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Editorial: Stop Preordering Things

Since some of you are going to get about three sentences into this article before saying “but that doesn’t apply to me,” I’m going to say this from the start: If this article doesn’t apply to you, I’m not referring to you. Thank you.

This week’s nontroversy stars Square Enix, Lara Croft, and once again the Steam review system. I hesitated to even write anything about this the other day because the mainstream gaming media loves taking any shot at Steam that it can, especially when it comes to reviews. If you don’t know why, Valve has made an enemy of the gaming press because 1.) the refund policy has made life a lot harder for their indie developer roommates pushing out low quality experimental garbage, 2.) Valve refuses to pull the rug out just because a few members of the press find its content triggering, and 3.) posting outrage bait doesn’t get nearly enough advertising dollars these days because the people who read said articles out of disagreement mostly use ad blocker and archive.is, and per-click advertising has lost a lot of its value.

Now let’s talk about you, the customer. If I was a Youtuber, this is the part where I’d tell you to stop complaining and how you have no right to be angry if you pre-ordered. Frankly I’m not in the business of telling people what they should or should not be angry about.

Is it valid/justified to be angry that Square Enix dramatically reduced the price of a AAA, full priced game and its DLC after a single month? Before much of the DLC even released? Sure. Are you justified in leaving a negative review solely for the complaint of bad business practices? Of course. Is it Valve’s prerogative to flag or remove the reviews as abusive? Nah. Are you overreacting if you pledge to boycott Square’s games forever? No judgement here. So what’s the catch, I can hear you wondering. Here’s my take.

Certain gamers need to stop acting like the industry has your best interest in mind. They don’t, they truly don’t. They care enough to the extent that they think the profits of their action/inaction outweigh the costs, and will say virtually anything to the extent that the law allows in order to keep your cash flowing. In some cases, they’ll actually go far over that line with the knowledge that the chances of punishment for said statements are pretty low.

I’m not ignorant, either. It’s completely understandable that a company is going to put a product on sale if it isn’t selling well, and apparently Shadow of the Tomb Raider isn’t selling well. Square Enix doesn’t have a legal obligation to burn potential profits because they don’t want early adopters to feel scorned. They do however have an actual legal obligation to maximize profits for their shareholders, and I’m not being hyperbolic. It’s an actual legal obligation that they can be taken to court for not fulfilling. If people getting burned is the cost of recovering some of the title’s massive budget, well that’s a problem that will be dealt with.

So with that in mind, let me be the ten millionth person to suggest that you stop preordering video games if this is going to be a major problem for you. I’m not going to make a blanket statement that nobody should preorder ever. If you’re one of the people who buy games day one, or preorder them, and you’re familiar with the developer, you like the franchise, and the game is worth $60 or whatever you pay for the special edition and you’re pretty confident that the game isn’t going to be trash and are willing to forego reviews to play early, then you’re golden. You got your money’s worth, even if other people paid less a month down the line.

The value of luxury goods like video games is 100% subjective, you pay because you think it’s going to be worth it. If you don’t, you wait. In America, this is how our commerce works. If I think the Camaro is worth $25, I’ll probably never own a Camaro. On the other hand, if you say “$25? That’s a deal” and sell yours to me, the courts generally won’t side with you if you decide you want the car back because the value of a trade is up to the parties involved.

Great thing about games is that if you have a bit of patience, you can save a hell of a lot money. Games go on sale, especially on PC, at massive discounts several times a year as Steam has taken every opportunity to have the kind of discounts that you normally only see when the company is going bankrupt and liquidating assets. I especially point this out in the case of paid betas, and that most people shouldn’t take part. Why pay money for exclusive access to a buggier version of what you’ll have to start from scratch anyway, for a game that in the case of what we cover here at MMO Fallout is probably going to be free to play? Again, if you’re into that, cool. Otherwise, why bother?

And always presume that when a PR person is making promises, they’re probably lying or at the very least talking about things that they have no real confidence in. I’ve talked about this before, but I can’t stress how many times we here at MMO Fallout have noted developers outright lying in the past decade. Think about how many times we’ve been lied to over pretty drastic things. Our game isn’t going free to play. Our game isn’t shutting down. We’ll never include a cash shop. Our cash shop is only cosmetic. We’ll never sell boosts. Those boosts will never be overpowered. Our cash shop will never sell armor. Our cash shop will never sell the best armor. Our cash shop will never sell armor better than what is in game. We have no intention of selling our business to a higher publisher. We have complete creative control over our content. Nobody is being laid off.

Games are a service and a product, and that means if you’re going to jump on board you really need to know what you’re getting into. Online components for games will eventually die out and shut down, whether it be the developer pulling the plug or simply that nobody plays it anymore. Games fail, it sucks when it’s something you’re really into. I know this, I have a physical library of MMOs that I bought over the past two decades that have shut down for various reasons. Products go on discount, and most retailers for the purpose of keeping your patronage will let you get the discount if you purchased the item a week or two beforehand.

That said, when you bought the game at its full price, you did so because you thought it was worth that cost. Would you have not bought it knowing that the price would be 50% off a month later? Hindsight is 20/20, but expect it. You should be doing this for every product you buy, because anything could go on clearance the next week. If that makes it not worth buying, don’t buy it. You probably don’t need it right now.

I worked at Gamestop for a few years and nothing kills me more than the pre-Black Friday crowd. I actually had a gentleman come through one year and buy an Xbox One and Gears of War 4 at full price on November 23. November 23, two days before Black Friday. I told him this is going to be on sale in two days, you can get a special edition of the console plus the game for $249, that’s $100 off what you’re paying now. Don’t want to come into the store? Buy it online, it’ll be there. He said no, I want to buy this today, so I sold it to him with no protest. Here’s the kicker, he showed up on Saturday to complain about how he felt ripped off buying the console right before the sale. Tough shit, by the way we’re out of that version now.

In conclusion, an exercise of self control is a blessing. You’ll come out a much more satisfied consumer and less vindictive person overall.

Other than that I have no opinion on the matter.

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