You walk out into the brisk Autumn air on a cool Friday afternoon. You look around yourself and see the colourful mess nature has left around you. You see the clouds becoming more frequent in the sky. You look across the street and see those lazy Andersons still haven't cleaned their Halloween decorations. You playfully roll your eyes, hop into your car, and drive to the nearest GameStop with one objective: Buying the next Call of Duty game. Your mind races with exciting possibilities, your heart pounding with anticipation. You nearly give in to cardiac arrest at the wheel, but you are stopped short by the blissful sight of GameStop. You have arrived, and now it's time to claim what's rightfully yours. You try your hardest to find a parking spot amidst the heavily overpopulated lot, and after a frustrating while, you concede and park at the struggling nail salon in the next plaza.
You traverse multiple parking lots in order to reach that holy building, stocked full of games from years past. You enter and immediately stumble over to the Xbox One section, only to find copies of Advanced Warfare. With sudden heart palpitations, you drag yourself to the counter, and sheepishly ask where the newest Call of Duty is. "Did you pre-order a copy?" the overly-peppy clerk asks with a smug smile. You say that you have, indeed, failed to pre-order a copy. "Well, I'm sorry sir/ma'am, but we were only stocked with enough copies to fulfill pre-orders. You'll have to come back another time."
You choke back tears, and in your hyperbolic anger run back out to the parking lot, remember that you parked at the next plaza, and stomp your foot at this added frustration. You eventually reach your car, and you immediately call your best bud to vent about how "stupid" Call of Duty actually is, and how you "just don't need it" and how you should probably call your "mother" for once. When your lungs finally give up and stop your incessant rage, your friend, taking advantage of his first opportunity to speak, chirps, "Pre-order? I didn't do that. I bought a copy from Best Buy this morning."
The point of that overlong story is to illustrate that pre-ordering a game isn't necessary anymore, and it's become a gimmick to squeeze the maximum dollar out of starry-eyed gamers. Pre-orders are given all sorts of tie-ins that are superfluous and don't add terribly much to the gameplay experience itself and mostly serve to become bragging rights to your friends. Pre-ordering no longer serves the useful purpose it once did, and is becoming something a lot more sinister instead.
In the early-to-mid 2000's, pre-ordering a game had a legitimate purpose, when games were actually manufactured and sold on a disc. The only way to purchase a new release was by purchasing a physical copy, and if your local video game retailer was out of physical copies, well, you were out of luck. You would have to come back another time when demand wasn't as massive. Skip ahead ten years and digital downloads are all the rage. Pre-ordering a physical copy is no longer necessary and is definitely less convenient than simply buying a digital copy from home without spending excess money on useless tie-ins. Just wait for release day, download a digital copy, and boom, you're playing within a few hours. No trip to GameStop only to wallow in disappointment on your depressing drive home.
"But what about digital pre-ordering?" you naively ask. Well, digital pre-ordering is probably a lot worse than pre-ordering a physical copy. In an age where games can easily be patched, DLC can be thrown into digital marketplaces, and games are depending more and more on online servers, your chances of spending $60 on a broken game are very, very high, and are only increasing. At least with distributing a physical copy, developers were pressured to perfect the game before release day, otherwise there would be a lot of angry consumers and lots of refunds. It would be a horrifying embarrassment to release a broken game, right?
Well, apparently, releasing a broken game with the promise of fixing it is the new trend. Now that games can be fixed digitally, developers have less incentive to perfect a game on the first go, and push it off until a point where people start complaining about it and have already spent their money. That way, gamers have already forfeited their hard-earned dollars for a game they can't even play. For example, server-dependent games almost always have disastrous launches with crashing servers due to massive traffic, and consumers have to patiently wait until developers get around to fixing it.
As for pre-order tie-ins, they are mere gimmicks in order to get you to throw more money at one giant variable. Do you need a few extra weapons, maybe a few camos, and an extra mission so badly you're willing to gamble $60-80 on purchasing a bad game? Companies try to lure you in with these promises that will almost never be worth the chances you're taking. A free map is not nearly enough for me to drop $60 on an underwhelming gaming experience (I'm looking at you, Black Ops III). Don't fall into the trap; if a base game is worth that kind of money, then it doesn't require the allure of shiny, superfluous add-ons.
Pre-ordering, while it used to serve a purpose, now only serves to get the most money out of gamers as possible without the fear of word-of-mouth. Developers don't have to try as hard and will still make the same amount, or an even greater amount, of money from it. It's shameless, it's shady, and it's absolutely not worth the kind of money some people are willing to put down for a few extra goodies. Pre-ordering simply needs to be put to rest.