GameStop has created a business model built on pre-orders and used game sales. Try purchasing a game on launch day without a pre-order is like playing Russian roulette, only their might be more rounds in the cylinder. Odds are that if you waltz into a GameStop without a prepaid deposit, you are more likely to get judgmental stares and criticisms of: “Sorry, we’ve sold out our launch stock, you should have pre-ordered.”
Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that often pre-order bonuses of downloadable content are included as incentive to choose a pre-order deposit over a $5 footlong at Subway. Before the days of DLC (and DLC pre-order vouchers), pre-order swag was a mini-strategy guide, or a map, or a plushie, or an abnormally thin T-shirt. Now, as a consumer, I feel that I’m not getting the entire experience of a game if I don’t have that super secret retro costume & mission pack that comes only with a pre-order.
Factor this into the allure of Limited Collectors Steelbook Fancy-Pants Editions and it is all over for me. Not only do I have to shell out $60 for the base game, tack on another $10 for the special edition, another $20 for the limited collector’s edition or another $40-$90 for space wasting models and toys that look really cool on paper, but not so much on my already cluttered desk.
Yet somehow, it gets me every time.
I have the Halo 3 Spartan helmet that stores the trilogy. I bought the first Mass Effect collector’s edition without having even known the expanse the series would become. I am extremely tempted to get the collector’s edition of Uncharted 3 that contains a 12″ Nathan Drake statue, replica belt buckle and necklace. I even pre-ordered the Forza Motorsport 4 Limited Collector’s Edition. And this is where the conundrum truly begins.
The Forza series has long been my favorite racing sim, surpassing my experience with Gran Turismo from a driving and customization angle. I’ve purchased every entry in the series and am notorious for buying DLC car packs. So when Forza Motorsport 4 announced its LCE that contained materials from the famed television series Top Gear and access to early DLC packs, there was no way I couldn’t purchase it.
But the pre-order gods (demons?) had other plans. There were five retailers that offered a different car for pre-ordering through them. These bonus cars were: Subaru Impreza WRX STi, BMW 1-Series M Coupe, Alfa Romeo Giulietta Quadrifoglio Verde, Mini John Cooper Works Clubman and the Honda CR-Z EX. No big deal, I thought, just purchase the one I liked the most. While typically the STi would be my choice, the 1 Series M is a unique car that has gotten an incredible amount of buzz lately. This meant that Best Buy would be the retailer of choice.
By now you might have heard about the problems Best Buy has undertaken in regards to the Forza 4 LCE. They oversold their pre-order stock, continued to take pre-orders and cancelled orders for many customers. The pre-order sell out was not uncommon, but across the board retailers were selling out. Small retailers were not receiving LCE copies, other major retailers like Amazon, GameStop and even the Microsoft Store stopped taking pre-orders early. And mid-tier retailers like Overstock and Toys R Us were blindsided when they did not receive the stock they expected.
I had previously ordered through Overstock, to have it cancelled and currently am backordered through Toys R Us.
So who is truly at fault? While I would like to point the finger at Best Buy for clearly going over their allotment (something that Amazon and GameStop were careful not to do), I have to place blame on the publisher. The marketing going into this game was pretty intense and Microsoft has long relied on Forza as a system seller, even offering previous iterations as pack-in games.
It’s a tricky system that seems to have blown up in the faces of both the retailers and the publisher. While I expect Forza to be an incredible game and anxiously wait whether I receive an LCE or have to relegate myself to the standard edition, as a consumer, I expect to be able to purchase something at the level I request. The whole idea of a pre-order is to guarantee supply of a product. As a publisher, pre-orders should be utilized as a gauge to decide how much product is made available. In the case of pre-orders for LCEs like Forza’s, publish ALL the pre-orders to avoid customer dissatisfaction. This way it is still a limited product and will only be available to those who planned ahead.
Like Kanye West says in the Forza TV spot, “No one man should have all that power…”