A Need for Mead - My First Week in Skyrim
My first week with Skyrim was certainly an eventful one. I have been on all manner of adventures, both virtual and real, since first attempting to generate a Sean Bean/Eddard Stark doppelganger at the character select screen. Stark and I have been caught up in all sorts of mischief from murdering wealthy wedding guests to transforming into a werewolf (in-game), taking in sights both beautiful - aurora lights viewed from the peak of a snowy mountain - and bizarre - a drinking party sat on invisible seats and a breakdancing corpse.
Despite being aware of the problems that plague the PS3 version, I still plumped for a Sony copy and so far have avoided the glitches and debilitating slowdown that have ruined the experience for some gamers. As is now common knowledge, PlayStation is my console of choice for multi-platform titles and I therefore decided against the 360 version, despite it being the safer choice. Windows was never an option, as the mere suggestion of Skyrim would have probably caused my PC to launch itself out the window. It proved an ominous start when my console froze during the first auto save and then jammed again 30 minutes later, but it has been plain sailing since, with only a few insignificant hiccups that haven't impeded my enjoyment.
I'm currently around 15 hours in, and it is already abundantly clear that Skyrim is an outstanding game and that countless hours of Viking trouble-making lie ahead of me. I have so far slayed only one dragon and have barely made a dent on the narrative, choosing instead to strike out on my own and follow a number of optional quest lines. The path less travelled is often the most exciting in the land of Skyrim, and although the side missions mostly follow the standard RPG formula, they still feel worthwhile and rewarding.
Outside of the game, Skyrim has been the cause of a couple of headaches over the last few days. I bought my copy a week and a half ago for £40 ($63) from GAME; a price very close to full retail and one that was in-keeping with the asking price elsewhere online. However, I was horrified to find that only a couple of days later they were offering a previously unannounced discount of 50% that made a mockery of its original price.
Sudden discounts aren't that unusual, and I'm sure many of you will have had similar misfortunes in the past, though perhaps not as steep as this. Well and truly pissed off, I decided to contact GAME's customer service. I kept my email brief and to the point. I noted that video game prices will fall over time, though rarely this steeply, and suggested that this kind of practice is likely to alienate those customers who paid full retail only days before; not a wise move for a company whose financial struggles and inability to adapt to a digital market are well documented. I concluded that I would no longer be buying full priced games from them, as there is always the chance that a huge and entirely unexpected discount is just around the corner.
|A goblet of mead and three Bacardi Breezers please mate|
Their response was polite and rather vanilla. They assured me that games are regularly discounted - I thought I had already established that - and that they were merely trying to compete with the pricing of other online retailers - a complete falsehood, as they were the first to offer this price for Skyrim and it took a number of days before any of the competition followed suit.
This practice of offering steep discounts for games so soon after release is not healthy for the industry, though it certainly feels beneficial to the consumer. A gradual discount is one thing but halving the price of any new product is asking for trouble, and causes the customer to question the monetary value of a game, liable to hesitate before paying anything close to full retail in the future. Anyway, I won’t make the mistake of ordering a full priced title from GAME again, and based on my experiences of online shopping in 2011, I’m reluctant to purchase a game anything close to full retail from any outlet. The current pricing model is broken and needs to be sorted out pretty sharpish. A new game clearly isn’t worth £44.99 when everyone knows that in a month’s time it could be half the price.
Skyrim induced grievances continued well into the weekend as, imbued with medieval gusto, I downed a flagon or two of mead. We spent the weekend in Manchester with friends, where we visited the outdoor Christmas market. It was wet, cold and far too busy but we still had a great time thanks in no small part to the presence of everyone's favourite olde beverage and Skyrim's drink of choice, mead. My friend, who also happens to be enjoying Skyrim, and I got a little too excited when we spotted a stall selling this deceptively strong honey wine. Quaffing the warm nectar, we were only a battle axe and a backward dragon short of being true Nord warriors. It put a fire in our bellies and a song in our hearts, though unfortunately it also contributed to one of the worst hangovers I’ve had in some time.
From mead and angry emails to deceased B-Boys and impressive beards, Skyrim has already left an impression and is looking like a late candidate for my game of the year honours, which will follow later this month. I better get back to it, as those dragons aren’t going to slay themselves.