Even though I have long left the hell that is retail (specifically toys) for greener pastures, I will never forget the lessons I have learned regarding shopping for gifts. Few of which are more awkward than games consoles and/or games, especially if you have no prior experience with them. Below I have compiled the main things that people didn’t even know (or think) they had to consider before buying one. Sometimes this information confused people more but I am throwing it out there in the hopes that it might help someone on the way to a relatively stress free Christmas.
Check the shop’s return policy
Many shops have return policies that differ from their standard return policy when it comes to games consoles. Make sure to clarify your position if not told by the staff member before buying. In my own personal experience on both sides of the retail counter, more often than not a console which is having issues will not be taken back by the retailer. You will be advised to contact the manufacturer of the console should any issues arise.
I myself have had an issue with a console but the shop took it back on the condition I had proof that I had logged the problem with the manufacturer first. However, this can differ depending on the shop and manufacturer you are dealing with. It is preferable for a manufacturer to try to fix problems directly rather than have a shop just hand out another unit for free.
Keep your receipts
This goes for anything with and electronic component really (I have seen countless remote control cars back to the shop in my retail days). A receipt might be the difference between having to pay the manufacturer for a replacement or a repair if it has a technical fault. Your “get out of paying for a technical fault card” will not last forever though so make sure you are aware of the length of the manufacturer’s guarantee and what it covers. Also, please don’t show up to the shop, 3DS in hand, ranting and raving at the sales assistant only to reveal that you took the battery out of it to try to fix it. That is definitely not covered.
It is an unfortunate fact of life that some large consoles today rely on a decent internet connection. Some are more dependant than others. So be mindful of this when enquiring about which console to buy. You can always check your internet speed with your broadband provider. This still applies if the person you are gifting the console to will not be playing online. Which brings me to my next point.
Set it up
Where possible try to set up your console as best as you can before Christmas day. Most consoles need to update their software every so often (although it can feel like much more often than that) and will probably be looking to be patched the day you switch them on. More importantly though, many packaged bundles do not come with a physical game, only a download code, so after you wait for your console to update you may be sitting around on Christmas day waiting for a 50GB game to download and install (a huge inconvenience if you have a bad broadband connection). If you think you can solve that problem with a physical disc, think again. Most consoles require a game to be partially installed on the hard drive before they can be played.
Of course it is vitally important that you do this in case you encounter any problems with your console, especially if you have younger kids. Nothing ruins Christmas day like a faulty present and the prospect of having to look for a replacement the second the shops and customer care offices open back up.
If you are a parent it is also a chance to become familiar with the console yourself. There are a plethora of parental settings to explore from timers to age restrictions. I have had a few things thrown at me by parents who decided it wasn’t their job to know what exactly they had given their child. Not good when you have something that’s attached to the internet.
Anyway, you might want to set up a sneaky Netflix account for yourself because consoles aren’t just for games anymore.
Maybe you’re not committing a couple of hundred of your earnings to an entire console and have opted to simply buy a game. Well there is no use promising little Bobby a game featuring his favourite Italian plumber if all little Bobby has is a Playstation. Unfortunately not all games are available for all consoles.
Adding to this, Playstation 3 games do not work on a Playstation 4 and vice versa. Some Xbox 360 games work on an Xbox One but Xbox One games do not work on an Xbox 360. 3DS games work on the 2DS but do not work on a DS or a DSi…there is a lot of instances where you can be tripped up. There is also no going back if a game is opened and it is discovered far too late that it will not work in a particular console. I wasn’t even allowed to take back sealed games with a receipt in the shop I worked for, so I really emphasised this to anyone buying a game.
Double, triple, quadruple check you know what you are buying for. If you intend to buy a game for somebody make sure that you know exactly what console they have, even as much as taking a picture of the console night help a staff member figure out what you are looking for.
Know what you are buying
I once had a granny come in with Grand Theft Auto in her hand, telling me how great her grandson was and how he really wanted it for Christmas. However, dear old granny let slip that her grandson was only seven years old. The look on her face when I had to explain that the game in her hand was over 18s. If I had not caught that, her grandson could have very well received GTA and it also could have very well flown under his parents’ radar.
Now I am making no presumptions here, maybe his parents would have been cool with it. I did once have a six year old come in with his dad for a Call of Duty game which they were going to play together online as they had with COD before. That was the dad’s decision. A different woman had also asked about GTA for her thirteen year old son and she said she didn’t mind the violence but would pass because of “sex stuff”, her words, not mine.
So just double check with whoever you are buying the game from to see if it would be suitable. It also helps that an age rating is written on the box, but remember an age rating of 3 does not mean it is just for 3 year olds. It is for 3 years to however old you want. It may sound self explanatory but I have had countless arguments with people about this.
Be wary of a new trend in games where they may subtly harass you into buying in-game items with real money (my dad still hasn’t recovered from when my brother bought €200 worth of things on FIFA). It has gotten so insidious that governments are debating as to whether to consider certain games as containing a form of gambling. The company EA is in the spotlight right now because of what they have pulled with Star Wars Battlefront and are planning to pull with UFC 3. You can read about it here. Just be sure to pull your card details off the console after you buy something on it or just opt to buy online store vouchers.
It may sound like a lot to take on (before you get into things like what storage you should get etc.), but the beauty of modern technology is that when it works, it works. Consoles pretty much take care of themselves, setting up much like your own phone would. However, don’t use this as an excuse to tune out of conversations surrounding it, especially if you are buying for younger kids. There is a whole world attached to that little box sitting in your living room.