There’s something special about cracking open a copy of a game on release day. That new game smell, the excitement of starting it up for the first time, the day one patches and the broken servers. These problems seem to be becoming the new norm as of late, with some games remaining unplayable for the first day or two at best.

You’ve been waiting for this game since it was announced at some convention or other, they’ve shown off tons of great footage, it looked amazing. Eventually you do get into a game, start playing, and very quickly find out there are bugs galore, balancing issues and the servers can’t cope. Suddenly, all that hype you had for the game dies. It doesn’t make sense – what they showed was totally different to what sits on your screen. To make matters worse you pre-ordered it before you knew any of these problems existed so you’re now stuck with it in this state until it gets fixed. If it gets fixed.

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You only have to look at the arduous path that was Battlefield 4’s release. When it first released, the servers were temperamental at best and fans complained about huge balancing issues as well as fundamental net code issues. Over two years later and it is finally at a point where fans are happy with the state of the game. Two and a half years is a very long time to wait for a game to be in a playable state.

This might seem like an extremely cynical view of games, but it’s becoming a more common problem that they don’t meet expectations. That’s not to say fans’ expectations are too high, but rather they have been sold something that doesn’t exactly meet up with what the developer promised. A great example of this is Ubisoft’s Watchdogs. When Watchdogs was unveiled all the way back in 2013 it not only looked amazing, but we were promised a living world and an engaging character in Aiden Pierce. Fast forward to release and the gameplay was shallow, the graphics were seriously downgraded and the protagonist had as much personality as a brick.

Yet by all accounts, Watchdogs was a success in terms of preorders alone. The game didn’t do very well once reviews began to highlight its problems, many fans (myself included) found that we were stuck with something that wasn’t what we expected, And worse we’d been bitten by the fact that we’d pre ordered it expecting something else entirely.

It does make sense to pre-order a game, it pretty much guarantees you get to play it on day one, and as a bonus there’s usually some extra goodies exclusive to those who pre-order a copy. In very few other industrys are customers happy to pay for the promise of what a product will be, and there may be good reason.

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One of the issues with pre-ordering is that it creates an economy of haves and have-nots, where players feel like they will be missing out on content if they don’t pre order. The idea that players would be penalised for not pre-ordering rather than rewarded for pre-ordering is worrying. Many people aren’t too fussed if they miss out on a skin or some cosmetic item, but when an actual chunk of the game is partitioned off, that just seems wrong. It should never get to the point where actual segments of the game are taken out and added as pre-order DLC, and yet unfortunately some publishers do seem quite happy to do this.

Hype for a game can be a double edged sword for players. It allows us to get excited as hell over something that genuinely deserves to get excited about. Developing games takes a lot of work and resources and so of course developers want to sell as many copies as possible, building hype is just as important for developers as building the game itself, and the games industry is after all an industry. But mis-selling games or making false promises just sours the whole experience for the players – from little things like Peter Molyneux’s acorn in the Fable franchise to the recent leak that No Man’s Sky allegedly takes under thirty hours to complete instead of the promised hundreds. Some developers feel the need to make outrageous claims to build hype when the game is good enough on its own.

I’m in no way saying that hype for a game is a bad thing, in fact quite the opposite. Hype is a great fuel to show developers the passion that fans have for an IP. Our excitement for an upcoming title that looks amazing is one of the best parts of the gaming industry, and pre-ordering ourselves a copy is the next stage of that. But sometimes publishers can see that as an opportunity to squeeze some extra cash out of us, with bizarre pre-order campaigns throw a baffling array of choices for our pre-orders, meaning that if we buy from one retailer we won’t get the bonus offered by another. Examples such as Deus Ex Human Revolution’s ‘augment your pre-order’ was just outright daft.

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That’s not even mentioning the sheer amount of different versions of games that are available, with gold editions and deluxe editions next to a standard edition, it makes it feel like if you purchase the standard edition you are missing out on content or not getting the best version of the game unless you go for the mega-deluxe-super edition of a game.

Developers shouldn’t have to rely on cheap pre-order incentives to make us pre-order a copy. They should have confidence that the game they have made is good enough on its own, and if it isn’t then they need to do something about that.

Overall, pre-ordering isn’t inherently a bad thing, it is unfortunately the case that some developers and publishers feel the need to carve of chunks of content and put them behind a pre-order paywall. While I have a problem with this, I wouldn’t mind as much if the games were able to deliver on all the wild promises that were made in the run-up to release. If developers feel the need to add a pre-order incentive then I’m happy – as long as it doesn’t detract from the core experience.

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Hxy3000
Hxy3000
5 years ago

Only game I’ve pre-ordered was GTA V.

Crazyguy73
Crazyguy73
Reply to  Hxy3000
5 years ago

I did too. Rockstar tend to have a track record of putting out really polished games so I felt confident about pre-ordering.

DarthDiggler
DarthDiggler
5 years ago

Should we buy into pre-ordering?

I will freely admit to just skimming this article, but the reason being is the entire premise of this article is STUPID.

First off people are pre-ordering, so this article is SUPREMELY LATE as pre-orders are now a garden variety every day occurrence.

Second pre-orders generally do not obligate you to buy the product. You can go to your local game store on launch day and get a 100% refund on your pre-order or at the very least apply it to another product.

The word HYPE is 100% over used and abused by game website authors. What is considered marketing 101 in other industries comes off as a conspiracy from game website authors. Bringing attention to your product and teasing features (while not providing all the answers) is exactly the type of thing you do to tickle people’s buying bones.

Lastly you think you actually have some sort of novel ideas here. As if we gamers haven’t thought of all of this already. As a matter of fact much of what you say here is so simpleton it is insulting to the intelligence of many gamers who are savvy consumers and know how to spend their disposable entertainment dollars.

You act as if gamers are just lapping at the teat of publishers whims.

Thanks for assuming we gamers are completely blind and stupid to what games best suit our needs.

Neil Watton
Reply to  DarthDiggler
5 years ago

Can a question not be asked? I see no reason why not, especially when that question may well be one that many gamers are still asking themselves – even though you and I have been gaming for years, there is always someone new to the scene who may like to know these things.

Crazyguy73
Crazyguy73
Reply to  DarthDiggler
5 years ago

The original point of the article was to highlight the issues surrounding pre-ordering, give examples of said issues and provide some discussion. My overall point to gamers, especially newer gamers, is to exercise caution as they may get stung. This is an age old debate with many sides and I wanted to highlight some of these arguments. I’m in no way trying to insult anyone, people can make their own decisions freely. As always opinions and constructive feedback are appreciated.