Pre-orders. The word itself causes a bit of a division among players. Some say it is the cardinal sin causing a slew of issues in the gaming universe. Others use it as a practice to ensure that they can receive a copy of the game the moment it becomes available. And still others use it as a sort of layaway system, allowing them to pay for games in small increments until it finally becomes available.
I didn’t necessarily fall into any of these categories, but I made it a regular habit to go to the local game store and pre-order any and every game that I was looking forward to.
All of that would change in 2015.
The latter half of 2014 was a letdown in a lot of major releases. After preloading Halo: The Master Chief Collection and installing the ungodly 20GB patch, I was ready for the clock to strike midnight and to relive the nostalgia of getting caught carrying rockets and snipers near the enemy spawn. But, when the hour passed I found myself knocking back copious amounts of Coke Zero as my efforts to join a match came up empty again and again. For the next couple months post-release, it was just a rinse and repeat of that night.
Assassin’s Creed Unity lacked that same hype for me, but after skipping several iterations of the game, I decided the French Revolution setting and co-op elements were enough to get me back. It didn’t take long to run into the first unplayable frame rate drop. Jumping from rafter to rafter in a church near the start of the game proved to be impossible. The disc left my system, jumped back in the box, and slipped swiftly into the land of games I never returned to.
The letdowns of 2014 went far beyond my own gaming experiences. Far Cry 4 forced some people to delete and reinstall the entire game in order to fix issues. Driveclub was an unplayable mess for the first several weeks of its — already quite delayed — release. And of the dozens of major releases on console almost, every single one had to launch with some sort of day one patch to resolve problems that were discovered after the game had gone gold. The landscape of gaming at that time seemed pretty bleak, and I was not alone in losing almost all my day-one faith.
Near the end of the year, I was talking with some of my friends who had experienced much of the same frustration I did, and it was during that conversation that I made my 2015 New Year’s gaming resolution. I was not going to pre-order a single game in 2015.
MLB 15 The Show starts calling my name with some great pre-order bonus? Sorry, no dice. Halo 5: Guardians special edition? Just can’t do it. Sega does a limited physical run of Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine? As tough as it might be, thanks, but no thanks.
My thinking behind the resolution was this. For single-player games I was looking forward to, I would wait for reviews to go up, look for any known issues in the reviews, and spend some time looking over forums and Reddit for bugs that may have popped up post release. For multiplayer games, I extended the process by a day, waiting to see if there were any server issues after the influx of gamers attempting to play during the first 24 hours. If nothing major popped up, I would buy the game. Simple.
It’s been a year since I made the resolution, going from pre-ordering about 20 games in 2014 to zero in 2015. There were moments of peace and moments of weakness. In the end, after many temptations, I picked up a few lessons I’m glad to have learned.