Stop Preordering Video Games. Please.

It's not hard finding things that are wrong with the video game industry these days. From rip-off DLC to paid-for cheats to games that are sold essentially incomplete, consumers are increasingly getting short shrift.

If you want to push back, though, what are your options? Stop buying games? Effective, perhaps, but that's also cutting off your nose to spite your face. And hands.

Emailing a publisher? Hahahahha. Hahahah. Haha. Oh, that's a good one.

There is one thing you can do, though, to get a little back (provided you actually do it in the first place). And that's to stop preordering video games.

Preorders really picked up steam around a decade ago as a means for eager and loyal customers to reserve a copy of a game before it was released. They were usually used for the biggest games, games that ran a serious risk of being sold out, meaning if you wanted to get in early and avoid having to wait for restocks, you'd preorder.

Over the last 10 years though, things got a little perverse. Publishers started manufacturing enough games so that if you walked into a store two days after a new Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto was released, there'd still be copies available. Yet we've become increasingly encouraged to preorder games anyway. Even though we don't actually need to.

Um, why?

GameStop tracks them as a measure of success, and you may have noticed between all the free action figures, maps and fancy cases being offered, really wants you to preorder stuff. Publishers use them to gauge the expected retail success of a game once it actually hits shelves. The worst union of the two now manifests as retailer-specific preorder bonuses, ungodly partitions of content where someone preordering a game from Best Buy will get a different incentive to that of a GameStop customer.

Beyond the immediate benefits to both party's bottom lines, though, there's something more important going on, something that's the real reason preodering a game is so important to them: these companies want you on the hook before anyone has had a chance to warn you off it.

There once was a time video game reviews and word of mouth played the most important part in determining the success of a new title. There'd be a chance for either professional critics or like-minded peers to get their hands on a game and tell you whether it's actually worth your time or money. With games being so expensive, those opinions can be - and to be sure, are still in some way (especially word of mouth) - important!

They can also be bad for business if you're in the business of making or selling video games, though, so removing that roadblock is in both publisher's and retailer's best interests. The cult of preordering is how this is achieved. By getting your commitment to purchase a game in advance, when all you've got to go on is a marketing campaign, you're signalling that you, as a consumer, are totally cool spending $US40-$60 on a game simply on the strength of how it's been marketed.

Want to know why there aren't any demos anymore? This is why. Want to know why content is withheld from everyone's game and is instead sprinkled across various competing retailers? This is why. Want to know why there's now an accepted norm where those paying more for a game gain competitive advantages? This is why. Publishers don't need to sell you on their games, because by slavishly throwing money down before they're even out, you've signalled your intent to take whatever it is they give you.

So...just stop doing it. At least for big or even big-ish games (those that will be genuinely rare, well, do what you gotta do!). Walk into a store the day a game is released, or a week after, and just buy the game then. You won't notice much of a difference. But retailers and publishers will. Eventually.

It may not be a glorious victory for the consumer in their never-ending struggle to avoid getting fucked, or stop many of the other major problems this industry saddles us with, but seeing retailers and publishers stage a forced retreat from preorder madness would still be a small victory for the little guy. And a small victory's better than a never-ending streak of losses.


Comments

    Refreshing to hear a games journalist telling the thronging masses to abate their lust for new content. In this case, I agree.

      I'm getting pretty tired of people picking up minor annoyances that have no real impact on anything and claiming that it's the cancer destroying gaming.

        But Hitman just isn't Hitman without 47's fedora and tommy gun!

        [I know it's focusing on the exact wrong part of the article, but damnit use a better example in your banner. There's plenty out there.]

    I think pre ordering is at a nuts level especially when games that everyone and there mom plays like the modern warfare series .

    I preorder collector editions of PC games and on steam, because most of the time you can get a game before publishers tact on the bullshit australia tax. I will always preorder a game by blizzard unless they do a complete 180 and end up like bioware and epic.

    Having said that i will never preorder a console game or collector editions of games that dont have a sensible price (ie the Skyrims collectors edition was a wast of cash if you got it)

      I got the skyrim ce and was very happy with thats whats you do you for the games you love

        But how could you have known you were going to love it when you preordered?

        I will pre-order games I really want, but yeah, bonuses that differ from every store can GTFO. You can always cancel your order before release if you don't want the game. I don't see how this is such a big problem.

      +1 Thyco1 - Australian prices for games are absurd.

      But they already have ended up like bioware and epic.

    Isn't it this kind of talk that gets you branded as "entitled".

    It's strange to see this kind of article considering most of what they put out on the subject is either mocking gamers or calling them entitled.

      Entitled is the goddamn buzzword of 2012 and I'm personally quite sick of it.

        So, so true.

        It's like ignorant used to be. There was this massive period where it was just an insult subbed in for calling someone a moron. Sort of a stealth insult that makes the user sound very intelligent and above it all.
        Now the same trend is appearing with entitled. If anything you say comes even close to asking for something you're entitled. The worst part is 9 out of 10 times it's used to make the people who actually care about the subject look like jerks. The people who stuck with SWTOR and want to see it succeed get blasted for being entitled almost every time the games name comes up.

        I swear, sometimes I think the internet learns words like a four year old. It hears a smart sounding word and then suddenly that word finds its way into every other sentence.

        Amen to that, and the worst part is they are miss-using the term. What people SHOULD be saying is "you're Self-Entitled", because just claiming someones entitled is technically agreeing with them as it means "to be due or owed something and have yet to receive it".

      because its elder scrolls kind of gave it away been a fan for a long time

    "By getting your commitment to purchase a game in advance, when all you’ve got to go on is a marketing campaign, you’re signalling that you, as a consumer, are totally cool spending $US40-$60 on a game simply on the strength of how it’s been marketed."

    A marketing campaign as opposed to spending $US40-$60 a week later based on other people's word of mouth? Since personal taste is pretty subjective, I don't see much of a difference. Even a game getting Arkham City levels of accolade isn't going to be everybody's cup of tea. Fact is, we're always at a danger of purchasing something we may not actually like after all, no matter if it's pre-ordered or bought a year later in a bargain bin.

    I have to say though, pre-ordering is clearly more about the free goods often packaged-in, rather than a case of securing availability. As a consumer though, it's hard to ignore how nice some of those bonuses actually are. In some cases they're available to the public later (albiet always for a fee), but not all the time.

    Isn't this also the method by which Kickstarter succeeds?
    You buy into a games concept, invest in an idea and are rewarded with extras by doing so. In some cases you simply trust in the developers and they have absolutely nothing to show for what the game entails. (Double Fine Adventure, Wasteland 2, Shadowrun Returns, etc)
    The more money you pitch the more you receive and hope the end game is as good as you imagine it to be. No one would pitch $10,000 and be happy to receive only what someone who pitches $15 gets. So you pay extra, you get extra.
    I'm not going to defend the seperated extra content between retailers, but if I know I am going to get the game anyway and someone is offering goodies for a little bit of extra cash (or better yet the same price) I don't have a problem forking over the cash.
    Now if only they could tell me what I could get with Bioshock Infinite when it DOES get released.

    Oh shut up Luke. It ensures sales. Its something that has to be done to keep the industry afloat with a push in Digital Releases and a crap economy.
    Yes sometimes publishers abuse the fact, but to boycott preordering all together? Do you like your job? Cause if we stop pre-ordering we might at as well kiss games goodbye.

      Easy on the hostility, no need to turn things sour.

        Especially as Luke pulled all the stops out for this one. Great article Dunkett!

        Hang on now, isn't this the same shannon who said he/she was a EB Games manager in another comment thread?

      I know as an EB manager you're going to have a different view of this than most people.

      But...seriously? If we don't pre-order, the entire games industry is going to grind to a halt?

      I call bullshit.

      The game will be there and I'll buy it when I'm ready - if not, I'll buy it somewhere else, or I'll import it, or I'll wait.

      Or, yknow, I'll buy a digital distribution copy of it - which is fantastic as a consumer.

      i dont pre order if it is in game content your getting i want a statue and art book / sound track th in game content should be in the game not something you pay extra for
      also digital distrobution can just fuck off

      What utter garbage pre ordering doesn't keep the game industry alive

      It's not like the company actually gets that 5 dollars from GameStop when you lay it down it sits in their coffers until a week before release when GameStop then uses it to buy the stock.

      If anything pre orders could be seen to promote the used games market more since by selling a game to someone who might end up hating it increases the chance of having used copies sooner

      The only real benefit the games industry gets is if they have GameStop saying we'll give you 200k for the pre order DLC you got

      This is article of the year right here. Anyone who disagrees with what the article proposes can go jump off a cliff.

      You're that EB manager from a previous article. Where's your evidence that the gaming industry will die if we don't pre-order? Typical EB drone.

        Very few people are ever "typical" even if you like to label them as such on the internet. I was an EB manager and trust me, there are a lot of employees completely cynical to their pre ordering policy. Fact is, it's not really up to the employee who is just doing their job. You don't hit a certain number of pre orders, you get in trouble. That's why they do it, it doesn't make them a drone, I'm sure everyone here does something at work they wish they didn't have to. EB's pre ordering philosophy is stupid, it is essentially market research that's put to poor, if completely inept use. It's no guarantee of a sale either, we used to get half our customers cancel something all the time anyway.

      OK this is the first comment I've ever made on this site because what you've said is just about the most retarded thing I've ever read on the internet. HOW IN THE HELL does stopping pre-orders lead to us "kissing games goodbye"? I love how economic illiterates such as yourself can just spout a line about us having a "crap economy" without citing anything at all; Australia's economy is arguably the STRONGEST in the developed world and our appetite for games will ensure that the industry is kept afloat. Stop trying to bullshit everyone with your ridiculous scaremongering, pre-orders simply act as a disincentive for quality control, pretending otherwise is just ignorant.

    are available on every format and walking into some stores I find that sometimes a shop is empty with the exception of these newly released games. I was stung by pre ordering with bf 3 I love every battlefield game so when I saw preorder and get the expansion for the same price as the release barebones game I was like what the hell I'm saving €19 and it was old and new maps that explode around you with more weapons ! there was no release date so I guessed it was a month or so off ......I got an ad on the loading screen of bfbc2 so I decided to check the release date I had preordered a game that would not be available for nine months....I won't be doing that again . the only other game I ever preordered was dark star one and as the writer mentioned it was a small release and I ordered it because I played the demo.

    I push back by waiting until the game is at least 50% off on Steam or similar (75% preferably ). There's a few exceptions, Diablo 3, which I'll hopefully be buying on day one.
    Also buying the game straight away or pre-ordering means you get all the day one bugs and glitches which so many modern games have on release, for PC anyway. Wait a few months and the developers have usually released a few patches.

      yes because all games have bugs and glitches mostly indie games have that problem on pc and there like 10 bucks

      This. So many games hit half price within a couple of months, and quite a lot of those will drop to $20 before long too. Through this I have some twenty-odd 360 games (360 being a console I don't particularly care for and would never have bought, but happened to win) that barely cost me any more than $30 each, all bought brand new from shops. Most of them for $20 or less. There aren't many games that have me hypersalivating to play them the moment they get released (in fact I can't remember the last time there was one) so preorders are reserved for when there's a bonus that has my eye and/or I've got some trade bait that'll land me extra credit.

      Far too many games unplayed as it is, there's plenty of time to get around to the others.

    But, but i preorderd Diablo III CE from Amazon and got it for US$115 including shipping, i think i got a good deal there, considering that i have seen it for preorder here in Melbourne for $200.

    I also preorderd Darksiders II CE on PS3 for $124 and i am okay with paying that for what i get in return.

    I don't see a problem with preordering games if you get what you want in return for the amount of money you are willing to spend.

    If you don't like it, you don't have to buy it.

      i pre oderd the freedom edition of ac3 for $130 and its worth it cause it isnt shitty ''extra'' game content that should already be in the game but it does come with A 24cm figurine of Connor
      A steelbook case art George Washington's notebook Lithograph
      and 2 extra missions and multi player content but its still better than it being 100% in game content

    You clearly don't understand what you are talking about Luke. This method seems to be keeping our current gaming universe in one piece. If publishers and retailers use this as a method to track how many to sell/buy or wether the game is made or not then if you get rid of it, you suffer an industry that doesn't know what to make, what to buy and what to stock. I don't recall a situation where I have missed out on purchasing something which I wanted in the last 10 years or so. Most retailers always have stock of the "hot" items, so abolishing this method would do more harm than good.

    I do appreciate the angle that you are trying to spin, but flat out telling the gaming community that they should STOP preordering which could hurt the industry is quite frankly irresponsible.

    I agree that publishers certainly are playing with certain tactics to spread DLC over many retailers, something which to me is annoying, but most of the time its irrelevant.

    Instead of plainly going off half cocked, give me an idea of what changes you would inact to make it better for everyone. Anyone can sit on the sidelines and shout stop doing that, but if you really love the industry and your job then give us what you would do!!!!! or at least open up a forum for people to discuss their wants.

      Totally agree.

        To say Luke doesn't know what he's talking about is an over-reaction; his argument is logical, even if you disagree, which you are fully entitled to do.

        I'd say that using pre-order as a way for business to determine stock levels and development is a pretty poor business decision. Are a large amount of pre-orders an indicator of the products quality? No, it's an indication of how much people are anticipating it, which is determined by many things; brand perception and marketing effectiveness to name a few.

        For what it's worth, I'm not opposed to pre-ordering, and at any one time will have at least have one or a few. However, I'll only pre-order things that I'm almost certain to enjoy. Having said that, it can be a tough choice when I face the possibility of "missing out" on pre-order bonuses, and that does influence my decision to pre-order somewhat.

        Pre-ordering isn't about customer satisfaction. It's about maximising profits, and of course there's nothing wrong with that; that's what a business is for after all, and in that sense, pre-ordering is critical to the industry.

        The industry that is. Not customers.

        Pre-ordering belongs to the consumer, it is ours to let live or destroy.

        Um. Why is it that preorders are apparently so important? This sounds like the whole anti-used argument all over again. Plenty of other industries survive and/or thrive without preorders, what makes videogames so special as to require preorders?

          I'm leaning more towards Franz's philosophy. I'm not saying people have to pre-order, nor that the industry would die without them, just that pre-orders are good for making developers and distributors lots of money.

      Basically you're arguing against employing critical thinking towards purchase decisions, in favour of simply thowing money at the industry because they don't know what they're doing otherwise. But of course we end up with games that are loaded with presentation and thin on entertainment. There's no need to deliver an actual game, when a mildly interactive tech demo meets the criteria.

      If the industry is so dependent on both its own and its customers' fantasy, then perhaps it does need to take a step back and start making decisions by interacting with prospective customers and focusing on delivering substance. Let's not forget preorders work online as well; there's no need to ship any units, yet the preorder collection plates are passed around just the same, if not in an even more needy fashion.

      Of course it's not entirely broken; some notable Kickstarter projects of late appear to be thriving the same way, albeit by offering way more and asking for way less. Let's apply the crowd-sourcer's premise to a potential Modern Warfare release;

      Pledge $60 You get a game
      Pledge $80 You get a game, dlc and a medal
      Pledge $150 You get a toy plus all other tiers

      Now for some perspective, if you pledged $100 to Double Fine, you're getting the private beta, an art book, a poster, a game soundtrack, a dvd of the making of documentary and special thanks in the credits.

      It's just an example that some people in the industry really want your money, others simply expect it. You tend to get what you paid for. When you're paying for smoke and mirrors, expect an excess of fog and bloom effects and all the fun of witnessing a really good illusion.

    steam does it best, pre order the game and you pay 10% less, good deal if you are intending on buying upon release.

    The writer forget to mention "Used Games" the Number 1 reason why pre-order is so aggressively pushed along with post launch DLC. Publishers want people to buy new and the best way would be for people to pre order, after that in order to keep the player from selling back the game to game-stop or what ever they release DLC to entice people to keep playing long enough not to bother taking it in. The problem with Pre ordering is that for many, we have all been burned really bad on over hyped products be it movies, games what ever, products that have been hyped as the second coming of Jesus only to be a horrible mess with good marketing.

    Preordering isnt always good just for the store... its basically a layby. If you cant afford $100 up front on release day, then preordering a game ensures that every week you're able to chuck down $10 or $20 and by the time the release rolls around its paid for. It works for consumers too.

    I must admit though, with all the extra crap "exclusive" to stores, it does get a bit annoying.

      So what you're saying is... if you can't afford to lay down the lot at once, you should save up beforehand?

      Ingenious :P

    My respect for Luke just shot right up. I've only half-heartedly considered this before, but its so true. My only point of departure is that I dont think people are preordering based on advertising either. They preorder sequels. When thats how the success of a game is determined, what chance does a new IP have.

    Plunkett... gotta be ghost-written

    More like this luke

      I agree. Positive re-inforcement is way better than punishment.

      Good job, Luke. Keep writing well thought-out articles that encourage discussion.

    Thanks for a full article, much appreciated.
    Keep it up!

    If reviews could be trusted as a legitimate form of review then maybe the deterrents to pre-ordering would be justifiable

    Most major publications release their review before the games release anyways meaning that there is still a back out point $5 on a game doesn't mean you must pay for it. So reviews could still stop the pre order masses.

    Problem is though that too few publications can be trusted and generally the more trustworthy the publication the less likely it gets it's review out early since there is a restriction if your review is not higher than an 8 or so

    http://trenchescomic.com/tales/post/spend-money-or-be-fired

      Which is an issue with the current system. And in a way an effort to ensure that their staff are actually doing something other than babysitting the store.

      The fact is though it's a moronic practice. Pre-ordering games can only be achieved by someone that comes and talks to you. Sales staff aren't going to be able to go up to people and go hey pre-order this, right now even though you have 9+ months to do so.

    Yeah, preorders are getting a bit ridiculous in the last few years. Alot of the added stuff is just cheap junk really, aside from a few well thought out limited editions. I used to preorder virtually every limited/collectors edition, but mostly only worry about getting editions with art books now. Though I love stuff like, the Oblivion septum coin, bioshock 2 vinyl LP and the Assasins Creed encyclopedia is great - stuff that enhances and breaks the 4th wall is great, just not cheap shit with the official stamped logos. And I also got burned by EB with the Skyrim Limited Edition, had a preorder 12 months before release, and they couldnt fill it through lack of stock in my area - one would you believe. One!

    He didn't mention the practical reason why I occasionally preorder, perhaps because I'm the only one who does it. :P If I really, really can't wait for an upcoming game to hit sale prices on Steam for example and I am cashed up, I will preorder knowing I won't have to find the cash down the track on release day. As a uni student this is an issue for me sometimes. ;)

      I don't have much against pre-ordering; it comes in handy when a special edition of a game is coming out, though. Let's say there's going to be a Batman Arkham City: Game of the Year Edition which is coming out on March 29 and September for European countries and Australasia. You look at the reviews of the game and determine whether it might get a special edition based on the score. When you find out there is one, that's when pre-ordering come in handy; you'll normally find regular editions of the game about 8/10 of the time. If you pre-order it, you don't need to go looking for it, rushing around the stores just to find that one special edition. And who knows? You might get a pre-order bonus. That's why pre-ordering can be good. I do disagree with store exclusive bonuses, though.

    Agreed and a half!
    But i will always preorder certain things. E.g. Collectors editions of games that i really want. And games like Diablo 3 which is going to be selling like wildfire!!! Seriously Went into game today to see if they could transfer my preorder to my hometown seeing ill be there on launch day and every store has all their stock all ready pre ordered...

    I READ THIS ARTICLE AND HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO OPINION ON THE CONTENT OR AUTHOR AT ALL EXCEPT FOR THE FACT THAT MY CAPS LOCK IS STUCK

      Best comment.

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