Too many big, highly-anticipated games this holiday season have had technical problems upon release. I can think of four; five, if you want to count early reports of Dragon Age: Inquisition’s performance even though it’s not publicly available yet.
That’s more than enough to start exercising ways to avoid spending $60 on game you can’t play for a few hours or days.
1. Watch E3 and early trailers with skepticism
I don’t mean you should be rolling your eyes at everything. It’s okay to get excited about games you’re interested in, but know that what you’re seeing is consciously made to spark that excitement and is likely not representative of the game you’ll bring home in the future. Even when it’s footage of the game being played, you should note in the back of your mind that there’s a real possibility it won’t turn out as cool as it looks.
2. Look at the developer’s/publisher’s past
If the team behind the game is known for releasing games that end up being pretty rough when they launch: note that. Game developers change, so it would be unfair to assume every game they make will be like the last, but it’s something to keep in mind before you pre-order a new game.
3. Understand what type of game it is
Single-player-only games typically launch much more stable than a massive MMO launch. It’s usually about scale and how much the game relies on an internet connection. With blockbuster games, we’re talking millions of people trying to play all at once. Add in stuff like matchmaking and servers and there’s tons of room for error.
4. Avoid pre-ordering
Unless there’s a really rad exclusive gun or hat or something for pre-ordering the game at a specific store, you’re best option is to wait. Don’t worry about not being able to find a new copy, game’s are almost always available on launch day.
Instead of committing to a game that could come out broken, you should wait and see what people are saying first. Whether it’s review copies or sneaky early copies of games, someone seems to consistently have a copy of a game early and is willing to spill info about it. You just have to look.
Usual places this stuff happens are on the game’s subreddit and NeoGAF.
5. Don’t buy broken games
This one’s pretty simple and kind of a last resort, but still important nonetheless. If you really care about games launching as complete products that function as promised, then you should think about purposely not buying games that launch broken.
I find it easier to do this kind of thing with games you’re sort of interested in but aren’t eagerly awaiting their release. For example: I skipped last year’s messy SimCity, even though I was pretty close to getting it before release.
What this does is help show publishers and developers that you don’t agree with games that come out broken.