Did Oculus Rift Just Solve The Problem of Pre-Ordering Games?

Oculus Rift is supposed revolutionize gaming, but they may have inadvertently solved the problem of pre-ordering games.

Oculus Rift, as of today, is accepting pre-orders for their $599 (plus shipping) VR headsets. Judging by the reaction on my Twitter feed, people aren’t too happy with the high price point. However, that didn’t stop Oculus from selling out their day one stock within 14 minutes.

Despite the lukewarm reaction to the Oculus Rift’s recently revealed price tag, there is something encouraging about how Oculus is conducting their pre-orders. Something that we hope the entire gaming industry learns from going forward. A potential solution to the problem of pre-ordering games.

“Rift pre-orders are different from most of the games industry,” said Rift inventor and Oculus head-honcho-in-name-only Palmer Luckey on Twitter. “You don’t get charged until we ship – no deposit lock-in, no bonus pressure.” Rather than take your money and put it straight into their pockets, Oculus’ pre-order policy is comparable to queueing up (minus the physical inconvenience of standing on line). This pre-order policy may not seem like revolutionary when compared to the virtual reality revolution the Rift and its contemporaries are supposed to usher in, but I, for one, see a glimmer of hope.

Pre-ordering games has become a contentious issue in the gaming community largely because it has become more and more apparent that companies want customers on the hook for their product before anyone has a chance to catch wind of utter disappointment. A video game company can make ensure the success of a would-be flop simply by releasing a slick E3 trailer and piling on the incentives. Reviews and demos have been cast aside in favour of perks and strong marketing campaigns, which translates–and I’m generalizing here–into inferior products reliant on DLC and billboards on every corner.

Of course, the real problem with pre-ordering games is that it is never going away. Even as stock levels become more and more irrelevant thanks to the rise of digital downloads, publishers depend on pre-orders to gauge and anticipate the bottom line of their product. Meanwhile, it’s entirely up to the customers to be savvy enough to spot style over substance when being bombarded with marketing and promises of action figures in the mail.

This is why Oculus’ pre-order policy is so refreshing, both sides of the  pre-ordering games debate win. The publisher, here in question Oculus, can get a solid gauge on their expected returns while customers can opt-out if they have a change of heart/hear that it is not as advertised before the product ships without the hassle of trying to claw back cash from a major corporation.

In my heart of hearts, I know that Oculus has not really solved the problem of pre-ordering games. It is just exciting to see any company, let alone one that’s involved in gaming, return a slice of autonomy to consumers. If it were up to me, no gamer would pre-order a game unless the terms of the pre-order came with an opt-out clause like the one Oculus has provided. But until then, the only solution to the problem of pre-ordering games is simply to resist as best you can.

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