Random Thoughts – Randocity!

Hottest Video Games for 2018

Posted in video gaming by commorancy on August 31, 2018

The fall of the year is always the time when the majority of video games release. After all, kids are back in school and the holidays are right around the corner. The game industry waits until August to begin trickling out their biggest games, building momentum until the end of the year. As always, there are a number of games this year to consider. Let’s explore.

Video Game Inclusion Criteria

The games selected for Randocity’s top games list for 2018 only include games that I feel will be of high quality, will be fun and will offer the best play value for your money. Nothing is implied about any game that didn’t make this list. The lack of inclusion simply means that the game isn’t likely to offer the best play value for your money. Those other games are also usually for gamers who specifically look for those kinds of games. This is especially true if you’re considering using this as a gift guide. With pretty much any of these games you cannot go wrong giving them as a gift, with the exception of Fallout 76 due to its MMORPG nature. Without further adieu…

Randocity’s Top Video Game Picks for Fall 2018

PS4, Xbox One and Multiplatform Games

Game Platform(s) Release Date Rating Publisher
Destiny 2 PS4, Xbox One September 4th Bungie
Spider-Man PS4 Exclusive September 7th Sony Interactive Entertainment
Life Is Strange 2 PS4, Xbox One September 27th Rating Square Enix
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey PS4, Xbox One October 2nd Rating Ubisoft
Mega Man 11 PS4, Xbox One, Switch October 2nd Rating Ubisoft
Call of Duty: Black Ops IV PS4, Xbox One October 12th Rating Activision / Treyarch
Red Dead Redemption 2 PS4, Xbox One October 26th Rating Rockstar Games
Hitman 2 PS4, Xbox One November 9th Rating Warner Bros. Interactive Ent.
Fallout 76 (requires Internet)
PS4, Xbox One November 14th Rating Bethesda / Zenimax
Battlefield V PS4, Xbox One November 20th Rating Electronic Arts
Darksiders III PS4, Xbox One November 27th Rating THQ
Just Cause 4 PS4, Xbox One December 4th Rating Square Enix

Nintendo Switch Games

Game Platform Release Date Rating Publisher
Lifeless Planet: Premiere Edition Nintendo Switch September 5h Stage 2 Studios
Wasteland 2: Director’s Cut Nintendo Switch September 13th Rating InXile Entertainment
Super Mario Party Nintendo Switch Exclusive October 5th Rating Nintendo
Child of Light Nintendo Switch October 11th Rating Ubisoft
Dark Souls Remastered Nintendo Switch October 19th Rating Namco Bandai Games
Project Highrise: Architect’s Edition Nintendo Switch October 23rd Rating Kalypso
Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! Nintendo Switch Exclusive November 16th Rating Nintendo
Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! Nintendo Switch Exclusive November 16th Rating Nintendo
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Nintendo Switch Exclusive December 7th Rating Nintendo

The games listed above are not all of the games that will release this year, but they are on this list because they will work well as gifts for just about any gamer. Note, some of the games on the Switch may have previously released on other console platforms. This particular year there’s not a whole lot of games that really stand out as must play games. But, there are a few… specifically Pokémon, Super Smash Brothers, Fallout 76 and Red Dead Redemption 2. These are the only true must play games on this list.

The rest of the games will likely be fun, but they’re not games that I feel must be owned day one. Though, they do make great gift ideas. Note that Fallout 76 is an MMORPG in similar form to The Elder Scrolls Online. It requires an internet connection and Xbox Live if playing on an Xbox One. Be careful when considering this game as a gift item if you don’t know whether the recipient has always-on Internet or Xbox Live. If you’re not sure whether your recipient meets these game requirements, you might should consider other games on this list. All of the other games should be safe without Internet, but always read the back of the box to be absolutely sure.

Enjoy!

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Consumer Tips: How to navigate the Toys R Us liquidation

Posted in best practices, business by commorancy on April 1, 2018

[UPDATED: 12/17/2018] TRU officially closed all remaining US stores as of mid-summer. This article is here simply for legacy reasons. Buh-Bye TRU and thanks for all the fun. We’ll miss you this holiday season.

If you’re thinking of visiting Toys R Us to take advantage of the store closing liquidation sales, this is your safety guide. Don’t throw your money away at Toys R Us, make every dollar count. Let’s explore.

Giving Gifts

Toys R Us’s liquidation is All Sales Final. The first tip is pretty straightforward. If you’re looking to buy a gift for a child, you are trying to stock up for the holidays or for any other rainy day reason, keep in mind that you cannot return, exchange or refund anything you purchase at this time. For gifts, this can be critical, particularly with children. You should always make sure that the person who receives that gift can return or exchange it if they don’t like it. Purchasing from Toys R Us on liquidation, you forfeit the return option.

Even if the gift is to be given while Toys R Us is still open, there are no refunds or exchanges. So, be aware that whatever gift item you choose is theirs to keep forever. You might want to be prepared to perform an exchange with your own money. Note that this can become an uncomfortable situation.

If you know there’s a possibility that your gift might be returned, you should buy from Amazon, Target or Walmart instead which leaves that option open for the recipient.

No Returns, Refunds or Exchanges

This goes hand-in-hand with All Sales Final. If you purchase items from Toys R Us during liquidation, you may get a great deal, but at the cost of no refunds, returns or exchanges. Make absolutely certain that what you buy is absolutely something you intend to keep.

Whether or not you intend to give the item as a gift, you should open the item and check it thoroughly. Do it in the store if at all possible. If it has batteries, make sure to test the item for functionality. You may not be able to test a battery powered item in the store, however. They may not allow you to remove the item from its packaging in the store to perform this test. You may have to take it home and check it there. By that time, you’ve already purchased and it’s too late if it’s defective. If you’re in doubt, leave it at the store.

If you do find a dead or defective item, you will need to contact the toy manufacturer directly and work your exchange through the manufacturer. Keep your receipt. This exchange process could take a whole lot more time than if you bought at a store still accepting exchanges.

Consider your purchases during a liquidation carefully. Do not purchase Toys R Us gift cards… but this should go without saying.

Extended Warranties

If you decide to buy an expensive item that could break easily, you should ask of Toys R Us to offer you a SquareTrade warranty plan. This will ensure you can get a replacement after Toys R Us closes. In preparation for this article, I spoke with a representative at SquareTrade who confirmed that they will continue to honor all SquareTrade warranties purchased at Toys R Us. If you do decide to invest in an expensive item that is prone to defects or breakage, you should also consider purchasing a SquareTrade warranty during liquidation.

Video Games and Video Game Consoles

Purchased video game content is a reasonably safe investment during the Toys R Us liquidation. It’s rare that a disc or a cartridge is defective.

On the other hand, purchasing a video game console or other video game hardware is a bad idea. If you must purchase one, purchase a SquareTrade warranty at Toys R Us to go with it (assuming they are still selling these warranty plans). If it’s not SquareTrade, then you should call the plan service provider before you check out at the store to ensure that insurance plan will continue to cover your purchase after Toys R Us closes for good.

Without an extended service plan, you have no replacement policy if it’s defective or gets broken. Be very cautious of buying video game hardware from Toys R Us during liquidation without a warranty. Though, you can try to work through the manufacturer warranty, it’s sometimes only 90s days. During liquidation, this is the one time where you should consider the purchase of a third party warranty, at least for purchases like video game consoles… particularly the Nintendo Switch which is portable and prone to being dropped.

However, certain types of lesser expensive video game hardware, like controllers, wires, Amiibo, cases, pens and other similar $30-$50 items are safer to buy, particularly when they are marked down 50% or more. However, consoles themselves, like the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One X and PlayStation 4 are not considered good investments from a liquidation sale.

I’d also suggest to avoid buying these devices from eBay as well because many will flood eBay listings from sellers who went to Toys R Us just to cash in on these low prices. If you’re thinking of buying a console from eBay, ask where it was purchased. Be wary if it’s from Toys R Us.

Dolls, Action Figures and Non-Battery Toys

Toys that don’t require batteries and don’t have complex moving pieces are some of the safer items to buy. They offer less defects and are more likely to last the test of time than RC vehicles, video game consoles, battery powered electric child cars, electric skate boards and other custom battery items.

Consumer Safety and Toy Recalls

Toys R Us was very good at keeping up with safety recalls. Unfortunately, they are going out of business. This also means that any toys you purchase during the liquidation that later fall under a recall, you can no longer return to Toys R Us. Like the All Sales Final discussion above, consider that items like cribs, baby items and other possible dangerous infant and toddler toys won’t have any place to go if they are recalled, especially if your baby gets hurt. Though, the manufacturer might honor a return or exchange, you will not be able to do so at Toys R Us. You will also not be able to make any legal claims of injury to Toys R Us once they have closed.

Safe or Unsafe Investment?

Here is a list (not exhaustive) of items that I consider safe, somewhat safe and not safe for a liquidation purchase so long as you fully understand that you cannot return or exchange them at TRU.

Note, safe, somewhat safe and not safe represent what I consider as a “safe purchase” (i.e., getting value for your money vs. throwing your money away), these labels do not describe whether the toy or item itself is safe for use by a child. You will have to determine toy safety yourself.

Toy Type Liquidation Safe Purchase? Contains Battery? Reason
Dolls Safe No
Motorized Dolls Not Safe Yes Prone to defects and can be unsafe
No store warranty
Bicycles Somewhat Unsafe Depends If you’re buying for a gift, unsafe.
If you’re buying to use now, perhaps.
If it has a battery, unsafe.
TRU may or may not offer assembly.
Use your best judgement.
Motorized Electric Kid Cars Not Safe Yes Batteries can be defective
May not be able to find replacement battery
No store warranty
Action Figures Safe No
Plush Animals Somewhat Safe No Depending on what it’s made from,
it may be safe or unsafe. Choose carefully.
Vinyl Figures Safe No
Hot Wheels Safe No So long as the Hot Wheels contain no batteries
Lego Safe No So long as the Legos contain no batteries
Motorized Toys Not Safe Yes Avoid motorized or electronic toys
Video Games Safe No Games themselves are rarely defective
Video Game Consoles Not Safe Maybe Could be defective
No way to exchange
No store warranty
Choose 3rd party insurance plan if you must buy
Video Game Controllers Somewhat Safe Yes Typically okay along with certain accessories.
Barbie Safe Depends If the Barbie doesn’t contain a battery,
this should be safe. If it contains a battery,
make sure the doll is working before
leaving the store.
Baby Toys Depends Depends For safety reasons, I do not recommend buying
baby toys and items via liquidation sales.
Diapers Safe No
Cribs Not Safe No Cribs can be dangerous for infants.
Purchase at a store where you can return.
Car Seats Not Safe No Car Seats can be dangerous for infants.
Purchase at a store where you can return.
Skateboards Safe No
Electric Skateboards Not Safe Yes  Avoid because of custom battery (replacement)
RC Vehicles Not Safe Yes  Avoid because of custom battery (replacement)
Tablets Somewhat Safe Yes  If Apple, you can rely on Apple. If another brand, avoid.
Wrapping Paper / Party Safe No
DVDs and Blu-ray Safe No
Toys To Life (Amiibo) Safe No
Headphones Not Safe Depends  High chances for problems
Toys R Us Exclusives Somewhat Safe Depends Avoid with custom batteries
Wooden Toys Somewhat Safe Depends

Use Your Best Judgement

The above is not an exhaustive list, so always use your best judgement if it’s not listed here. If the toy contains no battery at all, it should be fine. If the toy contains or uses standard AA, AAA, C, D or button cell batteries, you’re fine. If the toy contains a lithium ion and/or custom battery, you should avoid purchase. Any toy that contains a custom battery may have been custom made for Toys R Us. This means you may find it difficult or impossible to find batteries later. House brand or Toys R Us exclusive toys requiring refill packs should be avoided. Toys and products for infants should be avoided for safety reasons. The only product I would suggest is safe for an infant is diapers and possibly formula as long as it’s a name brand, not a house brand.

Tablets and electronics should be avoided if not from Apple or another recognized brand. If it’s a house branded electronic item, avoid.

Toys R Us Exclusives

Toys R Us Exclusives are now considered rare. However, that doesn’t mean they’re a good investment. Pop figures are fine, exclusive Barbies are fine and exclusive Hot Wheels are fine (see the list above). However, any exclusives that require something that you can only get at Toys R Us (like batteries or refills), you should avoid purchase.

Toys R Us Geoffrey toys

These are likely to be some of the rarest toys available. If you want a piece of memorabilia to commemorate Toys R Us, you should head over fast and pickup whatever Geoffrey items you can find. If you’re looking for plush, you might have to ask at the service desk.

Happy Deals and good luck!

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Useless excess: Fashion Victim Edition

Posted in Apple, computers, iphone, ipod by commorancy on December 8, 2010

For whatever reason today, a lot of people can’t seem to temper their purchasing of useless things.  I have to admit that I’ve been guilty of this on occasion myself, but I try to exercise restraint with purchases by asking, “Do I have a real need?”

Purchasing excess

I see lots of people buying things where they haven’t really justified a need in their lives.  I’d say the most egregious example of this useless excess is the iPad.  So many people walked into the purchase of this device not knowing how it would enrich their lives, how they might use it or what it benefits it might offer.  Is the iPad useless excess?  I’d say so.  I still haven’t yet fully justified the purchase of this device for myself.  The only justification I have right now is the larger screen and reading email in a portable way.  Those are the justifications I’ve been able to come up with.  Since a I don’t avidly read digital books, that part isn’t really overall that useful me.  I do have an iPod Touch and have found this device to immensely enrich my life, though.  It solved my portable music need, it has a browser, a Kindle app and email and a few admin apps for in-a-pinch situations. It has a long battery life so I have something to use pretty much anywhere, again, in-a-pinch.   So, the cost and use for this isn’t useless excess for me.  On the other hand, the iPad isn’t that portable, so really doesn’t work for things like portable music.

Is an iPad worth $500?  Not yet for me. However, there are times where I’m walking around the office and having an iPad in hand could come in handy for spot email reading or forwarding an email.  Since it also supports some administrative tools, I might even be able to justify it for the use of those tools. On the other hand, a netbook is a more powerful hardware tool (i.e., usb ports, networking ports, SD card slot, etc).  So, hardware-wise, a Netbook is much more justified for what I do. They’re just a bit more cumbersome to use than an iPad.  On the other hand, composing email on an iPad is basically useless.  I’d much rather have a real keyboard, so I’d definitely need a dock for extended use of an iPad.

Keeping up with the Jones’

A lot of useless excess stems from ‘social’ reasons.  Some people just want to show off their money.  The reality is, I find this disturbing.  Why would you want to buy something just to walk around and flaunt it?  I really don’t relish the thought of being robbed or mugged. I mean, I can somewhat understand fashion.  Not so much fashion excess (i.e., diamond studded bling), but wearing fashion to accentuate yourself we have become accustomed to.  I don’t personally go for high fashionista, though.  Useful fashion yes, excess fashion no.  Unfortuantely, an iPad is not a fashion accessory.  No computer or electronic device is (other than those trashy flashing earrings). So, why must people treat Apple products (and some computers and phones) as fashion when it clearly isn’t.  You should always buy a computer for a need in your life, not because your next door neighbor has one or you ‘think’ it might be useful.

Coffee table paperweights

Now that the iPad has been out for about 9 months, I’m still not finding a solid use for the iPad in my personal life. For business use, I have a couple reasons (cited above), but these reasons are not yet enough to justify a $500 expense.  In fact, I would think there’s going to be a growing used market for iPads very quickly here.  People will realize they don’t need or use them and will need the money more.   Especially when it is no longer the ‘chic’ device (and that’s quickly approaching).  Right now is also the prime time to get rid of your iPad, not before it goes out of ‘fashion’.  Additionally, it’s almost guaranteed that by spring 2011, Apple will have a new model iPad ready to ship.   This will majorly devalue the resale value of the 2010 iPad.  So, if you want to sell your iPad for any decent amount of change, you should consider doing it now.  Otherwise, sitting on it will only devalue it down to probably the $150-200 range by end of 2011 and less then that by 2012.

By now, people should really know if the iPad has a use in their life.  Only you can answer that question, but if the most you do is turn it on once a week (or less), it’s a paperweight.  You should probably consider selling it now before the new iPad is released if you want any return on your investment.  Granted, you may have paid $500, but you’re likely only to get about $200-250 (16GB version) depending on where you sell.  If you put it on eBay as an auction, you might get more money out of it ($450, if you’re lucky).  By this time next year, though, you probably won’t get half that amount on eBay.

As another example, see the Wii.  Now that the Wii has been out for several years, it is no longer the ‘chic’ thing to own.  Today, people are likely purchasing it because they want to play a specific game title.  And, that’s how it should be.  You should always buy computer gear for the software it runs, not because it’s the ‘thing to have’.  Wii consoles are now in a glut and easy to find.  So, if you want one today, it’s very easy to get them.

Gift excess

I know people who buy gift items not because it’s a useful gift, but because it’s the thing to have.  Worse, though, is that the person who receives the gift doesn’t even use it or carry it.  In this example case, it’s an iPad 64GB version.  Yet, this person doesn’t carry it around or, indeed, even use it.  Instead, they prefer to use their 2-3 year old notebook.  What does that say about the usefulness of such useless excess?

Is the iPad considered useless excess? At the moment, yes.  There may be certain professions that have found a way to use the iPad as something more than a novelty, but I’ve yet to see a business convert to using iPads as their sole means of corporate management.  For example, it would say something if FedEx would adopt the iPad is their means of doing business.  Instead of the small hand scanners, they could carry around the iPad to do this work.  Oh, that’s right, there’s no camera on the iPad, so scanning isn’t even useful.

While this article may seem to specifically bash the iPad, it isn’t intended to focus solely on them.  The iPhone is another example of useless excess.  You pay $200 just to get the phone, you’re locked into a 2-4 year contract with at least $80 a month.  And, the worst part, the iPhone isn’t even a very good phone.  Dare I say, Nokia and Motorola still make better quality phone electronics than Apple ever has.  Apple is a computer maker, not a phone maker.  So, they still haven’t the experience with phone innards.  So, when talking to people on the iPhone, the voice quality, call quality and clarity suffer over better made handsets.  Again, people justify the purchase of an iPhone 4 because of the ‘Apps’, not because of quality.  Worse, though, is that many people buying iPhones are doing so because it’s ‘the thing to have’, not because it’s actually useful in their lives.  If the only thing you find yourself doing with the iPhone is talking on the phone, then you’re a victim of useless excess.

How to curb useless excess

Ask yourself, ‘How will this thing make me more productive, or solve a problem?’  If you cannot come up with an answer, it’s useless excess.  Once you find at least one real need for a device, then the purchase is justified.  If you just want it to have it, that’s useless excess.  Just having something because you can doesn’t make you a better person.  It just makes you a victim of useless excess.  Simply because you can afford something doesn’t mean you should.

How do you justify an iPad purchase?  For example, if you intend to mount it into a door of your kitchen as an internet recipe retrieval device and you bake or cook every day, that would be one way it could enrich your life.  Although, it’s also not impervious to water or other wet ingredients, so you might want to cover it to avoid those issues.  In other words, for a computer to not be considered useless excess, it would need to be used every day to provide you with useful information you can’t otherwise get.

If you’re looking for a holiday gift, don’t just buy an iPad because you can, buy it because the person will actually use and actually needs it to solve a problem.

Looking for that unique gift?

Posted in business, giving by commorancy on August 10, 2010

I know that it can be difficult to find unique gift items for picky spouses, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends or relatives, but here’s a tip. A little known site called Kickstarter.com offers opportunities to fund creative projects from around the globe. These projects include film, art, novels, video games and more. About right now you’re probably asking how this relates to a giving unique gift item. Well, I’ll tell you…

Pledging to back a project

When you pledge to back a project, each project offers unique incentives to back at certain dollar amount levels. Once you back a project at a specific level, the project creator offers deliverables at specific pledge dollar amounts. For example, at $20, a film project might offer you a DVD copy of the film when available. A novelist might offer you a signed copy of the novel at the end of the project.

Bigger pledges offer bigger rewards

As the dollar amounts get higher, so too do the incentives. Again as an example, if you pledge to give $2500, you might get to meet the director, cast and crew of a film. They might even include airfare too and from the meeting location. Alternatively, they might fly to your home and do work around your house in addition to giving you a copy of the film. Each project’s incentives are unique and different. Some offer limited edition features (one of a kind props or art used in the project).

Gift opportunities

Look at it this way. If you would like to find something truly unique that only a few people can actually get, you can back a project at Kickstarter.com. The higher you pledge, the more unique and rare the return. So, if you back a project at $5000, for example, you’ll get a lot for your money. Not only will you get a copy of the project (book or DVD), you may get to meet the director, give input into the film, get credits on IMDB and on the film itself, airfare to fly to a location to meet the cast, you might get a walk-on roll in the film, you might get a speaking roll in the film, you might get a one of a kind collectible from the project or any number of other things that the project coordinator can devise.

You will need to look at the pledge levels to see what projects meet your idea of a unique gift. But, where else can you help fund the arts, help someone start or further their career and, at the same time, get a unique gift opportunity out of it? Heck, being in a short film that premieres at Sundance might be worth $5000 to some and it’s definitely unique and one-of-a-kind. These opportunities are so one-of-a-kind that there really is nothing else like it out there.

Hollywood vs Kickstarter

Sure, you could go pay $20 and see a Hollywood blockbuster at your local theater, but you could pledge that same $20 at Kickstarter and get a DVD, a book, a piece of art, a music CD or any number of other one-of-a-kind items at the conclusion of the project. Your pledge also helps the artist to produce their unique vision. Hollywood is all about cookie cutter. Kickstarter is all about unique individual ground-up projects and helping people out while getting something cool in return.

Definitely a unique gift idea for that hard-to-please person. Of course, that person must also like the entertainment arts to appreciate what Kickstarter has to offer. But, who doesn’t like entertainment? And, who wouldn’t like the opportunity to participate in such a project? Cool eh?

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