2015 Resolution Reflections

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 is nearly over, and everyone from Buzzfeed to the Daily Mail is in the mood for reflecting on the year. I've got a bit of that spirit myself, though I don't think we need another best or worst of list. I'd like to focus on something more personal. Last January, I made a single resolution for 2015; no more pre-orders. It has been almost 365 days since that post and the year has been full of big releases, each promising various sundries for as exclusive pre-order content. So, how did I do?

I'm happy to report that I kept my promise. Throughout the entire year, despite major games like Witcher 3, Fallout 4, The Taken King, and Star Wars Battlefront, I didn't cave to any of the pre-order carrots offered up by any publishers this year. It wasn't easy at first, but as the year wore on, it became easier and easier.

I was pressured on numerous occasions by pop-up ads on my browsers, friends and the ever pushy Gamestop employees. Their reasons why I should pre-order the game varied greatly. I installed a more aggressive ad-blocker on my browser to stop the omnipresent ads. My friends usually laid the "don't you want to play with us," guilt trip, easily countered by reminding them that I could still play with them if I bought the game later. The Gamestop employees were more difficult to deal with. Their constant haranguing about exclusive content drove me to purchase a number of my games online, but the few time I found myself in store to buy something, a firm no was rarely sufficient.

Through it all, I found that I was much happier with my game purchases this year. I was careful about what games I bought and when I bought them. I only bought one game on launch day this year, and that was Fallout 4. I had already played a bit of it at PAX, and read Polygon's review before deciding to pick it up. I felt confident that I was buying a game that I would enjoy, rather than making a $60 commitment on a hunch and a couple trailers.

The principle weapon of the pre-order is the lure of exclusive content. The thought of buying a game at launch and not having all the available content is frustrating to a lot of the hardcore players I know. To many casual players, it is simply the lure of a shiny thing that makes this device so effective. Taken at face value though, when is the last time you received content from a pre-order that stayed exclusive forever and/or was useful throughout the game? I can't tell you how many times I've discarded or ignored the bonus content because it was only useful for a short period of time, or was never that interesting to begin with. Add to that the fact that these things are almost always released later as either a free or paid add-on, and the argument for exclusive DLC breaks down.

I haven't missed pre-order bonuses. After only a short time, I realized how little any of it really mattered to my overall experience. It just isn't important to any of the games I've played. Because I didn't pre-order The Taken King, I didn't get the shader, emblem or three weapons exclusive to pre-orders, but I haven't seen anyone wearing/using any of that equipment in the last two months. People may say I'm missing out, but I don't see what I'm really missing.

Ridding myself of pre-orders has made me a much happier player. I have felt far more informed about the games I chose to buy this year, and was disappointed in my choices far, far less than previous years. I know that many in the gaming community that were declaring similar resolutions have folded, but I still encourage everyone to stay away from this predatory marketing technique. Take it from me, you have nothing to gain from pre-orders.