The preorder has long been a staple of the video game retail industry, and with good reason. You get a customer to purchase a game ahead of its release in return for a small trinket. The hope is that buyer will keep coming back to the store, and in turn the store can provide more accurate supply numbers to the publisher and thus ensure an adequate stock. It's also been a great way for retailers to sit on that cash long before ever handing over the product.
What has made this more interesting over the years is how far some retailers and game publishers have gone to get people to come to them, and them only. This arms race has lead to some great, and some not-so-great, trends in preorder goodies. Here are five of the best and five of the worst in the last couple of years.
1. Getting the game before its release date
What is easily the holy grail of preorder goodies is getting the game ahead of its official street date. Very few games have ever done this intentionally, though. This usually happens only when a retailer mistakenly sells the title without knowing there's a specific release date, or when games are shipped by mail and the snafu is committed by the shipping company.
In the case of Call of Duty: World at War, which was released last November, GameStop sold the title a day ahead of its official release to those who had preordered it. According to Planet Xbox 360, the game retailer went directly to FedEx's shipping facilities to pick up the game ahead of its slated delivery time.
Also, customers who prebought Mythic Entertainment's Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning got to build their characters and start playing on the game's servers four days before the game launched--if they bought the collector's edition, while preorderers of the standard edition got a two day head start. The same went for those who preordered Pirates of the Burning Sea, who got to start playing the MMO 15 days ahead of people who simply bought it on its release day.
2. Free games
Coming up just short of getting the new game early is publishers who offer a copy of one of their previous titles free of charge. That was the case for Rockstar games, which through Valve's Steam online game store gave PC gamers who preordered Grand Theft Auto 4 a free copy of GTA: Vice City, a title from earlier in the GTA series.
Preorderers of Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts on Xbox 360 got a free code for the original Banjo-Kazooie game on XBOX Live Arcade a whole two weeks before it was officially released to other gamers.
Lionhead studios gave preorderers of the Xbox 360 version of Fable 2 a free (normally $10) Xbox Live Arcade title that let them play some of the title's in-game minigames ahead of the release, as well as put any gold they earned to use in the game once they got it.
Earlier notables include: Preorderers of Red Alert 3 getting a free Red Alert 2 download, and the Zelda: Ocarina of Time disc that came with the Zelda Wind Waker for Gamecube, which had been one of the top games of the year four years prior. Nintendo went through the effort of porting it from the previous generation's system to the GameCube, as well as throwing in a more difficult variation of the game that had previously been unreleased in the U.S. just for those buyers. Now that's cool.
3. Getting the "better" edition of the game, free of charge
The "limited" editions of games almost always cost more, and come with a few extra goodies like a download code from extra in-game content, or a spiffy case with things like concept art books and soundtrack CDs.
This time last year, Ubisoft surprised gamers who had preordered the latest Prince of Persia game with a free upgrade to the limited edition, which featured a making-of featurette, digital art book, and the soundtrack. It certainly wasn't as lavish as some other limited-edition packages, but it was free.
Developer Arksys did the same thing earlier this year with its 2D fighter BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger. Prebuyers who purchased the normal game ahead of time got upgraded to the limited-edition free of charge, which included a video strategy guide and two-disc soundtrack with close to 50 tracks. … Read more