Like microtransactions, DLC and DRM, video game pre-orders have become an increasingly controversial subject in recent years as publishers seek to incentivize them by cobbling together special editions of games complete with extra missions and bits of merchandise, such as Aiden Pearce's "iconic" hat.
It's easy to see why gamers might start to become disillusioned by pre-order culture. Since it's possible for developers to fix bugs and glitches after games have already been released, a "ship now, patch later" attitude has meant that gamers who play games on day one will often find themselves running up against technical issues, effectively putting down money to "gamma test" the product. Furthermore, even pre-order bonuses like Alien: Isolation's extra missions, which feature almost the entire cast of the original Alien, will often became available for download some time after the game's release anyway.
Whatever the reason, it seems that the glamor of pre-orders may be wearing off. According to GamesIndustry, Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg has reported an industry-wide "secular downtown" in the number of games being pre-ordered, attributing this decline to different factors such as the growing dominance of digital downloads, the wide availability of games on day one and the decline in demand for titles on last-gen consoles.
Hirshberg said that it's important to "reset expectations" when it comes to pre-orders, since the number of pre-orders for a title doesn't reveal as much about demand for a game as it used to. Better predictors for success, he claimed, are metrics like consumer awareness and purchase intent.
Gamers were given yet another reason to be disgruntled with Activision's pre-orders this week, as a number of Best Buy customers had their Destiny Limited Edition pre-orders cancelled due to supply shortages. This comes in the wake of Destiny's Ghost Edition pre-orders being cancelled for some customers at Walmart last month, which led to pre-orders being auctioned off for up to $1000 on eBay.
With regards to Activision's major upcoming title Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Hirshberg said that it was not been immune to the downward trend in pre-orders, but that purchase intent is much higher than last year's Call of Duty: Ghosts. Only time will tell whether this downturn has any effect on the way video game publishers and retailers treat pre-orders, but for now let us know in the comments if you like to pre-order games, or prefer to wait and see how well they're reviewed first.