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Preorders declining industry-wide - Hirshberg

Activision Publishing president says reservations are no longer the most important pre-launch performance predictor

Bungie's upcoming shooter Destiny is on track to be the most preordered new intellectual property in gaming history, but Activision Publishing president and CEO Eric Hirshberg isn't putting as much stock in that as one might expect. Speaking to investors during a post-earning conference call today, Hirshberg said preorders just don't mean as much as they used to.

"It's also important to sort of reset expectations as it relates to preorders overall," Hirshberg said. "You guys can see the same thing we see industry-wide, which is that there's been sort of a secular downturn as it relates to preorders. We think that's happening due to a number of factors: Things like increased digital consumption, particularly on the next-gen consoles; titles being widely available on day one; and the decline overall for demand of software on the previous gen consoles."

As a result, Hirshberg said other metrics like awareness and purchase intent have become even more important than the number of preorders. Fortunately for Activision, Hirshberg said both of those measures are at all-time highs and climbing for Destiny when compared to any other new intellectual property at this point ahead of its release.

Later in the call, Hirshberg discussed Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare preorders, saying the series is "not immune" to the downward trend. However, he expects the series to lead the industry in reservations once again this year. He also noted that purchase intent for Advanced Warfare is significantly above last year's Call of Duty: Ghosts, and "actually in line with our past top performing titles."

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Latest comments (9)

Martin Banak Graphic Designer, 3d Artist, Indie game dev 7 years ago
With all due respect, pre-orders are falling because quality of newly released games. Thanks to main publishers releasing unfinished and buggy products (SimCity, Battlefield 4, Total War: Rome 2, and so on), many gamers including myself are reluctant to purchase games before they are released.

Kind regards,
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Gustav Nisser Head of Digital Services, Exertis Ztorm7 years ago
I fear Hirshberg may have a limited view of the issue. From my perspective (working with digital distribution with multiple publishers/retailers), I would say that preorders are certainly decreasing for some publishers while for others they are either remaining stable or increasing to new heights. Activision would be a prime example of a publisher with declining pre-orders, probably due to a similar decline in hype/excitement for their premiered title(s).
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Rogier Voet IT Consultant 7 years ago
Pre-orders are down because the incentive to pre-order is so little. Why buy something now (often at a premium price) when I can buy it later (at release) check out if it's a good game and even pay a lower price.
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Show all comments (9)
Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 7 years ago
For Germany, I can say this. Why preorder when Media Markt and other retail chains will regularily compete for who has the best launch day offer for a game? You can often save between 5-10 over having blindly preordered months before. For PC releases, there is the added option of buying the game from a keyshop? Assassin's Creed Unity (PC) costs 60 on Steam, 55 at retail, but a mere 35 at most keyshops.

Since there is no shortage of copies going on sale either, there is absolutely no need for pre-orders. Or is there anybody daring enough to include something of value into a pre-order? Destiny beta? Free anyway, since it is a promotional tool also. Extra content? Will be DLC anyway, if it is good enough.
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Paul Jace Merchandiser 7 years ago
Preorders are down in the US for several reasons but the main three are:

1.) You no longer need to preorder a game to guarantee you receive it on day one. I have always dreaded going into Gamestops during the last two gens where I would witness them telling their customers something along the lines of "If you don't preorder the newest Call of Duty, Halo, Final Fantasy, any other million selling franchise you won't be able to buy it on day one--ANYWHERE." I suppose the masses have finally caught on to their little trick. During the Nes days alot of stuff would sell out and even during the Genesis days you might have missed out on Sonic 2 if you didn't get there early enough. But today, outside of limited print run stuff, the majority of retail releases are very well stocked on day one. The only reason the first Dead Island was "sold out" on launch day was because most stores only received 1-2 copies per system but that doesn't happen much.

2.) Other than preordering at Best Buy(where you get a $10 and sometimes $20 reward certificate for preordering certain games) theres almost zero incentive to preorder. Some places like Target and Walmart will occassionally offer you a $5 gift card(usually an e-card in Walmarts case) but thats pretty petty for buying a $60 game. Best Buy's $10-$20 gift card can be used on anything in store and on top of that the amount you paid for the game(the full $60 or whatever you paid after gift cards and gift certificates) will go toward points in your account if you are a reward member(which is free), which means you can use those points towards more certificates and thus get more games cheaper. I have been doing this since atleast 2009 and as a result never have to pay a full $60 for a new game I want and always get points towards my next purchase.

There are occassionally some worthwhile preoder swag such as demo disc, figures, art books, etc but those are few and far between these days outside of getting a limited or collector's edition version of a game, which can sometimes be quite costly at release.

3.) The final reason people hardly ever preorder anymore is because you only need to wait a few weeks/months before you can get the same game for atleast 10-20% off it's original $60 price. It pays to wait since theres really no reason to be the first of your friends to buy and beat a game outside of bragging rights.

There are several more reasons but I feel those three will always be among the most important. Having said that, I still occassionally preorder one or two games from Best Buy a year(Halo: The Masterchief Collection is the only thing I preordered this year but thats because it cost me $30 new and I'll get points from those $30 for something else in the future) but only because thats actually worth preordering from time to time. I've never understood why anyone would preorder simply for a digital item such as a specific weapon, map or skin that are always suppose to be exclusive but then end up being released to the general public a few weeks/months later. But to each their own.

Until retailers as a whole get the whole preordering thing right, it will continue to decline to the point where a publisher will be bragging about receiving 100,000 preorders as their big milestone during their latest earnings call.
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Patrick Frost QA Project Monitor 7 years ago
Since the early 2000 I've never understood why consumers in the UK would pre-order from a bricks and mortar shop. GAME and Gamestation set a bad precedent at that time where a pre-order stopped meaning that you will get your copy of your game on day 1. It became a standard across the industry. Maybe the lack of pre-orders is due to lack of benefit to the consumer? Maybe it's because a lot of these games end up being second hand a month later at a reduced price?

I'm hoping that part of the reason is because consume has matured and no longer feel the need to be hyped up enough by marketing to get games on day 1. They are happy for the embargoes to drop and for someone else to find out whether the game is actually good.
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Lee Hewes7 years ago
I think Martin hit the nail on the head but I would add that as a fellow consumer I'm tired of games being sliced up and portioned out on release with pre-order bonuses going to certain retailers. Watchdogs for instance had people posting diagrams of which version to buy with no single version actually containing all the available content. There are plenty of other examples of games released with micro-transactions everywhere, buggy game play or mechanics that are clearly designed around making more money rather than creating an enjoyable experience. Thanks to this, I don't trust a lot of publishers that I used to hold in high regard and while I used to buy pre orders and DLC based on good will or an act of supporting a company, that has been abused and now I won't touch them.
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Henrique Olifiers Gamer-In-Chief, Co-Founder, Bossa Studios7 years ago
Pre-orders are not declining, they've simply moved on to crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter. Every game backed there is a pre-order. If anything, pre-orders are on an all-time high.

All hail digital!
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Christopher Ingram Editor-at-Large, Digitally Downloaded7 years ago
Destiny preorders, in my opinion, are most likely exceedingly high because of its beta access - as well as it already being a highly anticipated game release. In fact, what is the purpose of placing a preorder these days, if not to get something back from the transaction? I've not had a hard time finding a new game release without a preorder at any point over the past couple of years now. If a retail publisher wants to acquire a preorder from me, it best give me a good reason to do so, else I'll simply walk into the store on the day of release and pick up my copy of the game. I have no use to walk into said store twice, lest I purchase another game to add to my backlog that has become so large that I'll never see it through as it already is.
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