Gias Glance: Why Pre-Order Games? (Part 2)

This series continues from the previous installment of Why Pre-Order Games?

Why Pre-Order?  To Ensure I Get the Game

Pre-orders originally came about because people found it hard to get items in stores due to their popularity. When talking about digital games, there is no lack of purchasing access since the digital nature of the game means that the stock is essentially unlimited. Occasionally, key resellers that give access to games on a different game distributor’s platform (such as Steam, Origin, or Uplay) have run out of keys to resell, but the platform carrying the game itself has ostensibly not run out.

The only fear of not being able to secure a copy of a game should be with physical game purchases.  However, even those rarely run out of stock permanently. Halo 3 was released September 25, 2007 to wide acclaim and high reviews, yet the “limited” edition is still available for purchase quite easily more than seven years later. That doesn’t sound very limited to me. Even the most expensive version, the Legendary Edition, was available for years after the release. Collector’s Editions of games are now purchased by the truckload by resellers and are easily available well after release. Even in the most extreme cases where sellers have specifically stated they would only make exclusive game version quantities to meet the pre-order numbers, like the Playstation 3 Catherine “Love is Over” Deluxe Edition, the exclusive edition has still been available for purchase well after the game’s release. It is possible that an individual store may run out of a game, but there are so many game retailers now that it will be available somewhere; if not on release day, then in the few days after.    

Even if somehow the game was sold out everywhere, alternative resellers like eBay, GoHastings, and Amazon Marketplace allow gamers to resell their games and buyers can find otherwise out-of-stock games.
Why Pre-Order?  To Support the Developer/Series

The concept of “voting with your wallet” or “dollar voting” is a concept that has become mainstream. As noted in other posts on the Care and Feeding of Nerds, it is the concept of using your money to support the things you like and not support the things you don’t, and that companies will watch for spending patterns and tailor their business practices to the demand of consumers. Some very passionate gamers see it as a great way to express their support for certain developers or franchises.  The difficulty with dollar voting is that not every gamer understands the statement they make when they make purchases.
Pre-orders through the first week of sales are the mark of a game’s success, and the success of an unproven IP relies heavily on gamer faith in the developer. Pre-order sales and Day-One sales, individually, are not the most important metric used to measure game success. That title goes to first week sales (which include pre-orders in that figure). First week sales are used because the metric allows for purchases that take place based on game reviews. Hence well-made, highly-rated games can benefit from reviews and word of mouth. Similar to how opening night movie sales are not as important as the opening weekend viewings, pre-order sales are used as a metric, albeit a less important metric.

Suppose that a gamer loves a developer and wants to show their support. If the gamer buys a game in a new and unproven IP from the developer, that gamer is showing faith and support because there is no established story or gameplay on which the gamer could be basing their purchase of this specific new title. If, alternatively, the gamer buys a new game in an established series, the gamer is showing support for either the game or the series more than they are showing support for the developer. 

There is one instance where purchasing a game in a series shows support for the developer and not the series itself: when the series has been abandoned for years and revived later. In this instance, the next game in the series may as well be an entirely new franchise since the old one had died out. One example of this comes to mind: I have a friend who kick-started Wasteland 2 and also pre-ordered the game on Steam. He loved and believed in the developer, and wanted to show all the support he could.  Since Wasteland 1 released in 1998, the new Wasteland game is more akin to a new franchise than it is to a sequel.

The people who buy Madden, Assassin’s Creed, or Call of Duty every year are not showing support for 2KSports, Ubisoft, or Treyarch (now Sledgehammer Games). These consumers are showing their support for the established franchise they love.

This series will continue with the final installment of Why Pre-Order Games.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, The Care & Feeding of Nerds as an organization.

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