How was 2018’s E3? Did you find some games that got your ding-dong hard? How about that Ghost of Tsushima? Looks fucking cool, right? Like you want to go to your local GameStop right now to pre-order this game.
Stop right there.
Don’t do it yet and consider what you’re doing.
Many years ago, there was a perfectly valid reason to be pre-ordering games. Remember back in the PlayStation 2, Xbox and Gamecube era where the product had to be completely finished before it was ever shipped to the stores? The game that you bought is the same game as it’s released and if there were bugs and exploitable parts, you were stuck with them. A person could pre-order a game from Nintendo back then and feel safe and secure about the order. My copy of Super Mario Sunshine was money well spent.
On the next generation, there were two large changes on how games were sold. The first is that the game could be sold incomplete or with bugs while meeting the deadline, which was almost more important for the publisher. Can’t have that game delayed any further, we have the holiday season coming up. The reason publishers were able to do this is because the game could be patched after release, which would reduce the problems. However, there are now games out that were never fixed by the developers with an example being Nier: Automata. Released in April 2017, Automata is a fun game but broken on PC and Square Enix has not fixed this yet.
You may recall a more well-known game, Batman Arkham Knight and the mess that it had as a PC release. With framerate issues, crashing and worse, the PC users gave a tremendous backlash against Warner Bros. to the point where they understood they could not redeem themselves and said that everyone who purchased it on PC can get a refund with no exceptions.
I was lucky. I pre-ordered this game at GameStop for a couple reasons. I had faith that the game was going to be great and because each Arkham release night I went to was fun. Overall, the game turned out to be all right but not until it was finally “fixed”. This left me with a poor taste about the game and the feeling of money wasted until I could finally make the refund.
The second change in how the games were sold is online distribution. Valve has been doing this since the release of Half-Life 2 in the early 2000s and once consoles caught up with this practice, the need for finding a physical copy reduced for people. Just like downloading a new album from your favorite band, you can now simply purchase and download Borderlands 2 so long as you had the hard drive space. We take this for granted but, it’s quite revolutionary. The games no longer have to be so rare and hard to find. You want Dark Souls Remastered on your computer as soon as it’s released? Just pre-order and before the game is even released, it can pre-download.
For the most part, these changes have eliminated the need for pre-orders. However, publishers and gaming stores have a relationship and will work together to entice the consumer to pre-order and this includes bonus downloadable content that the player might not even use.
The market is pushy and getting to the lines of being abusive. From incomplete games by Ubisoft to GameStop employees put under huge pressure to push for pre-orders from people and punishment for not getting the quota. The gaming industry gets into some shady practices and here are some guidelines to think about before pre-ordering.
1) Make sure you can get a refund
If you buy a game and open the package, you lose the ability to return it. If that makes you upset, thank piracy. However, distributors like Valve have a refund system with their online distribution being that if you are within two weeks of the purchase and have only played two or less hours, you can get your money back. Valve has also been known to give some wiggle-room on how long the game has been played. Did you play for four hours because you were giving it a chance and lost track of time? Submit the refund request anyway.
The nice thing about pre-ordering through GameStop or another local store is that you can request a refund even after the game is in your hands unless you open the packaging. Did you pre-order the game and the reviews are out saying it’s shit and feel uncomfortable about that game? No problem, take your receipt and get the refund.
As long as you are guaranteed to be able to do this, pre-ordering is not a huge issue for you. If you can’t, do not do it.
2) Consider the legitimate benefits
What do you get out of pre-ordering that game you’re salivating over? Extra skins? Extra guns? A badge on your profile? If that’s all, wait until release and check the reviews. If you receive additional benefits such as powerups or gear that give you an advantage in multiplayer, this his highly frowned upon and you may want to stay away from the game overall.
An exception to note is Fallout 76. We currently understand that it’s going to use the same engine as Fallout 4 and we have an understanding on what Bethesda is going for. That information itself isn’t much but, what you can get for pre-ordering is a code to gain access into the BETA. What this means is that say you order the $200 edition of Fallout 76 that comes with the awesome headset that you can even wear. I may or may not want this damn headset to fuck around with but, the point is that you can actually try the game during it’s end of the development and get an idea if the game is right for you. This also means that if you made the purchase through GameStop, you can still get the refund after trying the Beta.
3) Pay attention to review embargos
A review embargo means that if the gaming journalist receives a copy of a game that’s coming out, the publisher of the game and the journalist have an agreed date to put out a review. The embargo could be a date before or even after the release date and the latter should be a warning sign.
Assassin’s Creed Unity is an example of abusing the embargo to the point of being anti-consumer by not lifting until twelve hours after the release of the game. By the time the review is out, there are already people who have purchased and tried playing the game. This goes against why we have reviewers in the first place. They are meant to suggest to you if something you want is worth your money or not and the role is important for the consumers.
Where to look for reviews
At Arrogant Media, we have been very vocal against gaming websites such as Kotaku, Rock Paper Shotgun, Polygon and IGN for numerous reasons. Sometimes, the review can be paid for by the publisher sometimes, the reviewer might misrepresent important parts of the game. There are also times where the website can’t give you the news without shoehorning opinions that do not matter.
Where you go for reviews is up to you but, it is best to look for the sources with the least amount of bias.