How Pre-Orders Divided Mankind
September 1, 2015 Kevin Trehan 0 Comments
Pre-ordering games was once a thrilling aspect of being a dedicated gamer. Retail stores would only be able to have a limited number of copies delivered to their location, so paying beforehand would ensure that you’d get to enjoy the game on release day. Waiting in line on the night before release, having deep discussions about our anticipations with the other strangers in line, getting the game handed to you at the release time… all of these were part of the experience that made being a true gamer geek an exciting culture to be a part of.
But times have changed. Sales have moved significantly towards digital distribution meaning there’s no fear of running out of copies. Games have been releasing full of bugs and broken features with the expectation that patches will solve the issues. Promises are made many months before release and are often never met. There’s really no reason to pre-order games anymore. But the business side of the video game industry likes to have its way.
Enter Pre-order Bonuses. Commit to the game now (before you even know if it’s actually worth your money) and you’ll be rewarded with extra missions or special starting equipment or tons of in-game money! Extra missions can be pretty cool, but they definitely won’t be nearly as substantial as a full expansion. Starting equipment will almost always be replaced by better gear as you progress through the game. Lots of financial power is always great, but games these days tend to make you feel rich and powerful anyway (but of course there are exceptions).
Forcing consumers to pre-order and enticing them with “bonuses” is just a clever way of these publishers begging us to give them money now because they aren’t confident in their own game. They probably feel that the game won’t be able to sell itself, so they need to seduce us with interesting yet meaningless things.
The latest in controversial pre-order schemes is Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. They are using a tiered system to unlock new bonuses as more people pre-order the game (think Kickstarter stretch goals). However, you only get to pick one bonus from each level. They are referring to this as “Augment your Pre-Order“. Sadly, each of the tiers are fairly unimpressive.
Take Tier 1, for example. Pre-ordering lets you pick what kind of starting equipment you want and slightly alters the way Adam Jensen looks based on the pack you choose. This should hardly be considered a bonus. The original Deus Ex had this option built in to the game. The very first decision you make when you go on your first mission is whether you want to be lethal or non-lethal. The weapons, tools, and equipment you get are different based on your choice.
Tier 2 lets you pick between a sample of the official soundtrack or the digital art book. Tier 3 gives you an extra mission. Yep, one additional mission… that’s maybe 30 more minutes of gameplay. Tier 4 is a choice between a digital comic book or a digital novella, which I think is actually a pretty decent bonus. And then Tier 5 is the ultimate bonus: The game releases four days earlier! Yes! Four whole days!! Are they trying to tell us that our patience is that bad??
There isn’t even a publicly-announced metric for what number of pre-orders unlocks each tier. They are only revealing the percentage of progress. How many pre-orders is 100%? Is this all a marketing scheme in which they already plan to unlock all 5 tiers over time just to make it seem like more people are pre-ordering? Will they change what 100% means if they find they aren’t doing well or are doing better than expected?
Pre-ordering the Collector’s Edition gives you access to everything in each of the pre-order tiers in addition to a 48-page art book (likely to be one of those small sampler booklets) and a figurine. As far as Collector’s Editions go, this is pretty weak. Where’s the full-sized coffee table art book? Or how about the full soundtrack? Why not include the original game on a USB stick that looks like a Praxis Kit? Of course, the best Collector’s Edition feature would be a real life augmentation surgery, but I’m just throwing out a few suggestions.
The thing is we should stop pre-ordering games. I will admit that I let that rule slide if there’s a Collector’s Edition that I really want because those are limited and can run out very quickly. But other than that, there really is no reason to pre-order games these days. As I mentioned earlier, the majority of AAA game releases are broken, unfinished, and unpolished. A lot of them don’t even deliver on the promises they made. We shouldn’t willingly give money to companies to release sub-par products before we even know the state they’re in. This is especially true now that digital releases means we can wait until the end of the day to see initial reviews without worrying about the store closing or running out of copies. And some companies are insisting digital downloads in the first place!
Don’t let the minuscule pre-order bonuses get to you. All of this is just a marketing ploy to ensure that the publishers get paid well before the release of the game without us even knowing much about it. Save your money and make an informed decision when the game releases. Don’t worry, that one extra mission you get from pre-ordering won’t be the one that defines the game’s experience.