There used to be many reasons to pre-order a game you wanted before it’s release date. Many reasons that aren’t really around in today’s gaming market. Although it’s 99% unnecessary these days to pre-order upcoming games, I still do it sometimes. It’s still fun to expect something. It’s the same as ordering products online and later checking the shipping updates and getting excited. It’s like a mini-birthday gift for yourself.
Let’s go over some of the reasons why we used to pre-order games:
This one is very rare, but it did happen a couple of times to me.
There were times when I was younger that I didn’t pre-order a popular game that I wanted and when I arrived at Best Buy, Game Stop or EB Games they were sold out. Yes, this was a rare thing and probably would be an incredibly rare occurrence today, but it was a thing that happened.
Maybe it only happened to me once or twice, but that put it in my mind that I had to pre-order a game if I knew I really wanted it on Day One. Of course, today if you do go for the physical version and it’s not available there will always be a digital version. In fact, you don’t even have to leave your house anymore to start playing a new game.
I remember one instance in the year 1999, I was in 7th or 8th grade. For the release of WWF Attitude (N64), I sent my dad to Toys ‘R’ Us (RIP) during a week day to pick it up for me. He must have stayed at work late that night because I remember him coming home and I should have been sleeping already. Instead I had stayed up waiting for him. I opened that box up so fast and popped the game into my N64 and played WWF Attitude until way too late that night. I may have even woken up early before school to play some more. At the time I was very obsessed with The Rock and the WWF.
We also had these things called Midnight releases (I wrote about this before here, so I’ll be brief this time). You would basically go to the store the night before release and wait in line with a bunch of other people to pick up your new big release game at midnight. Of course, you’d get home at 2 AM having class, work or something the next morning and be too tired to play the game.
Today, with the digital storefronts we can pre-purchase and start playing our new game right at midnight — without having to wait in line or anything. Most games can be pre-loaded so you don’t even have to wait for the game to download at midnight — it just unlocks and you start playing. Some pre-purchase games even give you access to the game a few days early.
Today, new movies (in theaters) actually come out the day before starting in the late afternoon (around 6 pm), and play every hour. Not too long ago, theaters had to wait until midnight to play new releases (so it would actually be the release date). You also had to buy tickets early because these midnight showings would sell out, then you had to stand in line and hope to get a good spot with your friends. I saw pretty much all of Phase 1 and possible Phase 2 of the MCU movies at midnight in sold out theaters.
Extra DLC and IRL goodies
Pre-ordering a game sometimes gives you access to some extra DLC (downloadable content), usually cosmetics. You may even gain access to early alphas, betas and server testing. Some games bring some IRL (in real life) goodies with their pre-order. For instance I got a sweet Tom Nook tech sticker for pre-ordering Animal Crossing: New Horizons and a nifty luggage tag with Mario Golf Super Rush.
There are also games that release with deluxe or collector’s editions which can range from small digital goodies to stickers, art books and even great big statues and props. I don’t usually order these deluxe editions, but I did order The Last of Us Part II Collector’s Edition.
There are a few companies creating special edition physical releases of digital games (companies like Limited Run Games and iam8bit) . Back during the last generation of consoles we even had special edition consoles designed for certain games — like my Spider-Man PS4 Pro which came with the game and a Spider-Man themed PS4 Pro.
Day One Delivery
Another reason for pre-ordering physical games in the Age of Amazon Prime is that games were once guaranteed to arrive on their release date. For someone who had to drive 20-30 minutes to the nearest Best Buy, this was sometimes a good choice. I even complained to Best Buy about my pre-ordered game not arriving on time and was gifted rewards coupons.
I’m also someone who continues to collect physical media (physical games, blu-rays and CDs). I do own a large collection of digital games today, but for certain games I still love picking up the physical release, usually for bigger titles. It’s also good to be able to trade with friends. I never purchased Horizon: Zero Dawn, but I did beat the full game after trading with my friend who bought it — I later lent him God of War. It’s always good to have a group of friends with the same console for trading purposes, as well as to play online.
There aren’t many reasons to pre-order games today. It makes more sense to wait and see if any big problems arise. There are always upcoming titles that I’m convinced I want, so I continue to pre-order games. Maybe not as much as I used to — I definitely pre-ordered some duds in my day and was stuck with them. I sometimes pre-order games the day before release if I know I want the game, just in case there’s any bonuses or goodies.
If I went back and looked at all of the games I had pre-ordered and purchased on day one, I would say I only really played about half of them on Day One. Many of them sat around until I was ready for them. I used to be very much into getting home, opening my new game, popping it into my console and playing for hours (possible days or weeks).
Today, I’m usually thinking, I have to finish this current game before I jump into something new. The digital storefronts on all consoles and devices have totally changed the way we buy and play games. Also, if you don’t need to play a game on Day One, it’s always good to wait and see if you can catch it on sale later on, when you are ready to play it.