By Ethan Bortz
It’s Time to End the Preorder Bonus
The preorder bonus: it tempts us as we wait for the game to come out. The incentive preys upon our naïve, or perhaps foolish, impatience and belief that this game is going to be just like the trailers promised. The preorder bonus promises us all sorts of special little things if we just buy the game before it launches.
Preordering is the availability for people to buy games before they launch. Most big game developers incentivize preorders through bonuses like unique in-game items, day-one DLC, collector’s trinkets, and the ability to download the game and play it the second it releases.
In the past, when games were purchased primarily in the physical form, the incentive served a purpose. In the modern era of digital only games, the incentive is pointless and manipulative.
Fortunately, this trend may be coming to an end. Gamers are let down time and time again by the false promise of a good game and cheap junk may no longer foster interest in a title that looks mediocre or had disappointing predecessors.
The Preorder Incentive Once Served a Purpose
In the early aughties, retailers used the preorder to determine how many physical copies of a game to order. The system worked like buying any other sort of physical product. The consumer paid a small fee to reserve a slot and then paid full price for the reserved product when it released. Alternatively, gamers could always pitch a tent outside GameStop or BestBuy the day before the game released and hope that the gameplay or the new friends made in queue offset braving the elements.
As the twenty-tens rolled in and the eighth generation of consoles were rolled out, storage sizes increased exponentially. Games were no longer being compressed to fit on the tiny seventh generation console’s storages. Discs became intermediaries in twenty-five-to-fifty-gigabyte downloads as opposed to something gamers popped in at playtime. In other words, discs became more or less a novelty; everything moved digital and so did the preorder bonus. Unless gamers were preordering the collector’s edition, there was no more need to give away exclusive branded junk, just some unique pixels in the form of an in-game outfit or item.
The Preorder Bonus Is Pointless and Manipulative
Now, the incentive serves no real purpose. Digital is the preferred method of purchasing games for the majority of gamers. Yet the preorder persists because gamers keep falling for the same trap. Game companies offer incentives so that gamers will sink their money into a product without knowing if the gameplay is good or not.
Sometimes the bonuses offered are plainly exploitative.
For example, the preorder bonus offered for purchasing Creative Assembly’s newestTotal War game, Total War: Warhammer III, was a day-one DLC. If you instead waited to see if the new release warranted your money, you would have to spend an extra $11.99 to be able to play as all the factions available for the game on release.
Collector’s editions are another way game companies get their consumers to pony up as much as possible.
These editions (only available by preordering) come with a variety of trinkets. Typically, one trinket stands out amongst the stickers and pin badges, that being a statue or figurine. There is no good reason game companies could not just sell the products offered in their collector’s editions normally. But yet again, gamers continue to be glamoured by limited-edition gewgaws.
General Opinion Has Shifted
December 10, 2020, after years of anticipation and a plethora of trailers and Keanu Reeves promising a game beyond your wildest fantasies, CD Projekt Red releases a buggy mess of unfulfilled promises called Cyberpunk 2077. The hype around the game was enormous and believable: the studio had a perfect track record of excellent games. So it was difficult not to be pulled into the FOMO excitement. Countless gamers preordered Cyberpunk 2077 (including me).
After the release, massive disappointment swelled. Gamers were furious about the letdown and the money wasted. Some got their money back, but many were left with dashed hopes and shoddy gameplay (and a lot of t-posing).
Cyberpunk 2077 was not one of a kind either – it was merely the final straw for many gamers.
There had been numerous letdowns over the years (we all have one that still hurts), but after every disappointing release, gamers would forget and make the same mistake the next year. Cyberpunk was different though. The immeasurable hype had set the game apart. And the immeasurable disappointment and extremely harsh criticism left a permanent stain on corporate appeal to gamers.
In the following year, the general discussion and hype surrounding the release of new games became more cautious and remains that way. Sayings like “hype is dead” float around on sites like Reddit. The lingering caution felt by many gamers is a good thing, and hopefully it remains.
Stop Preordering Games
It’s time to stop preordering video games, no matter how good they might look. The incentives offered may be tempting for some, but they would not exist if gamers would just stop preordering. Game companies will continue to manipulate their consumers as long as they keep paying for their limited edition useless trinkets, unique in-game outfits, and day-one DLCs. The ability to preload tempts many, but is the difference of several hours to play a new game worth contributing to this exploitative trend?
Bad releases will continue to be published: as long as game companies see opportunities to capitalize on a trend, they will produce slapdash games. If we don’t preorder, at least these companies won’t profit from games cobbled together and delivered with flash and false promises.
Don’t set yourself up for the next big disappointment. Stop preordering games!