I mentioned pre-orders in a post about fandoms and identity the other day. There has been a narrative in the vocal online gaming community that pre-orders are bad. That buying a game before you know how good it is or isn’t is giving in to hype or letting the company win. There was certainly a time that I agreed with that, to a point, but as I get older and circumstances change, I find myself further and further from that point.
If I know I will want to play/watch/listen to/read something when it becomes available it justs saves me time to pre-order it when I make that decision rather than leave it hanging. I don’t see it as any different from paying water charges or property taxes for the forthcoming year in one lump sum, something people do as standard. No-one accuses people who do that of being crazed fans of utility payments with no self-control or sense of perspective. It’s just a practical choice often preferred by those who can afford it while those who can’t are channelled into the less-convenient route of monthly or quarterly payments.bhagpuss
Bhagpuss’s comment reflects something that’s closer to my current view, thought I find habits die a bit hard. Years spent avoiding pre-orders by default means that I typically react the same way. “It’s not out yet? I’ll just wait then.”
There are a number of practical reasons for this. One is that it’s often been hard for me to extrapolate my financial situation into the future combined with the fact that I can be quite forgetful. If I pre-order something months ahead of time, I have a tendency to forget about it in the intervening time. Having a random $60+ surprise charge was something extremely problematic.
While this is arguably negligence on my part, given the variety of technological solutions, I avoided the problem entirely by not putting myself into that position. It was easier to just wait until it was out. Fortunately this is also no longer the case either. As I’ve gotten older and got a better grasp on the household financial situation, I find that it’s just not the issue that it was when I was younger. While not ideal, if I did forget, we have more than enough in savings to cover any weird surprise charges.
It’s also slowly become the case that $60 isn’t as much as it once was. Sure, I don’t want to be buying every game that hits the street, but once every few months is hardly a problem. If the money remains after all the bills, obligations, and necessities are taken care of, I fail to see a problem.
As an additional note, not all platforms wait either. Amazon does, for example, but Epic Games does not. If you pre-purchase through Epic you’re charged immediately, which also eliminates this problem. Of course, if you change your mind, you’ll have to try and request a refund, so it cuts both ways.
Another reason I have cited to defend this behavior is the inevitable “it might go on sale in a couple of months.” Typically more of an excuse than a reason. This does occasionally work out. I paid significantly less than retail for both No Man’s Sky and Cyberpunk 2077 due to their rather rough release.
In reality, I think it’s something akin to “Steam Sale Syndrome.” The idea that everything on Steam goes on sale sooner or later, so you may as well wait. For what, to maximize the number of games I can buy? Rather surprisingly, I’ve actually played about 66% of my library, though in some cases that just means I tried to launch it. Having said that, steamdb.info says that my average playtime is just under 30 hours per title. This is likely being driven by a couple of dozen titles with several hundred hours playtime, but that still seems acceptable.
What about the argument that the game company “wins” or is somehow tricking you into buying a broken product by getting you to pre-purchase? First, I have yet to see a game that’s perfectly balanced and bug free at release. It’s just not a realistic expectation. I remember buying Morrowind off the shelf and being unable to play it for a week or two while I waited on a patch. A manual patch at that, back in those days.
In the case that I know I’m going to enjoy a product, even if its release state is rough, then I fail to see how the corporations are “winning.” They didn’t make me pre-purchase it. I get to pick and choose which games and companies I feel are worth the alleged risk. in reality, if I get so much as six hours of enjoyment out of a full priced game, I have easily matched the cost of seeing a movie. The wife and I going out for a nice dinner and a movie would easily cost more than this, usually just on dinner alone.
The other part of this is that we purchase things all the time without being certain of product quality. Let’s take books for example. While typically less expensive than your typical game, you can’t exactly know that you’ll enjoy it until you’ve read it. Yes, you can make some assumptions based on author, genre, and so on, but surely it happens that people buy a book and didn’t enjoy it as much as they expected. It happens. Of course, you can’t really resell or trade a digital purchase quite the same way you might with a book, but I think the analogy more or less works.
Having said all that. I’m not telling anyone they should or shouldn’t pre-order. I’m saying everyone must make that choice for themselves, based on their own tastes and circumstances, and shouldn’t be ashamed of knowing what they like. My circumstances have changed, and my behavior with it. I’ve been much more likely to buy DLC at full price, and even went so far as to pre-order Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands. I can afford to do so, and I can be reasonably sure that I’ll get at least 20-30 hours of playtime out of it at a minimum. Most of my Borderlands titles are actually over 100 hours each. It seems reasonable to assume I’ll enjoy it enough to get my “money’s worth” out of it, and likely much more.
Y’all take care. Feel free to disagree with me in the comments.