In this week’s “A Bumpkin’s Opinion” Andy gives his personal thoughts on the growing voice against game preordering in the light of publishers not providing pre-release review copies of their games.
It’s one of the bigger issues at the moment – big game developers are holding off from sending out review copies to review sites and Youtubers. Bethesda recently allowed the public to preorder a game and receive it the same day that the press got their copies.
I’ve seen a few review sites complain about this and I’m not unsympathetic, but the advice they’re giving you is completely wrong.
But before that, yeah I do get it. Big review sites especially make most of their advertising revenue on big game reviews, before you’ve had chance to caress it’s box on the car journey home (or stare at it’s download bar for hours). They’re going to lose out terrifically on this deal and that’s a problem. We do need sites to provide impartial (or sometimes close enough) commentaries and opinions on games, big and small.
If I thought it would make a difference I’d try to encourage you to read their other, non-triple-A reviews and their more interesting human interest pieces about the lives behind the games. But we both know you, and I, are unlikely to change our general reading habits just to help these sites out – plus you might already do this so I’d just be wasting our time.
I did click on a few adverts out of sympathy (although don’t worry, it was a fleeting, passing moment) on something which looked vaguely like real journalism but even then those articles are few and far between.
“But!” I can hear you say, “Have you seen the RPS article on XXX or the IGN article on YYY” – believe me I probably have. I know there are good people running these sites, I’ve met a few of them and talk to others on twitter. They’re good people.
“Oh, have a dim view of the press these days do you Mr Bumpkin?” I really don’t, but my thoughts on the press specifically must be kept aside for another day.
But keeping on track, what worries me the most is the, quite frankly, bad advice that most of these news outlets are giving you now.
Which is: Don’t preorder games.
Personally I think that’s a terrible suggestion. I mean, for goodness sake, don’t just preorder everything or anything. And I’m also not talking about the pros and cons of collectors editions, if you’ve got space for giant character statues and “making of” books and a wallet to accommodate then awesome, you go for it if you want it.
And that’s one of my main points, do you really want to live a life of not taking small risks like that? This is hardly gambling in the real sense, you’re going to get *something* out of this even if it’s not the next Portal (I like Portal). This isn’t your life savings you’re risking, it’s a £40(ish) *game*!
And I’ve been hurt by it – oh yes indeed. But not as many times as I’ve felt vindicated by a purchase, especially when the press haven’t thought it was the best thing since “10/10 would slice bread again”. Last year I preordered and loved Xenoblade Chronicles X for example. I think it’s a wonderful game which feels like, perhaps, it’s development time was shortened slightly to assist with falling Wii-U sales. But I somehow managed to squeeze several of my life days into playing it. The game scores 7/10 and 8/10 in many places but for me personally its far more of a 9. However Mass Effect 3 (I could still sob) turned out to be a horrible mess of a story past the half way point, worsening all the way through to the ending. Most of the press didn’t appear to have played the review copies til the end, or didn’t realise how much the end would bother players. Because of this it got plenty of 9s and 10s which was very much at odds with my experience of the game. So in so many cases pre-release reviews can be misleading – obviously this is subjective and different sites are a better fit for each gamer. But with variances like these, and the fact that pre-release reviews existed at all it seems almost hypocritical for review sites to be pushing this don’t preorder games agenda.
I do agree with the sentiment that we should do our research first though. If you want to make sure a game does what you want it to do then confirm, without a doubt that it does the job. It’s the developer and publishers responsibility to ensure they’ve given a true representation of what you’re going to get but don’t assume anything that’s not spelled out. If they’ve been unclear about a feature *cough* multiplayer *cough* and that feature isn’t in the game *cough* No Mans Sky *cough* then you really should wait to see if that feature is in before preordering.
Also let me make this really clear, we can’t afford to upset the AAA game industry too much right now. Not that that would happen just by ignoring preorders, but with times as tough as they are big publishers get jittery easily. A significant wobble on an established, or especially new, property will make them think twice about putting the big bucks into the next title. Again this goes double for new games/ips and that’s something that should be vastly encouraged instead. I’m certainly not saying I feel sorry for the big boys, some huge publishers pull some moves which make me sick. And cripes, if the game turns out to be naff you’re well in your rights to bust out the angry tweets and emails. But that first day or two of sales is the most important for any game. If it fails there it’s unlikely to gain traction moving forwards.
So I want to offer an alternative positive message about pre-orders and why they’re not the worst thing you can do when spending money on video games.
Preordering supports studios, it funds future production of DLC and sequels. It keeps people in jobs.
It also feels pretty good, which it should and you totally shouldn’t feel bad about it. With games you’re buying an experience of a kind, rather than a product. I’ve always felt better spending money on video games, even cosmetic items that I can parade around in, than most physical items I own. I guess a some of that stems from knowing the absolute ball busting work that goes into their creation.
And most people are playing at release time. You’re going through the same world, experiencing the same story (or your own variant) as everyone else. It’s all over Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and you’re part of that somehow.
Finally you’re more than likely to get a decent game out of the deal. It might not be the next Portal 2 (did I mention I like Portal?) but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with pre-ordering games that are in the “OK to Good” range.
If you’re worried about spending that much money (or literally can’t afford it) then sure, don’t bother with the preorder, buy a bunch of indie games instead! But refunds are easier to get these days, generally speaking, especially on Steam. So if you can why not just go for it?
How many journalists shouting this do you imagine really follow their own advice? Especially when it comes to a series which is much beloved for themselves. I’ve seen a lot of “Don’t pre-order games! Oh, uh, unless it’s *this* one!” It’s totally subjective and no one should be made to feel silly for having preordered a game that they’ve been waiting yonks for, or for one that looks good in a trailer, even if in the end it turns out to be utter cow farts.