Pre-ordering digital games always felt like a fairly futile endeavour. Stocks are unlimited, there is no need to pre-order games in the way we used to. But times, and our demands, change. 15 years ago we used to pre-order games so we could play them on the same day they came out. Now, games are pre-ordered so fans can play the very minute they unlock. We want it and we want it now is the prevailing consensus.
Still, digital game pre-orders have historically been the domain of the immensely impatient. Whoever’s pre-ordering Cyberpunk 2077 a year before its launch needs to give their head a wobble. Why on earth would you want to deposit cash in a publishers’ bank earlier than required?
But a new phenomenon has now occurred. Phenomenon is probably too strong a word when talking about exploding game sizes but the bottom line is games are now 100 times bigger than they were 15 years ago. It’s not uncommon for a AAA title to be far in excess of 100GB and with the next-gen consoles right around the corner, it’s only going to get worse.
Suddenly, the convenience of digital is beginning to evaporate for those without ultra fast net connections. It’s absolutely quicker for me to get a bus into town and buy a copy of Red Dead Redemption 2 than it is for me to download it, and by some margin.
Which is where pre-ordering comes in, or, more particularly, pre-loading. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare may be huge but, knowing we had a week to download it ahead of launch, doesn’t this now lend a genuine advantage to pre-ordering? Those who pre-order a digital game could now potentially be days ahead of those who buy on launch day.
It means with these big tentpole releases there’s a tangible advantage to pre-ordering - the ability to download a huge game and have it ready for launch. Which brings us round to the question: knowing that a game is a 100GB download, are you now more likely to pre-order (and pre-load) it compared to if it was a 1GB download?