of the time? Digital games purchasing is growing and that’s great, but all of the games I got with my used bundle were physical and I was excited to play them. The only issue, the disc drive on the Xbox One I bought was shit. I had to eject and load game discs several times, waiting to see if it would actually load each time, and hope that I could play a game. This was even more of an issue when I had a friend over for a quick game and couldn’t get my new Next-Gen system to read a disc. I dealt with it for a few weeks, but I couldn’t get over it. I had bought it used so I didn’t get a warranty because it had expired. Do it yourself solutions were asinine, ranging from playing tug of war with the disc drive in the Xbox to just hitting it a bunch to hopefully make it work.

There was also one throwback solution, blow in the drive in between games. That’s right, do the same thing I did to an original N.E.S. to my new Xbox One to hopefully get it to work. How could the next-gen hardware be so sub-par in such basic ways that are crucial to their function? I played a bit of the Witcher 3 while never removing the disc from the drive and then settled on selling the Xbox.

Stepping Back to the 360 I Know and Love

I had more issues finding a buyer for the Xbox than I had for the PS4 until I decided I would just go back to the last gen and get an Xbox 360 again. I offered the Xbox One to several people who were selling their Xbox 360s to upgrade and found a buyer who would give me his 360 collection and $300 for the Xbone. It was a nice Xbox 360 Slim too, which I had never had.

I abandoned the “Next-Gen” systems and went full circle back to a 360 for Netflix and HBO, and a solid disc drive and HDMI port. I was pretty down gaming for a bit. I assume all of these issues have been fixed in hardware revisions, but it left a bad taste in my mouth in regard to next gen hardware. Maybe I’ll look into a Wii U still, I know I’ll love a handful of games there. But in the meantime, I found the machine I have now and am discovering an entirely new side of gaming that has completely reinvigorated my love of the medium. More on that soon…

I Finally Finished Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain….

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By finished, I mean that I beat all of the main missions in the game and then went on YouTube to watch the unfinished cutscene of the last mission of the game that somehow didn’t make it into the published game. That’s a pretty good way to start running down my impressions of the incredible story around the unrivaled gameplay of Metal Gear Solid V.

There is so much to the story of Metal Gear Solid V, and the game itself contains very little of it.

To start out, I’ve always been into the Metal Gear Solid story. I picked up a PS One late it its console cycle for a deal and the first Metal Gear Solid title was one of the must play titles that I picked up and was definitely the original Playstation title that resonated with me the most. The story was crazy, the gameplay was fun (if a little awkward), and at one point you had to plug your controller into the 2nd player port to keep a boss from reading your mind and predicting you every move. I was sold, the crazy man who created this game was a genius. I dabbled in the series from there on out, I played the second Solid game on a PC that was not meant for gaming but ran it and then did the same thing I did with the PS One with a PS2 and played through Snake Eater. Better late than never. I still haven’t had the opportunity to play Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of The Patriots, a story which I’ve avoided but seems to be the conclusion of the series. Don’t tell me….

Then came Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, a game that was more hyped up than anything I’d ever been excited for from the time that a trailer was released disguised as a game unrelated to the series. That charade was quickly decrypted by fans and everyone was chomping at the bit to get their hands on the game ever since.

Then the game was released, and I had a shiny new Alienware Alpha to get back into the series on, what a ride it’s been.

I’m not planning to go into the gameplay in this post much. It’s been out for months and there are plenty of reviews to tell you all about the amazing military sandbox that Kojima has created, one in which you can approach every situation from at least a dozen different ways. That alone says enough and there’s a ton to read already if you’re curious. I thoroughly enjoyed the game, it stands out as one of the best of the year for sure, but what fascinated me almost as much as the pure gameplay was the story around the game and its release which certainly has been covered more frequently in gaming news this year than any release that I’ve ever paid attention to.

It all started with the disguised trailer way back in 2012, that’s pretty standard fare for a creator that doctored trailers for another of his games to hide the fact that you didn’t play as the hero who everyone expected you to (more on that later).

As the actual release of the game neared, the situation at Konami in regard to Kojima became more and more murky. What looked like a fully blossoming professional relationship with the release of MGSV and the pending Silent Hills game quickly imploded for reasons that we will hopefully someday find out.

We know that Konami removed Kojima’s name from the box are as well as from his Los Angeles studio. They announced the cancellation of Silent Hills despite the significant buzz of P.T., the playable trailer for the game and the promise that it showed.  A story was published about abhorrent working conditions at Konami where employees were monitored in ever way aside from being shackled to their desks. I read all about the situation and watched as Geoff Keighley disparaged Konami for not letting him attend The Game Awards 2015. It was a crazy story, but it impact me completely until I finished Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

I Finally Finished Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain....

This amazingly well crafted game was obviously leading somewhere with its story. The story beats in The Phantom Pain were fewer than in other games in the series, which I didn’t especially mind, but I still saw them going somewhere; then the game ended.

I was taken aback by a bad cliffhanger at the end of what could likely be the end of the series, and is the end of the arc headed by Hideo Kojima. What I found next was unbelievable. I had noted a few articles to read about the game, but not until I had finished the game, it was time. I found out that there was an unfinished cut scene that detailed a final mission that had not been included in the final game and had just been tacked on to a collector’s edition with little fanfare, until people realized what it was. When a kid who looks like he might be (confirmed in the final time line cut scene) a significant character in the series runs away with a hugely powerful military walker, its nice to know what comes of that story. That resolution was intended to be in the game, but for some reason Konami cut development of this crucial ending to the game that brings the whole decade-spanning story together, and shipped a blatantly unfinished masterpiece of a game.

Watching the grand final mission on YouTube and picturing how great it could have been while finished in the game made this my most interesting game of the year so far. I’d never seen anything like it. It also made me feel like it might have been intended as the 50th episode of the game which is just a more difficult (expert) version of the mission from the midpoint of the game where you face off with the metal gear, Sahelanthropus.

There is also more speculation beyond all of this. Metal Gear Solid V is the first in the series to use a roman numeral. It is speculated that Kojima wanted the Peace Walker entry in the series to be the 5th installment, but Konami wouldn’t allow a sequential entry in the series to be on a mobile platform. Beyond that, Hideo said in an interview that the “V” in the title is for “Victory” because of the achievement the game is. Spoiler, which has already been spoiled everywhere else, you actually play through all of the Phantom pain with a soldier who was altered to look and act like Big Boss, Punished “Venom Snake” could also be the root of the V.

So, if conspiracy theories are believed, we actually got two false Metal Gear Solid 5’s and then Kojima left Konami. Kind of a buzz kill ending to the most amazing game in a series that has influenced gaming so much in its lifetime.

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More on this in another post as this one is much longer than I intended and there is so much to this game and story. Cheers!

Images courtesy Komani and IGN

Buying a PS4 to Play Exclusives in the Most Efficient Way Possible, Then Getting Out of It

I bought a PS4 not too long ago off Craig’s List from a guy who turned out to live just down the street. I had one prime reason motivating me to pick it up. As you saw from my last post, I’m into the Dark Souls series and it was worth it for me just to check out Bloodborne. I absolutely loved Bloodborne and it in itself made the system worth it, but I also got  ton more value out of the system while I had it.

My main motivation for getting a PS4 was to play Bloodborne, yes, but I had also heard that a huge amount of Xbox 360 owners had swapped them for PS4s this console generation. I’m a hug fan of the 360, as a lot of you probably are, and I was curious about what the draw was for so many people to move away from Microsoft and th Xbox one and embrace the Sony side. I started looking on Craig’s List or PS4s that were for sale in my area. I did get a little more antsy than I prefer on this search once I budgeted the money, but I found a good deal on a PS4 in excellent condition with all the starting gear, an extra controller and 5 somewhat appealing games for $330. In the brief time I was looking, this was the best deal and ended up only being about a half mile from my apartment.

I took some of the games that came with the system for a brief spin , specifically Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag, and had a pretty good time, but I  had to get my hands on a copy of Bloodborne ASAP. Aside from Bloodborne, I got some other perks with my new system, namely a free 14 day PS Plus membership and a week of free Playstation Now. I love these trial because, coming from Xbox 360, I was curious what these services would offer in comparison.

I waited a few days to activate my free 2 weeks with Playstation PLus in order to get the free games of 2 separate months, boy did I get lucky with that timing.  I immediately got a copy of Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeros, and extended demo of the Fox Engine that I had been very curious about but didn’t want to try out on the last generation, and then I hit the jackpot and scored about 10 days with Rocket League. Metal Gear Solid was great, if a little short lived, but rocket League is a boatload of fun and a huge thing missing from my current Xbox One experience. I managed to get hooked on Rocket League enough during the remainder of my 2 week trial of PS Plus that I now still google “Rocket League Xbox one” every few days.

With my other trial perk, Playstation Now, I waited until after finishing Bloodorne to activate it so there would be no distractions. I have heard for years that “The Last of Us” is a prime example of an argument for video games as art for mainstream consumers and I was excited t give it a spin. The games relatively short length also made it a prime candidate for a game that I could start and finish during a 7 day trial of PS Now. I’ll get to my deeper thoughts about “The Last of Us” in another post, but it was a perfect use of the subscription and an incredible experience by the ed of it, to say the least.

After sucking all of that value out of my Soy PS4 over the course of about a month, I sold it on Craig’s List and made $20 more than I had invested in the PS4 bunde and my copy of Bloodborne, nt a significant profit but still nice given how I did everything that I wanted with a PS4. Anyone can give something a trial period by searching for a deal on Craig’s List and being open to selling it if it doesn’t pan out. Most of the time you can at least break even with electronics if you do your research and sometimes you can make a decent profit, like I did when I bought a Nintendo 3DS bundle for $45 and then sold it for $120.

If you’re curious about a product, give it a quick search on Craig’s List or eBay, figure out the average sale price and try to find something in  good condition for less than that. That way, if you decide t keep it you got a good deal and if you want  to sell it, odds are you can get your money back. I’ve done this time and time again to check out products, mostly electronics. Electronics remain pretty liquid if you’re in an area that embraces them, most of which do currently.

I  bought my PS4 bundle for $330 and then spent another $30 on Bloodborne, $360 total spend. I sold it within a few days of listing it for $380, so I got everything I anted out of it an still made $20 off the experience. That may not be too significant, but it’s a pretty good deal in my book.