A year ago, Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town came out on the Nintendo Switch. As the latest instalment in the beloved Story of Seasons (the series formerly known as Harvest Moon) series, it was pretty hyped up in the fiercely-devoted farming game fanbase... only to be more of a fart than a fanfare.
The pre-order bonuses were pretty enticing: A very cute buffalo plushie and buffalo costume were both perfectly pitched for the intended audience, who enjoy both cute things and cattle with gigantically disproportioned heads. But it can't have felt good to pre-order Pioneers of Olive Town, even with all the cute bonuses, only to receive a pretty mediocre 6/10 game that didn't quite feel finished.
I rarely pre-order games myself. The bonuses are very not usually interesting enough for me to warrant paying full price for a game with no reviews, but also, I have such a massive backlog of games that I don't really need to have my finger on the pulse when it comes to new releases. I'm not a patient person, so it's not really about being willing to wait for sales or reviews — it's more that I generally don't play the kinds of games or genres that benefit from being in on the zeitgeist.
But when I heard that Rune Factory 5 was coming out, I decided to pick it up early. There wasn't any good reason — the pre-order bonus was just extra outfits, and the physical bonus was a plush AND I HAVE ENOUGH PLUSHES — I was just pretty sure I was going to play it, and didn't mind setting aside a few bucks in preparation. The best part was that it felt a little more exciting than just waiting for a game to come out. I already had tickets in the front row, after all! I'd already made my decision, and now all I had to do was look forward to the game auto-downloading itself onto my Switch.
Unfortunately, through various fund-related mistakes on my end, the pre-order was cancelled, and I didn't even notice. So, on March 22nd, when Rune Factory 5 came out, I was Rune Factory-less... and when reviews came out that same day, I realised that it was probably for the best. Having never played a Rune Factory game before, I didn't fancy jumping into the series with a game that was only okay.
It didn't help that, just a couple of weeks before Rune Factory 5's release, I had bought Atelier Sophie 2 — which, to be fair, had a ton of really glowing reviews — and failed to click with it at all, leaving me Fifty-Five British Pounds poorer for the sake of a lesson about not making impulse purchases just because other people like something. And yes, in case you're wondering: I spent £5 extra to get the swimsuit costumes. Leave me alone.
As a journalist, I don't tend to get caught up in pre-release hype much any more. After all, I was hyped for Pioneers of Olive Town, and it burned me badly. I'm pretty cautious with my purchases, because lord knows I should probably, I don't know, actually play all the critically-acclaimed games I have never touched on my Switch before I pick up a new one that's just not as good? Maybe.
So... I still haven't bought Rune Factory 5. I know that "I almost bought a game... and then didn't" isn't much of an interesting story to tell, but being able to identify the difference in pre-release hype and post-release indifference has made me really wary of pre-ordering anything in future, too.
It's just that I'm so BOOOORED. Window shopping and mall wandering with my pals has become a lot more difficult in the past couple of years, and it's weird without it — it was a huge part of my weekend social life.
Instead, I've started making impulse buys just to try and claw back some of the dopamine I used to get before, and that's resulted in me owning way more duck-shaped items and plants than I used to, so recently I've been trying (and failing) to live my life by a more sensible ethos: If you want something, wait a week. If you don't still want it, or you could go without, then congratulations! You just saved yourself a bunch of money.
Does this ethos work? Sometimes. I did just buy a figurine of a guinea pig car, though, which is arguably something that no person needs.
So I'll probably continue not to pre-order games in future, unless there's a really good bonus, or it's a re-release of a game I already love. Plus, now I have Fifty-Five British Pounds in Nintendo eShop money... which I can use to buy a handful of critically-acclaimed indies instead. Anyone got any recommendations?
Tell us your stories of pre-order woe or success, and whether you think pre-orders are still a good idea, in the comments!