How so? Well, I pre-ordered the Mercenary Edition this week, and the devs have graciously allowed latecomers like me to partake of the game's single-player combat tutorials from now through the December 16th launch. It's a good thing, too, because my dogfighting skills are a little rusty and there's a lot to learn about Elite before the big day.
If you are a backer, you can play the full game via the gamma client. Don't forget to catch up on all the latest Elite happenings via Newsletter #51.