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These days it’s popular to hate on the pre-order; in fact I believe House Biscuit has chosen “We do not Pre-Order” as the official words of their house. That said, I’d be remiss to not drop a flying elbow on this dead horse and see if I can get a few kicks in before it becomes sad.

Pre-Orders have been criticized harshly for good reason, the general consensus being that the rewards for pre-ordering don’t justify paying for a game long before you know if it is any good. I think we can go farther, because while there were reasons to pre-order years ago, those incentives have dried up, leaving a pointless practice behind.

Pre-ordering a game does two things for the customer;

It guarantees your copy of the game will be in the store on launch day.

For some, the guarantee of their copy is important to play a huge game like Call of Duty or Halo immediately after the midnight launch, or others just want to know for sure when they go to purchase the store will have it in stock.


 

Provides a bonus to the consumer.

These bonuses can be anything, a Halo lanyard or key chain, an extra in-game skin or weapon, bonus missions that would otherwise be DLC (or will be in the future) or your bog standard Horse Armor-style pre-order incentive.


 

Both of those ideas sound logical on paper, but they have both become outdated by the way gaming works in 2015.

Guaranteeing a copy of your game made sense when nearly all games were purchased in physical form and when to play a game as soon as possible meant queueing up at GameStop for the midnight release. While physical copies of games still exist, they are far from the only option for gamers; you can download via Steam, Origin, GOG and several other services if you are a PC gamer. If you game on a console, the Xbox Marketplace and PlayStation Store let you preload a pre-ordered game so it is good to go at midnight on launch day. Issues with Internet access still necessitate a physical copy, but in 2015, pre-orders are no longer the solution to this problem.

Would you pre-order this game? ...Also I love using this image.

Would you pre-order this game? Also I just love using this image.

The bonuses provided in-game however are now the primary reason to pre-order a game, which makes sense. When you’re faced with the choice of pre-order or miss out on this awesome Harley Quinn mission, or lose this one gun all your friends get that you won’t, the decision to pre-order is understandable. But to get all those fun goodies you still don’t need to pre-order months in advance. You can make that critical call of whether to pre-order a week or so before launch, when you know if the game is any good and those sweet pre-order bonuses are still on the table.

Last year I talked about how review embargoes can be predatory; by setting the review date on or after release date, publishers can maximize sales before negative reviews come out. In one case, Assassin’s Creed Unity (a famously buggy mess) had an embargo set after the release of the game, while Dragon Age Inquisition (which was well received) had its set a week before its release, the same is true of the recently released Witcher 3 that also got glowing reviews. If a game is worth pre-ordering, the reviews will tell you weeks before; if the game (and its tantalizing pre-order bonuses) is garbage, then you’ll hear radio silence.

I pre-ordered Destiny three days before it came out cause the reviews were decent, I knew I was going to get it and figured “what the hell.” I didn’t pre-order Advanced Warfare, and lo and behold, there were dozens of Day Zero Editions on the shelves. In these cases gamers are in a strange scenario where you can have your cake and eat it too, take zero risk and get the rewards.

Pre-ordering isn’t just dumb at this point. It is illogical pure and simple.


Wyatt Hnatiw

Staff Writer

Wyatt Hnatiw is a lifelong gamer with a borderline inappropriate love of BioWare RPGs and Bioshock. Maybe he just loves the prefix Bio...



  • Screech Screecher

    Pretty much any pre-order I have done in the recent past has included a discount on the purchase price. Seems to be a fairly legit reason to still pre-order as long as one does their homework.
    Overall I will admit I am more cautious on pre-ordering games, though much more weary of open betas, but discounted pricing will remain a valid reason that was omitted in the article.

  • Typical

    yeah, discount is the only reason I’ll preorder and it’s a game I have to play immediately. otherwise I can wait for steam sales.

  • Wisdomcube2000

    Every game I preordered in the last 5 or so years has sh!t on my fun. Shogun 2 I preordered for the co-op campaign that from my knowledge, they never ended up fixing (I gave up waiting after 5 months of complaining). Dark Souls 2 was another I thought was a “safe” buy, but of course not. Master Chief Collection = broken at launch and still being fixed to this day.

    Honestly the only game you could probably pre-order and not get a broken/glitchy/buggy pos would be (and I can’t believe I’m about to say this) CoD. At this point I won’t be pre-ordering anything ever again. I’ve let my friends/hype talk me into some early purchases, but I’m not doing that anymore lol. My trust in the AAA is shattered.

  • Sergio Celi

    Good article indeed, but in PC pre ordering is really risky due to the lack of dedication which developers are lately displaying on PC ports. Unless you have the late sponsored Graphic card prepare for months of bad optimization or crashes. (By the way even that is unsure and I pity those who spend thousands of Euros on art tech systems only to discover their games crash or are unpar with the consoles).

  • froyton

    I think Xenoblade is the last game I preordered. Best preorder ever.

  • FlamingoJet

    So much yes.

  • MusouTensei

    I still buy most games in retail so to me it makes sense, but i don’t preorder in stores, I do that online and the stuff gets shipped directly to me, sometimes I even get a game 1-2 days earlier. The online shops I use only take the money after the game was shipped and until it gets shipped i can cancel at any time plus the lowest price guarantee.
    One thing is to not preorder AAA games, I mostly preorder Nintendo, niche games and JRPGs and never had a problem with that.

  • Robert Grosso

    well, the collector in me likes free physical goodies, so I will probably keep pre-ordering some games if the goodies match the price. Statues, cloth maps, whole cases full of stuff, limited runs on items, the works. That stuff is fun to get.

    I should also point out the fact that most stores like Gamestop, for example, overstock on big selling franchise titles now because they expect people to come in and buy it. For smaller games, or games with smaller audiences, pre-ordering is usually the only way to get more than 5 copies on their shelves.

    This was Gamestop policy back in 2010/2011 though, things may have changed since then. That said, the issue now is incentive’s on pre-orders because it is the biggest spike of sales for a game. Even good games make most of their money in the first two weeks. The real issue now is how do you fix bugs and glitches on time of release, so the pre-order is worth it in terms of game content.

  • Typical

    Gamestop actually is a big cause of the preorder crap. I used to manage a Babbage’s before they consolidated all the brands to gamestop, and they’d use preorders as a metric to order quantities of the games. They’s purposely order barely above the number of preorders to get people to preorder the next big thing, because at the time the got stuff days before the big box stores who didn’t treat entertainment software as a shipping priority on release date. Once bestbuy had the games Gamestop was telling people they were sold out of, they changed their tune.

  • Typical

    what you mean is if you have an AMD card prepare for them to have to play catch up with their crap drivers.

  • boag

    Ive had 3 experiences with PreOrders, the last one was Mass Effect 3 Collectors Edition, you can all imagine how that went.

  • PossiblyCthulhu

    I preordered Witcher 3 on GOG two days before release because I got 27% off the price, which is a reasonable reason. When Steam did the pre-order unlocks with various games there was seen to be an immediate and tangible benefit.

    In most other cases I preorder for one simple reason – I’ve made a decision to buy the game and see for myself, reviews be damned, and I’m lazy, so I may as well get the game delivered to my home on release day.

  • PossiblyCthulhu

    One of the other things wrt to PC pre-ordering is ensuring that some of your preferred retailers may not actually get the game keys like with Greenmangaming and Witcher 3

  • PossiblyCthulhu

    I’m not that impatient to spit feathers over a driver update – it’ll arrive soon enough for my 295×2 😉

  • Audie Bakerson

    I only preorder games that have been out in Nippon (so we know if they suck or not) and will have limited US stock (like Senran Kagura 2).

    (and Girls Mode 3 which I’ll admit I’m a complete sucker for the series and at the time, and still now, seemed to have no hope of coming west)

  • Turt

    As long as this horse is around, it never hurts to beat it a little more.
    And please never stop using that image, it’s wonderful.
    I personally hate those pre order bonuses because in most cases it’s just part of the content that’s inside the game but they simply lock it away from everyone unless pre ordered and it feels more like being black mailed into getting it than an actual bonus.

  • d0x360

    They just came up with a new one and we can thank 2k sports. If you pre order the new NBA game you get to buy it like 4-5 days earlier than everyone else.

    Everyone should STOP preorders. If we stooped for a single month or would send a massive message. Like preorder no games releasing in Nov. Its pointless NP games are ever sold out and you get the content if you buy day 1 anyways

  • Paul S.

    The first games I ever pre-ordered were technically available in early access: Verdun & Killing Floor 2. (ok maybe that’s not a pre-order, but still…)
    I will never understand buying a game for full price because “what the hell.” Maybe if you’re desperate for a new game I could understand, but I’m still working my way through my steam library of games I bought on sale.
    Maybe its just a console thing.

  • Toastrider

    I don’t even buy games on launch day any more. I’ve been burned too many times by titles which I thought would be good but turned out to be lackluster.

  • chizwoz

    I like the way you referred to “House Biscuit” as if it’s a real thing. The games industry is Hogwarts.
    Btw random constructive criticism: have you guys considered updating the site design? I’m guessing you’ve got a bigger following now. Might be worth trying to compete with those bigger sites? Feel free to tell me to piss off of course.