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Why Pre-Ordering Video Games is Wrong

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

 

It’s summer time baby! Picnics, camping, the beach, pre-orders for fall video games. The former three are all great things; the last however is about as fun as getting your delicious Fourth of July BBQ minus all of the bread, condiments, sides, beer, and fun. Pre-ordering video games is like getting a lukewarm Oscar Meyer hotdog on a cheap paper plate. It’s sad, it’s wrong, and we won’t stand for it! 

Of course it wasn’t always this way. It used to be that pre-ordering a high demand game was the way to be sure you could be playing said game on day one. It was a badge that you were one of the first to have this awesome new experience before anyone else, and you knew that it was going to be a good experience. You were the guy or girl on your block that was going to have a level 80/prestige/all characters before anyone else. 

That joy, however is past. Today pre-orders have become a marketing tool used by developers and publishers to hook excited gamers into buying half finished products. It has allowed game developers to become sloppy and lazy and publishers to create BS marketing schemes to keep the money flowing. 

Ten or so years ago the pre-order was what was mentioned before. You had a triple A title like Halo or Call of Duty about to release and you would place your pre-order in at GameStop so that you wouldn’t have to wait weeks to get to play with your friends. Pre-orders could also help publishers determine how many copies of a game they were going to need at launch. Imagine how nice this would have been back when Pokémon Yellow came out. 

At some point though things started to change. This change began maybe four or five years ago when they started adding DLC (downloadable content) to pre-ordered games. At first this was a nice little bonus for gamers. Maybe you get a character outfit or some kind of weapon, nothing that made a huge impact on the game, but was just kind of fun to have. 

Then it started to morph into retailer exclusive pre-order DLC. Oh you want the kick ass gun well you have to pre-order at Best Buy. Want the sweet looking armor pack? Well you need to pre-order at Wal-Mart. And retailers, developers, and publishers weren’t done there. They would create “Special Collectors Editions” that in some cases no more than just some extra DLC that added anywhere fro $10 - $20 on to the initial $60 game. You’d pay up because you’re whore for all that kitschy digital shit, and then three months later they are offering it all free or greatly reduced in a “Game of the Year” Edition.

Now that may seem frustrating to you, and it most certainly has been for gamers, but in the last couple of years things have gotten much worse. Not only are companies still pulling the DLC scams; they are now not even releasing completed games. Big name games like Drive Club, Batman: Arkham Origins, and SimCity released with problems that took months to fix just to make the games playable, and in Batman’s case they just bagged fixing it and moved on to the next game.

This has become a real problem for gamers of any age. Imagine you’re 8 years old on Christmas day. You get a Playstation 4 and the game you’ve been begging for for 6 months. You pop it into your machine and…. this game needs a 15GB update. Oh you only get 2Mbps Internet? Bummer kid. Oh you took your system to your friend’s house and got the update? That’s too bad our servers are down because we didn’t bother fully testing them before launch. Why? Profits and deadlines kid! Thank your parents for that pre-order though.

So this summer remember you don’t want a lukewarm breadless wiener during the holidays, so don’t pre-order your games no matter what awesome digital crap they are offering to entice you. The only way any of this will end is if the consumer speaks with their wallet and demands a finished product at launch without gimmicks or scams. Wait for the reviews. Wait for word from your friends. Then armed with that knowledge go out and buy the best possible product.

 

Related Slideshow: The Best Virtual Reality Gadgets and Games

Big names are now making VR a viable and desirable “new” technology. Google, Facebook, HTC, and Samsung are all in the game and the results make the 75-year-old View Master look like a child’s…well you get the idea. 

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ViewMaster

In fact the View Master has gotten a serious upgrade thanks to Google and it’s Google Cardboard project. The new View Master is now a fully immersive experience with 360-degree worlds, photosphere, and interactive “field-trips.” The $30 plastic viewer requires a smartphone to function, and can be replaced with a standard cardboard setup since most of the work is done inside the app, but the View Master is a much more durable version and will come with the classic reels. These reels, however are no longer inserted into the top of the device, but laid on a table and viewed through the smartphone app triggering the experience. 

Of course since the View Master is just a sturdier version of the standard Google Cardboard so it can be used for the variety of apps now available for the platform. Some of the best apps include Orbulus, VR Cosmic Rollercoaster, and Village. The View Master will be available in October, and will eventually support both Android and iOS.

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Samsung Gear VR

Similar to the Google Cardboard, Samsung has developed it’s own VR headset designed to use the Galaxy Note 4 as the display. The Gear VR is actually a very good-looking full-on headset that only cost $200. The drawback, and it is a very big very expensive drawback, is that it requires the $700 Galaxy Note 4 in order to function. Another drawback is the limited software. It can of course use all the VR apps and features available for Google Cardboard, but those are still very limited both in visual quality and variety. If you already have a Note 4 and $200 to blow this could certainly be a fun toy, but at this point I would probably just go for the View Master or straight cardboard box.

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HTC Vive

Like Samsung HTC is best known for it’s outstanding smartphones, particularly the outstanding One series. They were also the first to develop an Android phone so you would think they would be content with the Cardboard project or something similar to the Gear VR. This is not the case; HTC, with the help of Valve, has developed the HTC Vive a high end VR headset aimed at PC gamers. Basically HTC is handling the manufacturing of the device while Valve/Steam handle the software. With a Fall 2015 release date the Vive is the first of the big VR headsets to launch, and could set the stage for the others.

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Project Morpheus

Project Morpheus is Sony’s go at VR technology. This headset will connect directly to the Playstation 4 and provide a similar experience to the HTC Vive but in a console/living room setting as opposed to Vive’s PC/desk setting. Demos of the Morpheus have people on a luge, swimming with sharks, and robbing banks. If successful this could breathe new life into Sony’s lackluster attempt to copy the Nintendo Wii; the Playstation Move. Some of the issues gamers may have here are with the headset being wired to the PS4 and the potential amount of movement required of some games. Now movement and wires aren’t by themselves a bad thing, but pair them with a living room full of furniture, maybe a child/dog or two, and what amounts to a blindfold strapped to your head and you can see the potential for issues.

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Oculus Rift

The device that re-started it all; Oculus Rift was a project that began back in 2012 with Oculus VR founders Palmer Luckey and Brendan Iribe. Palmer envisioned a lightweight head mounted display (HMD) that was both functional and inexpensive. The first prototype was little more than a couple of LCD panels duct taped to the head and running Doom 3. In August of 2012 the company began its Kickstarter campaign that introduced the first “dev-kit” for $300 allowing many the chance to develop for this new and exciting platform. In 2014 Facebook bought Oculus VR for $2.2 billion. The Oculus Rift is set to launch sometime next year and will likely have a price tag of around two or three hundred dollars. 

The development of this next generation of VR looks like a promising one. Not only are these devices being developed for gaming and looking at pictures, but virtual tourism, medical uses, and virtual art shows are just the tip of the iceberg. Companies are developing VR arcades that merge real world environments and virtual ones to create even more realistic experiences.

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As exciting as all this sounds it is all still in it’s…we’ll say…toddler stage. Things are looking good, but we won’t know how good for another two to three years at the least. If you want to try VR out for yourself Google Cardboard is your best bet currently as most of the more advanced options don’t launch until later this year or next. You can find a list of Cardboard sellers here, and perhaps I’ll see you in a virtual space down the road.

 
 

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