So, for the most part, I pre-order my games. That’s mostly because living in the middle of nowhere and not always able to get to the nearest GAME store for new releases, I find it easier for it to be delivered to my door. Of course, it is always annoying when the pre-orders are, sometimes, not just the vanilla version of the game but also little other attachments that are meant to enhance the gameplay experience… or just exclusive virtual and physical collectibles of varying shapes, sizes, types and ‘worth it’ value. Now don’t get me wrong, sometimes paying a little more is no hardship for a good game, and that there are going to be fans of franchises/studios who want to have the exclusive merchandise to go with their main purchase, but the business of providing a good pre-order is fraught with issues. There are good examples of pre-ordering… and then there are bad ones.
Here are some of my experiences.
Good Pre-Order: Persona 5 Take Your Heart Edition
This is to date my most expensive pre-order at £79.99 (the price has since gone up to a massive £199.50 from one seller), but given that Persona 5 already had a great track record in Japan, I thought that this was worth the punt. Included with the Take Your Heart Edition was:
- A copy of the full game encased in collectible steelbook case
- A replica school tote bag with the Shujin Academy insignia embroidered on it
- An adorable 4”(10cm) Morgana plushie
- 64-page hardcover art book (that includes concept art of the main characters, their Personas, and many other characters and locales)
- The official soundtrack CD
- And it’s all boxed up in a collectible box that has the main characters printed onto it; it kinda looks like the shape and size of a treasure box from the main game
As you guys are no doubt aware, Persona 5 has been hailed as my most current obsession, as well as earning some well-deserved accolades (Game of the Year perhaps later on??) And I love the little extras I got with the game; I’m think of turning the box into my little 3DS treasure trove so to save room and I’ve gone to work with the bag a couple of times now since its really handy, but the Mona plushie has pride of place in my plushie collection. Also, I just think its nice to see how the concept artists had evolved during the games development (Yusuke would have had longer hair… LONGER HAIR) and its really interesting what little notes they’ve put in (Makoto’s braid? That’s actually a hairband made from synthetic hair – this is a great tip from the concept artists for potential Makoto cosplayers). Oh and the CD… the music! The jazz! I love it! As pre-orders go, this one definitely had the most ‘worth it’ value to me.
Bad Pre-Order: Mass Effect: Andromeda Standard Edition w/ Pre-Order Bonuses
This probably marks the first time I got a pre-order that had bonuses attached to a standard version of the game. For about £48 (plus £2 price reduction by being an Amazon Prime Member plus Pre-Order Price Guarantee) this included:
- Full copy of the game
- Deep Space Explorer armour
- Nomad vehicle skin
- 5 50% XP boosters for multiplayer
Overall impressions: “meh”. It was nice to get the Deep Space Explorer armour fairly quickly but I wouldn’t say it gave me “the edge” as the blurb tried to spin it. The skin for the Nomad was more for aesthetics, but hey, at least you aren’t paying extra for it. As for the multiplayer boosts, I can see how that would be very helpful… but as someone who doesn’t enjoy multiplayer and pretty much played through without even touching the multiplayer option, I’m glad I only paid for the full, initially buggy version of Mass Effect: Andromeda rather than for these extras that, in the end, didn’t really do much at all. Looking at the other ‘pre-order’ editions though, I struggle to see the point in some of them. Granted that, okay, I get the Elite weapons, I get the extra armour but… come on, “a pet pyjak”? Another “Pathfinder Casual Outfit”? A diecast 1:18 scale model of the Nomad, possibly remote controlled if you pay the extra £77.23 (converted from the $100USD they were asking for) on top of the other £77.23 you would have paid for it to not be remote controlled? Seriously I got more goodies for my buck that I actually enjoyed for £80 from Atlus. This is a case where I as a gamer seriously wondered if by paying for a pre-order I was just helping to perpetuate the issue of unfinished to buggy games being launched just so that deadlines were met rather than for game developers to actually say, “We need more time to quality check please.”
Good Pre-Order: The Sexy Brutale Full-House Edition
This is another of the small scale pre-order specials, though it seemed to be the only one available from Amazon. For £24.99 plus Amazon Pre-Order Price Guarantee (no £2 knock off as I stopped being a Prime Member at this point), this included:
- Full copy of the game
- A game manual in beautiful colour (a rare beast of this modern age! Last seen in the Noughties!)
- The official CD soundtrack
The game, simplicity in itself with gameplay mechanics, polished to a high-shine was definitely worth the price of being able to support a smaller game studio for all the time and effort they used to make it. However, the real jewel in this bundle was the soundtrack. Catchy jazz music that wouldn’t be out of place in a Poirot novel, atmospheric themes and a beautiful vocal talent to play the part of the game’s resident chanteuse Tequila Belle, this a soundtrack that will get a lot of use even after the party is finished.
Bad Pre-Order: Assassin’s Creed Unity: Bastille Edition
Okay, this is a pre-order that, to this day, I’m still sore about even though its been years since it launched and the game that followed, AC Syndicate, did repair some of the damage that had been done. Sadly I can’t recall how much I paid for it, but I can tell you that the price is a much more reasonable now at close to £45. It included:
- The game
- Jumbo steel case to keep it and all goodies safe
- CD of official soundtrack
- Official artbook
- Two lithographs
- Two ‘exclusive’ single player missions
On top of this, I -probably stupidly- forked out more money to get a season pass because that included the Dead Kings DLC and Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China. As I’m sure you are all aware, Ubisoft’s launch was… let’s be generous and say it was not entirely successful. The multiplayer, while ambitious, followed the example of anything from the Clarkson era of Top Gear by being rubbish; bad connections, overly congested servers, horrible and some funny glitches (I had a glitch where NPCs were raining from the sky when I regenerated once). Although my experience of the game wasn’t too bad given that I tend to avoid multiplayer in general, and the glitches didn’t make it completely unplayable, my experience soured when Ubisoft made everything that I had paid for FREE as an apology for launching a game so riddled with bugs and glitches it looked practically unfinished. Now, while the blow was softened a bit by the offer of a free game from Ubisoft’s PS4 catalogue to all those who had paid for the content – a choice between Watch_Dogs, Rayman Legends, Far Cry 4, and two other games that I believe were part of the Tom Clancy and Driver franchises but don’t quote me on that – I was still of the belief that, at least, those that paid for season passes should have had the option to request a refund, or even request for the next two instalments of Assassin’s Creed Chronicles to be offered to them for free if the five games on offer weren’t desirable. (Not that it mattered in the end; China was easily the best of the three, with the series going into a steady decline from there.)
I shouldn’t be too sore though; I did get Rayman Legends out of it, and all the payable content available was now free to everyone, no extra mobile games or payouts needed. Even so, the physical bonus parts of the pre-order were actually not that great either. They all still live in that box, untouched since I first looked at them. I would say that this was, by far, my worst experience of pre-ordering thus far, and the first time I learned to be a bit more cautious with my limited funds. Thank god for Syndicate sort of re-establishing the status quo for Ubisoft despite just how average it was – at least lessons were learnt and we were delivered a game that was a bit more polished even if patches did come in from time to time.
So what can one learn from this sample of my past adventures with pre-orders? Basically, you can’t really predict what the outcome will be. AC Unity was painted to be a real step up from AC Black Flag, yet arrogance and ambition caused a ferocious backlash that to this very day still haunts Ubisoft, but they appear to have learnt their lesson. Their example has also paid to serve other developers to tread carefully, for their target audience may be small, but they are many and have teeth; they will not take kindly to being taken for a ride with a poor game. But equally, you can find that you may have stumbled upon a diamond in the rough like I had with The Sexy Brutale – the studio Tequila Works hadn’t spent much time or indeed expense at promoting the game compared to Rime, yet I think that if The Sexy Brutale had been polished just that little bit more, it could have become a real indy darling alongside the likes of Octodad. Then of course, you have the slight disappointments (Mass Effect) and the soaring highs (Persona) that happen, and you know what? I’m okay with that.
My advice would be, pay for the games you love because in this day and age getting a patch to fix bugs and glitches are quick, painless, and happen before you even realise your PS4/Xbox/etc has finished downloading them. Seriously, Nier: Automata had a patch downloaded BEFORE you even had a chance to put the game on after installation, and that was to fix a really nasty bug that made it unplayable. How’s that for quick service? If you want to try something new, it may be best to wait until prices have dropped and patches have been around for a while before committing to it. You want to play a new game to you when it is at its absolute best, not when it’s struggling at the start – this is something I wish I did for Mass Effect: Andromeda, and this is advice I’ve since kept to now that I bought three pre-owned games that I missed the first time they were around and now enjoy.
And if you want the physical goodies? Make sure its something you really want. I know there are people out there enjoying their replicas of the Nomad or their figurines of main characters of a franchise out there. Me? I’m just enjoying having Mona sitting on top of my chest of drawers with my other plushies while listening to the P5 soundtrack. And that’s enough for me.