Dear Dave

Wednesday 10 October 2007

When years turn into decades

Dear Dave,

OK, Sony are getting really desperate to sell me a PlayStation 3 now. They know I'm absolutely their target demographic and they're trying their hardest. A price cut on my birthday, though? That's below the belt. Pretty soon they're going to start ringing me up at three in the morning to find out why I haven't bought one yet. Unfortunately for them, after three children, I've already been driven mad. A little bit of sleep deprivation isn't going to make me mistake GAME for the trouser department of John Lewis next time I head to the shops. (Well, not again, anyway). Still, a price cut... on my birthday... Can't say I'm not tempted.

Yep, the birthday season remains upon us. Marie had hers, then Sarah and now it's my turn. (Thanks for the parcel of pig entrails and the CD of train noises, by the way. I'm sending you some out-of-date yogurt and a dead squirrel for Christmas).

Ed wearing the birthday hat.
Nobody escapes the birthday hat...

I have reached another milestone. I have indisputably moved from my early-thirties to my mid-thirties. I have also, it seems, reached an age where mere years are no longer long enough to efficiently mark the passage of time - I'm beginning to work in chunks of decade.

I guess it's a logical progression. When each of the kids was born, I spent the first day counting their age in hours. Then, for the next fortnight, I counted their age in days and, after that, it was weeks and even half weeks until they were two or three months. Months turned into years around about the time they reached two but they were seldom just two, they were two-and-a-quarter or two-and-a-half or 'nearly three'. I still do this kind of thing with Fraser's age sometimes and he's nearly seven-and-a-half. (See what I mean). I imagine it will peter out once they're nine or ten. Then it will be simple, whole-numbers of years for evermore as far as I'm concerned. No more faffing about. In later life, Marie will introduce her fiance and the first thing out of my mouth will probably be something like, 'She's thirty-seven. We thought she was never going to move out.'

It's just payback, really. I've lost track of the occasions on which my children have told random strangers in a lift or on the bus how old I am. I'm looking forward to following Fraser around on a Saturday night when he's a teenager and telling all the bar staff exactly how old he is while I sup happily on my own beer.

Yep, there will come a time when I find the kids' ages nice and simple but I suspect that's when they will start to get a bit cagey about the whole thing. From my own experience, just because my parents have been happy to blurt out my age to all and sundry for years, doesn't mean I always have. There was a brief period in adolescence where I tried to pretend I was older than I was and then, after a relatively brief period of youthful maturity, I passed twenty-seven or twenty-eight and things began to get vague. I wasn't twenty-nine, I was 'in my late-twenties'. I'm guessing that, once I'm much past forty, things will start moving in decades. It's only when I'm up to around ninety-six and going for a high score that I'll start telling people my age again. ("I'll be a hundred and eight this October. It's all down to fresh air, hard work and marmalade. 'Course the key thing is where to put the marmalade but I'm not telling you my secret, laddie.")

Oh, what the heck, I'll come clean. I'm thirty-four.

I haven't had an urge to buy a motorbike yet. Three years ago, I did purchase a whole stack of games with little plastic figures on eBay, though. It was down to a desire to regain my lost teenage years by rediscovering the hobby which helped lose them in the first place. I only managed to paint a couple of ratmen, however, before Marie's insatiable desire to stay awake became apparent and my amount of free time plummeted. One day...

This time, obviously, the thing to buy myself to keep the gaping void of middle-age at bay is a PlayStation 3 but, also obviously, I still don't need one and they're still too expensive. Even the price cut won't work. My local independent games retailer actually had an equally good deal in the window a couple of weeks ago. I very nearly bought one. Sure, I can play all the games I want to play on my Xbox 360 but a PS3 was tempting as a Blu-Ray player (you know, just in case our old telly mysteriously breaks and we have to get a sparkling new HD one) and there are bound to be some decent PS3-exclusive games soon.

As I said, I almost bought one but then I went into town and looked in the big retailers. I ended up in the basement of HMV. There was plenty of shelfspace for the 360 and all the Wiis were sold out again but the PS3 was shunted to the back, next to where the room had been divided off with opaque plastic sheeting, presumably to allow some remodelling to be done. There was a vast PS3 display stuck up the corner, complete with HD telly and comfy seats but no one was paying the blindest bit of notice apart from two men in suits who were eyeing the situation with exasperation. They looked important and I quickly recognised them from one of my previous letters. Pretending to browse magazines, I listened in on their conversation.
Sony Europe Exec: The free games and extra controller don't seem to be working.

Sony Marketing Bod (watching a tumbleweed roll past): The games are getting pretty cheap second-hand now and maybe we shouldn't have let on we've got new controllers with added rumble coming out after Christmas.

Exec: Pah! Who cares about rumble anyway? That's so last-generation.

Bod: Yeah, but only until after Christmas. Then it's the next big thing again.

Exec: It is?

Bod: That's what you said last week.

Exec: Right, yes, of course. I've been saying all kinds of things
lately; I'm beginning to lose track. Have I changed my mind on the importance of backwards compatibility yet?

Bod: No... I... Er, what do you mean 'yet'?

Exec: What? Did I say that out loud? Oh, sorry. I was busy thinking we should make the console more affordable.

Bod: A second price cut in just over six months? That's insane. We'll annoy our loyal customers who bought one at the initial price and make everyone else think we're desperate and... (He trails off as an HMV employee emerges through the plastic sheeting, accompanied by a few flurries of snow. There is a brief glimpse beyond. No building work is visible but the icy expanse of Narnia stretches away into the distance, trees and hills covered in more snow. Except they aren't hills. They're huge piles of PS3s. Mr Tumnus' hooves poke out from under the nearest one).

Exec: It's not a price cut and neither was the previous price cut. If you remember, we merely added value to the package by including extra content and, as you've already made clear, the worth of that extra content has been slowly decreasing over time. This has, in effect, meant the price of the console itself has been steadily rising for the last few months. How many other consoles can claim that? Even the Wii hasn't got more expensive and look how popular that is. I think the time has come, however, to reverse the trend, throw down the gauntlet to our competitors and make a minor adjustment to the RRP.

Bod (recovering as the plastic falls back into place): What level of 'adjustment' were you thinking?

Exec: £125.

Bod: What!? After six months! The early adopters will lynch us. And it's not even economically viable anyway.

Exec: We'll bring in a new model that's cheaper to produce.

Bod: How's it suddenly going to be cheaper to produce?

Exec: We'll leave bits out. We could start with the glove compartment and a couple of the coin holders.

Bod: You mean the multi-card reader bay and the USB slots.

Exec: Ah, same difference, it's not like anyone is using them. How about a third of the hard-drive and backwards compatibility as well? The ability to play PS2 games isn't so important now there'll be sixty-five games out for the PS3 by Christmas.

Bod (looking at his feet): Yeah, but one of those is Pirates of the Caribbean and another is Untold Legends.

Exec: The important thing here is choice, not quality.

Bod (his voice rising as he suddenly realises that the floor is made of PS3s): OK, OK, so we sell this 40GB model for £300. What about the current 60GB model?

Exec: Let's say £350 with a couple of games.

Bod: Only £50 more for two games and extra features? That means the new model will look both over-priced and under-equipped. Meanwhile, the price cut will look confused and panicked rather than dramatic and attractive.

Exec: But don't you see? It's not a price cut. If we cease production of the 60GB model, it's a specification downgrade coupled with a stock clearance. There's nothing desperate or confused about it. The product is £125 cheaper and the price hasn't been cut at all.

Bod: I, er... I'm not sure... That's not offering quality or choice. I... Hang on. You just changed your mind on the importance of backwards compatibility.

Exec: Took you a moment to notice, didn't it?

Bod: Very smooth. This might work. Still doesn't have rumble, though. (They start to leave).

Exec: That's such last-generation technology.

Bod: Until after Christmas.

Exec: Yes, yes, of course, after Christmas... but we'll have the 120GB Freeview model with built-in camera and etch-a-sketch to worry about then.

Bod: What?

Exec: Oh, don't worry. (He puts his arm around the other man's shoulders as they disappear behind the curtain). I've been assured that that one will definitely be able to make toast...
After that, I gazed at the display a little longer but I wasn't exactly reassured about spending all my pocket money for the year on what's still very much an extravagance. Fortunately, this meant my resolve was already reinforced when the official announcement came out. I will just have to come to terms with my encroaching decrepitude without retail therapy. I will continue to resist.

What to do to celebrate my birthday, though? A meal? Some cake? Or a session juggling hammers next to the telly?

Hmm... Maybe I should give my credit card to the children to look after for the rest of the day...

Yours in a woman's world,



Anonymous said...

Happy birthday!!

Anonymous said...

Hippy Birdy!!!

Why did the chicken only cross the road halfway?----- It was going to lay it on the line.

I think Dilbert should start producing gaes consoles....