In Britain, Black Friday only really became a major event within the last couple of years. Its origins in the US are directly linked to the Thanksgiving holiday, meaning that it has roots in actual social behaviour and shopping habits, rather than simply being some kind of engineered media fad. That’s what it is in the UK, and it was a big deal in 2014 largely due to two things: novelty and hysterical media hype. Now the novelty has worn off, this year looks like it will be a bit of a damp squib, despite the media’s obsession with it.
Don’t get me wrong, just like Arsene Wenger I love a bargain, and I checked a few websites this morning to see what was on offer. The general offering was pretty poor though, which figures. I mean, it just doesn’t make sense to offer huge discounts so close to Christmas, when people are going to be spending money like crazy anyway. Really the whole thing is just another media circus. Apparently there were a bunch of TV crews on Oxford Street at the small hours of this morning, and the number of media personnel outnumbered shoppers. Pathetic.
There’s a serious issue underlying some of this. Poverty in the UK is widespread, particularly outside London, and the generally low standard of living and low quality of life means people can get desperately excited at the prospect of getting something nice which ordinarily would be outside their budget. Our own 3DTV cost us £600 three years ago; my PC cost more than that; this stuff isn’t cheap. Of course the media, most of which is pushing various right-wing policies and agendas, loves to get pictures of people fighting each other for a chance at a cheap TV or whatever. It’s not just Black Friday–a similar thing happened when IKEA opened some new stores in deprived parts of London a few years ago. Constant media coverage and hype, short-term massive discounting, and impoverished and disenfranchised local communities makes for a combustible mix.
But I diverge. We are looking into buying a PS4 this Christmas, so I had a look at those. There’s a bewildering choice of near-identical bundles available. Virtually all of them come with the Uncharted Collection. Somehow I struggled through all of the Uncharted games on PS3 and you could not pay me to play them again. It’s really an illusion of choice with these bundles–there are so many options, but none of them appeal. If you’re not interested in Uncharted, FIFA, Call of Duty, or Battlefront, you’re guaranteed to be getting something you don’t want. It’s so wasteful. Back in the ’90s you’d generally have one or two bundles available: a no-games version, a Mario or Sonic bundle depending on if it was Nintendo or Sega, and maybe one other bundle with whatever that year’s top game was (Street Fighter II or whatever). You’d probably get two controllers too. That was plenty, and it was a meaningful choice. In contrast, the way they do it now seems completely random. And extra controllers are like £60. Flip.
I also avoided Amazon. As I understand it, their Black Friday deals are exclusive to subscribers to Amazon Prime, which I’m not. Amazon seem to be missing a trick here. A lot of people, like me, have been put off Amazon following reporting of their tax issues and employee practices, and so avoid using them whenever possible; and certainly won’t subscribe to Amazon Prime. To hide their best deals of the year behind a paywall seems an odd decision, considering it might be a good time to pull some of those people back in. It just means I use Zavvi instead.
My own Black Friday shopping so far has been limited to Arkham Knight and Divinity: Original Sin on the PS4, which together cost just under £50. Reasonable value but not exactly amazing. I don’t even have a PS4 yet but my shopping list of games is already 15-20 games long, so it’s good to make a start. And it should give me something to write about in the new year.
If you decide to make any shopping forays today, then good luck!