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Why You Shouldn’t Pre-Order Your Games


no to preorder

Pre-ordering a video game is a very strange phenomenon to me. It is similar to pre-purchasing any product in the sense that you are paying for something which may not be what it is advertised as. Or at least, is very different to what you thought you were purchasing.

Take pre-purchasing your tickets for a new film coming out. You aren’t sure whether you’ll like the film or not because you don’t know what the film is yet because you haven’t seen it. You’ve seen the trailer and think that you’ll probably like the film. But it’s not definite. You may hate the film. On the other hand, you may love it, and because you’re a risky devil, you’ll go despite these odds.

The same goes for video games. Despite developers’ best intentions and hard work, not every video game which looks great at E3 turns out to be good. So, maybe you shouldn’t give your hard-earned money to these products which may, and do in some cases, turn out wildly different to what you expect and what you’ve interpreted from the trailer.

Fallout 76, for instance, surprised us all with its level of quality at launch. That level being extremely low and disappointing. Especially for long-time Bethesda fans such as myself. This is just one of many examples showcasing why we shouldn’t pre-order video games.

Games, as far as I can tell, seem unpredictable in their development cycle, to say the least. Not including the fact that they take years to make with hundreds, if not thousands, of people working on them at one time. They, like any art, can change and alter depending on the artistic and financial process.

That’s why some games get cancelled, such as Scalebound and Phantom Dust (though the latter is still apparently in development). Even if they look great, the publisher cancelling the game has often judged that even if the game is finished, it’s unlikely that it will make its money back. This is their prerogative of course, as games are one of the most expensive things to make and they need to continue making them in order to survive, or at the very least make their money back, so that they can keep publishing games.

Other games might be stuck in development hell. For a time, Cuphead seemed like it was never going to launch because of its numerous delays – and we even have some of that same feeling with the delayed DLC, now arriving 2020 instead of this year. As did Final Fantasy XV; a game which, in essence, was in development for around a decade.

Crackdown 3, despite its many delays and changes in development leadership still arrived on the Xbox platform earlier this year. Though sadly, with a whimper rather than a face-full of explosives. Games such as these are usually available to pre-order from the moment they have been announced.

The amount of game that isn’t finished at the time of its announcement must be severe considering the length of the ‘standard’ development cycle. So why would you purchase a game which can and will change from the reveal trailer up until the moment of launch? Maybe you believe you’ll like the game because of the developer’s previous work or because you like the look of the game? Or you just want to pre-order because you can, and why not?

Well, look at Fallout 76. Look at Telltale Games with their awful engine. Look at Square Enix with their initial insistence of not showing us Avengers gameplay even though they revealed the game three years ago. Look at Ubisoft to a certain degree with the current state of Beyond Good and Evil 2 (fingers crossed it’ll be great – I have faith).

Game making is complicated. The unpredictable can happen even to the biggest developers and publishers. I’m not advocating the idea that we should assume every game will be bad so don’t purchase it before it comes out. I’m simply saying DON’T BUY SOMETHING UNTIL IT IS MADE AND IT IS OUT THERE.

The publishers haven’t even made the game you’re paying them for yet. You’re technically investing in a product but getting the same return as someone who buys it on day 1. Moreover, you’re supporting the pre-order culture of receiving bonuses for paying for something early, which is wrong, in my opinion. Every gamer should get the same product for the same cost. 

Publishers can do what they want in terms of their financial practices. After all, it is their prerogative. But I implore you to not pre-order games because of the unpredictability that is associated with the creation process. Because of the bad practices it supports publishers in doing. And because getting something on minute one isn’t the most important thing in the world.

Wait a while and see what everybody else thinks. See if the game is worth your time and money. And if you want to give it a chance despite any small doubts you may have, then fire away. I hope that unique gun and outfit you never use or wear is worth the money you gave to that publisher.

Now, you might say that it is more complicated because of where the industry stands at the moment in terms of games as a service. Fallout 76 might have been a bad pre-purchase to make when it launched, but since then there have been multiple fixes and free updates which may make the game worth your while now unlike before if that’s the type of experience you’re looking for.

So, there is always the chance that the game you pre-order may become the game you always wanted or thought it to be. My thoughts – why take the risk? Patience is a virtue ladies and gentlemen. We should embrace this when purchasing our games and let the games speak for themselves.

Don’t pre-order. It’s weird. It’s illogical, and it encourages ugly business practices.

But maybe you disagree? Don’t worry – I’ve got you covered. Stay tuned for the other side of the argument coming soon.

Nick Burton
Nick Burton
Believer in the power of video games and the conversations surrounding them. Writer, creator, and thinker above all else.
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