Up For Debate - Is Pre-Order Culture Dying A Slow Death

Written by Jon Sutton on Sun, Dec 11, 2016 4:00 PM
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Bethesda well and truly upset the apple cart a month or so ago when it said its new policy would be to withhold review codes until the day before a game’s launch. Only a select few hand-picked ‘tastemakers’ would be able to get hands on with the game before then. We first really saw this practice in action with Dishonored 2. Early sales figures suggest Dishonored 2 sales are down 38% on the original Dishonored. Could Bethesda’s new approach have backfired?

It’s certainly not because Dishonored 2 is a bad game. In fact, it’s one of the most highly rated of the year, pulling in an average score of 89%. We also need to factor in that sequels typically sell heaps more copies than the original. Brand awareness is much higher and the game is on everyone’s lips.

Now, the sales figures could be wrong. They only take into account physical copies sold, and console players may increasingly be buying their games digitally. SteamSpy doesn’t look too hot either there. There are an estimated 228,371 owners of Dishonored 2. That’s hardly setting the world on fire considering the original has amassed 2.8 million. It’s had a few years to do that sure, but it’s a base of nearly 3 million players which surely have a vested interest in the sequel.

When it comes to PC the finger of blame can be pointed at the myriad performance issues. On consoles, less so. Could gamers instead have been taking a wait and see approach for the reviews? Will interest pick up now the reviews are out there? Or did Dishonored 2 miss out on the all important launch day hype? I know myself I was hugely interested in the game. Without any prior knowledge of whether it was any good though I didn’t want to lay any cash down. Now that it’s been a few days however my hyped has cooled and I’m more inclined to wait until a sale.

Whatever the case, we could be seeing a cooling off of pre-order culture. After all, if every publisher did what Bethesda is doing we’d have no idea how good any game was until days after it launched. Would you really pre-order stuff in a situation like that? If everyone decided to abandon pre-orders the decision Bethesda made would really come back to bite it. If you’re confident in your product I see no reason why you wouldn’t let me people know about it before they part with cash.

So what do you think then, will holding back reviews potentially kill off pre-order culture? Or will the AAA hype machine trundle on regardless?

Do you pre-order games?

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22:06 Dec-11-2016

I would love to see who will by "No Man's Sky 2"... { LOL }

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21:27 Dec-11-2016

In 80% of the cases, I apply this équation : The performance issues at launch + the DLC policies = Wait for the cheaper and more complete GOTY version. The only recent game I bought day one ? The Witcher 3 and I don't regret it.

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21:22 Dec-11-2016

I only pre-order games if I know they are good. Has worked so far.


Skyrim, GTA5 and Witcher 3 are the only games I have ever pre-ordered, RDR2 will probably be the fourth :)

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20:10 Dec-11-2016

It better be dying, or I will beat it to death myself.

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21:32 Dec-11-2016

Need help?

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10:31 Dec-15-2016

Welcome aboard!

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19:55 Dec-11-2016

I used to pre order physical copies back in the day in case they sold out. Now that it's all digital I never hand over my cash until I know what I'm paying for. They can keep the extra skins or 5 mins worth of content they offer as a bonus.

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19:49 Dec-11-2016

Only the rich pre-order games :D

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21:55 Dec-11-2016

I am definitely not rich, but still pre-order games when I want to. :/

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18:48 Dec-11-2016

"Do you pre-order games?"


Depends. If have played the game before and it's a PC re-release I will pre-order and play it as soon as it's available. But if it's a bad or poorly optimized re-release (e.g. Tales of Symphonia on PC) I'll refund the game faster than Road Runner can run.


If it's a game I KNOW for certain will be good (and I'm rarely wrong about this) then I will gladly pre-order it. In all cases though, me pre-ordering a game is rare. So my vote goes to "not often".


(I can see the downvotes coming already.)

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19:18 Dec-11-2016

eh thats all about perspective, for instance i had a blast with the battlefront 2 beta but when the game came out i was kinda left stunned at how empty it felt

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17:42 Dec-11-2016

Never preordered, doubt I ever would unless it was a CDPR game

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18:36 Dec-11-2016

I will definitely be pre-ordering Cyberpunk 2077

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17:32 Dec-11-2016

Entire History of Games I've Pre-Ordered: Tyranny, Witcher 3, X-com 2, X-Com: EU, Witcher 2, Fallout 3.


Games I've been more than happy with: Tyranny, Witcher 3, X-com 2, X-Com: EU, Witcher 2, Fallout 3.


I've also been a Kickstarter for Shadowrun: HK, Battletech and Wasteland 3. I guess the take-away is, if a company has a history of producing games with their costumers in mind...

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17:38 Dec-11-2016

...and they've proven they will put out a quality game I have no problem with pre-orders. Especially with some of these games that I was very hyped for and couldn't wait to play. But I am discerning. I loved Dragon Age Origins and Mass Effect and the entire Fallout series (up to NV) but I am not confident in either Bioware or Bathesda to come through. I always wait until after release before..

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17:39 Dec-11-2016

Making a decision to buy or not to buy their games. Same goes for other unproven or mixed success companies.

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17:22 Dec-11-2016

never did, never will.

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17:19 Dec-11-2016

Bethesda is continually stumbling at every step. First they tried to price gouge with DLC like the horse armor. Then they tried to make money off of their players mods. They then followed that up with a Fallout 4 season pass that was of dubious value. They then threw in some bad DRM, badly ported their games to PC, and adopted a policy of holding reviews until launch. They can't see the problem"?

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17:16 Dec-11-2016

Broken/unfinished games, Dlc/Microtransactions/multiple season passes, crappy AAA publishers, day one patches, pre order/retailer exclusive content-

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17:21 Dec-11-2016

publishers forcing youtubers to takedown gameplay video, shady actions of not allowing review copies even for good games, and finally DRM BS across the board!

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17:23 Dec-11-2016

I think gamers are tired of dealing with this bs, and they are now just holding off to see if a game is worth buying or not through gameplay or word of mouth.

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17:10 Dec-11-2016

I've pre-ordered 3 things this year. The first was Dark Souls 3 because it was £7 cheaper than Amazon and I knew I would like it since I love Dark Souls. The second was a book called Re: Zero Volume 2 because I know that its a niche market and it had a high chance of selling out like Volume 1. The third was Final Fantasy 15 but that was a Christmas present and it was cheaper than Amazon.


I pre-ordered both Re: Zero and Final Fantasy in advance and in both cases, the place sold out before they shipped my copy. I think the entire point of (cont)

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17:15 Dec-11-2016

(cont) is entirely pointless if you can't even guarantee that you would even get a copy on the day of release, in the case of Re: Zero, I pre-ordered in September for a November 16th release, I just got it today nearly a whole damn month later.


While I don't think pre-orders are inherently bad for niche products, if you can't even get your order secured then its just wasting everybody's time. In the case of games, pre-orders are stupid unless you're mostly sure that you will at least like the product if not enjoy it a lot then it should just die

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18:39 Dec-11-2016

well sometimes preorders cant be fulfilled because they didn't get enough copies for the amount of orders. ive seen it before. they fill in the list starting at the top. if you waited a month before the release, there was probably hundreds of more people ahead of you. that almost means anyone that got it after you either was a late preorder or just waited until release and still waiting.

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19:03 Dec-11-2016

And thats why I think pre-ordering can be useful at times. Sure it was very frustrating to wait an extra month to get the book but it was the type of thing that fans kind of need to pre-order in order to ensure that they get it on release

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16:50 Dec-11-2016

not often, plus only pre-order when the game is 1-2 months away

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16:30 Dec-11-2016

Im the only one who think pre-ordering isn't that bad anymore because we have steam and origin refunds,so if a game has a "interesting" preorder bonus and you really want to play it asap you can pre order it and wait 1 day without playing it for reviews then if it turned out to be a bad port/game you can fully refund.

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16:33 Dec-11-2016

IDK if it works like that,the only game I pre-orderd it's cs go and refunds weren't a thing before.

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16:44 Dec-11-2016

its not only about the money, think about the possibility of the devs ruining what could have been a great game or maybe your favorite sequel.

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16:57 Dec-11-2016

Ruining with preorders?Try to elaborate a bit because I dont understand your point.Probably you mean the awful greedy pre order bonuses like deus ex mankind divided had before they took it down and total war warhammer had a race preorder exclusive .

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16:23 Dec-11-2016

Only game i ever "pre-ordered", was Dark souls III, the pc shop in my country was selling the physical copy cheaper than the digital copies. But that's about it, other than that only game i ever bought on day 1 was Witcher 3 Physical copy.

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22:22 Dec-11-2016

DSIII is broken on PC.

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16:20 Dec-11-2016

I really hope it does

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