It’s 2015 and we’re still seeing embarrassingly buggy launches of AAA blockbuster games, so it’s time to repeat the ol’ battle cry of the afflicted: STOP PRE-ORDERING VIDEO GAMES!
Look, every time you pre-order a game, you’re supporting an anti-consumer practice that’s been steadily eroding our hobby for years. Your innocent pre-order supports the obfuscation of game quality by showing that you’ll buy a game sight unseen instead of waiting for reviews or even worth-of-mouth; you’re also encouraging buggy, poorly-optimized and otherwise poorly made games by showing that publishers and developers can be rewarded before they’ve shown their work.
Recently we’ve seen a great cautionary tale about the dangers associated with pre-ordering that strikes to the heart of the matter: in an unprecedented move, Warner Bros has actually suspended sales of the PC version of Batman: Arkham Knight. It’s common knowledge that this port was horrifically broken to the point of unplayability, but stopping sales altogether is something else entirely. We likely have the new Steam Refunds policy to thank for this one – turns out that when games consumers are able to hit companies in their wallets, things get changed.
Anyway, back to pre-ordering. I’ll go ahead and address a few of the most common arguments for pre-ordering here.
But They’ll Sell Out and I Won’t Get A Copy on Launch Day!
Sure, that’s entirely possible, but it’s also highly unlikely. If you’re looking at a AAA game, like Batman: Arkham Knight, the odds that you won’t be able to get a copy on launch day are miniscule at best given the variety of retailers that will be offering the game.
The situation gets a little messier with niche titles, but smaller game stores and even GameStop might have your game available if you’re absolutely, positively set on playing it on day one. Either way, it’s not your job to manage inventory for a retailer – if they want your money, they’ll have enough copies. Period. If they don’t, then go somewhere that does and pay them instead.
More importantly, though: maybe it’s time to get over playing things on day one. It’s been proven time and again that game prices drop very rapidly in the weeks following launch. What’s more, we’ve seen case after case where post-launch patches vastly improved a game’s playability; even the much-beloved Bloodborne, for instance, received a patch that drastically cut load times, and titles like Assassin’s Creed: Unity went from okay to great after being patched to improve performance.
You’re a little more safe if you’re playing on console, since that’s where most of the money for game development goes and that helps ensure patches come more quickly, but PC gamers have little to no reason to ever purchase or play a game on launch day. It’s too risky. Wait a week. Wait two, actually.
Seriously: wait a couple weeks and you’ll get a game that’s as least as good as it was on launch day, if not better…and you’ll probably get it cheaper, too.
But I Want To Support The Developers!
If you really want to support your favorite developers, consider paying them after a game has launched and received positive reviews. Rewarding people in this industry for doing good work has gone out of favor in the past few console generations; instead, thanks to Early Access and Kickstarter, we’ve been paying them for having an idea we like or for having a name we recognize. And paying big time.
Paying for results might lead to the cream rising to the top in the games industry once more.
But I’ll Miss Out On This Character/Stage/Mission/Skin/Costume/Whatever Exclusive Content!
That’s a tough one, isn’t it? You’re basically losing part of the game forever if you don’t pay in advance. It’s almost like the developers and publishers know that preordering is a horrible anti-consumer business model and need to hold part of the game hostage to get people to do it, huh? In fact, it’s even worse these days, thanks to retailer preorder exclusives forcing you to care about where you get a game from where in the past it didn’t really matter. Brand loyalty in the face of an industry that actively tries to cheat you is a little silly to say the least.
It sucks to lose out on content, but let’s be real here: this keeps happening because the gaming community keeps endorsing it. If everyone just dealt with the loss of a skin here and there for a year, maybe two, we’d see pre-order culture die and with it, pre-order exclusives. We might even return to the halcyon days when we got an entire game for our money instead of being nickel-and-dimed after the fact. Wouldn’t that be nice?
It’s My Money! I Can Do Whatever I Want With My Money!
Can’t argue with that. Your money would probably be better served by waiting, ensuring you can get the same title for the price the game probably should have cost from the start and the experience it probably should have offered from the start. If you want to gamble, though, have at it.
Frankly, though, next time a game’s released in a shoddy state on launch, I’d politely ask you to remember that you played a part in the fiasco. In fact, you chose to do it, because even though you knew better, it’s your money and you can do what you want with it. At least put that new Steam Refund system to work if you’re not 100% happy with your purchase, both for your sake and for ours.