If you’re hearing rapid-fire tapping while reading this, it’s the sound of angry commenters telling me how stupid I am for pre-ordering videogames. Just try to ignore the noise and read on, then you can join in with them if you like.
So. No Man’s Sky happened, and it arrived with all of the power and fury of a 400-lb. man doing a belly flop from low orbit. It’s been woven in to the pariah of shady business practices, of hype gone horrifyingly wrong and of stupid gamers buying in to something based merely on promises without any hands-on experience. It’s caused important conversations as well as lit dumpster fires that smolder still.
So even after having played No Man’s Sky and being somewhat underwhelmed by it, why the hell did I pick up a collector’s edition of World of Final Fantasy?
Because I enjoy knowing something is mine and I fully support the things I’m seeing, hearing and reading.
Don’t get me wrong, splashing three figures on a box is hard to rationalize. But this isn’t really something that I do lightly, and I have to believe many others don’t either. I don’t wait with bated breath as I peruse game sites, hoping to toss my credit card like a shuriken. I’ve tried to focus on the steak around all the sizzle.
Pre-ordering is an agreement between myself and a game developer that says “I appreciate and am excited by the thing you’re showing me, and I would like to ensure I have that thing at the earliest possible opportunity”. It also is an agreement that I draft up after I’ve plucked as much information as I can from footage. I come to some conclusions that I draw from what’s being presented and try to parallel that with what I’ve experienced before and whether I enjoyed it. I also read opinions. Several of them. Though I have some trusted sources of op ed, they’re just one among several voices I listen to.
Take Titanfall 2 as an example. The game trailers incredibly well. The recent videos out for it are probably some of the most well-crafted pieces of hype I’ve witnessed in a fair while. That all said, I also can see that most of the videos are staged a little too well, and so I’m holding off until I’ve seen more hands-on impressions.
That’s not to say World of Final Fantasy’s presentations aren’t staged either. They’ve showed off vignettes of story with bare few clips of actual gameplay. But there’s also been enough other videos giving a look at the game’s reality that I feel more confident in my decision.
I’m also pre-ordering games based on feeling as much as careful study. A game that makes me excited is going to be something that will make research worthwhile, and I will admit that I enjoy the feeling of hype. Especially shared hype.
Now that can be dangerous as well, of course. It’s the sort of thing that has slaughtered No Man’s Sky. It’s what’s causing so many people to lean back in their chairs in worry and concern over crowdfunding projects like Star Citizen. It’s good to be skeptical, but I also find more value in sharing enjoyment than I do in sharing disappointment. I don’t like to be among those laughing at a failure or nodding knowingly as I smugly sip my tea. The silent are appeased, they say, but I think that being just as loud about excitement is just as healthy as braying at what fell short.
Finally, I pre-order games because I’ve accepted the role I play in making sure gaming continues on. I know that I’m one of the folks who engenders what’s being seen as a bad habit, and I don’t really completely care.
That’s not to say that I’m spending money to spite anonymous people on the internet. It’s more because I’m comfortable in the understanding that games are expensive as hell to make, and companies are going to try their asses off to make you buy in at the earliest possible moment. It’s why Steam Early Access is a thing. It’s why crowdfunding is a thing. While I find fault with some of these practices in varying degrees, I also accept that it’s kind of the way of things now. And at least when I pre-order a game, I’m getting a product that should (ideally) be more complete than something in development.
Have I been burned before as a result? Sure. Street Fighter V was a mistake. No Man’s Sky is about what I expected, but isn’t really a heavy feature. But for all the few times I’ve been “wrong”, there are three times as many examples of being “right”. Doom was a good idea. Final Fantasy XIV’s relaunch was a good idea. Pretty much every Zelda game ever made. Super Mario Maker. Hell, I even found enjoyment from Metroid: Other M. At least from a gameplay perspective.
Now does that mean I’ll feel awful if pre-ordering is slain and victory is achieved against The Villainous Major Gaming Companies? Not really, no. I believe that companies should be forthright. I feel anger when a bait-and-switch is done just as much as anyone. Genuine wrongdoing should be turned around. I just don’t think that pre-ordering is wrong.
Pre-ordering is just one facet of a multi-faceted issue that envelops gaming today, and I’d like to think of it as the least important of the lot. Gaming has much larger problems than whether someone wanted something on day one. I mean, DLC is getting kind of silly, don’t you think?