Pre-Order Bonuses - a passing trend or a sign of things to come?
Pre-order to get the game you're actually paying for
27In my last piece I raised the point that gaming was becoming more of a luxury these days as costs for development rise, leaving consumers paying more for the games they want.
This gives them a tough choice in choosing between which games they want to purchase the most, possibly leaving the second choice to a later date when the price comes down. To some this will be bad enough, but we’re in danger of giving ourselves another headache when it comes to purchasing: the pre-order bonuses. It’s becoming more common for stores to offer their customers incentives for pre-ordering a game with them. Only recently have we seen Destiny beta keys being given upon pre-order before its release this September, which to me is perfectly acceptable. Not only does it provide an avenue for Bungie to iron out any issues early on, but it also allows pre-order customers to get their mitts on an early version of the game.
Where the issue lies however, is when each retailer lures you with something unique for pre-ordering with them. For instance, one retailer may offer you a unique gun for your game if you place your order with them, whilst another might give you exclusive outfits or customisation items. It will be a big enough headache for consumers deciding which releases to spend their hard-earned cash on, without the added quandary of where to buy it from.
You see, these bonuses give people somewhat of a dilemma because potentially you won’t play the complete version of a game unless you pre-order a copy from every retailer. Take Watch_Dogs for instance; there was a handy image which revealed what extra content was available for the game via pre-orders and the numerous special editions. Whilst extra content is always good, locking it down to certain versions or retailers is detrimental to gamers and the industry as a whole. Then there’s the added debate of which platform on which you choose, should you have more than one brand of console…
This leads me to my next point, regarding special editions, as these cause much the same problem as pre-orders do. Whilst it’s all well and good to have a special shiny shiny edition that contains extra items such as clothing, books and soundtracks, it’s not acceptable for extra missions or content to be tied with them too. Regardless of the version of the game you buy, be it standard or otherwise, it should be complete with any additional content that is available at the time. Post-release downloadable content can be picked up or left at their own discretion, but the disc should contain the complete version of the game at that moment in time.
The disc should contain the complete version of the game at that moment in timeBut even when you take a look at some of the special editions of some titles, ignoring the in-game content some of them come with, they’re getting more and more ridiculous. I’ll openly admit I’m a sucker for games that have a version which is only a little bit more expensive than the standard one. Only recently I picked up the Game exclusive version of inFamous: Second Son (yes, the one with the jacket to dress your game up in) and also the Vigilante edition of Watch_Dogs (yes, the one with the cap and cowl to dress yourself in).
Including trade-ins, you’ll pay pretty much the standard price anyway so to me that isn’t much of an issue. If you look at the more expensive versions of them however, the prices get even more ridiculous. Titanfall had a collector’s edition which cost a whopping £190, upcoming titles such as The Witcher 3 and Dragon Age: Inquisition have £130 and £140 versions respectively. If you can afford one of these then fair enough, but people are being enticed to pay nearly three times as much as the standard version for the privilege of owning a few extra items. Again if you can afford to pay for these more expensive versions then you’re free to do so, but where is the line going to be drawn? Are we soon going to see games priced at over the two hundred pound mark, tied with extra content that nobody else can play?
On the other hand, however, with these physical trinkets you at least have something to show for your extra outlay. For the additional £70 you might get a hoody to wear, or some objects to display on your gaming shelf, but when you pay extra for some digital content, it feels cheap. It feels like you’ve paid a premium for something that you can’t keep, whereas special editions often leave you the option to trade the game in as a whole or just the game and keep the additional items. What’s worse is that these items are ones which could have been included in the final version of the game but have been extracted to get more custom.
There are obvious reasons for doing so as it entices customers into pre-ordering titles early and tying them to the retailer, with the likelihood of return custom for future pre-orders and bonuses. Furthermore with pre-orders offering beta keys, as is the case with Destiny, it allows the hype train to leave the station and start chugging along at a healthy pace nice and early. But for as long as companies try and outdo one another by offering the most expensive and magpie-attracting version of their titles, let’s hope that we don’t start seeing more significant chunks of games being chopped off and used as exclusive content.
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