Eric Hirshberg, Activision's CEO and president, recently said during a post-earning conference call that people aren't pre-ordering games the way they used to. For the sake of accuracy, his exact wording was, "You guys can see the same thing we see industry-wide, which is that there's been sort of a secular downturn as it relates to pre-orders." He posed possible reasons for the decline, suggesting shoppers aren't as crazy about last-gen games and are more likely to buy digital. You know, the things companies like to blame that don't involve putting the focus on themselves.
Let's be honest. Go up to any gamer, someone who buys at least 20 games a year, and tell them pre-orders are down. They'll probably say, "Of course they are." If the person you're talking to is a real smart-aleck, they may even roll their eyes. It isn't about digital pre-orders, because there are options to pre-order titles on Steam, the PlayStation Store, and Xbox Live. It's that the people paying for the games have gotten smarter.
When it comes to PC games, people aren't going to pre-order. What's the point, when there's a chance of a 5-15% discount when the title launches on Steam? Or, more importantly, the looming shadow of one of the big sales. Wait, let me capitalize that--Big Sales. Sites like Steam, GOG, Green Green Man Gaming, and Amazon have spoiled us. If a PC game doesn't have a debut deal, it goes on the wishlist. We wait until one of our regular sites goes crazy and drops the price at least 50%. Maybe, if we're really lucky, it'll even show up in one of those Bundles.
What about the wait? Well, that's okay too. We've got a healthy backlog, thanks to our bargain-hunting bonanzas.
As for console and handheld games, there's little point in buying a game at launch. Exceptions exist, of course. I placed a pre-order for the Persona Q Wild Cards Premium Edition because I wanted the 3DS case and soundtrack. I encouraged early adoption of Mario Kart 8 as well, because you couldn't beat that Club Nintendo promotion that offered an extra game for free. Barring any any special promotions, exclusive physical rewards, or savings, there's just no reason to pre-order a game anymore.
It isn't even a quality concern, as though we're worried if the games will be worth it. If we're excited enough to consider pre-ordering, it probably doesn't matter if the game is mediocre. It's the cost. We are wasting money if we pre-order. The prices drop too quickly, and stores are eager to offer launch week sales. A triple-A title you spent $60 on last month could easily drop $10, maybe even $20 in only 30 days. Even better, that brief wait means the patches will be released when you play, resulting in a better overall experience. Plus, we're fast approaching the free-for-all season. September, October, and November 2014 are a flurry of releases, and it just makes sense to hold off and see what Black Friday has to offer.
So yes, pre-orders are down. People are smarter about spending their money, to ensure they get the most gaming pleasure for their cash. Thanks for stating the obvious!