The pointlessness of pre-ordering video games

Pre-orders are bad.

Oh, you wanted more? Okay, here goes…

Pre-orders are merely a way for game publishers to separate you from your money, and we really need to stop falling for it.

They’ll over hype big releases to get you interested, then squeeze every penny they can out of you.  What’s more, they’ll audaciously call it good customer service.  They’ll claim that they’re giving you, the customer, what you want.

I don’t know about you, but I – as a customer – don’t want them to overcharge me and expect me to thank them for it.

It never used to be like this.  Pre-orders weren’t always a bad thing.  I can even recall a time when they were actually a good idea, although that was a while ago, back when stock levels were actually relevant.

I spent nearly six years of my life in games retail and, despite the odd supply issue and some awkward customers, I can honestly say that my experience with pre-orders has been mostly positive.  It’s not necessarily the act of pre-ordering games that pisses me off, it’s the culture of pure, unchecked, naked avarice that has spawned from it.

During my time in that particularly soul-destroying sector of retail, I was encouraged by management to push pre-orders, often to the point where it was bordering on the ridiculous.  If somebody came in to ask for directions I’d still get a slap on the wrist for not trying to get some money out of them.

The company line was that a small deposit now would reserve the customer a copy of their chosen game in the future.  The benefits for both customer and the store were obvious; the customer would get their game and the store would take their money.  Yes, it was borne out of greed, but the customer was at least getting a fair deal.

I left games retail nearly six years ago and the industry has changed significantly since then.  Digital store fronts have grown to the point where their sales often exceed those of high street outlets.

Due to physical limitations, pre-ordering games in stores made sense.  With only a finite number of copies being made available on release, pre-ordering was not just acceptable, but essential for some of the larger releases.  I’ve worked midnight launches where I’ve had to turn away customers because the store allocation only just covered the number of pre-orders.

You can imagine how well that went down…

But surely these restrictions don’t apply to digital media?  I can’t imagine that running out of digital copies is even a possibility.

So this gradual shift towards digital media instead of physical should have signalled the end for the pre-ordering culture.  However, a quick look through any digital distribution platform would suggest otherwise.  If anything it’s worse now than it’s ever been.

“Pre-Order” has disgustingly morphed into “Pre-Purchase”. This means that rather than paying a small deposit, you’re now encouraged to pay the full price ahead of the release date. When you take into account the fact that new releases are routinely more expensive online than in stores, it makes this whole pre-purchasing malarkey all the more disgusting.

Distributors recognise this shameless cash-grab as being glaringly obvious, so they attempt to disguise it by promising to shower you with “wonderful” pre-order bonuses.  Except there’s nothing wonderful about them. They’re just insignificant tat, obvious padding that does little to justify the bloated price tag.

You can even pre-order downloadable content nowadays.  And why not? They’ve already roped us in once, they might as well keep doing it.  I mean, honestly, is there any need?  We don’t even know if we’ll like the game yet, so why should we give up more money for extra content that we might never play?  Most of the time this extra content is completely nebulous anyway.  More often than not it’s just pointless cosmetic updates that don’t add anything to the game experience.

If there’s a pre-order bonus that you’re genuinely interested in, then by all means stump up your cash.  It’s your money, you can spend it on whatever you like, it’s your right to do so.  But if it’s just the game that you’re after, and not the bells and whistles and all of the pointless accoutrement, then you’d be better off buying the game after release.  After all, there’s always a seasonal sale to take advantage of.

The more we give in to these pre-ordering rackets, the worse they will get.  Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.  They’re completely criminal, wholely unnecessary and they shouldn’t be encouraged.

But that’s just me.


3 thoughts on “The pointlessness of pre-ordering video games

  1. This is very true! I honestly never pre-order games. The only one I have is Mass Effect: Andromeda, because on Amazon it was so much less expensive to “pre-order” than to wait for release of the base game. And judging from other PS4 games, the price wouldn’t go down to that “pre-order” price until next year (or probably beyond that).

    Of course, I also know that Andromeda is a game I will most likely enjoy. I also know for certain that I won’t be pre-ordering anything else, as I prefer to wait for the reviews to come out and the release craziness to subside!

    I’ve never heard of pre-ordering DLC. Do people really do that?? …wow.

    • That’s fair enough. If you’re a fan of the series and it’s advertised at a lower price than expected, then that’s a pre-purchase that makes sense. Anyway, if Andromeda is anywhere near as good as the other Mass Effect games then you know you’re getting a quality product.

      I seem to recall Total War: Warhammer advertising pre-orders for future DLC. Needless to say it didn’t go down well. I suppose you could say that season passes are the same. After all, you’re paying for content that hasn’t been released yet.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It made more sense to pre-order stuff back when games were solely on physical cartridges and discs, and thus potentially had limited printing runs, but these days, almost every game is sold on digital distribution platforms instead, which I feel largely obviates the need to pay in advance. One thing I like about the current system is if the gaming collective misses out on an underrated gem only for them to retroactively declare it one of the best works of the decade, newcomers can simply get the game without any fuss rather than if that happened in say, the SNES-era, and all of a sudden, those limited cartridges appreciate in value to a ridiculous degree.

    Liked by 1 person

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