Pre-ordering is a phenomenon that came out of nowhere and has since become common-place within the Gaming Industry. The concept makes sense when purchasing a physical copy of a game at a game story – you don’t want to wait several days for more copies to be sent to the store. But with a majority of games being sold online via Steam or Origin or just digital downloads, pre-ordering doesn’t make much sense.
When pre-ordering a game now you’ll usually get some extra armor or cosmetic item with the purchase. It’s nothing pivotal to your game play, but it’s a nice reward by the company for being in their mind a “loyal customer”. However, when you think about it the game company is basically stating that while we’re making the game we’re going to make a subset of content that traditionally (Think ten years ago) would’ve been released with the game. Instead, it now goes to customers who are willing to guarantee their day 1 purchase of $60. Even worse, it appears there has become an obsession within consumers to ensure they have the full experience. When Mass Effect 3 was being released it was announced that only Pre-orders were going to have access to a special character (I won’t spoil this). In a game like Mass Effect this is huge – that’s tons of special character interactions, lore, and *minimal spoilers this character was a race we’d never had as part of our party before. EA strong armed anyone who was a Mass Effect fan to purchase the game as a pre-order or wait months for the game to go on sale.
The greatest flaw with pre-ordering from a consumer’s perspective lies in you putting your faith into the company with no chance of 1) a refund or 2) having game reviews. If pre-orders included a beta or test version this could possibly be acceptable. But, for now pre-ordering is basically gambling. Yes, you get a few drinks served to you by a pretty woman (cosmetic rewards and trinkets), but the casino (Game Company) is going to take your money. The house always wins.