Preorders are now part of software entertainment DNA. There is no avoiding it. Publishers can no longer put their head in the sand, and in some cases, they are actively lobbying gamers. I'm a numbers guy, the top software entertainment industry analyst in the world. Show me the money. A good game to me is the one that sells 4 million in its first week of release. There is no other criteria with which to judge a game, not in my eyes, at least. I don't give two shits if it only gets a 55 on metacritic. Preorders are so important to the gaming industry and to retail that poor numbers can bring the hatchet down on a title before it gets released. If specialty retailers like GameStop and EB Games doesn't see people preordering a particular title, they don't order any copies for their stores. Larger retail chains like Wal-Mart and Target follow GameStop's lead.
I forsee a future where publishers will take preorders to the next level. It seems feesible that a forward-thinking publisher or studio could create a cool title, a few initial character models, some "benchmark footage", and start taking preorders immediately. Why invest another dime in unproven IP if the initial interest just isn't there? This would insure that unmitigated financial disasters like Shadow of the Colossus and Psychonauts never get made. It could save game companies billions and provide start-up capital to begin "real" production.
Hollywood should take notice. If we had preorders on box office ticket sales, Lions for Lambs would still be Robert Redford's wet dream and I'd be $8 richer.