The Pre-Order Craze, And Our Unflappable Acceptance Of ‘Stuff’

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Within the past year, many can remember seeing more ads popping up like so many kernels of popcorn, giving you glimpses of this title or that game. On the back end of those ads (primarily prefaced by our friends at Gamestop) is an ability to get a free additional piece of material for your game. Perhaps it’s a new pair of shoes for your in-game avatar, a special gun only accessible if you pre-order right now, or something a little fancier like a felt Sonic hat.

Yet when it comes to perpetual gameplay, why set up so may incentives, when for the most part it’s either an object you’ll use for the first few hours or something that’s an arbitrary cosmetic device? It could be argued that it’s a way for developers to “give a little something back to the players” yet when guaranteed numbers for a product jump almost 20,000 units, just because of one additional piece of content… it’s nothing to shake a stick at.

So what’s really the cause of the craze? Originally, the idea of a pre-order was to walk in with your money for the upcoming Mario game and put down a small fee, guaranteeing that you would in-fact would be coming to pick it up on the day of release. Save for a few games back in the day, nothing was given out or expected, except the pleasure in knowing that you were going to have your game.

Understandably, this is just a minor history lesson for the young and ‘young at heart.’ Still today, the term ‘pre-order’ has become synonymous with ‘bonus,’ and it’s because of this that people go to the stores to get their next big game early. You look at the upcoming titles: Halo: Reach, Mafia II, Madden 11, and NBA 2K11. All of these are offering special deals (even some are different depending on the where you get your game, or in what format) simply because developers and companies have learned that consumerism has grown into not only a “have-to-have” world, but a “Gotta-collect-’em-all” one as well.

Sadly, there’s nobody to blame but ourselves for our collectible nature. Take a look at a majority of your Achievements or Trophies on your games: more than half of the players reading this will have completed 75% of their game’s total potential, because there is a thing telling them that it’s available. For the most part it is fun but it gives a glimpse into how the modern day Gamer thinks.

So when the companies and the developers see this, they aren’t to blame for the additional swag thrown onto their handiwork. They are just simply a pawn on the board of Battle Chess, watching as they gain revenue. They do try to make everything worth the effort, and make it almost like a delicious fly paper to coax gamers to their game, yet they can only do so much. Without spending more money on tangible objects (and losing the revenue they would be earning), downloadable content is the most efficient way to go.

Let’s face it – if there is something that we can get for free, just by reserving a game we already want – then why not?  The thing that has to be addressed is the manner at which it’s presented and what is offered. Let it have meaning, like getting the decoder ring at the bottom of a Cracker Jack Box, rather than another useless add-on that we will only use for a week and then ignore.

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