To Pre-Order or Not to Pre-Order? That Is The Question

Ever since the game No Man’s Sky has come out people have been, shall we say, divided against the game (and when I say people, I mean posts I see on Facebook and 9GAG) and pre-orders in general. What I have witnessed thus far are people saying the game is unfinished and how dare the developers to give them an unfinished game, pre-orders are bad, don’t pre-order stuff, blah blah blah… I have yet to play No Man’s Sky (my colleagues have and you can see their review of it here) but the bigger question is this: Is pre-ordering a game really worth it? I have pre-ordered games in the past multiple times and I have had some great experiences with games I ordered early, and others that make me wonder “Why did I waste my money on that piece of garbage?”


There is an amazing South Park joke during the “Console Wars” trilogy when Cartman tells Kyle that when you’re pre-ordering a game you’re, “Giving some a$$ holes in California your money for a game they haven’t finished yet.  You know what you get when you pre-order a game Kyle?  A big d!%* in your mouth.” The funny thing is that Cartman’s right.  When we do pre-order games we are already laying down money for a game that has yet to be released.  Sure the game is in the final stages of development and the release date is only a few months away, but it still isn’t finished.  However, I don’t see this as a bad thing for us gamers but more of an “Oh crap guys, people are giving us money already, we better not F@$% this game up!” for the developers.  I’m not a game developer, so I don’t know what happens when news hits the office that their game has X amount of copies already pre-ordered.  Yet even when games are announced or hyped up (like No Man’s Sky was) to me the problem lies with the gamer for not looking into a game more and buying it because of the commercials or the hype.


Let’s stick with NMS (No Man’s Sky) as an example.  At its core, the game promises something amazing.  An entire galaxy to explore with 18 quintillion freaking planets to travel to.  The best part is that the galaxy keeps growing and growing, so in essence, the game could never be 100% fully explored.  That’s a huge deal and could possibly impact the gaming industry for the rest of our lives.  So why have I not gotten my own copy yet?  Simple, the game doesn’t interest me.  I’ve grown to be attached to games with great story lines, reasons for things to happen, stuff like that.  Give me a game in which all you do is look around, travel and you might see a few cool aliens along the way.   Yeah, no thanks, I’ll just stick to playing Final Fantasy X HD or DOOM.

Yet for gamers who love to explore, who love to do what they want without anyone telling them what to do, this game is probably going to be God’s personal gift to them.  Out of all the hate posts I have seen for NMS a good 90% talk about the hype and how boring/bad the game is while the posts I have seen praise the game talk about how cool it is exploring other planets.  The gamers who complain about the game are the ones that (I’m willing to bet) don’t like games based solely on exploration or they thought NMS was going to be Skyrim in space.

Now to set the record straight I love exploring stuff in video games.  Heck, GTA V, the Batman Arkham games, Zelda, all of these games make exploring mandatory and you can find some pretty sweet stuff and easter eggs in these games.  However, there is an end to the dungeon, a border for San Andreas, and a boatload of armed guards making sure you stay in Arkham City.  For me playing a game in which I could spend the rest of my life playing and not get through a mere quarter of the galaxy is overwhelming and really freaking cool at the same time.  Yet some gamers probably didn’t do their research on this game and preordered it just because of the vastness of the game, and that’s where they got burned.


Coming from personal experience there have been games where I pre-ordered and could not get rid of sooner.  The biggest example is Mega Man X7.  I was so excited about that game that I bought it without a second thought.  It was the first Mega Man X game on the PS2, how could I NOT be excited about it?  Well, when it came in the mail I learned a very valuable lesson, don’t pre-order based solely on the title.  X7 is a horrible game and I absolutely HATED it.  There were so many problems with the game but the biggest was that you couldn’t play as Mega Man X, the freaking TITLE CHARACTER, until about halfway through the game.  No, I’m not kidding, that’s what happens in X7.

The next game I pre-ordered was Kingdom Hearts II.  Now instead of just throwing $50 at the guy at Game Stop I looked into the game before I pre-ordered it.  I saw the trailers, I read magazine articles, I even did some research on the game before it came out.  Granted I was going to buy it anyway since Kingdom Hearts is one of my favorite games ever, but this time, I wanted to know more about it and I did.  When it came out, I played it and loved it.  Granted there are a few things that did disappoint me but overall I love the game and it is still a part of my PS2 library (unlike another game I pre-ordered).  I did the same thing with the newest DOOM game, I pre-ordered it and was not only happy with my purchase, but I went a step further and played the open beta too.  I even dodged a bullet with Mighty No. 9.  If my memory serves I also pre-ordered it when I pre-ordered DOOM. However, I only put down the $5 to reserve a copy at Game Stop.  When Mighty No. 9 came out I looked at some reviews before I went to the store and then decided to stay home.

For me doing research when one is considering a pre-order is a must. Even when it involves your favorite video game characters or series. Case in point, Final Fantasy XV and Sonic Mania.  I have pre-ordered both games but before putting down any money I read up on them.  I read the article in Game Informer magazine and liked what I read.  I saw gameplay videos on YouTube of people playing Sonic Mania and really liked what I saw.  Plus I pre-ordered the Collector’s Edition for Sonic Mania which game with some sweet retro stuff that I couldn’t live without.  Also, the copy of Final Fantasy XV I ordered will be in a steel book case with the Blu-Ray of the movie Kingsglaive.  Cool stuff aside I did my research and decided to get these games early, not because of a snazzy commercial, not because of a hype train, and definitely not because of a sweet 12-inch Sonic statue that plays the classic “SSSEEEEEEGGGAAAA” opening when you push a button (but it helped).  I liked what I saw so much that I decided to bite the bullet and buy these games early, and hopefully, they will live up to my expectations.

To answer the question, I say that pre-ordering games is up to the gamer.  If they decide to pre-order the second they can, more power to them. If they want to wait until reviews are out then that’s perfectly fine.  The point is that if you bought a game because of a huge amount of hype or because it was controversial or because your friend told you to and you hated it, then there is no one to blame but yourself.  Who knows, maybe pre-ordering was a good idea after all. Nine times out of ten if you pre-order a game you at least get a sweet poster to cover up that space on the wall. The best part is that if the game completely sucks and you hate it, you can use the poster as a target practice.



Ben Praster11 Posts

Somewhere in sunny Southern California lives Ben Praster and his growing collection of video games. He can pinpoint his gaming roots with Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and the first game he ever owned was Sonic CD. He has been playing video games for over 20 years and shows no sign of stopping. When he isn't playing video games, he is spending time with his family, writing his book (in which he prays to get published) or outside seeing the sun.


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