A Gamer’s Guide to Gift Shopping

November 14, 2016

With Christmas on fast approach it can sometimes be stressful looking for the perfect present, and with technology rapidly changing the way we approach shopping there are a lot of ways to approach the hunt. Digital media and online stores in particular have increased in dominance over the past decade, and with almost everyone having an online presence these days it provides an interesting opportunity to research (or stalk) individuals.

Through this Gamer’s Guide to Shopping, I hope to provide some helpful hints and tricks when shopping for videogames. While this guide is aimed towards the Holiday season, many of the hints are useful for any time of the year.

Be sure to stay tuned to Rocket Chainsaw, as throughout this week we will be featuring platform-specific Christmas Gift Guides.


Seek and Destroy: Finding the Perfect Gift

Wouldn’t it be great if you had the ability to read minds? You wouldn’t have to second guess if that special someone will like their present, but it would also take away the thrill of the hunt.

One of the great things about gaming is the industry is full of different genres. You have racing games, shooters, platformers and everything in between, but most gamers will generally lean towards something a little more specific.  At this point it’s good to note any particular games that special someone has mentioned in the past. Do they have a favourite series? Is there a particular game they’ve mentioned they would like to check out? Or do you simply have a gut feeling? Whatever the case, it’s always good to do your research.

Apart from that special someone directly mentioning a game, you can also check out their current game collection. If you don’t have easy access you can always look up their gamer profile online and see what they’ve played. Another option is asking their friends and family for assistance – don’t be afraid to ask, chances are they’re hunting for a gift as well.

If you’re struggling in particular to find a gift, consider something from a rival series. If that special someone plays nothing but Call of Duty, perhaps consider getting the latest entry of Battlefield or Titanfall. Just keep in mind to read online reviews if you’re unsure; there may be a reason why they’ve avoided a particular title.


The Price is Right

Never underestimate the power of the internet. With crowds, timed parking and busy lifestyles these days there are more practical ways to look for bargains than window shopping. Most retailers offer online catalogues, so spending a few minutes browsing their websites can save you a lot of time walking between stores. If you prefer, you can even call the store and speak to a staff member for pricing.

An often overlooked service is online stock checkers and in-store pick-up services. Again, this saves you the hassle of looking for a store that has stock and, in the case of the pick-up service, secures the product.

If you have a little bit of time before Christmas consider ordering gifts online. There are many online retailers who will guarantee delivery before Christmas if you order by a certain date, though as a precaution live by the rule “the sooner the better”. For birthdays I usually have presents organised weeks beforehand, so Christmas is no exception. If you’ve never shopped on a particular online store before, be sure to check if they accept PayPal and read reviews that are not posted on the store’s own website. PayPal is generally a safer way to exchange money online as the store does not get your credit card details and you have buyer protection policies if anything goes wrong.

Also, don’t ignore the pre-owned market. If a game is particularly hard to get this is usually the only venue for physical media. Pre-owned games are usually cheaper than new copies, so you can potentially save a bit of money as well. Before handing over money to the cashier, ask to inspect the game and check for scratches and any other signs of damage.


Going Digital

Physical media is slowly becoming a thing of the past. While there’s a certain nostalgic element about opening a plastic wrapping and watching it twinkle in the light, as time goes by it’s hard to deny the benefits of going digital. No longer do you have to hunt endlessly looking for the disc or cartridge, and literally at the touch of a button you can access your products.

In particular if your special someone has Steam, you should consider gifting a digital game. You could do this on Christmas morning, and present them with a heartfelt message in a card. Don’t be annoyed if they don’t see the present right away as they might not have logged into their account all morning.

With console gamers it’s a bit trickier as no gifting service is available. If you live with that special someone you could sneak online the night before, purchase the game and let it download overnight. Sony and Microsoft also offer the ability to purchase games remotely via apps and logging into online profiles. Remember to be respectful of your special someone’s privacy as they may not like you logging into their accounts. It’s really a case by case basis if they have an issue with this.

Once again don’t overlook online retailers. Many retailers sell digital Keys for games, so you can potentially save a little money by purchasing the code from a third party. Make sure you check how legit the website is as there are known cases of Keys being stolen.


“Sorry, we’re sold out”

Imagine that you’ve spent a good portion of the Holiday season looking for an item only to be turned away at every store with the dreaded words “sorry, we’re sold out”. You’ll likely be upset as you had your heart set on what you believe is the perfect present.

Don’t stress, as there are some alternatives available. Digital media is one solution, as it cuts out the need for a physical product. Another possibility is ordering a unit from a future shipment and paying it off completely. Give the receipt to the person the gift is for, and explain it was sold out everywhere but you have provided the next best thing. You could even bundle it with some chocolates or dried fruit so that they don’t go without something on Christmas morning. It’s the thought that counts and if that person cares about you, then they will acknowledge your efforts and appreciate the gift.


Other Things to Consider

Over the last few years we’ve witnessed an interesting trend in the videogame industry around Christmas time. As we become more reliant on internet-based services such as game updates and multiplayer, the online servers are often under intense pressure on December 25. Worldwide people are opening up their shiny new consoles and games for the first time, so there’s an influx of people connecting to the online services for the first time and being prompted to update their product.

In particular if you’ve purchased a console for your special someone, consider logging online and updating it a few nights prior to Christmas. This means they can start playing the console sooner, and overall there is less stress on the servers come Christmas morning. One obstacle is that you’re effectively taking a product out of its box and potentially can’t pack it back up easily. Consider connecting it to the TV the night before and wrapping a bow around it or get creative and make your own packaging. Gags work well if you’re close friends, so you could put it in a box with a picture of a completely different product on it (I’m sure you can use your imagination…).

If you’re particularly unsure if your special someone is going to like the present, you should consider using EB Games return policy. The company usually offers refunds and exchanges up to January 15 if the product was purchased during the holiday season. At other times of the year they offer a standard 7-day return policy. Double check with staff at the time of purchase.

Some people consider this last suggestion a bit impersonal but as someone who is particularly difficult to shop for, I enjoy receiving vouchers and gift cards as presents. It’s a great way to ensure that special someone can get what they want for Christmas, and they have the added bonus of being able to take advantage of Boxing Day sales if they wish. If they own everything they want, they can keep the gift card for later in the year as well. Combine it with a thoughtful card and it’s something that will be sure to please.

Christmas is supposed to be a time of love and friendship. Regardless if you’re religious or simply interested in having good food and exchanging presents, remember to keep calm and enjoy the season. If something minor goes wrong don’t stress, take it in stride and continue with the rest of your day. Above all else, stay safe and have a wonderful Christmas.