Early Pre-Ordering: An Exercise in Futility

This isn’t a rant against the very concept of pre-ordering. However, this is a rant against games that open up pre-orders at the release of the slightest bit of information.

In the eye of the recent press-launch of the first details of Bungie’s ambitious Destiny, the company also announced that pre-orders were open. Naturally, Bungie’s weight holds great meaning to many and I am sure many rushed to pre-order.

Pre-orders for Bungie's "Destiny" opened just after a few concept art were shown to entire world

Pre-orders for Bungie’s “Destiny” opened just after a few concept art were shown to entire world

But I cannot understand the very concept of having pre-orders at such an early stage of a game. When there has been next to no info of the “actual” game, when developers are still talking about the game’s concept through world art and how it’ll be “bleak” than their previous works, I cannot understand how they can justify putting out pre-orders for their own game.

I cannot blame Bungie or Activision for this. They are a company and despite their ambitions, they still have to give money the top priority. But, I can’t understand how gamers can justify their pre-orders for Destiny. When the developers have shown next to nothing how can you commit to a game through a pre-order.

Two arguments arise against my point:

1) It’s Bungie

Not an excuse. I know a company like Bungie has legions of faithful fans and rightfully so, but a new IP is always going to be a risky venture filled with uncertainty for both the developer and their fans. Isn’t it supposed to be the fans’ job to be the cautious and rightful critic to the company they love? Instead of committing to something that is probably not even halfway through its development stage, fans gleefully pre-order never thinking twice about how different the end product can be.

You need examples? Perhaps, Aliens: Colonial Marines is the best example. There was a huge uproar this past week in the game community on how the E3 demo looked and played much better than the finished product.

Pre-release footage and the finished product may greatly vary

Pre-release footage and the finished product may vary greatly

 

That was an actual playable demo. Information on Destiny is still the concept Bungie are showing us and while Bungie may be a reliable developer, that doesn’t allow us overlook the possible risk involved in how Destiny may eventually shape out to be. The Aliens: Colonial Marines example is just another reminder that game development is a long and arduous process and a LOT of things can go wrong at any stage.

2) “I can cancel my pre-orders at any point!”

Oh yes, the ability to cancel your pre-orders. How convenient. Doesn’t this exhibit just how futile this entire exercise was? This is like you’re committing to something you can pull back from at any point? Why pre-order if you were going to change your mind at some point when *actual* information about the game comes out?

It isn’t like games are made in a limited quantity that they will run out of stock if we don’t pre-order them immediately. It’s Activision and Bungie we’re talking about. Sales figures beyond 10 million are where they are going to start with their sales projection for Destiny.

What is the purpose of early pre-ordering? This isn’t Kickstarter where you are showing your support and are funding the actual development process. Neither is this concerned with pre-ordering of Limited Edition or CE which generally get announced just a few months before the release.

I believe *that* is when pre-ordering is truly justified. When you have enough information on the game to make a judgment yourself and thoughtfully spend (or commit) your money to the game, especially if the said pre-order includes a limited edition CE.

Destiny2013

Early pre-orders with their commitment in a non-committal way just come across as exercises in futility

 

After all, we are accountable to our own money and asking for pre-order at the concept stage would be considered ridiculous if it were happening in any other media. An author announcing pre-orders for his “idea” on which he has started writing a novel. A film-maker who declares his ambitious idea for a movie that he is working on and then opens advance bookings for it in theaters.

Developers need to take their fans seriously, not treat them as brainless hacks who will pre-order at the slightest mention of their new project. As gamers, we need to be more aware of how there is a lot of difference in a finished product and pre-release footage shown in a closed press room.

Let us stop this exercise in futility.

One comment

  1. I agree allowing pre-orders this early is excessive and unnecessary. I have also seen a trend recently where a game has different “bonuses” for pre-ordering at various different locations. This likely won’t be announced until a game gets close to release, so now if you’ve pre-ordered from one store too soon, you might get stuck with some item you don’t care about. Again there’s the argument that you could just cancel the pre-order…but how many people are really going to bother with that at that point? It seems likely not many (I know I wouldn’t…)

    Of course, I suppose this only matters if you pre-order to get exclusive game content, but I’d be willing to bet that’s the main reason most people do it. The only other reason of course being to get a game right at launch, but there is literally no reason I can think of to pre-order something months upon months ahead of time to make sure you can get it day 1. I’ve pre-ordered games just days before release and had no problem doing so.

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