If you’ve bought a game in the last 10 years, you’ve probably come across the option to pre-order it. Even when purchasing digitally, pre-ordering is pushed to consumers. So, what’s the deal with pre-orders, and are they even worthwhile? This post will examine pre-ordering in games, as well as their pros and cons.
What does pre-ordering games mean?
Pre-ordering means you are ordering something prior to its release. The concept has actually been around for a while, since the early 2000s. When games were only available in small quantities and physically, retailers introduced the idea of pre-ordering to ensure keen buyers wouldn’t miss out. This system also helped publishers have an idea of how many games to send out to retailers.
With games growing in popularity over the years, it’s rare now that they sell out upon release. So, publishers have had to come up with other ways to entice pre-sales. This includes pre-order bonuses. These are exclusive perks that are only unlockable via pre-ordering the game itself.
Even in the digital era, the pre-order hustle is still a thing. Steam will sometimes offer pre-order discount for games if you purchase them before they release as an incentive.
So, what’s good about pre-ordering games?
There are a number of reasons why someone would want to pre-order a game. And it can actually be beneficial for both the consumer and the game itself.
In terms of physical copies, it gives stores a good indication of how many copies to order. When I worked for a game’s retailer, there were instances of games selling out on the first day. If you want your physical copy on the first day, it can be worth your time pre-ordering it. Additionally, many games retailers offer physical extras if you pre-order it. For example, some of these can include exclusive statues, accessories, artwork and more. Without pre-ordering in this instance, it’s harder to get these items if you want them down the line.
Digitally, pre-orders are still most certainly offered through platforms like Steam. Often, a pre-order incentive will be the game in question is cheaper if you pre-order it, vs once it is released. So, there is a saving incentive first if you do pre-order. Also, if you pre-order digitally, you can also sometimes pre-download the game. This means the moment it releases, you can jump straight in instead of waiting for it to download. Finally, extra incentives are sometimes also offered digitally (and sometimes physically) such as codes for in game items like skins, or accessing exclusive items like sound tracks.
For the publishers themselves, pre-orders are also a great way to gauge interest in the game and pre-sales are often a big early indicator as to whether a game will perform well or not financially.
So, what are the bad aspects of pre-ordering games?
The biggest negative around pre-ordering (and often most talked about), is if the game you have pre-ordered does not match what you were expecting. This is most common when the games’ release is incredibly buggy and unplayable on Day 1, which is often the entire reason why someone would pre-order something. The most recent instance of this that blew up was the release of Cyberpunk 2077, a game that sadly struggled due to the hype it generated. The game had a large number of pre-orders, only to have a difficult release, resulting in a LOT of unhappy customers wanting to refund their games.
Jumping off of the last point, another factor that goes against pre-orders, is the fact that you have yet to see people’s perception of the game. By getting a game on Day 1, you are effectively going in blind, with few reviews and videos available yet to help you ascertain if this game truly is for you. This is why many people choose not to pre-order, and wait for time to pass before purchasing a game.
Finally, some site the pre-order incentives as reason pre-orders are bad. It creates and exclusionary mentality within the gaming community between those who can pre-order and those who can’t. There are many reasons why someone can’t or won’t pre-order a game, with monetary reasons definitely being a factor too. If someone who can pay extra up front gets entirely exclusive content or advantages that players who cannot don’t, it creates a big split in the player base which can absolutely be seen as a scummy thing for publishers and developers to do. This can then turn consumers against the game, which can have an extremely negative effect on it sales.
So, are pre-orders good, or bad?
Unfortunately, like many things in life, there isn’t a clear-cut answer here. While pre-orders are great for retailers who want to know how many items to order, and for people who want a good deal or some extra goodies, it can certainly have its down sides. Giving money to a game that isn’t what you thought it was going to be can sting, and leave both gamers and publishers disappointed.
But what the solution? Remove pre-orders entirely, or find a better middle ground for both gamers and publishers? Share your thoughts in the comments below!