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If you’ve ever bought anything at a GameStop store, you’ve faced the question: would you like to pre-order [insert name of highly anticipated upcoming game]? If you were unsure what to answer, here’s a cheat sheet: you should say “no.”

Securing a pre-order used to be used to combat shortages, but thanks to digital distribution and gaming’s massive growth in popularity, those concerns are extinct. You’ll always be able to find any game you need at any time. Further, you won’t be missing out on any experiences in a game if you forego some dumb exclusive incentives tied to a pre-order.

These days the purpose of a video game pre-order is apparently twofold: ideally it benefits both the consumer and the publisher by delivering something that each desires. Consumers get peace of mind knowing they’ll be playing a particular game immediately upon release, often with extra content or a small discount. Publishers get the only thing they’re really interested in: your money.

Ideally it’s a big happy circle where everybody gets what they want. Unfortunately gamers are finding that the ideal outcome is becoming increasingly rare thanks, in part, to the disastrous state in which many games these days launch—broken, buggy and short on content, with developers usually planning to patch/fix/add to games in the weeks and months post-launch.

These game launch failures have lead some consumers to stop pre-ordering games altogether, a sentiment echoed by dozens of media outlets. But those echoes are falling on deaf ears overall; in 2015 video games saw an increase in both games pre-ordered and revenue obtained from those pre-orders, according to Adobe’s 2015 gaming trends report.

The score so far: actions 1, words 0

If you’re looking for advice on how to avoid the headaches that accompany those failed launches, the simplest suggestion is that you should never pre-order video games, barring the very rare occasion that there’s a cool collector’s edition that might actually sell out quickly.



A video game pre-order is rarely justified beyond two reasons: discounts and extra content. Technically you’re saving money, but ultimately the discount is negligible. Saving $5—one of the more common “deals” —isn’t worth the headache that a broken game will give you.

The other reason is the biggest, and it’s more a social issue than simply a gaming one. It’s the reason people scour Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all day. The “fear of missing out” is real, and it’s huge.

The idea that you may not be playing a highly anticipated title the moment it’s available is driving people to pre-order games when it’s not necessary. It’s also the reason, at least partly, why you’re seeing so many different “incentives” for one game. It’s true that retailers all want to have their own “special deal” to offer customers, but with four or five (sometimes more) different pre-order incentives—exclusive in-game weapons, characters, maps, or more that are often available only to players who pre-order at certain stores—retailers and publishers know that you’ll get worried about missing out on part of a game that you’re excited for. But the truth is that you’re really not missing out at all.


‘Watch Dogs’ had six different pre-order bonuses, each at a different retailer

Most of the time you can purchase the pre-order incentives at a later date or, if you’re in that much of a hurry, you can buy them on eBay or trade for them through social media or a video gaming forum. Regardless, even if you don’t ever get a chance to experience whatever incentive is offered, you’re still going to get your game, play your game, and, hopefully, enjoy your game, and you’d never know anything was missing if you didn’t already know.

Now let’s assume for a minute that you’re reading this and it resonates with you. You shared it with your friends (we writers have to eat, you know) and, eventually, millions of people are on board with this idea. In that event, firstly you’re welcome—but what happens next?

Maybe the issue will be addressed and gamers will start getting the quality that we expect. It’s important to note that game developers and publishers don’t like it any more than you do when a game launch fails. Bad publicity spreads fast and hits where it hurts the most (the wallet). Time is money and the longer it takes to get a game to a position that is satisfactory for players, the more it costs the publisher and investors.

The numbers from 2015 prove that video games are going to keep being pre-ordered at record rates. You’re throwing money at a company before you’ve even seen their product, so what’s the incentive for developers and publishers to ensure a game is the best it can be before it releases?

The idea of pre-ordering has gotten so ridiculous that games are being ordered before they’re even made. Thanks to Kickstarter and other crowdfunding websites, consumers are becoming pseudo-“investors” with no chance of a return on their investments—even when a company is worth more than $34 billion, they’re asking you to help them fund games.

Pre-ordering games isn’t just unnecessary—it’s actually bad for gamers because of the shady practices it encourages. The only change that can come from stopping the pre-order madness is that games will get better.

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