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Stop Pre-Ordering Video Games. Here’s Why.

Pre-Ordering Video Games is the Ultimate Self-Own

These days, every publisher wants you to put down your hard-earned cash for their new game months before its official release. Pre-ordering games have become the norm as of late. Whether you’re getting a game digitally or physically, pre-ordering it gives you exclusive bonuses such as a small trinket item or an in-game cosmetic. Even so, it’s in your best interest to avoid getting into pre-orders as much as possible. While there are some upsides to it, there are far too many downsides that just aren’t worth the risk.

The Concept of Pre-Ordering

In case you’ve been living under a rock, the practice of pre-ordering a video game is the act of paying for a game that hasn’t been released yet. This applies both to the digital as well as the physical copy of the game. Normally, when you pre-order a physical copy, you don’t have to pay the full amount upfront. Game stores usually only take a minimum of the SRP to reserve a copy, then you pay the remaining balance when picking the game up on launch day.

Pre-ordering digitally, on the other hand, charges you for the full amount once your order ships. This doesn’t apply to every digital store though; if you were to pre-order on the PlayStation store, they’ll charge you immediately. Then there’s the Xbox Game Store which uses up your account balance right away for POs, but if you used a credit card instead, you’ll be charged around 10 days before the launch of the pre-ordered game.

Half-Baked Games Are Rampant

Just as pre-ordering has become the new norm, so has the concept of releasing unfinished games. When you pre-order a game, you’re paying for it upfront based on that glossy, pre-released trailer being heavily advertised through a marketing campaign. Now, one can reason that reviews these days come out just before the game releases that give people more leeway about what they’re getting themselves into. But remember how No Man’s Sky was during launch day? What about Anthem? And who could forget about Fallout 76? Other advertisements are not always true to the game’s final form.

It’s like beating a dead horse at this point, but just take a look at Cyberpunk 2077–now that’s the biggest offender of them all. Players were fed press releases and trailers with unbelievable promises, but what happened in the end? Few of those promised features ever made it into the game; Cyberpunk 2077 was so bad at launch that the excessive bugs made it unplayable.

Unfortunately, a lot of AAA developers are continuing down this path of releasing half-baked products with patch updates to follow. Remember those good ol’ days where if we buy a game, you don’t need to download any patches before starting it? Pre-ordering games is now a huge risk, and at this point, it’s much more practical to just wait for user reviews to come in before taking the plunge.

The Sudden Realization That the Game Isn’t for You

It’s easy to get blinded or blown away by trailers and gameplay showcases, but don’t be fooled. Those short previews are not what they seem. Sure, the game looks amazing on the outside and the developers promised all kinds of amazing content and features, but the experience could be a different story altogether.

Gaming companies have taught us, time and time again, that trailers, “first looks”, and even the reviews made by reputable reviewers can be deceptive. Take a look at No Man’s Sky, for example. Released in 2016, developers claimed that No Man’s Sky, a procedurally generated space-adventure game, could create 18 quintillion planets. What initially started as a small indie title quickly ballooned into a hyped game–heck, even Sony got involved! It was fun and games until that bubble popped.

The trailers and gameplay videos of No Man’s Sky looked and sounded amazing–until you found out that they used clips and screenshots that weren’t actually from the finished product…. oops. This led to a false sense of the game’s quality and resulted in thousands if not millions of people being severely disappointed when they bought the game at full price. Upon release, No Man’s Sky was bombarded with heavy criticism and negative reviews for the lack of the promised content. The developers went silent after that, which is, for the lack of a better term, a kick in the throat for the consumers.

No Man’s Sky did redeem themselves, but it literally took years before the game was finally as it was advertised to be. Sure, it’s a great game to play now, but people shouldn’t forget what happened in the past, lest they repeat its consequences.

Throwing Money Away

Video games aren’t cheap. You’d typically find major releases costing $60-70 at launch, and that doesn’t include any DLC, or paid content released later. When you pre-order a game, you pay the full price most of the time. Sure, there are discounts when getting it digitally (through Steam, for example), but it’s usually only 10% off. It’s not a good idea these days to pre-order a game when there’s a good chance that it’ll just go on sale for half its original price in the future. Unless, of course, the game’s never going to go on sale like first-party Nintendo titles, for example.

The discounts that a lot of game retailers used to offer for pre-orders are gone too. Amazon Prime used to offer a 20% discount if you pre-ordered the game or purchased it within two weeks of release, but the corporation decided to cut this back to pre-orders only. Not to mention they also changed the policy to instead provide customers a $10 Amazon credit for selected game pre-orders only. Talk about a bummer.

A Lot of Cons and Very Few Pros

There’s no concrete reason to pre-order games anymore. Back when games were only sold in physical formats, the concept of pre-ordering made sense since there was a finite number of copies. But now that we’ve moved on from that and have digital gaming stores that give unlimited game copies, this means that there’s no limited resource to stake a claim on. The only exception to this is the shiny, physical collector’s editions which costs a pretty penny. Those are understandably limited, but even then, you’d still see some of them in stores collecting dust.

Game demos are your friends if you’re thinking about purchasing a new game, but even then, not every dev team puts one out before launch. And with multiplayer-focused games, access to the beta is restricted to players that already pre-ordered the game.

The only main benefit that you get when pre-ordering is so you can preload it (for digital buyers only). Most systems allow you to download a pre-ordered digital game before release so you can start playing it when the clock strikes midnight. It’s convenient especially for those with slow internet connections, but there’s still the problem of gambling on a game’s quality.

Pre-Ordering Encourages Mediocrity

Pre-ordering is essentially buying promises from an industry that’s been notorious for under-delivering and over-promising for many years now. At the end of it all, the act of pre-ordering just encourages gaming companies to do the bare minimum. What you’re paying for doesn’t exist yet and, in some instances, may never exist. Anything that the developers and publishers show you should be taken with a grain of salt since they’re trying to show their product in the best possible light. They’ll highlight the best parts of the game, use editing trickery to make it seem more exciting, and run it on hardware that’s nowhere near what the average consumer has. They have a whole lot more strategies to make you, the consumer, buy the game without knowing squat about it. The next time you’re about to whip out your credit card for that new game, put some thought into your decision.

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