Go back a good fifteen years and the pre-order and day-one purchase used to secure you something more than a shiny steel case or exclusive content. Being among the first to lay cash down, secured you the full gaming experience early.

Pre-orders and day-one buys used to be worth the extra cost. Now however, things have changed.

GTA 3 pre-order day one buy

Once upon a time, pre-ordering or day-one purchasing were worth the deposit and extra cost. Not anymore…

Head to your favourite gaming store, online retailer or gaming client and you’ll not only pay an average of 15% more to pre-order or ‘day-one’, you’ll miss out on fully revised games for that all-important first playthrough.

Larger hard drives, faster broadband speeds, increasing development costs and strict publisher deadlines, have made developers more reliant on post-release updates (patches).

The kick in the teeth

game pre-order day one bugs

Assassin’s Creed: Unity suffered from a classic case of ‘it can’t possibly break the build-illitis). A last minute, untested update, added to the retail build before publisher submission. Was it fair that early purchases (at RRP) had to play it in this state?

Don’t like the idea of Steam’s ‘Early Access’? Well, guess what? Paying £44.99 – £54.99 for that PC/Xbox One/PS4 game that was bug-ridden on release, isn’t far off that. The gamers who come along 2 weeks – 2 months after (once the game has been fully patched), not only experience the game as it was meant to be played, they’ll more than likely have purchased the game at a discounted price! Are devs and publishers really looking after their early supporters?

What can be done?

Are the developers at fault? Of course not. Post-release patching is an essential part of improving the product via customer feedback. The problem lies in the pricing. It’s not what the publishers/developers are doing – it’s what they’re charging and when.

supermarket game promotions

The offer above may have been when bought with XBL Points, but a different offer saw Gears of War 2 sold for £29.99 on the first week of release. Devs and publishers need to take note

Remember the tactics supermarkets used? Once a new game was released, it was priced at discount for the first 1-2 weeks. After that, it went back up to its standard RRP. Okay, so their logic was vey different (buy more-sell cheap-sell faster) but this is a very interesting model.

What if developers could use this pricing method to better support their early buyers?

An example of how they could use such a method:

AAA Game 1 releases at £44.99. Two months later, the game is fully patched to iron-out all major and minor bugs. The late buyers now purchase the game at a discounted price (through retail and game client sales) at around £19.99-£34.99.

AAA Game 2 releases at a discounted £34.99/$44.99 for pre-orders and day-one buyers. The price stays like this for the first 2 weeks. During that week, any major patches that were necessary, are added to create the full experience. After the 2 weeks (with the dev now having the incentive to patch much faster) the game goes back at RRP price (around £44.99/$59.99).

Which game would you rather pre-order or buy on day one?