Having something in hands or using something before everyone else has been a strong urge for me for the better part of my life. It did not really matter what it was: games, programs, gadgets, computer systems, game consoles or smartphones. If it was new and promised to be better than the old thing, I had to get my hands on it as soon as it was available.
When a new game console or game came out that I wanted to play, I pre-ordered them so that I could get it on the day of release, or sometimes even earlier than that. The disappointment came later when I noticed that only a handful of new games were released for the systems in the first six to twelve months after launch.
In regards to apps and programs, I started to use beta versions or even earlier builds to be among the first to test it.
In the past one or two years though I started to change my attitude towards this and quit being an early adopter for the most part. I was not able to make a full 180 on this though, but that can be fully attributed to running a technology news site and the requirements to test and run new software and sometimes hardware for it.
So why did I make that change? There are actually several reasons why I stopped being an early adopter.
1. Hype vs. Reality
Marketing plays a huge role in the computing and gaming world, especially if something promises to introduce a new feature that sounds really good to you, but also if it promises better performance or other benefits in comparison to the last generation.
Hype plays a big part in the technology world, with many technology sites praising hardware that they did not even had a chance to test on their own. It is the same in the gaming world. If there is a new game, a sequel to a popular title for example, it is almost certain that hype is building around it.
There is nothing wrong with hype, but since early adopters do not have time to wait for thorough test results and reviews, it is usually a blind purchase that they make.
The main question here is if that new feature or gadget that is being hyped is really worth the price you pay for being an early adopter.
Do you really need to get your hands on Google Glass, Samsung's new smartwatch or the latest blockbuster game the day they come out?
2. Functionality / Issues / Maturity
First generation products have often issues that later generation products do not have anymore because they have been fixed. This is true for games, apps, gadgets and hardware. Patches may resolve issues in games that early adopters may experience (that may reduce the fun and enjoyment of the game), second generation hardware may be faster, run more stable or use less power than first generation hardware.
Firmware updates may improve functionality of hardware products, and updates to game consoles may also improve them in different ways.
While that is not always the case, you are often better of buying products when they have matured. That does not mean that you have to wait years to get your hands on a product, but recent issues with games such as Diablo 3 or Sim City have shown that it may be in your best interest to do so.
There is another issue that you need to take into consideration: compatibility and standards.
If you thought that HD-DVD would be the winning format in the HD-format battle, then you bet on the losing horse. This turned your expensive equipment into something that has no longer any use. The same is true for other formats and products, say VHS vs. Beta Max, wireless charging standards, ports, H.264 vs. WebM, Plasma vs. LCD TVs.
It is usually better to wait until a standard format or technology has emerged, unless you really need a product right at that time or are certain that it will win.
You pay the full price if you purchase a product the day it comes out. Prices drop over time, so that you may be able to purchase the product for less after a short period of waiting time.
Hardware prices do not drop that much, but they will often when the next generation of a device comes out. The manufacturer wants to sell the remaining stock of the old device which you may get for good value.
The same is true for many games, which may drop in price months after release, especially on PC.
You pay a premium for the privilege of using the product early.
Before I make any purchase nowadays I ask myself if I really need the product. Do I need to upgrade from my Note 2 to Note 3, the PC that I bought in 2012 to a new one that is slightly faster, or the Nintendo Wii to the WiiU?
What would I do with a smartwatch or Google Glass, how would it benefit me? While there is a novelty factor, it is often the only argument that speaks for a purchase, while everything else speaks against it.
Another example: Do I really need Fifa 2013 when I have Fifa 2012, or the next Call of Duty or Battlefield title if I played the last one? Do I need Windows 8 when I run Windows 7?
When I'm uncertain, I create a list with pros and cons and base my decision to buy a product -- or not -- on that list.
Arguments for being an early adopter
There are arguments for being an early adopter which I would like to mention as well. Sometimes, being an early adopter provides you a say in the future development of a product. If you find bugs and report them, or notify the company about a feature that is missing, it may be implemented and released via an update (or a next generation version).
Another pro argument is that having the device enables you to test it, write about it and get accustomed to it. You can become an expert here before everyone else which can be very useful, especially if you are a journalist or make your living in a related field.
Sometimes, hardware revisions may introduce slower components or missing features. The Playstation 3's emulation for instance for PS2 games changed from hardware to software along the way, and was not that good in the beginning.
While I still have the urge to get a product as early as possible, these days it is usually only because I want to write about it here on this site, and not for personal use. I sometimes cannot withstand the urge though, especially when it comes to games that my friends want to play and that I'm interested in as well.
As far as hardware goes, I'm pretty conservative here. I get a new mobile phone every 2 years when my contract renews, but that is about it.
What about you? Are you an early adopter? Did you ever regret buying something early?