Long Winded Answer
Over on MMO Games we have a column called FAQ where during the course of the week someone proposes a topic, and we have until Friday to send in our responses to chime in on it. While I don’t exactly think the name FAQ really fits anymore… since we aren’t really posting any “frequently asked questions” I do think the format is pretty cool. Friday however was an exceptionally busy day for me, and I never got around to sending Ardua my paragraph on this weeks topic. Part of the problem was that the question while pretty straight forward didn’t have a straight answer to it for me. Or at least my response would have ended up far more long winded and nuanced than a simple question and answer column needed. So I thought today I would use this prompt for my morning blog post. The question seemed pretty simple and straight forward: “Do you Pre-purchase/pre-order MMO Expansions?”
The only legitimate question that I can answer is “sometimes”, which in itself is deeply unsatisfying. I feel like I need to delve into my changing feelings about pre-ordering things in general. There was a time when I thought anyone who pre-ordered anything… was a chump. I used to look at the folks at GameStop and EB Games with derision as they tried to get me to pre-order the next thing on the horizon as I held in my hands the current “hot” thing. I viewed it as a heinous form of up-selling product and nothing more. Once upon a time I used to get a rush from going out on opening day to try and find a copy of whatever game I wanted to play. I can remember a time when working at the mobile development company, when we called around to a bunch of stores trying to find enough copies of Battlefield 2 to purchase for the team… so we could death match it later that evening. I remember the adrenaline rush of checking the stack of games in the store to see if that one title you wanted was available.
Ultimately what ended up changing this dynamic for me was the MMO. These games marketed towards a niche of extremely devoted fans, that absolutely had to at all costs have a copy of the latest expansion in their grubby hands on release day. After all we all know that anything less means you are going to get a late start and struggle to keep up with your friends and guild members. There were several close calls in the past, like when I tried to get a copy of Planes of Power expansion for Everquest and had to go to four stores to be able to find it, or when I quite literally bought the last copy in Tulsa of Dark Age of Camelot: Trials of Atlantis. The game that ultimately changed things for me however was World of Warcraft and the fact that quite literally if you did not manage to get your copy on opening day, it ended up being a month before more copies were circulating on store shelves.
I walked into Wal-mart at midnight on the night the game was released, and while there was a line wrapping around the corner at GameStop down the street… I was able to pick up a copy without issue from a massive display. I thought those folks who pre-ordered and were waiting in line were chumps. That was until at least half of my local friends were unable to find copies at all, because they didn’t preorder and didn’t go searching for copies that night. It was awkward having to try and catch them up when they finally got their hands on a serial code. If this lesson was not enough, I saw the same thing happen during Burning Crusade, which ultimately shifted me to the side of the “pre-order”. Something was different about the MMO and its player base, they were more dedicated… more rabid… and those previous expansions became harder to find. Something else changed… quite honestly I got older and less willing to go through frustrations in order to get that thing I am looking for. I simply wanted to be able to get my game, on time, and have it there ready to go when the servers come online.
Now if I am deeply into a game franchise or playing an MMO… I will pretty much always pre-order the game. Where the sometimes comes into play is largely based on what a company is willing to give me to buy that game ahead of time. Most games that I play that are non-MMOs I will divide into three categories. There are games that I want to play the moment it is available, and will likely pre-order no matter what. There are games that I want to play but whenever I get a chance, without much pressure… these games I will likely not preorder and will almost certainly wait until they go on sale… probably not even interested until they are at least 30% off the launch price. Then there are games I am vaguely interested in and would only be willing to pick up for $5-$10 on a whim. Where a game company can change this equation is by giving me exclusive stuff that I will only ever see if I pre-order the game. The problem here however is that almost all of the time… companies ultimately release whatever bauble they are “gifting” players as a DLC that can be added at a later date. This DLC also tends to go on sale just like the game does on Steam… pretty much destroying the allure.
Ultimately to answer the question properly in the form that it was posed… Yes I usually preorder an MMO Expansion… with some conditions. Firstly I play a lot of MMOs, so in order for me to snap it up the moment it comes out it has to be one I am excited to be playing, or that I expect to be spending a lot of time in. Secondly it has to provide me something that I could not normally get if I did not pre-order. Everquest II was the king of this, by offering limited time pre-order bonuses that you quite literally never saw again. I am still kicking myself on missing out on that white snow wolf mount that they gave out with the preorder of velious. So basically if they have some exclusive item that I think I will regret not having preordered to get… then I go ahead and do the deed. The big thing I do these days however is I never pre-order physical copies of anything. Digital copies are just nicer, because they do not rely on the mail to deliver. I am looking for the method of acquisition that has the least pain points, and a digital code that is often times automagically applied to my account is the clear winner.
Source: Tales of the Aggronaut