Indie game dev, Videogame writer, Game enthusiast, Guitarist,


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The problem with pre-orders

Games have come a long way since the late 80's and early 90's, it's needless to say really, but do we ever stop to think about how the business side of games has changed too?

Most games we play now a days are developed by many teams all specialising in different areas, sometimes during development these teams hardly ever meet to discuss the project. It's a stark contrast to development teams such as Core who brought us the original Tomb Raider, where the cerntral Core team was made up of around 5 or 6 people.

With the ever increasing need for huge development teams the cost of creating games has sky rocketed, devs and pubs want to make a profit and need to pay their employees, also investors and shareholders demand to see profit being made otherwise they will inevitably jump ship.

You only need to look toward publishers such as EA and Activision to see the cookie cutter mentality such a business model breads, the short sightedness of many publishers and the need for them to please investors and shareholders no doubt is a contributing factor in leading to the detriment of many of our beloved franchises.

The ever increasing likelihood of a hotly anticipated title turning out to be a bitter disappointment is more likely now than ever before, Dead Space, Final Fantasy and even Assassins creed are all franchises that are suffering due to an industry refusing to adapt to a changing medium and instead finding more ways to nickel and dime their consumers.

This all brings me to the point of this article.

pre-orders are a great way to ensure you will get your hands on your most anticipated titles as soon as they are available, the problem though, is the fact that that we don't know if a game is really good or not until we are actually playing it. Many once great franchises are getting put through the milking machine, we can't even honestly know for sure if a game that's part of a respectable franchise will blow us away or just be another forgetable flop.

We definitely can't trust pubs & devs to show us trailers with genuine gameplay footage, you only need look toward the recent Aliens: Colonial Marines debacle, Gearbox will never live that one down no matter how many Borderlands they make.

Gamers are growing cautious, we get burned all too often after all. So the games industry came up with clever incentives such as "pre-order bonuses" and online passes purely as insensitive for us to purchase games new (often as a pre-order) The problem with pre-ordering is whether or not the game you order turns out good or a bad we still fund the developer, we will never see an improvement in a franchise that is slipping or a dev team pushing out half finished games if we continue to support them. Equally so, we are more likely to get poorer games from a dev/pub that knows all they need to do is show us a cool tech demo or fake a trailer and the pre-order flood gates will fly open no matter what how bad the game actually turns out.

Yes, previews do go a long way to warning us early on of a possible turd, but with many a poor game receiving high praise these days from preveiwers and the embargoes preventing more reliable or legitimate sources from sounding the alarm, we really are blind to the truth and it is often too late to do anything about it when we pre-order.

Im not saying we should put an end to pre-ordering but we certainly need to have our wits about us, we should all realise that we have a big influence on the games industry both positive and negative and we should utilise that pull to our benefit.

Well, I guess I'll finish by saying this, don't fall for pre-order bonuses, if you're unsure about the actual game then don't take the plunge, keep as well informed on a pre-order product as possible, if the embargo is held suspiciously close to the games release date their is often reason, in the end it's your choice but pre-ordering can and does have a detrimental effect that I feel we all need to be aware off.

Thank you for reading my blog, I hope I actually made sense and offered up a good point or two, as always please feel free to comment but lets keep it clean, thanks.

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lex-10201909d ago

You did make some good points. Another thing that would be good to point out is that places like Gamestop review their employees on a merit/demerit system based on preorders. If the employee gets a preorder it's a good thing for them. If someone comes in and removes a preorder it's counted against the employee. So with this system employees will do everything they can to prevent you from canceling your preorder, even downright lying to you saying you can't (it's happened to me). Basically Gamestop knows that if they make it incredibly difficult, if not downright impossible, to cancel a preorder than you are more likely to but the game. In essence preordering is a trap. Yes sometimes you can get some good stuff from preordering but like you said, unless you're absolutely sure, stay away.

zerocrossing1908d ago

Thanks for commenting.

That's a really interesting point.

It really is an awful merit/demerit system, many consumers don't want any extra hassle so would most likely just go through with the pre-order... I can honestly say I wasn't aware that kind of thing was going on, I just hope we don't have such activity happening in stores here in the UK.

Personally I just don't pre-order games anymore and I'll hardly ever buy a game day one, unless Im pretty sure any flaws it may contain wouldn't sway me from it even if I where to have read about them in a review.

rainslacker1906d ago (Edited 1906d ago )

When it comes to GS, if you want to be considerate and not affect a particular employee you can have the manager issue the refund for you. They aren't graded on it the same way, and are looked at on a store basis. One or two cancelled pre-orders in the grand scheme of things aren't going to be that big an issue for the manager. That's what I do at my GS because I know of this policy, and I think the people that work there are great.

Funnily enough I cancelled my pre-order of A:CM Collectors Edition because there were so many other games coming out I wanted instead.:)

On Topic to zero:

You make some valid points, and I generally only pre-order collector's editions, games I know I want beyond a shadow of a doubt, or games that receive a limited release(such as NIS or Atlus games). Sometimes if I'm on the fence I'll get a pre-order if it has a nice physical incentive, particularly art-books or soundtracks, but I'll keep an eye out for things that may deter my want of the product so I can cancel in time.

For the most part though pre-ordering a game that will probably sell isn't really necessary. There is usually plenty of stock on release day, and even with digital content incentives, it's usually better to wait a month for the price to go down $10-20, and just buy those digital incentives if they are that important to you, since they're likely only a couple bucks.


It is worth noting that Best Buy has some a really good pre-order incentive. That $20 gift card on select games is pretty big. You could buy the game, get the card, then sell it new on ebay for $10 off and still be ahead. May be more trouble than it's worth, but if it's a game you know for sure you want then definitely worth it, particularly if you like to shop at Best Buy.

zerocrossing1906d ago

Thanks for that, Im not honestly sure how pre-orders are handled in the US but if their great incentives like cash back and gift cards it must be a very popular method of purchase.

Like I said Im not against pre-ordering but it's always good to stay in the know about what we are purchasing.

ZombieNinjaPanda1908d ago

Not to mention pre-orders aren't really even necessary anymore. Unless you HAVE to have the game on day one or you're trying to get those terrible pre-order bonuses they give you. Even if a store runs out, plenty of other stores will have copies on day one you can get. Not to mention with digital, what's the point of pre-ordering other than getting the terrible bonuses? Pre-ordering isn't necessary anymore, and the things it should be doing (giving devs insight into how much stress their servers should be able to handle on day one for multiplayer games) aren't done properly.

Welshy1906d ago

That's a great point you made actually.

If you used you preorder numbers as a rough estimate of how many users you're going to have in stress tests, Day 1 online issues would be all but eradicated.

God forbid company execs ever use common sense though...

SilentNegotiator1908d ago

Paying before the game even releases...why would I do that?
I can't remember the last time no local stores had a copy of a game day one.

It's really annoying that they bait us with content, though. Especially when it's obvious that it's a stupid thing that they could have easily included.

lex-10201907d ago

Fire Emblem Awakening. Arguably the biggest game for the 3DS. It's sold out at most gamestops.

admiralvic1907d ago

While I can see where you're coming from, I think you're a little confused about things.

For starters, Dead Space / FF / Biohazard / etc, were all deemed bad because they were different. However, people could tell Biohazard / Dead Space were different FAIRLY early on. In fact so much of Dead Space 3 pointed to the game going in a more action packed direction, which should have been your "warning".

Sub machine gun preorder item.
LE includes a shotgun.
Previews showed a little more action.
Co op strongly suggested it would have more going on.

Assassins Creed is a little different, but the issue is that we're seeing too many too fast. With the series going yearly, even if they had a team work on it for 2+ years, people are going to be more critical / think less of it because they're pumping them out.

As far as the rest of your points, thanks to the addition of internet this generation, we no longer need to buy / find demo discs to try a game. A good portion of games include a demo and they can usually tell you a lot about the game. Sure Aliens had the infamous "better than the final product" demo, but I can't think of another game that had such a demo. I also concede that sometimes the demo isn't as good as the final product, which was certainly the case for Rising. Either or, that and reviews should give you a good idea of what to expect.

Finally, we've seen a number of companies move towards offering a discount for being an earlier buyer. A lot of games are giving you x dollars back with a day 1 / preorder purchase, which is something I can get behind.

Valenka1906d ago

Very well written piece and some well constructed points. Personally, I am very tight and careful with my money and I usually only purchase a game when I've read reviews from people I can rely on, or if I've played it myself (via a friend or rental service.) On the rare occasion, I have and will preorder a game and pick it up on release day if I've been anticipating it and know it's something I'll enjoy.

Tomb Raider, Grand Theft Auto and Elder Scrolls for example are franchises that will always get a preorder from me. Watch_Dogs is on my eventual preorder list once I learn more about it and see some finalised gameplay, and the next Dragon Age game will be an automatic preorder.

What I go back and forth with is preorder incentives - while it's nice that they're offering additional content for preordering (whether it be physical or digital,) it's just a ploy to choose one store over another and purchase the game.

zerocrossing1906d ago

Wow thanks! Im glad you enjoyed my blog :)

Thanks for the food for thought too, there's always so much I feel I over look doing these things so it's great to have people adding their own thoughts and opinions to the mix.

I hope you enjoy my next blog as much as you did this one.