The answer to that question has changed throughout the years!
Do you remember shopping for books, movies, and games before the Internet?
When I was young, I always looked forward to the next Disney movie. There was no preordering back then, just picking it up at the first store I found it at. Depending on interest, it sometimes took a little while to find a copy.
When I started buying anime, series were released on multiple discs. Suncoast (the only anime-carrying store) would stock less (sometimes none) of later volumes as interest dropped off. Preordering was the only way to ensure I’d get a copy at or near release. The Internet started emerging as an option, but it was hard to do without a credit card.
Games were a similar story. Some games at GameStop came with a neat bonus item, or they would be the only retailer to carry a title. Some stores would maybe carry one or two extra copies. If you didn’t preorder, you were out of luck and had to hope someone missed the pickup deadline.
There were also quite a few crazes back then. Anybody else remember Tickle Me Elmo and Beanie Babies? You either had to swarm the store at opening on shipment days or pay scalpers much, much, much more. I remember ads in the local paper selling the $30 Tickle Me Elmos for $500 or more! If you were lucky, some stores would take your name down and add it to their list for first shot at the item. That’s a big IF.
Modern Day Preordering
So what was the point of my trip down memory lane?
Shopping has changed drastically during my lifetime. Almost every retail store carries the latest Disney titles, preorder bonuses for games are everywhere, and, of course, there’s a little site called Amazon. In addition, eBay has now changed from an online garage sale to a large online mall. Between these two sites alone, you can pretty much find whatever it is you’re looking for. Throw in Walmart, Target, and a bunch of independent dealers, and the Internet is a virtual shopper’s paradise. Almost all media is up for preorder months in advance, and even toys and technology are available for preorder so you can get your item on release day.
Really, outside of some limited run titles (not to be confused with “limited edition,” a phrase often overused), it’s almost impossible not to be able to find what you want. Some series may only be available digitally or second-hand, require waiting, or paying scalpers extra, but items are much easier to find now.
The Great Debate
So, what’s the purpose of preordering nowadays when you can quickly find tens, even hundreds of retailers and sellers all offering the same item?
Do a quick Google search, and you’ll find many instances of people swearing to never preorder again. (Game-related posts are the most common.) The anti-preorder-ers (Is that a thing now?) make plenty of good points.
“The companies haven’t proved they’ve earned my money yet!”
Well, yes. Until you view or try for yourself, it’s hard to say whether you made a good purchase. Most preorders are pushed based solely on marketing and name recognition. We’ve all gotten burned from a release that was incredibly hyped up only to be disappointed by — or even upset with — the final product.
For companies, attracting buyers is their job. Of course they’ll put a positive spin on their product. As for reviews, they’re subjective. While you can get an idea of an item’s strengths and weaknesses, only you can judge for yourself whether you like something or not.
Besides, haven’t you ever been a movie, and it was terrible? How do you determine that a studio “earned” your money to go see the film? By reviews? Marketing? Well, the same applies to preordered products.
“The price will drop!”
The newer a product, the higher the price. It doesn’t matter if it’s media, technology, or fashion. You want to be on the cutting-edge? You’ll pay more.
We’ve all bought items that dropped in price much more quickly than we expected. I can’t believe Best Buy was selling Sailor Moon Blu-rays this past holiday season for $20. I preordered them for about $65 each, and I still haven’t opened them!
Some items actually end up cheaper if preordered! Here are some personal examples of Amazon’s pre-order price guarantee saving me money.
Preordered price: $5.49
Lowest price in past year: $6.49
Preordered price: $19.99 (with bonus soundtrack)
Lowest price in past year: $24.88
Preordered price (so far): $40.99
Price with 20% off at Best Buy or Amazon: $47.99
With Kingdom Hearts III or any other preorder (minus the occasional exception), preordering doesn’t mean committing. If I find it elsewhere for cheaper or change my mind, I can always cancel. I’m not advocating for preordering everything and then canceling them all. That annoys businesses and also raises red flags. But preordering doesn’t mean locking yourself into a contract.
Plus, things will almost always drop. Six months, a year, two years…how long should you wait until it’s okay to buy something? And at how much off?
“Companies end up re-releasing it anyway!”
Many products do get an upgraded or lower-priced release. New cell phones come out every year, video games put all the DLC in one package, and many manga titles are put into omnibus format. Again, if you want the latest-and-greatest, it will probably cost you more than if you waited.
However, if a product has low sales numbers, companies may find it more profitable to cut their losses and end production.
Two weeks until what could be our last Vinland Saga release. Please preorder and don’t let this great series die! https://t.co/5YJw6yR639
— Kodansha Comics (@KodanshaUSA) December 14, 2015
I know we can’t buy everything, but too many in the “buy it later” crowd may turn into everyone getting no more. In this case, preordering was a way to show support for Vinland Saga. If they don’t continue the series, Kodansha Comics will still have received a nice sales boost. If they do, then preordering will surely have helped.
“Preorder bonuses are for suckers!”
Video games are notorious for this. The advent of DLC has led to stores competing for customers by offering digital exclusives, things that easily could be put up for purchase online or included with the game. Sure, stores may offer a gift card or a poster for DVDs, but I don’t feel like I’m missing a part of a product like with exclusive DLC. I already talked about the Sailor Moon Blu-rays. I own the old DVDs and still haven’t watched the new releases yet, but I fell for the preorder bonuses: a coin and cards. Yay?
But I’ve received some nice things. Things I probably would have bought separately anyway. I love my Sweet Fuse: By Your Side necklace. It’s so ugly it’s cute.
Some of those extras, ironically, end up being worth more than the game! The Zero Escape watches, for instance, easily sell for $80+ without the game. I would never pay those kind of amounts, but I feel good about my $40 preorder with watch for the next game.
Preorders: Yay or Nay?
I preorder things. I’ll put my money toward some great series, and others will let me down. Some things I’ll get burned on, and others will end up as awesome deals. Other items I’ll only hear about after release and have to spend time tracking down. I’m okay with that. You win some, you lose some; it’s a part of life.
How about you? Do you preorder, or do you only buy products once they’ve been released?