We've got a problem, readers – and it pertains to pre-ordering games. I never used to be opposed to this practice: I'd regularly drop a fiver at my local GAME on titles that I was looking forward to, and would waltz home happily with a receipt and a pre-order pack – the DVD that came with Metal Gear Solid IV: Guns of the Patriots being a particular highlight. But this was at a time when registering your interest in a release came after months of reveals; I'd read all of the previews, pored over the pre-release screenshots, and soaked up as much gameplay footage as I could when I dropped my deposit on Konami's tactical espionage escapade – and I walked away with a little trinket for my troubles. Less than a decade later, things aren't quite as innocent anymore.
My copy of Mortal Kombat X is missing a character – even though the content is on the disc. Apparently, even though I got the game on the day of its release, I purchased it from the wrong retailer – well, I did have weeks to figure out which stores were offering codes for four-armed favourite, Goro. But why should I stray from my favourite outlets just because of behind-the-scenes business deals? And you know what: why should I even pre-order at all? There's never any danger of the next AAA blockbuster going out of stock, so why are the likes of Star Wars: Battlefront, Call of Duty: Black Ops III, and Just Cause 3 so desperate for us to pledge our financial allegiances to their cause – to the degree that they'll promise us extra weapons, betas, and cars?
The reality is that you're a pawn, and you're being played by publishers. Ever heard a company say that the latest entry in its no-doubt derivative blockbuster series is "the most pre-ordered ever"? It happens all of the time, doesn't it? And it's great posturing: it pleases shareholders, it increases hype, and it makes the product seem much more desirable. But it also enables the publisher to flog more copies. Remember, for these companies, you're not necessarily the consumer – retailers are. And thus, every time that you drop a deposit on a release, you're giving the publisher bargaining power. "Oh, look how many pre-orders you've got," a smug salesman is almost certainly saying somewhere as we type. "You should order a few more copies just to be sure."
The reality is that you're a pawn, and you're being played by publishers
And while this mentality exists, it's only going to get worse. Betas and bonus characters may cut the mustard now, but how much further will these publishers go as the importance of that pre-order period inevitably inflates? How long before entire stages, stories, and modes are used as bait? Worryingly, there are probably already examples of these that have taken place. And what will this mean for the quality of the games that are being flogged in the first place? We've just come off the back of a year where several of the holiday season's biggest blockbusters didn't even function – but with most consumers already committed to stumping up long before information about their many deficiencies could filter out, the majority of these failures still sold stupidly well.
There's the inevitable backlash that follows, of course – but wouldn't we all just be better taking a breather and keeping our cash in our pockets? Publishers can try to entice us with as many trinkets or treats as they like, but if we remain steadfast and wait, things will have to change. And perhaps then we can get back to a time when game reveals and trailers were all about the actual software – rather than which bonus goods are available at Amazon, GameStop, and Wal-Mart. We live in an age where every new release is available on the PlayStation Store, so stock concerns don't actually exist anymore. And even if they did, that doesn't give publishers the right to pressure you into picking which titles you want to buy – before you even know whether they're going to be any good. A recent survey revealed that UK gamers are taking a stand – it's time for the rest of the world to follow suit.
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Have you stopped pre-ordering games already? If not, what is it that encourages you to drop early deposits? Claim your bonus in the comments section below.
How often do you pre-order games? (153 votes)
- I pre-order virtually every game I buy8%
- I only pre-order a few times a year59%
- I absolutely never pre-order anything33%
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What is it that encourages you to pre-order? (150 votes)
- Bonus content, features, or modes24%
- Beta access5%
- Physical goods, such as t-shirts or hats17%
- Stock concerns11%
- I just said, I absolutely never pre-order24%
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