I’m of the opinion that no one should have to pay months in advance to get a game that may or may not be any good when it finally comes out. Publishers will try to sweeten the pot with weapon skins or early access to certain modes, but the truth is that pre-orders really only benefit the company distributing the game, and not the individuals that made it or the fans that eventually buy it. You can live your life however you want, but my personal moral code dictates that I must avoid pre-orders whenever possible.
You might assume that adhering to this kind of lifestyle makes new, high-profile video games only available to me through digital storefronts at launch, but such is not the case. It is possible to avoid the pratfalls of pre-ordering games and still enjoy the feeling of a physical game in your hands on release day, and I’m going to show you, step-by-step, exactly how I accomplished this feat this very morning.
Step 1: See What Stores Are Close
With Google Maps, I was able to locate a Super Target and Best Buy within reasonable driving distance — these locations became my first choices for acquiring a copy of Death Stranding. You may have different retailers in your area, but almost every major big box store has a website that tells you if something is in-stock at a specific location. You’re welcome to try game-specific retailers like Gamestop if you must, but if you have a local, independent chain of video game stores, you should definitely call to see if they’ve got what you’re looking for. In my case, such options were not available.
Step 2: Check Availability Online
I then went to Target and Best Buy’s websites to see if the locations in question had copies of Death Stranding available. The Target was a no go, but the Best Buy website said that I could order the game now, and it would be available for pickup at that location in an hour. I didn’t want to wait an hour, and I know that Best Buy isn’t out there ferrying games between stores to meet demand, so I inferred that this Best Buy did have copies of Death Stranding in stock.
Step 3: Drive to Best Buy
The trip to Best Buy took around eight and a half minutes in my 2007 Toyota Corolla S, but your mileage may vary. I listened to a Coheed and Cambria lore podcast called The Amory Score during my drive, but again, this is something that you can adjust for your own circumstances, as needed. The main thing here is to drive to the Best Buy previously researched during steps one and two.
Step 4: Enter the Best Buy
There will be several open parking spaces when you arrive, but these are reserved for people who ordered their items ahead of time, and are simply picking them up from the customer service counter. Since we opted to head straight to the store without ordering in advance, our conscience will not allow us to make use of these spaces.
After finding an available space further down, you will exit your vehicle at around the same time as a man who parked two spaces down from you. Your eyes will briefly meet as your paths toward the store converge — make sure to covertly slow your gait to prevent this from happening a second time. Once you’re behind the man who parked next to you, you’ll be able to see the tattoo on the back of his neck of the Cadillac logo. Spend the rest of the day thinking about this.
Step 5: Head to the Games Section
Though every Best Buy is different, most put their video games in the back left corner of the store. This is because Best Buy sells a good deal of video games, and by making you walk through other sections first, it increases the odds that you’ll make an additional purchase while you are there. During this walk, consider buying a Monster Energy Drink to go with your copy of Death Stranding, since Monster Energy Drinks are featured in the game and it would make a good Twitter goof to have purchased both together.
Step 6: Look for Death Stranding
Once you find the games section, there will be a large display featuring artwork from Death Stranding. The game will not be located here, but this is where you’ll find an Elgato capture device and spare Dual Shock 4 controller, should you need one. Past this display will be the normal PlayStation 4 section, where games are typically arranged in an alphabetical fashion.
In the “D” section, you’ll find that another small piece of Death Stranding artwork has been affixed to the shelves, though you will be unable to locate Death Stranding here. Despite the clear indication that this is where Death Stranding should live in the PlayStation 4 section of your local Best Buy, you will not even find the labeled divider that Best Buy uses to mark the place of a sold-out game.
Step 7: Keep Looking for Death Stranding
It’s possible that the Death Stranding display you saw upon entering the games section did in-fact have copies of the game, and you just didn’t see them for whatever reason. Go back and check, and once you’ve found the display once again lacking, walk the other isles of the games section looking for clues. While the Xbox and Nintendo aisles surely will not contain a PlayStation 4 exclusive like Death Stranding, you may stumble across an end-cap or other display where the game is being kept.
During this search, you will see a display of Amiibo, including a Squirtle. At this point, quietly say “Squirtle” under your breath in your best Squirtle voice, and then consider if there’s anyone on the planet who doesn’t say “Squirtle” when they unexpectedly encounter one in the wild. Once your search has failed, it is time to seek additional assistance.
Step 8: Find Someone Who Works at Best Buy
No Best Buy employee will be present in the games section once your thorough search for Death Stranding has failed. Continue wandering around the aisles to make sure that there are no employees in the area, and be sure to venture one or two (but no more!) aisles into the adjacent toy and small appliance sections while looking. In the distance, you can see a single employee in the home entertainment section talking to a man about a television. It would be rude to interrupt the home entertainment employee’s conversation to ask them for assistance finding something in a different department, so we shall now change tactics.
Step 9: Wander Around the Games Section While Trying Your Best to Look like Someone Who Needs Assistance so Someone Watching the Security Cameras Will Send an Employee to the Games Section to Assist You
At this point, it’s a good idea to pull out your phone and double-check that the Super Target across the parking lot is, in fact, out of Death Stranding. They are, but this will give you another idea: Maybe you could go ahead and buy the game on Best Buy’s website on your phone and select local pick-up for the store that you’re already in.
If the website allows you to make the purchase, that means that the game is still in stock, and with a receipt in your email inbox, you’ll have a valid reason to approach the employee at the order pick-up counter. You will have to explain the entire situation to them and hope that they’ll be able to fill the order in less than the hour quoted by the website, but at least you’ll have guaranteed for yourself a copy of the game without —
Step 10: Don’t Do That
The thought of explaining all this to a Best Buy employee is only slightly worse than the idea of standing around a Best Buy for an hour waiting on a game that is definitely in stock and should already be on a shelf, so it’s time to put your phone away. At this point, you’ll see three employees talking to each other in the main walkway at the other end of the store. Since they are standing between the defined departments, this gives you plausible deniability to say you assumed that one of them might be the games section employee, should it come up. Finally, this is your opportunity to find the assistance that you need.
Step 11: Approach the Best Buy Employees
As you make your way towards the three employees having a conversation, a fourth employee that did not exist until this exact moment will appear behind you and ask if you need help finding anything. Visibly startled, you’ll tell this person that you’re looking for a copy of Death Stranding, at which point they’ll confirm that they should have some in stock. Follow this employee as they search all of the locations that you have already searched to no avail, at which point they’ll remember that there should still be some copies at the front of the store.
Step 12: Follow the Best Buy Employee to the Front of the Store
Assuming that there must be a Death Stranding display near the front of the store that you missed, follow the Best Buy employee to the front of the store and gaze in amazement as they continue past every department and into the check-out zone. Do not enter the check-out zone. This zone is for people who are checking out, and you are not yet checking out.
Next to the registers is a large display of PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch games, designed to be an impulse buy opportunity for those waiting in line. This display contains at least a dozen copies of Death Stranding, and the Best Buy employee will gingerly pluck one from the shelves and beckon you into the check-out zone to process your transaction.
Step 13: There Is Already Someone Else Waiting to Check Out
Despite having been extended the offer to proceed with your purchase, you immediately notice that there is already someone waiting for the next available teller. They are holding a large box of some kind, and while you’re not sure what they’ve decided to purchase, you can tell that they’ve just seen this entire situation unfold in-front of their very eyes. The next few steps will happen in almost immediate succession, so be prepared.
Step 14: Offer to Let the Other Person Go First
Once you’ve pointed out the person who is already waiting, they’ll begin walking towards the register that you are in front of. Begin walking towards them, in order to take their place behind the “wait here for next available cashier” sign.
Step 15: The Other Cashier Is Now Also Available
As you walk towards the sign, the other cashier that the person with the box had been waiting on will become available. This means that your offer to let them go first is now meaningless, and you must stop walking towards the sign, turn around, and return to the register that you were standing in front of moments ago.
Step 16: Remember That You Wanted to Get a Monster Energy Drink
In order to acquire a Monster Energy Drink, you would have to walk back to the designated waiting area of the check-out zone, where all of the snacks and drinks are. Since you just stopped mid-stride to return to the cash register, you cannot now head back in the opposite direction. Briefly consider stopping at a convenience store on the way home to purchase a Monster Energy Drink, and then abandon the plan entirely.
Step 16b: Wonder If the Best Buy Employee Can Tell That You’ve Been Putting on Weight
Skip this step if you have not been putting on weight recently.
Step 17: Buy the Game and Leave
Congratulations! You are now in possession of a physical copy of Death Stranding, all without having to pre-order a single thing. With a little determination, it can be just this easy to live a life in keeping with your own code of ethics.