This subject has been swirling around in my head for some time now, especially since I’ve been faced with the conundrum several times in the past year: do I pre-order a game or do I wait and just pick it up on release day?
When I was a kid, this was more of an issue. I remember when the Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask came out back in October of 2000. I’d been following the release for months and gladly put down my five dollars at my local EBGames (run then, as it is now, by a good friend of mine). Turns out, I was lucky to have done this. The game was sold out and if I hadn’t pre-ordered, I wouldn’t have been able to take a copy home for at least a week. This is a long time, especially to a kid who is exceptionally excited to play a game they’ve been waiting on.
Now, though, we have the Internet. I can buy a game on launch day and have the exact same experience everyone else is having without needing to pay the publisher a single cent in advance. I, for one, am pleased with this advent.
This is especially true as “collector’s editions” no longer are all that special due to the number of units produced. I don’t believe they are worth the asking price. In addition, they usually float around long after launch, my local Walmart still has some of the Destiny collectors editions, for example.
Also the offers become more and more ludicrous as time goes on. Some companies are far more guilty of this than others. And what do you know, Ubisoft is one of the worst offenders I can think of. Not only do they offer insane things for insane prices, but are also a bunch of filthy, scummy liars on top of it.
Case in point: late last year, the finalized versions of the Assassin’s Creed: Unity collector’s editions were announced. In addition to a bunch of day-one DLC, you received a coffee table book, some other memorabilia, and Arno’s “iconic” pocket watch.
It’s important to note that we had no idea what was so special about this watch, only Ubisoft’s assure it was important to the arc of the character. But it was far too soon to use the word iconic. It will always be too soon to use the word. Sure, the watch factors in to the story and he cares about it but it’s hardly iconic.
You also received the DLC if you pre-ordered the game online or in any other fashion. This soon turned out to be a terrible reason for giving Ubisoft your money as the Unity train slid off the rails, through the town and crashed into a home for orphaned kittens. Everyone got the DLC for free, including the now released (and exceptionally terrible) Dead King’s DLC.
On top of this, it was made known that, by pre-ordering Assassin’s Creed: Rogue you would also get the Fort De Sable mission pack which gave you access to some new armor, sails and weapons for Shay and his ship, the Morrigan. I thought that was a half-decent reason to pre-order. No MacGuffins, nothing unreasonable. But I still hesitated and ultimately reasoned it wasn’t worth giving EB my five dollars. And I turned out to be right as everyone was given the DLC on disc.
And, as if that wasn’t enough, both games are (of course) available on the digital marketplace, making pre-ordering a silly idea. Though, it doesn’t stop Ubisoft and other companies from asking you to pre-order digital copies either, but that’s just silliness bordering on stupidity.
All this boils down to a few important points. First, there is no earthly reason to pre-order the basic copy of the game. All you do when you pay your five dollars is give the company the satisfaction of having made a sale before the game is even ready to be released. This guarantees success before a game even has a chance to fail. This harms the industry as a whole because, regardless of what plays and critics think, a publisher or dev team can go back to their board and say “Look! We’ve already moved a million units! Please green-light a sequel!”
And let’s face it, the games industry is in love with sequels and remakes right now. If the games industry was the film industry, Ubisoft would be Michael Bay. And some games? They need to fail. It’s what forces development teams to go back to the drawing board. It forces them to create or die.
Also, don’t count on that exclusive DLC remaining exclusive. Extra options like DLC are the first bargaining chip a company has when they need to backtrack or make an apology to avert a PR disaster. Ubisoft, again, is the poster-child for this.
In short, it’s your money. Spend it wisely. When you pre-order, you are getting what is tantamount to an IOU from a company that may not even meet the expectations they’ve set for themselves in-house or among the player base. Make the company work for their dollar. Don’t let your money become their money until you have your copy safe and secure in your hands. This isn’t the year 2000 anymore, there’s no such thing as a software “sell out”, as much as EB and the publishing houses would like you to believe there is.