Is Pre-Ordering Ruining the Gaming Industry?

If you’re like me and spend hours of your life surfing the internet for various cat videos, funny pictures, and the best memes, you’re sure to have run across the issue people have with pre-ordering. Whenever a new game comes out—our expectations sky high and fanned by a deft marketing committee, pushing HD images of roaring gun battles and shiny vehicles—it never lives up to our expectations. Gamers have fits and rage about how pre-ordering is ruining the gaming industry, the mindset being that because you paid in advance and showed interest in the game, the developers made the final product less epic than you were expecting. They have their money and no longer need to put their hearts and souls into it. But does that really make sense?

The short answer is no, and that’s silly. Having worked at a store that sells video games, I can tell you from personal experience that pre-ordering doesn’t ruin anything. In fact, those companies people accuse of throwing in the towel once they get their money never even see your payment on the game, because they haven’t actually sold it yet. They still have their inventory, the outlet you are pre-ordering it from has the money, and you’re sitting gleefully waiting for your game to come out.

Now, none of this applies to you purchasing a game in early alpha and being disappointed by the lack of content; it certainly doesn’t apply to people throwing money at mere concepts of games on Steam and other PC gaming sites that are just a pasted image of a lamp and a flashlight. This article deals solely with the idea of pre-ordering through outlet stores (especially in regard to physical copies) and the stigma that comes with it.

Pre-ordering works like this: you show interest in a game, put down some or all of the money that you need to reserve yourself a copy, and you wait until it comes out. When you and fifty other people do this—for Call of Duty, for example—the store now knows it needs at least fifty copies of Call of Duty. The company then ships out those fifty copies, plus a few extra, to the store so that we can then sell you the game. When a game becomes wildly popular—such as No Man’s Sky when it first came out—and you didn’t pre-order it, it’s very difficult to find. Often I have to turn people away at work, because all the copies we have are for individuals who reserved their copy. We can’t sell those, the extra we did get are already sold, and you’re just out of luck. Don’t think this happens anymore? Did you try finding Resident Evil 4, Until Dawn, or Fire Emblem: Fates when they came out? Well, it was nearly impossible in my area, and a lot of customers left red-faced and disappointed.

Honestly, I spend a lot of time trying to convince people to pre-order; it is just that harmless. Think of it this way: a bad game has an enormous legacy. Remember Assassin’s Creed: Unity? The game was shipped entirely broken with a twenty gig patch on day one! Day one! Now, that is a legacy that stays with a game; it’s practically worthless now. No Man’s Sky, as well, was a huge bust. Many people pre-ordered it. They couldn’t wait to get their hands on it. Yet when they finally did, while there were quintillions of planets to visit, there was quite simply nothing to do on them. Steam has offered to give en masse refunds for the game; Sony has blamed the developers for laziness. This is a blow that the developing team won’t recover from for a long time.

So it in no way benefits a developer or a publisher to abandon making your game simply because you’ve pre-ordered it. What they rely on is the continued sale of their game; a good game sells for a long time. People recommend it to their friends. Take Skyrim, for instance. On the recommendation of friends, people who didn’t even play video games played Skyrim. For a lot of people, it is the only game they’ve ever played. A legacy like that sells. A legacy like that is profitable, and, let’s be honest: companies are significantly (if not totally) driven by profit.

So the next time a helpful cashier who just wants to go home sidles up to you and gently recommends that you pre-order a game, make sure you do it if you’re going to buy it the day it comes out. Now, obviously there’s no reason to if you’re unsure about the game and want to see the reviews first. There’s no shame in being reserved about shelling out all that money for a game with an edgy concept. However, if you know that you’re going to buy a game the day it comes out (regardless of what it’s like), why not go for it and get that bonus gun or skin? Even if you still feel that pre-ordering is the devil’s work, politely decline rather than getting angry at the suggestion. After all, we’re all gamers here.

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