So Guild Wars 2 went on sale yesterday. You won’t actually be able to play the finished game for months, although they’ll let you in for the odd beta weekend, bugs and all. But if you pre-purchase then you will have paid full price already. Let’s run that by again. You will have paid full price for something you can’t use properly for months, at which point you may also be able to buy it cheaper. Congratulations on making a poorly thought out purchase there, dude.
When even Ravious is saying that this might not be a great trend (and he never criticises Arenanet) it’s worth paying attention. Clearly MMO devs in particular would love to jump on the pre-purchase bandwagon. Of course it’d be better to get people to pay while the hype cycle is in full swing and any balancing/ content-free/ or endgame issues haven’t yet come to light. Meanwhile, you the consumer have spent that money on something you aren’t going to be able to use yet. I suppose that won’t matter to people who don’t have to live on much of a budget, which is the market for these offers. For any fans, there is no reason at all not to wait until launch, buy the game then (for the same price or possibly cheaper) and all you missed out on are a few meagre beta weekends. Anet still get your cash, you still get your game – we can call this novel purchasing model “the exchange of money for goods.”
The other thing he said that surprised me was that Diablo 3 was also available for pre-purchase. Now why in the name of anything would anyone do that unless it was part of the WoW Annual Pass (which I’m also dubious about)? I pre-ordered Diablo 3 when it was announced, got a really good price on Amazon, and I can still cancel the order if I decide before launch that I need the money for something else. THAT is what pre-orders have always been about. What exactly is anyone getting from the pre-purchase that makes it worth more than that? (the answer is either nothing, or perhaps the ability to download it instantly on release if that’s a big deal to you).
You could make the same argument about Kickstarters but they aren’t typically mass market AAA affairs, and need your support to make the game at all. It’s a different type of consumer experience. They’re designed so that fans can support their favourite creatives, and typically offer plenty of insight into the creative process so that funders can feel involved. (Also, we don’t know whether Kickstarters/ crowdfunded as a concept is just a flash in the pan and people will get bored of them after awhile.)
But meantime, pre-purchase is not so much F2P as pay to wait.