Digital Preorders are a Ridiculous Scam – Stop Encouraging Them

There's just no reasonable justification for the practice of encouraging pre-orders for digital goods. It's a scam.

A fool and his money are easily parted, and modern video game marketing wants to make fools of us all.

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When Preorders Made Sense

In the real world, pre-ordering an item has often been a sensible way of ensuring that you got what you wanted. This is, of course, assuming that you are certain it is the item you want, because you have read reviews and so on, right?

Whether it was a weekly comic book or the latest Porsche 911 model from your local dealership, chances were good the retailer would only receive a limited number and there’d be no guarantee they’d still be in stock by the time you sashayed in.

That’s when tapping the folks behind the counter to hold onto a copy for you (I’m more of a comics man, you can keep your fancy cars) was the sage thing to do. Only the simple-minded would leave it to chance.

When They Still Make Sense

Queue, Queue!

For particularly popular items that you want right away, preordering or getting to the store early is prudent. But if you’re considering camping, you should perhaps re-assess your values. If there is that much demand, they’ll likely make some more.

It’s not like iPhones are made from meteor rock and there’s only a couple of tonnes of it in existence.

No doubt, come the November releases of Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, we’ll see herds of hyper-materialistic console consumers and desperate Christmas shoppers take to the high streets like rabid zombie sheep in a no-holds-barred fight to the cash counter.

They probably should have pre-ordered.

It’ll be a sad sight which will show how pathetically materialistic and impatient we have become, but it’s understandable to an extent. The combined forces of marketing, scientifically developed addiction strategies and the social/family pressures of Christmas make slaves of us all.

When Preordering is Inexcusable

Consumer Idiot of the Year Award Goes to…

The really inexplicable, gold-standard stupid award has to be reserved for those who pre-order digitally downloadable games.

But the really inexplicable, gold-standard stupid award has to be reserved for those who pre-order digitally downloadable games. Digital products are infinite, they can’t go out of stock, there will be no delay as you wait for the next batch to arrive, there is no urgency.

… Other than the urgency artificially created by the forces of marketing.

Of course, the Sith Lords of Sales have that covered, they’ll offer you an incentive. A free game, a reduced price, something, anything to make you commit to their product without anyone having tested it.

Why are they so desperate to get your money so early?

Did they go over budget and have to organise a desperate pre-release cash grab to pay the bills and if so, how rushed is their product? Do they know they’ve got a poor game that will receive a critical mauling so they want to grab your money and run?

There’s just no reasonable justification for the practice of encouraging pre-orders for digital goods. It’s a scam.

Time is On Your Side; Use It

Needlessly throwing away money on digital pre-orders is behaviour that evokes the highest facepalmery.

Game are so frequently in need of more work at release, they almost always get better with time post-release, so why should consumers rush?

Until buyers–and publishers–learn these lessons, we will continue to see gamers charge like lemmings over the precipice of pre-ordering toward the jagged rocks of the next Aliens: Colonial Marines, Sim City, The WarZ, Diablo III, Duke Nukem Forever, Hellgate: London, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes and many more…

Wait for the reviews, let developers iron out the bugs they left in to meet the shipping date, let somebody else suffer the disappointing game experience. We live in an enlightened age of information and communication. Let the internet work for you, don’t let publishers use it to make you dance for them.

My advice: don’t get mugged – stay away from digital pre-orders.

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Image of Mat Westhorpe
Mat Westhorpe
Broken paramedic and coffee-drinking Englishman whose favourite dumb animal is an oxymoron. After over a decade of humping and dumping the fat and the dead, my lower spine did things normally reserved for Rubik's cubes, bringing my career as a medical clinician to an unexpectedly early end. Fortunately, my real passion is in writing and given that I'm now highly qualified in the art of sitting down, I have the time to pursue it. Having blogged about video games (well, mostly EVE Online) for years, I hope to channel my enjoyment of wordcraft and my hobby of gaming into one handy new career that doesn't involve other people's vomit.