Are MMO Pre-Orders Worth It?

By Jeff Francis
Are mmo pre-orders worth it?

With Bethesda recently announcing that the Elder Scrolls Online mmorpg was available for pre-order, I'm sure many fans eagerly opened their wallets and forked over the cash to be the first in line to get the game when it is eventually released. Pre-orders for an mmo have become a major marketing tool for game companies and are used, quite successfully, to hype their game. The question players need to ask, though, are mmo pre-orders worth it?

Elder Scrolls Online screenshot

While many players are happy to spend money on an mmo pre-order, there are some things to consider. The first thing, and probably the most important, is whether or not you plan to play the game. If you're excited to play the game, then I can understand to lock in your purchase with a pre-order. However, if you're on the fence, it might behoove you to wait to see how the gameplay pans out. There have been a number of online games that I enjoyed in the starter zone, only to realize that the game fell apart once you left the carefully constructed beginning areas of the game. Games like Warhammer Online were quite exciting in the lower tiers but the fun and excitement slowly withered the higher level my character became. This same was true of other mmos, and I found myself not subscribing after the initial month. If I had waited a few weeks and had read some in-depth, critical reviews, I might have saved some money and held off purchasing the game. When you pay for an mmo pre-order, you're hoping that the final product is a good one. Many times that hope pans out and you'll enjoy a long, fulfilling relationship with the game in question. Other times, that hope is dashed upon the cruel rocks of reality as you realized that you shelled out sixty bucks for a buggy, incomplete mmo.

One way that game companies use to spike mmo pre-order sales is by offering incentives to buyers. These incentives can range from minor in-game items, such as low level gear or a vanity pet or title, to early access to the game. Some games allow you instant beta access, such as Defiance did, while other mmo games offer you a head-start as you're allowed to start playing a few days before the official launch. Elder Scrolls Online is currently offering players to begin three days early by pre-ordering. Star Wars: The Old Republic also offered early access as well. So what are the bonus items and early access worth?

Star Wars: The Old Republic screenshot

To be blunt, most of the bonus items that you get for putting in an mmo pre-order are pretty useless. They're nice to have when you first start out, but their usefulness is eclipsed rather quickly as you level and gain better equipment. I do like vanity pets as they're permanent, but they really have no impact upon your gameplay. As for early access, the importance of this really depends upon whether you're playing the game casually or hardcore. If you're part of a hardcore guild, then you're looking to race through the content as quickly as possible to start doing raids on a regular basis. Early access granted by an mmo pre-order also allows you more time to tweak your various builds before the majority of players hit higher levels. If you're a casual player, then the only benefit is starting a few days before the initial launch, which can get very laggy as hundreds of thousands of players try to log in at the same time.

Overall, deciding to pre-order an mmo is a no-brainer if you fully intend to play the game. I knew I was going to play Guild Wars 2 by reading all the previews and keeping abreast of how the game was designed, so it was easy to place that order. I've also pre-ordered mmorpgs in order to play with my guild that was jumping into a new game and they wanted to go through the content as early as possible. However, if you're on the fence about the game, then it's wise to hang back and see what people say about playing the game before committing to buy. The only drawback to this is you don't want to wait too long as you want to adventure in populated starter zones if you do decide to play the game. Pre-ordering an mmo is definitely worth it if you're excited about the game and are knowledgeable about what to expect in it.


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