Pre-Ordering Games Is One Of The Dumbest Schemes Ever Devised

TotalBiscuit was recently on the warpath about pre-ordering games and the various shenanigans associated with this nonsense largely in response to what happened with Aliens: Colonial Marines.  I couldn’t agree with him more.

Pre-ordering games is downright stupid, and the fact that we have this entire system nowadays of sucking money out of people before games are even released and before people even have a chance to either play them or even hear about them just shows what kinds of suckers people can be.  I hear a lot of complaints about video games, but other than a game being bad, usually the number one source of complaints relates to shenanigans like pre-ordering.

What exactly has warped consumers’ minds to feel the need to make a down payment on a $60 video game like it was a $20,000 car or a $150,000 house?  Is this kind of crap really necessary?  This nonsense doesn’t even work like down payments traditionally do, where something costs a lot so you pay a little up front to express interest in owning something before figuring out the rest of the payments later.  Do we really need that with videogames?  Maybe with consoles costing a few hundred this is a decent idea, but games?

The history of pre-ordering hails from the heydays of brick-and-mortar merchandising and sales when items that were anticipated to be hard to get on release could be pre-ordered so customers could reserve theirs up front and not have to fight the crowds on release day.  Nice idea, but in today’s world of video games, it doesn’t hold as much water for numerous reasons.

First, pre-order systems are self-defeating when it comes to dealing with scarcity because in the case of some companies perceived scarcity creates buzz and mystique among customers and it becomes easy for a company to create shortages for PR reasons and disguise their unwillingness to meet consumer demand for these reasons as “hot demand for a hot item.”  Nintendo comes to mind.  Year after year after year the Wii had shortage after shortage after shortage, despite being the weakest console hardware-wise and viewed by many as a second console to have alongside their XBox 360 or PS3 (including me now that I have a PS3  :-P).  Now the Wii U is having the exact same problem.  So…. am I really supposed to believe that after many years of selling popular consoles like this after the Wii put Nintendo back on the map after the LOLGamecube Nintendo is so incompetent that they still can’t meet consumer demand for new hardware?  This doesn’t help when Nintendo’s launch goal for the Wii U in terms of millions of units was actually less than the original Wii.  (5.5 million Wii Us vs. 5.84 million Wiis.)

Besides the problem of PR shortages, the idea of scarcity barely holds water these days because of the whole “beta on release” problem and digital distribution.  First, “beta on release” pretty much guarantees that if a game has the problem of being rushed out the door with major issues that get patched away a few months later (Skyrim, Test Drive Unlimited 2), if there’s a shortage when the game first launches, who cares?  You’ll get a better experience waiting for the first major patches before picking up the game anyways, so why preorder again?  Then there’s digital distribution thanks to Steam’s meteoric ascent in recent years.  Does pre-ordering even matter if you can simply download the game online?  😛

Probably the single biggest point that TB made in his video though that I agree with the most is the idea of these kinds of stunts promoting bad industry practices like Launch Day DLC or the whole pre-order bonuses in terms of how many people pre-order or which store you pre-order the game at, etc.  Gaming these days has enough problems with things like bluh DLC that could’ve been in the game anyways or realtime DRM that requires an internet connection in order for someone to play a singleplayer game.  People’s own stupidity doesn’t need to add to this.  Yet what we keep seeing again and again and again is the classic not-so-ethical commercial philosophy of, “What is something truly worth?  It’s worth whatever someone will pay for it.”  Companies pull these kinds of stunts because people are suckers for them and won’t smarten up.  It doesn’t help either when people who do smarten up to these things and actually keep their wallets closed get bashed/flamed/trolled etc. for being “haters” or something like that.

This might be worth taking to YouTube later on and making a video of some sort about this later, but for now, I think a blog entry will suffice.  Let me close with the rather jaw-torquing idea that as much as people like to complain about things companies like EA do in the world of gaming these days, one has to wonder how much of this crap was devised in response to consumer behavior, making the real source of the problem the gamers themselves.  Uh oh.  I hear a stampede of fanboys in the distance.  Time to lock myself in a bunker.  😉


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