Hype is built around games so much that we want buy them before they even release
All gamers have done it at some point. In a moment of weakness, when our friends weren’t looking. We got excited and turned over our hard-earned money before we saw the finished product.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, pre-ordering is the practice of buying a video game before it’s released. Usually there is some small benefit for the consumer to entice this behaviour such as an exclusive piece of downloadable content or an alternate character for gameplay.
It should be noted that very few retailers allow full refunds on opened copies of games. Likewise, few digital retailers allow refunds, making pre-orders a pseudo-final sale.
For years, websites such as Rock Paper Shotgun, Polygon, Kotaku and Forbes have been warning consumers of the danger of pre-ordering video games. Late last month news broke that suggested that some gamers may be listening.
The latest instalment in the Assassin’s Creed series, Syndicate, launched on Oct. 23. By Oct. 26, Playstation Universe revealed the game had had the lowest first week sales in the entire history of the series . Sales increased in its second week.
Players were waiting for game reviews before trusting the franchise’s latest offering.
Could this be the beginning of the end of the pre-order phenomenon?
Maybe, but probably not.
Instead, this can be viewed as customers saying that game publishers need to re-earn their trust after being burned so many times by broken and mediocre games.
Ubisoft executive Alain Martinez stated in a teleconference on Nov. 5, “clearly, in our first week, we were impacted by what happened with Assassin’s Creed Unity.” The previous entry in the series, Unity, launched in 2014 as a broken game which took months for the company to fix.
It will be interesting to see in the future if this becomes a trend for some companies.
For example, will PC gamers similarly stop pre-ordering Warner Bros titles? As of Oct. 31, according to the game’s Steam page, Batman: Arkham Knight has still not been fixed and may never see completion. The publisher is planning to keep customers updated.
It seems as if gamers may be realizing that there is very little reason to buy games on or before launch day. Most perks offered by publishers are cosmetic additions or content that will be eventually included in the season pass or game of the year edition.
Those who benefit most from pre-orders are the publishers as they promote game sales before any reviews have come out.
As stated in article by gaming writer Dave Thier for Forbes on Oct. 12, companies like pre-order games because they’re safe. It’s how “EA considered SimCity a ‘success,’ even after one of the worst launches in recent memory.”
There once was a time in our childhood where scarcity demanded that we reserve a copy of the latest SEGA or Nintendo game, but it’s no longer like this.
Players need to think what they are getting out of by buying games before release and if it’s worth it.
As Jim Walker from Rock Paper Shotgun wrote, it’s like “paying for your meal at a restaurant before the kitchens are built, and months before the food critics have been in, let alone before you’ve been able to even read a proper menu.”