As it grows in audience, media always gets more complicated. There are more retailers trying to get you to spend your hard earned money with them. Companies look for new ways to make their most popular franchises eke out just a bit more in profit. Video games are no different. Since Nintendo kicked off the modern video game console era in the 1980s, new ways of making money on video games have reached an apex. The most sinister of these money making schemes are video game pre-orders.
Pre-ordering started as a way to ensure that users who wanted to buy something were able to do so. By adding your name to a list, you were guaranteed a copy of Halo: Combat Evolved on release night. Pre-orders were instrumental in making sure that constrained supplies of games went to those who were excited the most. The retailer managed to order just the amount of copies they needed, and the buyer got the game they so desperately wanted.
Video game pre-orders today are at best a bad decision and sometimes a blatant attempt at extracting as much money from gamers as possible.
Video Game Pre-Orders Are an Attempt to Get More Money Out of You
Almost always the scary empire in any story involving business and video games, retailers are the poster child for why pre-ordering games could not work out in your favor. To GameStop, pre-orders are a perfect lure to get you into a store to put down a deposit. The company knows that once they have that deposit, you’re more likely to return and pick up the game. It seems, GameStop wants you to come back and spend your money with them, even if they aren’t making a ton of money on the game itself.
Why is simple. If you’ve pre-ordered a game at GameStop, you’ll come back on release day when the company is likely holding a trade-in promotion that temporarily boosts the value of the games and accessories it knows you own because of your PowerUp Rewards membership. By selling those games, you’ll get the game they already know you’re interested in for cheaper.
They end up with more of your used things that they can sell at a markup, and the only thing you end up with is the game that you were already going to be able to purchase on release day anyway. The company’s midnight release parties for picking up video game pre-orders are just as clever. They get a captive audience in their stores so they can pitch all kinds of season passes, trinkets and themed watches.
Video Game Pre-Orders Are Infinitely Complicated
Once video game publishers and retailers realized that video game pre-orders could be exploited, they did so with amazing business acumen. There are games that launch with small pre-order bonuses for everyone that buys early. Those happen. Sometimes, there are the video game pre-orders that go very bad.
Take Batman: Arkham Knight. Delayed by Warner Brothers until the summer of last year, Arkham Knight fans couldn’t wait to get their hands on the game. Warner Brothers had a basic version of the game without the season pass, a version of the game with the season pass and a collector’s edition that included a transformable Batmobile. To encourage users to purchase the game at each retailer, Warner Brothers unleashed a barrage of pre-order extras. Some retailers got the Wayne Tech Pack. Others got exclusive missions that even those who had a season pass had to wait to get their hands on. Still, others received special character skins.
By the end of it all, you needed an entire spreadsheet to breakdown Batman: Arkham Knight pre-order extras. Worse, all of those pre-order items eventually went to everyone with a season pass anyway.
Video Game Pre-Orders Can Leave You Stuck with a Bad Game
Then there’s the very real threat of purchasing a bad game. Video game pre-orders work out great for users who know what to expect most of the time. It’s your favorite franchise, and you’ve spent a lot of time getting educated about a game. Pre-ordering makes sense for you, I suppose.
It is dangerous to pre-order a game when you’re unsure of the developer’s work. I’ve had it work out in my favor. I took a chance on The Division and loved it, which was very good considering I did a digital pre-order – guaranteeing that I wouldn’t be able to return it if I didn’t like it. You may think that you’re safe buying a disc copy but you are not. Once opened, you’re not getting a refund for any brand new game. At best, you’ll be able to trade it in and recoup some of the money you lost.
I pre-ordered Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Unity because I love the franchise and trust the company. For the first few weeks, that game was an absolute, unplayable mess. I couldn’t return it either. Batman: Arkham Knight for PC turned out to be a disaster. Had I purchased on PC and not Xbox, I’d have been left with nothing for weeks.
I don’t necessarily believe in making blanket statements about anything. I also don’t mind businesses seeing an opportunity to make more money. Profit is what makes the world we live in possible.
You don’t have to be the person that folks profit from, though. You can easily decide to skip whatever 20-minute mission, character skin or weapon that these companies offer you. Wait until the game has arrived. Don’t be tempted by the extras that get included in video game pre-orders. You’re gaining very little and potentially giving away a lot.