The Pre Ordering Craze – Are We Really That Eager?

I don’t know exactly when this happened, but with every new game that is announced now there seems to be a flashy pre-order advert bamboozling your eyes with confusing paragraphs of money making evil-ness. Well not always evil –ness, but largely just asking for more money before the game is even out.

How did this happen? Nearly every title now offers some kind of ‘unmissable’ pre-order content weeks before it actually releases, and it seems like gamers are getting sucked into this marketing ploy, handing over their hard earned cash as soon as the publisher’s wallets are sterilized and hungry. Why do we suddenly feel the need to tick those little pre order buttons all of a sudden?

I’ll tell you why. Extra stuff and the promise you’ll get a copy on release day. Realistically I don’t believe people pre-order games because they are worried retailers will go out of stock before we’ve had a chance to grab a copy, these sales are normally spread out over a couple of months or more. So publishers are telling us that the full game will be MISSING some content unless we buy the game early, isn’t that totally backwards? Surely we should be paying for ‘extras’ and see the content as something additional? Rather than stuff they are depriving from those who weren’t quite so impatient?

It creates this unspoken feeling that somehow a ‘bought on the day’ copy is a lesser version of the game, and it potentially undermines the pleasure of buying it for a whole chunk of their customers. Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed the pre-order bonus goody bags of many games, but I just think it is getting a little ridiculous with just how many companies are climbing aboard the ‘pixel promise plan’. It’s not actually called that, as those of you studying business will know.

If the content you are paying for through a pre-order, relates to the game in a way that makes it feel like a collectors only novelty nugget then I have no problem with that at all. It’s just this fundamental model of deprivation that I find myself taking issue with. How does it make your audience feel when you try to make a second sale after promoting the main game? Making the assumption they have already been persuaded into the initial purchase and then teasing more content that feels like it has been cut out of the game you were only thinking of buying in the first place.

On the other side I can see advertising benefits of such offers because they give the advert purpose other than ‘buy me buy me buy me remember me’ by promoting actual in game features, but hey ho I still think it’s silly. No doubt this craze will escalate and take over even more – maybe to the extent that if you pre-order Portal 2 you’ll be given a code that will enable you to pre-order Portal 3.

Maybe I’m being a bit cruel and cynical. Do you feel pre-order culture creates more excitement around a game? Or make the release day more important? Or maybe you feel it’s just a crude and cheap way for publishers to gobble even more of your cash. Vent your thoughts below.