Buying video games is a skill. At least, it is now. When I was a kid, you had one method: drooling while staring through a GameStop window until your mom told you to stop licking the glass. Then you walked away crying, because you couldn't afford it. And if you did happen to luck out and get a game on a gift-giving holiday like birthdays or Arbor Day, whatever was on that disc was what you got. There was no DLC, and patches for broken console games weren't a thing yet.
Eventually, I became an adult, and money began to trickle into my bank account. I started buying games like crazy to make up for a childhood of wanting things I could never get. Between these two periods I learned that there are so many more rules to consider when buying a game today than there ever used to be (five more, if I'm to be believed). But there's one rule I've got to talk about first, because it sets the table for every rule to follow ...
5The Era Of The Preorder Has Ended
There was a time when video game stores had us all convinced that if we didn't preorder a game we would never be able to play it for the rest of our lives. There was such urgency behind a GameStop employee's insistence that I preorder a game, I wondered if his only food source was store copies of preorder receipts.
That urgency served a purpose at one point. Preorders were for people who wanted to ensure they could play a game on release day. No more calling every store in the tri-county area to see if a game was in stock -- preorders allowed you to walk into a place knowing a copy was waiting behind the counter because you ordered it 17 months ago when Electronic Gaming Monthly reported unsubstantiated rumors of its development, so GameStop immediately started selling a product that didn't exist yet.
"Give me $60 and you'll get a bundle of UNLIMITED POTENTIAL."
I remember trying to buy Halo 3 from GameStop on the morning of its release. On big release days, GameStop has only enough copies to cover preorders. Walk-in buyers, like me, walked right back out empty-handed. So I went to the Best Buy up the road, where I found so many copies I could have Scrooge McDuck-dived into a pool of Halo 3s. That's when I got my first whiff of the bullshit behind preordering.
Pair that with the fact that while the bulk of consumers are still buying physical game discs (and it'll continue that way for a while) digital sales of video games are catching up fast. The beauty of a digital sale, other than the convenience, is that you don't have to nervously wonder if there's physically enough of something to go around. If you've got the cash, it's yours. Digital sales are bringing preorders to the brink of extinction.
"Hey, guys, do you think that bright streak represents our impending doom? No? That's what I thought."
Don't be fooled by the outdated allure of the preorder, no matter how many stupid-ass bonuses publishers use to ensnare you within their greedy trap. (Yay. A bonus weapon I'll find a better version of an hour into the game). Games are bigger and more complex than ever, which has led to some spectacular release-day fuck-ups. So before you buy a game at all ...
4Make Sure The Game Actually Works First
Day 1 disasters are nothing new. Fellow columnist Luke McKinney recently wrote about games that were dysfunctional hunks of shit from the day they were released. With Triple-A games only growing more complex, we'd all better get used to the occasional release-day clusterfuck of bugs, glitches, and crashes with no patch in sight for weeks or months or kind of just ... "Eh, whenever."
One of the more recent release-day calamities was with Batman: Arkham Knight. You know all that stuff I wrote in the previous entry about how I long ago learned my lesson about preordering games? Well, see, about that: I'm human and I am susceptible to severe bouts of stupidity. In my excitement, I preordered Arkham Knight ... for the PC. A lot of you just made the same sound as the America's Funniest Home Videos audience during a compilation of guys getting hit in the dick.
For those who don't know, Arkham Knight flat-out did not work on most computers for months after its release. Months. I stupidly preordered a game that I had no legitimate reason to preorder. I didn't want to have to wait to feel the satisfaction of owning it. Preordering a digital copy had accomplished nothing, but doing it convinced me that servants should carry me on a golden bed.
If I could bottle that false sense of satisfaction, I'd be the world's first trillionaire.
What I should have done was wait two seconds to check out what people were saying after the game's release. I tricked myself into thinking a preorder for a game I knew I'd love would make me feel good when the opposite would have made me feel so much better. It would have made me feel superior to those poor impatient dipshits who did preorder. And, as we all know, feeling superior to the less fortunate is so fucking delicious.
So, you should wait. But then that brings up the question of how long? Well ...