Many years ago in the days of the Dreamcast when Sonic Adventure 2 had just come out, I did what I always did and went into town to buy it, this was a time before the big rise in online sales and as such stores were still pretty much the only place to get games. I went into the local branch of Game and asked if they had the game in stock. They didnít, but what has come ringing back to me was the words of the salesperson after I said I didnít pre-order games. ďThatís weird I donít know why you wouldnít as it means youíll have a copy waiting for youĒ. Itís true I have pre-ordered some games since then, two to be precise (soon to be 3 when Cyberpunk 2077 is on the books) but Iíve never seen the point mostly .
If I pre-order online sure I could get the game a day or two early maybe but I quickly learned my lesson about listening to reviews. You see I used to really enjoy playing a game by Kaos studios called Frontlines Fuel of War, I heard they had a new game coming out called Homefront and they showed some amazing gameplay footage claiming to be from a multiplayer match. I really enjoyed Kaos studioís first game and saw them really support the community especially on the Xbox forums. I didnít listen to any reviews or check any, went into town day one and bought it, it was crap, itís one of the few games Iíve rapidly traded in this generation. I learned my lesson to listen to reviews. So what have been the two pre-orders Iíve made ?
The Darkness 2 and Portal 2, thatís it. I never actually picked up the Darkness 2 because I was told I could pre-order free and it would be there for 48 hours for me. I read reviews for it and decided the removal of the open world stuff for me was a deal breaker so I never picked up. Portal 2 I pre-orded again because the pre-order was free and hey itís Valve theyíve proven to make good games and not just have one hit. Iím happy to say Iím weird in that I donít pre-order games, even though itís free here in the UK at many places. Why would I ? itís rare I go for a game on launch day now and I donít see why I would pre-order. Even then on launch day thereís plenty of copies about and with the amount of glitches and errors seemingly turning up Iím happier to wait a little while. You see even back in the Dreamcast days I never had a problem getting games, even Sonic Adventure 2 I got day one simply by going to the same chain but one town over.
Companies have seemingly lost sight of one group of consumers. The day one purchaser. They pay full price for the game and yet they get screwed over both ways. The guys who pre-ordered (or in some cases pre-purchased) get the cool extras, limited and collectors editions now run as their own thing being more expensive mostly and people buying down the line get the cheaper price and can then use that saving to buy the Pre-order DLC thatís been released. I have actually bought a game Day one in recent times and that was The Witcher 2, my reward for this was I got the limited edition with art book and map, it was the same price as the standard version so I thought why not ? I was being rewarded for buying new and I trusted CD Project to have made a good game. The problem as I see it is not with pre-orders itís with the incentives to pre-order. Sure throw in a beta or game demo or code for some cheap little thing but I was torn between two ends of buy later or pre-order games and I went with buy later as thereís no incentive to buy the game day one now. I didnít want to pre-order as honestly even buying Homefront day one taught me my lesson and with the present uproar over Aliens Colonial Marines I canít say itís made me re-consider pre-ordering games in the future. And this is with it being free, for many people in other countries I really feel bad for you having to put down money in advance on games like some firms make people do.
It should however be noted being let into the game in development isnít a bad thing as I did it with Minecraft on the PC and Iíd happily do it with other games and thereís a big reason to this, one that many AAA developers will hate. Most of the games are indie games with no NDAs. People can talk about them and people know what theyíre getting. Pre-purchasing a complete game and playing the incomplete one early is a very different business model at present to what many see as the AAA pre-order system where if a game is NDA covered you are going in sight unseen. This is not pre-ordering as such as to me youíre buying the game in its present state, everything beyond that point is a bonus. I didnít buy into minecraft as early as many others but I bought in at a stage I felt it was worth paying for, at the stage I felt there was enough game to be worth the money. That was in Beta 1.3, since then as youíre most likely aware Minecraft has evolved hugely and is now in full release and way more advanced than Beta 1.3. Everything since then has been a bonus to me. I never invested in some dreams and aspirations I invested in what I saw as a product worth my money.
The question is, why should I support the publishers now by buying day one or within the period where the new sale matter (During a games print run as such). I get screwed over by not pre-ordering and going in, in some cases, blind as to the game, Iíd have to pay more for the game too compared to people buying 2 months down the line or so who can then put the money they saved into the now available pre-order bonuses as DLC. By bringing in pre-order incentives and neglecting the day one market by essentially putting limited editions up on their own new premium price tier they are actually harming themselves. With Reviews coming out the absolute moment the NDA finishes now consumers can get up and see if a games worth buying then if it is buy it new that day, yet with pre-order incentives its actually de-incentivising people to buy new, its giving people a pretty good reason to wait and pay less. Oddly information suggests games sales have been in decline recently Iíd suggest part of this is due to people actually not buying day one anymore and buying later down the line which harms the retail sales as publishers donít see the big sales spikes normally used as indication to continue a games print run beyond the initial week or so after release.
Why should I be punished for buying day one and yet rewarded for paying in advance or paying later down the line ? What purpose does this serve to publishers as its forcing consumers to either pre-order or actually wait on the game and not add to the main sales. Inadvertently or deliberately Publishers have actually broken part of their own sales market rather seriously now. the main questions are, how will they fix it ? Do they care enough to try and fix it ?