Pre-Orders Need to Stop

They’re the devil I tell you, the devil!

I won’t lie, I used to like pre-orders.  They made sense in a physical world, where limited copies were a problem.  I want the game on that day dammit, what do you mean you’re out?

Then the interwebs came around, Steam made digital distribution the norm and pre-orders morphed.  It has absolutely zero to do with reserving a copy.  Nothing.  Zilch.  Some might say “well I can pre-install and get to play at midnight”.  Then pre-order the night before if that actually means something to you.

And exclusives for pre-orders have to stop.  This is horribad as they are often exclusive to a separate platform.  Best Buy gives you this, Steam gives you that, GMG gives another thing.  None of it is available after launch.  Blargh.

Paying for Beta

And let’s get something else straight.  Anyone who is paying a company to beta (hell, alpha) test their product is an idiot and part of the problem.  I’m not talking about Kickstarter, where these are small companies looking for capital.  I’m talking about SoE charging people for Landmark and doing nothing with it.  I’m talking about Steam Early Access.  I’m talking about Blizzard taking your money during Alpha for HotS.

I know a lot of bloggers opted into Landmark.  I know of none that still play.  I also know the game hasn’t launched.

Incomplete Games

This is in part due to the “get it out the door to make money” problem that’s always existed but it’s compounded with pre-orders.  See, when you buy a pre-order it’s a contract with the developer to release on a specific date.  If they miss that date, you’re eligible for a refund, without question.  Even if the pre-order says they can slip a date, by law in most countries, they have to give you a return.  This is why kickstarters can delay, you’re not paying for the product, you’re giving money to the company, and as a bonus, getting access to the game.

We wouldn’t have had Sims4, Diablo3, SimCity, CoD4, Dragon Age, Halo Collection and AC:Unity if people stopped pre-ordering.  Well maybe they still would have shipped as shit but they wouldn’t have been paid for it.  It seems like most games today have a day 1 patch that fixes a mile-long list of bugs.

Just Wait a Bit

Seriously people, just wait a couple weeks after release.  Sure, you might miss out on some of the leveling experience but here’s what you gain.

  • Less bugs than launch, likely 2 patches in
  • A more stable network
  • A downstream economy (things cost less)
  • A better community review
  • In today’s world, a sale

With online games, often times they will undergo drastic changes in just a few short patches.  Granted, sometimes it takes longer.  Diablo 3 today is nearly unrecognizable to what was launched, aside from the art and story.  SimCity is offline.  Unity has faces.  DA:I has hair.

Vote With Your Wallet

It really isn’t complex.  Companies do things if people pay them to do it.  They will continue to do it and try to charge more for less work.  They need to make money to survive and that’s part of the deal.  Selling you a promise is what snake oil is for; selling you a product is a separate matter.

You work hard for your money, so should the person trying selling you something.

10 thoughts on “Pre-Orders Need to Stop

  1. I tend to wait until I am ready to play games before I buy them. Sometimes I do get caught up in the hype train (hello, WildStar!) and regret the pre-order a bit. Although in that case I am actually glad because I do realize I like the game, just not enough to pay it with a sub fee compared to other options out there. If I didn’t buy it I may not have had the fun anticipation to wait for it to go B2P or F2P =P

    I still haven’t bought WoD although I know I will definitely play it when I am ready. I just started my DA:I campaign last weekend. Civ, Beyond Earth, I am ecstatic for! After they patch in some DLC and bundle it. I am normally fine with waiting but it depends on what else I am doing. Boredom has encouraged me to purchase earl before. Typically though, I have so many games I can – and want – to play and finish I don’t need new ones.

    Full disclosure I did pay for Landmark Beta and truth be told I had more fun (and spent less) with Landmark then I did with WildStar and a couple months of sub fees, so I don’t regret that. I also love that I can pop in and out of that at will (and I constantly keep it updated) because I already own the right to. Also, at that time, I was so bored with what was out there and had nothing I wanted to play so it felt good. As a consumer who is patient enough normally (see above) I don’t see anything wrong with me making the decision to buy in early if I so please.

    Unfortunately, like voting, unless you get some critical mass agreeing to do/not do something, your single decision has very little impact.

    Besides, I feel early releases are the least of the problems of the industry compared to the 90% constant steam sales, lack of loyalty recognition by companies, crazy work expectations and immaturity of the industry as a whole. I think the expectation that being a little off or a a little buggy being okay in this industry isn’t going anywhere.

    Hell, at least now they can fix issues! I remember buying full boxes back in the day and having a bug that couldn’t be patched for months. It wasn’t much better waiting for those boxes back then. =) There isn’t anything I can see on the gaming horizon that is going to change buyer habits or developer releases – although I do agree an adjustment could improve things.

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    • Buyers are really similar to Lemmings. Only takes a few folks or ideas to cause a shift. Least they won’t have my cash 🙂

      Landmark is interesting topic. Wildstar was (is?) broken. Landmark isn’t broken, there was just nothing there. What would have been the difference between you paying for a Beta and waiting for “release” on that game instead? there would have been more features, more polish, more people….I’m just curious as to why you paid for it.

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      • Honestly with Landmark I was bored and it looked really interesting. I was an early adopter of Minecraft too back in the day and this “smelled” of it. I had a lot of fun (and made a lot of blog posts) about the things I enjoyed. I spent more hours on it than many games last year. If I was immersed in some other awesome game at the time that was taking up my free time I may not have done it (or may have waited) but as an EQ1 fanboy and this being the base of the future of the EQ series (cough cough) it just felt like the right thing to do – for me*. (*emphasis on me)

        While I didn’t herald WildStar as the second coming of WoW I really loved the flavour and style of the game, and sadly I just didn’t feel it was worth a sub to me* (*emphasis on me) but I would gladly play a lot of it under a different format.

        The way Lemmings works is that they follow each other in a line, and I think online buyers don’t get to see that movement so they are a bit insulated. IF you are standing in front of me and do not buy I see that action. Otherwise I have no clue.

        And speaking of Lemmings, shouldn’t there be a remake of that classic game soon? =)

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  2. My reaction is sort of “well, it depends.” There have been a number of expansions, notably in LOTRO, but also Warlords of Draenor last year, where the pre-order for the expansion gave you something worthwhile right away. There have been game pre-orders where you got something special up front. I’m okay with those in the right situation.

    Early Access though? There isn’t free time enough in my life that I want to pay for the privilege of testing a game. But that is me right now. There was me back in 1990 that paid $5/hr to test Gemstone back on GEnie because it was new and cool and I couldn’t wait to see it.

    And then there is the whole “when to jump in” thing. Logically, I should just wait for any release to get to the point where it is at least 50% off on Steam before I buy it or, in the case of MMORPGS, until the big issues have been worked out and the game is stable. But sometimes following that logic means you must miss out on the best bits of an experience. Leaving aside the oft heard cry of “it was better during beta,” day one MMORPG experiences, when everybody is new to the game, level 1, and just starting out fresh with a new character, is pretty much a once-in-a-game-lifetime experience. For all the problems, I wouldn’t go back and not play EverQuest or Warhammer Online or LOTRO on day one.

    But, as I noted at my start, it depends. I enjoyed Rift quite a bit and continue to play WoW despite having skipped the initial launch timeframe for both games. (Though WoW is the outlier again, in that there were still tons of new players a year or two after launch.)

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    • I hear you, MMO’s are another beast altogether. Something to be said about being there. Though being there for D3 meant staring at a network error screen for a few weeks…

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      • Whazzat, $150 spent to save $70 for the digital deluxe version? So you’re out $80, which is 6 months of sub time, thereabouts.

        And that’s with 14 months of no content to boot.

        Math says bad deal. Didn’t you also do that for D3? Think the math was in your favor then though.

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  3. I remember the days when ‘supplies are limited’ was pretty true with game preorders, but even console games don’t seem to have that issue anymore. My biggest issue is something like H1Z1 or Landmark where you pay for the privilege to beta a game that will ultimately be free and littered with microtransactions and the Early Access begins with the game in a shallow/broken/nigh unplayable state.

    I get that this is the way we pre-order F2P games and that it opens up “more opportunities for serious fans to shape development”, but at least give me a functional product before you start begging for change.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Link Dead Radio: Demographics and Design | Healing the masses

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