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Pre-orders just don’t mean what they used to

by William Schwartz on August 8, 2011


Putting your money down for your favorite games just isn’t what it used to be. In the past, putting your money down in advance to secure a copy of your favorite game was a necessity to ensure that you had a copy waiting for you at launch. These days, you not only need to decide to pre-order a game, but from where as well. The introduction of pre-order schemes that introduce exclusive content to specific retailers for their customers is a fairly new phenomenon. One that really only hurts the gamers, and their ability to enjoy all of the available content of a game at launch. It’s also a numbers game that inflates the perceived popularity of a game, and shouldn’t be used as a measuring stick because of these practices.

Too often these days we levy too much importance on pre-orders as a measuring stick for a game’s popularity. Publishing companies have gone to great lengths to separate you from your hard earned money, months in advance of release by introducing incentives to purchase games. It turns out that these incentives are precisely the reason why pre-order numbers just don’t mean what they used to. This week on the Bonus Round, Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities was asked about the importance of the recent reports that both Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 were trending above other popular games in pre-orders. The analyst scoffed at the notion that gamers and journalists are putting much weight into these numbers because of the paradigmatic shift in the way that games are marketed today.

“The whole pre-order game has become a joke. pre-orders are purely a function of hype, marketing, and incentives. Retailers get incentives for signing people up. You know what, pre-orders the level of Black Ops means something… Homefront set pre-order records, remember that? These games get hyped, but you’re not comparing apples to apples at this point.”  Pachter explained in BR.

Let us know what you think about pre-orders and their growing place in the game buying process in the comments section below.

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  • @magnetoelectric

    You state that pre order sales inflate the “perceived” popularity of a game. You’re going to have to quantify that statement.
    Pre order sales are in fact a valid means to measure a games popularity. We just went through this exercise once more recently with both Brink, an example of low side preorder sales , and Catherine , an example of high volume pre order sales. Brink had a ton of pre order bonuses from several retailers , and it didnt contribute to the games sales at all, Where as a game like Catherine had none (other than the Deluxe edition which probably should be categorized the same as)
    I do remember HOMEFRONT set a pre order record for THQ , So seeing those record sales , EA put Crysis 2 pre orders on sale.
    Enough with the gamers get the short end of the stick argument

    • Kid

      This sounds like it was written by someone that makes money from this. Im just saying.

    • Frank

      Pre-orders DON’T mean anything. I’ve put $5 on SOO many games and never pick ’em up, unless i really wanted it. The only games i think i’ve picked up after reserving are Smackdown vs Raw 2007 on 360, and Heavy Rain on Ps3.

  • Gary

    I think I do get the short end of the stick because first of all when these developer make you purchase a game before it comes out to get extra content its a huge leap of faith. Considering that I have probably purchased 30x more crappy games than good games, theres always something in the back of my mind that makes me not want to pre-order games. And now, with online passes I can’t even trade these games in when the turn out to be crap. You don’t think gamers are getting crapped on? You sir are a fool.

  • Gary

    And further when you can’t get all the content of the game because its only available from a specific retailer (but offered as DLC) that’s just a poor business practice that is intended only tro extract more money from your wallet. Honestly. I avoid games that do these types of incentives.

  • efast

    I like preorders n get multiple games a year that way each yr. If I’m unsure of the game I don’t but games ik r good I do, battlefied cod metal gear solid gears of war god of war etc all good games all preordered rage dead islnd skyrim all gunn b great

  • josh

    The only thing that really peeves me about preorder dealios is that if you don’t preorder it, you’re missing pieces of content that someone else has. I don’t even care about putting the money down it’s just a waste of time to do it, but they try to make you feel like you have to if you are mildy interested in the game,

    not to mention gamestop employees mad harass you everytime you go in there to preorder stuff. I’ve even had them try to get me to preorder games that have an indefinite release date. QTF I say to this lol

    I know it’s in their job requirements to upsell, but still. Be reasonable with it

  • wolf4real

    its just fun to go pick up some games at 12 am seeing all the people also i pay on my preorders as i go so its not such a big hit at once

  • Gman

    What I do is I pre-order a game, pick the game and pre-order goods at launch, return the game and keep the pre-order goods next day.

  • efast

    @wolf4real I’m the same I pay a lil here n there til its done esp for all the games commin out this fall

  • leftsock

    I only pre-order my personal must have games. Half of the pre-order bonuses out there are garbage to begin with. Why would anyone pre-order a game strictly based on the pre-order content? I suppose you can always try to shine a piece of shit.

  • ihatehipsters

    gears 3 already has over a million pre orders SUCK IT

  • Ryan

    If a game is highly anticipated, it will have many preorders. If a game gives you ____ for preordering, it won’t change the amount of preorders by much. The only games I preorder are ones that I feel might sell out on the first day or if I want to put down the cash just so it’s taken care of and I can stop worrying. I like having DLC and all that, but I think it’s just all gone out of hand. I mean these games give preorder bonuses for things that are already on the disk and then charge other people for it, like the mortal kombat klassic skins pack. That’s just horsepiss and they really are squeezing us gamers dry. I wish everyone would acknowledge this a bit more and work together rather than bickering and complaining so much. I mean, look what happened with that BF3 preorder issue. People didn’t like it so they boycotted. I say we start using the voice we’ve got, our wallets. These companies know that theyre overcharging us or ripping us off when they don’t need to. There are many who make valid arguments such as the fact that games would sell better if they were priced around $19 or $29.

  • @magnetoelectric

    Battlefield 3 pre order is through the roof generating 700% more than BF2 and closing in on 11 million pre order units. This is all BEFORE any pre order incentives or dlc were announced.
    I win the internets

  • John Kirby

    Pre-order incentives work on me… sometimes. I either want a game at release, and am willing to pay full retail, or I am willing to wait for the hype-smoke to clear, and I will buy it when the price drops in 6mths to a year.

    If I am willing to pay full price, I will often pre-order just because if I will pay full price, I want as much for my money as possible. If I don;t want a game bad enough to want it on release day, I usually don;t give a hoot about pre-order content.

    Limited editions and boxed sets are the ones I can;t figure out… who needs figurines and playing cards and soundtracks and art booklets gathering dust and taking up space? Not me. Mind you, I did pre-order the Forza 4 limited edition because it included 26 bonus cars… not an insignificant in-game bonus.

    • John Kirby

      … but I will be the first to say that withholding content for Pre-orders and limited editions is an infuriating trend that prays on completionists and core fans, the very people gaming companies should be thanking.

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