Pre-orders and pre-order bonuses have been the subject of much discussion as of late. There was of course, the handy-dandy chart you would need if you wanted to get all the different pre-order bonuses for Watchdogs. And we all know about Gamestop’s plan to get involved in Game development for exclusive content. But then we’ve also recently seen things like the Alien: Isolation pre-order bonus of being able to play as the crew of the Nostromo from the original Alien film that’s exclusively available at Gamestop at launch. Just recently, it was revealed that if you pre-order Batman: Arkham Knight, you’ll get Harley Quinn bonus content and Gamestop has exclusive Red Hood content.
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So of course many journalists in the gaming industry have bemoaned the entire practice of pre-ordering, claiming it preys on the consumer and denies content to some because you didn’t pre-order at the right outlet (be it physical or digital).
Why would you ever pre-order a game nowadays? You can walk right into any store (besides Gamestop usually) and buy any new release, they always have tons of copies. And everything is available digitally day one now, so there’s no reason to ever pre-order anything ever again!
Sorry, but that doesn’t make it wrong to pre-order and there are several valid reasons to do so. Let’s start with one of the primary points of Polygon’s article. It only helps the publishers. So what? Does it hurt consumers one bit? Not really no. Yeah if you want a certain skin or particular bonus content you may have to choose between Best Buy or Gamestop or PSN, but that doesn’t really hurt the consumer. That pre-order bonus content? It likely wouldn’t exist in the first place if retailers (and that includes digital storefronts) didn’t provide incentive to make it. On top of that, the bonus stuff is pretty inconsequential. A few extra levels, a fancy gun, whatever. Nothing that dramatically affects or changes the core product.
And while sure, you can walk to most stores any time and grab the latest Call of Duty, there are many games that are smaller releases (think any Vita game, any JRPG, a slightly lower-budget game that’s a surprise hit) that some stores won’t even get any stock in if they don’t get pre-orders (or at least not more than a couple of copies). Granted, this is alleviated some by the fact that nearly every game release is available digitally day one, but given how unreliable internet speeds & connections can be along with limited hard drive space still make going to a brick and mortar store to buy a physical copy of a game perfectly valid.
Yeah if you want a certain skin or particular bonus content you may have to choose between Best Buy or Gamestop or PSN, but that doesn’t really hurt the consumer. That pre-order bonus content? It likely wouldn’t exist in the first place if retailers (and that includes digital storefronts) didn’t provide incentive to make it.
There’s also the money issue. There are what, a bajillion high-profile games coming out in the month of October? Many places not only let you pre-order, but pay in full well in advance or over time much like a layaway plan. That suddenly can make games far more affordable for those on a limited budget. Paying for the games when you can afford to vs. times when you might not be so easily able to do so.
At the end of the day I’m not here to evangelize anyone to pre-order. All I’m saying it’s just as valid an option as waiting for a sale and waiting for reviews, and no one should feel like they are damaging the industry, setting a bad precedent or being “anti-consumerist” because they like to do it.
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