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Do you Pre-Order?

by Angry Jedi » Thu Jul 10, 2014 10:58 pm

Pre-ordering a game doesn’t help the consumer. It helps everyone else.

That’s the reality of the situation. Good pre-order numbers sound good on earnings calls, and they’re evidence of an upcoming successful launch. They can be a PR weapon if a company wants to crow about strong early support for a title. They’re treated like money in the bank, and rightfully so: A customer is more or less committing to buying a game before they’ve read a review or heard from others who have played the game to completion.


So says Ben "I'm Right, You're Wrong" Kuchera over on Polygon, with particular reference to the upcoming Alien Isolation, which features a rather substantial preorder bonus. For those who can't be bothered to click the link, it's a set of two missions featuring the cast of the original Alien -- yes, the actual people (except John Hurt, seemingly) -- allowing a different perspective on the events of the main game's story.

No-one really knows quite how comprehensive this content will be, or indeed if it will be available separately as DLC later on, but... this seems kinda squinky to me. This isn't a case of content being held back for later release as DLC because it's still being worked on -- this is a significant-sounding piece of game content that is being withheld from people who don't pre-order. Which... I don't think is cool at all. Particularly given that after Colonial Marines, people may have otherwise been inclined to be somewhat cautious about new Alien games, even though Isolation is supposedly looking quite promising.

Do you pre-order? I do sometimes, but it's primarily so I can get a copy of a game on the day it releases, nothing more. I really don't think this sort of practice should be encouraged, though, and -- not that I was going to buy and play Alien Isolation anyway -- I really don't feel I can support companies that are doing this.

But what do you think? Discuss.
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Re: Do you Pre-Order?

by Beige » Fri Jul 11, 2014 12:07 am

I can occasionally be pressured into it, but almost always against my will. Let's think of some recent examples where I've bit the bullet and then ended up with a mouthful of lead: XCOM: The Bureau, Thief... uh... Murdered Soul Suspect. I've had things to enjoy about 2 of those, but would I have paid full price? Nah. That money goes towards kickstarter now. If I'm going to take outside bets I'd rather do it for something where my money makes a difference. Oh, also the last 2 times I've preordered at GameStop, some register biscuit sold my copy to an earlier customer and then greeted me with a shrug when I asked for Dark Souls: Collector's Edition on day 1. "We have a copy of the regular version."

I HATE being coerced into a preorder through these kind of publisher strongarm tactics though. I feel like I basically had no choice with Javik in Mass Effect or Shale in Dragon Age -- no, I'm not going to skip an entire NPC in a game that's in all likelihood going to be my GOTY on some kind of moral principle. Feeling good on passing on Watch_Dogs at this point, though I'm sure I'll play it someday. Also, as much as I love Metro Last Light, eff the guys who made me pay $5 for the ranger difficulty level (aka "the way it's meant to be played) l post-launch.

It's obviously a consumer hostile activity -- I agree with Ben there. On the PC and Steam there is absolutely no excuse for it -- but what can you do? Hostage negotiations hurt everybody.

I want to believe in Alien Isolation as well -- but that is one crazy carrot to offer for no reason at all. Serious DLC, serious expense. Serious turn-off for someone who arrived LTTP. Something is up.
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Re: Do you Pre-Order?

by Alex Connolly » Fri Jul 11, 2014 12:34 pm

Full-priced triple A games? No. It's a crap-shoot, unless I'm super sure of the developer. One that isn't covered in publisher/PR camouflage netting.

Early Access buy-ins? You bet. They're cheaper, have user impressions up to the minute and developers directly accessible.

Just this week, I pre-ordered the self-published two-man project (well, programmer is the awesome Stephanie Rancourt and her artist co-worker, Mathias Koehler) Deep Space Settlement for fifty smackers. No set date of release, outside of 'when it's done'. One of the largest purchases of the year, to be frank. But unlike some sort of grubby publisher-driven meddling - or as Jim Sterling so aptly put it, 'fuckwittery' - I'm filled with a sense of confidence as I've seen the game grow over the last, what, four years of part-time development and now, with the fifty buck entry fee, hitting the final stretch under full-time devotion by the devs.

Unlike most triple A titles, which hang a rouged arse out the windows at press events and have boiler-plate previews written about them. Games that come sliced and diced by suits, with 'business models' and 'ways to increase margins and longevity'. And as I said on TOFT, Kuchera's a hypocrite, because it wasn't long ago when he was touting the same tired, copy-paste spiel in previews, and joining in with Arthur Gies et al. in saying the consumer deserves what Microsoft was serving up when they initially unveiled the Xbone, and that whinging was 'gamer entitlement at its worst'.

But that's neither here nor there, and I've found myself pre-ordering games where such shoddy business practices don't apply. In regards to ALIEN Isolation? The original cast/expanded story/what if scenario should have been the big unveil as part of the game, not some pre-order tack-on.
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Re: Do you Pre-Order?

by Angry Jedi » Fri Jul 11, 2014 12:40 pm

Early Access is, I feel, a different situation to pre-ordering. I don't blame people for being skeptical of it, since there are numerous games that seem to perpetually be in Early Access and never really getting any better -- not to mention those that launch in Early Access and just don't get finished full stop -- but there are also plenty of great Early Access titles that it's been a delight to see develop: see titles like Carmageddon Reincarnation, Next Car Game and Assault Android Cactus.

I personally tend not to jump on Early Access in most cases, but I'm more willing to plonk down some money for something I'm able to play and fiddle around with right now than something that is an as-yet unproven quantity.

The exception is the aforementioned "likely to become hard-to-find" physical copies of JRPGs for console and handheld, but this raises another point: there's more point in preordering something physical than there is in the digital space. In the physical space, preordering is literally ensuring you get a copy -- though I can't remember the last time there was an actual shortage of a particular game, especially a big-name one. In the digital space, where there is no such concern about supply? It's largely useless, and is held over our heads as a marketing tool more than anything else.
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Re: Do you Pre-Order?

by Alex Connolly » Fri Jul 11, 2014 1:09 pm

A pre-order bonus in the digital sphere should be a season pass.

The only reason I mentioned Early Access was because some people equate the purchase as exactly the same thing. For me, it's a patronage; funding something tangible and real and playable, with crowd-sourced QA and developer accountability. It makes much more sense than pre-ordering blind with trinkets dangled - physical or otherwise - especially when coupled with the near-worthless previews that get churned about in the mainstream press. I want to 'pre-order' my games directly from the makers, rather than through some publisher diversion to nickel and dime.
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Re: Do you Pre-Order?

by Angry Jedi » Fri Jul 11, 2014 1:31 pm

Alex Connolly wrote:A pre-order bonus in the digital sphere should be a season pass.

The only reason I mentioned Early Access was because some people equate the purchase as exactly the same thing. For me, it's a patronage; funding something tangible and real and playable, with crowd-sourced QA and developer accountability. It makes much more sense than pre-ordering blind with trinkets dangled - physical or otherwise - especially when coupled with the near-worthless previews that get churned about in the mainstream press. I want to 'pre-order' my games directly from the makers, rather than through some publisher diversion to nickel and dime.


Amen. Season passes are arguably another matter to what we're discussing here, but I think they're gross. They're effectively a means of getting you to pay twice for a game on the understanding that the add-on content coming at some indefinite point in the future might be worth bothering with -- and assuming that you're not bored of the game in question by the time they come out. I'm yet to find a game I'm still interested in by the time its DLC comes out. I never played any of the Mass Effect 2 DLC because I was done with that game by the time it came out. I only played one of the Dragon Age DLCs and found it massively underwhelming, so figured I probably wasn't missing much. Yes, Season Passes save you money if you're going to be invested in a game for a long time -- but at that stage I'd rather be playing something with a subscription fee that I can cancel when I'm bored than paying twice up front. (This would explain why I'm still happy to pay the monthly subscription for Final Fantasy XIV and enjoy its new content at three-monthly intervals, yet baulk at the prospect of DLC for something like BioShock.)
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Re: Do you Pre-Order?

by asatiir » Sat Jul 12, 2014 8:05 am

My last real preorder was the PS4, and Skyrim before that. I mentioned before in the Exploding Barrel forum that I'm kind of neutral towards the subject of preorders in practice as I do find them to be convenient. I would say I'm against pre-order exclusive DLC which holds day 1 DLC at ransom, but that stuff usually goes untouched with me.
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Re: Do you Pre-Order?

by Rory Taylor » Sun Jul 13, 2014 6:56 am

I'll pre-order for a tangible incentive. For instance I pre-ordered Bioshock Infinite because I got Xcom for free. I got Tomb Raider at a deeply discounted price. I'm likely going to pre-order Destiny to get beta access as a sort of "try before you buy" thing for a few weeks with the option of cancelling if it's not my bag. DLC, certain weapons or character costumes don't usually move the needle for me. Then there's this Alien thing. I have to admit it sounds really good and the game has shown a lot of promise from hands on impressions thus far. I don't know that SEGA has ever said that it will only ever be available as a pre-order exclusive. That seems crazy to me, as you know it couldn't have been cheap to produce so they wouldn't want to limit the amount of people that could potentially purchase it. I can certainly understand people being a little salty about the situation if that were the case though.
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Re: Do you Pre-Order?

by Alex Connolly » Sun Jul 13, 2014 7:12 am

Yeah, preorder incentives need to lift the bar. Getting games for free, or even in the indie sphere, steep discounts OR even a second copy of the game make preorder trinkets on console games seem often quite anaemic.
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Re: Do you Pre-Order?

by Bowley » Sun Jul 13, 2014 12:46 pm

Yeah, about once every two years, for games that I absolutely must have. That's typically when I get the preorder / collector's edition item lust. It's never worth it.

Perceived scarcity is really what gets me. Is it an item that's badass that will *actually* never be sold again? Shit, I kind of need to buy that, god damn it. I hemmed and hawed over which Star Trek Online version to buy and all of those "exclusive" tv show uniform sets went on sale later anyway. Of course, at preorder time they didn't say you could buy it later.

Another example, Natural Selection 2 had rad black spec-ops armor for alpha buyers. I missed the window to grab it because I was on vacation. Despite the fact that you can't even really see that you're wearing it in an FPS game like that, I still kind of wish I had bought it. I don't even play that game anymore.

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