Is pre-ordering games worthwhile?

Destiny is coming out next week, and from the various bits and pieces written here at Axby, we’re pretty excited about it. However, I haven’t even given thought to the idea of pre-ordering it.

Here in the UK pre-ordering is different to how it apparently is in the US, as it is very rare to be asked for a deposit on your pre-order. In fact if, in the rare occurrence (which I’ll get to), that I was preordering and was asked for some payment up front, I would simply go elsewhere.

So with there being very little risk associated with pre-ordering here, why then is it that I tend not to get involved in this practice? On one level I think it’s partly due to the kind of games that heavily push preorders; these being the AAA games. Before you call me out as a snob who doesn’t buy these games, you’d be wrong. I recently got back into the Assassin’s Creed series with the enjoyable Black Flag, but I’m playing it more than half a year after it originally came out. Whilst I am also looking forward to Unity I have no interest in getting that at launch or participating in Ubisoft’s ridiculous gambling minigame for those who pre-order.

Another reason has been that for the past four years the purchase of a new game had to fit into my schedule of exams and essay deadlines. This meant that despite wanting to get something like Skyrim as soon as possible, realistically I wasn’t going to be able to play it for at least another month. So whilst my grades benefitted from this decision, my bank balance also benefitted slightly as well. As when I had a gap where I could fit in this behemoth of a game in, it had dropped in price by £10. Some games can drop even more after the same amount of time, I recall the previous two Far Cry games having done so.

However a more personal reason for avoided pre-ordering is that I don’t like the practice utilised by many of the big publishers, which is the use of in game pre-order bonuses. Now I have no issue with the physical extras that can comprise special editions and/or are only available when you preorder. This is because they have no impact on the game itself, and these often cool, but not always, additions are a sensible way to entice people to preorder.

In game bonuses that are only available (or even if for an exclusive period) for those who pre-order is something that purposely fragments the gameplay experience. Often the bonuses can be minimal, but this makes the whole practise seem even more disappointing. When you buy a game you should be able to get everything that was originally created for it included. At least the concept of online codes that came free with new games, but had to be bought separately with used games is a practise no longer followed.

Though is where I admit that I do still pre-order some games. There are times when I want to get the game as soon as possible, and my schedule allows for it. This was the case with  GTA V, and with the immense amount of hype surrounding it I assumed that getting a copy without pre-ordering would be difficult, turns out I was half right. Unfortunately due to the large demand for the game, the online retailer that I had pre-order from were unable to fulfill many people’s pre-orders, and then proceeded to cancel them without informing people that this was the case. This was made worse by the fact that it stated that it had been dispatched and money had changed (electronic) hands. In the end after, four days of getting to the bottom of the problem and being refunded, I walked into a Sainbury’s and was able to pick up a copy there and then. So even though this was one instance where it made sense to preorder, I was let down and then was able to walk into a supermarket and buy it off the shelf.

The GTA example was an exception, but there is one segment of videogames that I frequently pre-order, and that’s Nintendo games. Part of the reason is that with Nintendo games, it is quite rare for them to drop in price (aside from occasional temporary discounts), usually it can take years, that’s right years, for a permanent drop in price. So by pre-ordering you won’t have the same concern that that you could’ve got it cheaper if you had waited. Then there is the fact that often the pre-orders come with nice collectibles. Nintendo also avoided the lure of in game bonuses, but unfortunately times are changing, as the upcoming Hyrule Warriors will use this practise in some regions. Although this being Nintendo some of the bonuses are available to all who register the game with Club Nintendo within the following month.

Pre-orders are important for the big publishers as it gives them some indication as to what to expect with sales numbers, but the surrounding practices around them are a hinderance to those who actually buy the games. I’m not going to say that you should never pre-order, but maybe give it some thought.

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