We all enjoy getting something extra with our purchase and with this generation of games it seems that developers have taken it to an all new level. Be it night vision goggles to sit and play Call of Duty with into the wee small hours, figurines of everyone’s favourite ‘Big Daddy’, early access to publisher X’s next big instalment of game Y or simply an additional character / gun skin to go with the next faceless protagonist. It would seem that game companies today really are trying to offer their loyal customer base that extra little incentive to buy. But has it gone too far?
I am not traditionally someone who buys the collectable edition of a game. I do not own a radio controlled COD car or a plastic Batarang, but when it comes to additional content in a game, like an extra character, then I am sure to pick it up as it appeals to my inner completionist. This year, however, I feel the marketing for these little ‘extras’ has left me jumping through too many hoops.
Let me take you back to the beginning of the year and the release of a fun if not slightly one-dimensional shooter called Bulletstorm.
Now this was a game that had me interested and in the weeks leading up to its release I had pretty much decided on a day one purchase. Then, I heard the news that those that bought the collector’s edition would be granted early access to the hotly anticipated Gears of War 3 beta and I was sold. I placed my pre-order at my local independent store and picked up the game on day of release. I really enjoyed Bulletstorm and played the hell out of that baby for a good few weeks. Once I was done I put the game away and awaited the time when I could sit and play Gears for a few weeks during the summer. After discussing said beta with friends, it transpired that only those that bought their copy of Bulletstorm (or BS as it will now be known) from Game would be lucky enough to be invited. After learning that, I felt like Epic and People Can Fly had pulled a move on me that would have granted them quite a few points on a BS leaderboard.
A few months on and just weeks away from the Gears beta it was announced that anyone who placed a pre-order for Gears Of War 3 would also be granted access, but hang on, what’s that in the small print? Anyone who pre-ordered from Game would be granted access. To my eternal shame, dear reader, I placed my pre-order at Game instead of going with my friends’ local store. After all, this man’s gots ta get his Gears on!
Then in the summer, Team Bondi and Rockstar released the hotly anticipated LA Noire. It was a game that took the GTA engine in an entirely new direction and is possibly the freshest idea from a mainstream developer that we’ve seen in a long time. Now, it would seem, you could pre-order some post war sleuth em up and get something extra for your trouble from just about anywhere, be it an extra gun for pre-ordering from one of the big websites or an extra uniform from a walk-in store. The problem arose in the fact that if you wanted all this stuff then you’d have to pre-order 5 or 6 different copies of the same game from the same number of different companies. This is a practise that I like to call the “George Lucas method” of selling the same thing multiple times.
This brings us up to Q4 2011 and we’re slap bang in the crazy period where if you want to buy all the big games that are released then you need to sell a kidney and use the recuperation time to scratch the surface of the multitude of titles being dropped. My 1st purchase of the silly season was of course Gears 3 and because of my earlier pre-order I also got an extra character which is not much, but appreciated all the same. Again, though, it would appear that anyone who would like all of the additional ‘bonus’ content would have to buy numerous copies from numerous establishments.
Then came Batman: Arkham City, a game which I’d been looking forward to, well since Arkham Asylum, I guess. My pre-order was in and I was happy to settle for the metal case edition as this came with some extra content but did not cost as much as the edition with the big Batman figure. I took the game home and download my extra Catwoman content and start opening up a can of vigilante whoop ass on Gotham. After a few hours of play I decided to take a look at the achievement list and notice that, tucked away, down at the bottom there are 2 or 3 that name Robin as a playable character. Strange, I thought, I didn’t realise he was playable. Anyway, as I’m playing the world’s greatest detective I do a little bit of sleuthing myself and discover that once again only pre-orders from Game received the additional DLC which gives them access to playable Robin. Now this would be a little annoying if there were no achievements attached to it but to a completionist like me (I will go back and get all golds in Arkham Asylum one day, I promise) well, to this day, I’m still grinding my teeth and I’ve almost hit gum.
Finally, and this one has only just come to my attention, is Battlefield 3. Again, I pre-ordered and got the collectors edition, with an extra pistol and free access to the 1st downloadable pack of maps. However, it would appear that that an additional ‘warfare pack’ was available to those who pre-ordered from Game on the high street. This pack made additional guns available to use on the multiplayer portion of the game. A fact that I was made all too aware of as I was systematically gunned down, one by one, by each of these new weapons as I looked down crying at my level 1 peashooter.
Are these additional freebies welcome? Yes, but developers need to keep in mind that any additional content should be viewed as a reward for supporting them with pre-orders and day one purchases. If I am giving you my money then I do not expect to be dictated to in my choice of vendor. I also find it strange that the vendor that features most prominently in these deals are precisely the same establishment that publishers are battling with initiatives like Project Ten Dollar (which I fully support). Surely, a reasonable percentage of these sales are paid for by trading in older games, which make them more freely available in the second hand market that the publishers are so actively trying to minnimalise. Above all, bonus content should not skew the game to the detriment of those who did not buy the same version.
So how do you feel about this? Are these bonuses something that should be viewed as just that and not something that features in your purchasing decision? Are you happy to pick and choose the additional content you receive from a selection of stores? Do you believe that all players should be entitled to the same experience regardless of which chain they patronized?
Let me know what you think in the comments.