Does The Pre-Order Need To Die?

Does The Pre-Order Need To Die?

2014 was a pretty rough year for video games. Culture wars, shady business practices , a whole host of delays. The year felt like a true transitional period. In terms of the quality of games, 2014 was fair, and quite diverse. 2014 was also the year of broken games, so broken that the consumer started express frustration. If there’s one thing 2014 proved, at least to me anyway, it was that pre-orders need to die.

The current state of pre-orders has became a worm eating away at the core of the industry. The shady dealings surrounding them has created such a strong sense of distrust among the consumers. It’s a distrust that continue to grow with each year, and could easily usher in a huge amount of problems for the industry and those working within it.


Pre-orders have became so important to publishers that games can been classed as a success even before the game has shipped. The consumer is placing faith into the product, they’re buying into the PR/Marketing hype, but 2014 proved that we’re being sold lies. The past few years have seen a few games promise one thing and deliver something totally different. The most glaring example of this was 2013′s Aliens: Colonial Marines. The version shown at various events was a far cry from the retail version. While the game was poor, the fallout around the lies pumped out to secure pre-orders became a focal point. It truly felt like the first time the consumer became aware of the lengths publishers were willing to go, all in the name of securing pre-orders.

The same could be applied, at least in part, to Watchdogs. Ubisoft showcased a fancy version across various events, only to downgrade the game when it came to shipping time. While it’s not half as bad as the Aliens fiasco, it’s still a example of selling a game via a lie. Ubisoft aren’t strangers to shady dealings in 2014, their behavior with Assassins Creed: Unity being utterly spineless.

The sheer state of Unity upon it’s release was unacceptable. Factor in Ubisoft’s strict review embargo being set a whole day after the game released, and it all makes for a troubling thoughts. Ubisoft were well aware of Unity’s issues, there was no real logical reason to why the embargo was so late, other than to protect pre-orders. It’s disappointing that Ubisoft were so willing to disrespect their customers in such a way. 2014 was truly the year Ubisoft out EA’d EA.

Pre-order bonuses are increasingly becoming more intrusive, as developers cannibalize their games to sell as pre-order bonuses, often as exclusives to the prices retailers. It comes to something when the first thing you see after opening a game is adverts for DLC sold as pre-order bonuses. It’s bizarre that this is even a ‘thing’ now. There’s no other industry that actively cannibalizes the product in order to obtain a pre-order.

While pre-orders used to mean maybe getting the game a littler earlier, or getting a nice key chain, they’ve now become a growing problem. The way in which publishers now seemingly prioritize pre-order success is negatively effecting the consumers experience, and publishers/developers/franchises reputations.

The chances are 2015 wont see any changes for the better. As ‘Triple A’ title cost more to make, the risks are natural increased, thus making finical success even more of a requirement. The practices Ubisoft have used (referring to the Embargo date) will most likely become common place. Pre-order bonuses will most likely become far more intrusive, and selling lies will became more common.

Pre-orders still a serve a purpose, it’s just that purpose has now been twisted and lost in a sea of profit margins and spreadsheets. There’s still hopes that not all publishers will set such a dangerous focus on pre-order, instead aiming to make sure the final product is quality rather than a quick buck.



Sean Halliday

1 Comment

  1. Dirk
    January 5, 2015, 3:22 am

    If developers and publishers continue to put out crap the market will eventually correct itself by the consumer having a lack of faith and confidence in the end product. This means fewer sales before the game actually ships, which means fewer pre-orders. It might be time for such a correction. I always buy a game under the idea of “Caveat Emptor”, which is Latin for “Let the Buyer Beware”.

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