No More Pre-Orders

My last thoughts, in what has turned out to be an impromptu three-part exposé on the release of unfinished games, turn my attention to the way that we shop for our games.

I am going to come off a bit hypocritical to some who have read this blog for a long time, and more so to those who know me personally. But I’ll say this in my defense: Over time, we all learn and either choose to adapt or continue in our own stasis. The reason for my hypocrisy is that I have been the biggest culprit of the pre-order. In the last few years I’ve been known to pre-order 20+ games during the E3 sales either to accrue extra points or receive steep discounts.

Now this is what I’ll say: I have learned, recently, that pre-ordering is just doing us a disservice. I mean, getting a game day 1 at a discount is great. In theory. In practice, what it means for us as gamers is that we’re adding to the companies bottom line and their brag-rights. Huge titles are almost always going to receive massive day one sales numbers. Why? Because most of us pre-order. Whether to get that discount, some knick-knack or some kind of digital chocolate chip cookie that they entice us with. In time, I have pre-ordered for every one of those reasons.

But what we’re seeing now is games coming out to repudiation of what should be consistent values among us gamers. Expectations of quality are not being met. Instead we’re getting games that become memes and that’s all they end up being known for. But the companies making these games are still seeing mass profits, ignoring user sentiment, and continuing with practices unchanged.

Now last week, I said: what can we do? And I didn’t have an answer then. But I have the semblance of one now. We need to stop pre-ordering games. This isn’t the only thing we can do, and it may not even be the best thing we can do, but I think it’s a good start.

2863254-million

Look at the boast here. Now, CD Projekt Red and The Witcher are examples to the contrary of what I’ve been discussing lately, but I use the image to make a point. If games are getting a million pre-orders, then it doesn’t really matter what they end up releasing. Because even if it’s bad – if even half of those pre-orders go through as full sales – the company has already made back (a substantial portion at least) it’s initial investment. Meaning, they only see black in the books and whether or not it’s a good game is irrelevant. Companies like Ubisoft seem to be ignoring their user base on titles like For Honor, despite massive boycotts and protests like the one on April 3rd. For a company, I’m sure the comfort of seeing the numbers in the black is huge. And the concerns of fans can be brought up during the PR and marketing campaign for the (pretty much inevitable) sequel.

By avoiding pre-orders and trying to have a wait and see attitude towards all new releases, companies putting out games that are unfinished or inferior will have to take a step back and look at those red numbers for a while longer. And this can only serve to benefit us as the end users. A) We will (hopefully) start to see a change in the way games are released and B) by the time we get around to buying the games they will end up being around the price (in some cases and in others possibly lower) than what the discount we would have seen from a pre-order anyway.

If this post tickled you in all the right places, I fully recommend checking out this article I read on Polygon, that struck me as relevant to the discussion.

As always, let me know what you think in the comments below, or check me out and follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

“Coincidentally”

I read a couple of good, albeit old, articles on the concept of day one DLC. You can find them here: Forbes + Cinemablend.

They both offered some interesting perspectives on the day one DLC issue. I have to say, I hadn’t considered it from the business perspective, that, offering that extra content to the end-user up front definitely influences the possibility of the extra purchase attachment. So, go businesses, I guess.

Pretty sure this is how the first meeting went:

That being the case, honestly, I still feel like releasing DLC that is a paid release the same day as the game comes out, is a huge gob of spit right in the face. To me, and others I can safely assume, telling us that the money that we’ve chosen to spend on that particular diversion over, say, going to a movie, a night of drinking, etc isn’t good enough for the developers/publishers. Now, obviously, not all of them fall into that boat. Getting that in my copy of the Witcher cemented in my mind that I will be that much more likely to purchase a CD Projekt Red title. Even if the DLC is minor contributions (though they are adding a New Game + option), I’ve never been as moved by a videogame company as I was when I cracked open my copy of Wild Hunt.

So when I see games go live, and then they “offer” you the further experience that can be added at a minimal cost, I just get mad. The issue is with the duality of my interests as a gamer. Because, like many, I do want the “complete experience”. Now, I’d like to have that out of the box, but the industry seems to think that we are just brainless consumers who are going to buy whatever is put out in front of us. Sadly, to some extent, they’re right. If we weren’t buying it, it wouldn’t keep being made and put under our collective noses. So we want it. Not necessarily on day one, but knowing that it’s there and you can buy it and then complete it at your leisure, it makes it that much harder to avoid. Especially if you want everything that is meant to capture the full picture. While the other side of me is screaming: THE GAME JUST CAME OUT AND YOU WANT ME TO BUY MORE!? So, where’s the line?

I also hate how a lot of companies sell the concept of day one DLC like it just so happened to work out as such. I can tell you, from my experience working in the gaming industry as a tester, DLC doesn’t just fall out of the core product like an apple from a branch. It takes weeks to prepare something as simple as a fully functional E3 demo. Weeks. And that’s, generally, a subsection of an (otherwise) functional game. Actually putting together a complete piece of DLC is something that can take months.

So when something comes out as DLC the day the game drops, there is no way that they just happened to wrap it all up after the game has gone gold. Hell, when I was working on the project I was on, they stopped even finishing correcting polish bugs just to make things look a bit shinier. So you can bet your sweet-ass they’re not producing even something as small as a new bonus character.

Like I said, releasing expansions, like WoW or Borderlands, at least, isn’t something that drops at release, and is easily justifiable in terms quality. If I have to put any real thought into whether or not it’s something worth it to pick up, then the truth is, it probably isn’t.

Now, I know how businesses work: They aren’t running charities. So, even when they are doing something good (Witcher 3) there is probably still something they’re planning on the back end.

Stay tuned, I’m prepping to tackle day one patches next. Hot topics in-bound.

– The Ego