This morning I spent some time perusing various games set to release this holiday season and determining what I need to get pre-orders down on. What was once a simple “Will it be worth the new price?” decision has turned into utter debauchery.
Every single game seems to have several edition and a myriad possible pre-order bonuses.
First, these special editions. If your game hasn’t had previous titles, why is there a collector’s edition? No one wants a 5″ figurine of a character that may be completely forgettable. I couldn’t care less about these art books for a game that might be okay. Could be the worst soundtrack in gaming history, but I’ll be damned if it’s not available.
Additionally, if your “special edition” is the same price as the average game, it’s not a special edition. Your game just comes with stuff – cool!
A game that’s doing it right: Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. A necklace and belt buckle (subtle and wearable), a fancy case, travelling chest and statue. A nice setup if you want to drop the money for it.
A game that’s doing it wrong: Dark Souls. No in-game stuff and it’s still $59.99. The only redeeming quality is the soundtrack – which may or may not suck. No way to know.
A game that’s doing it way wrong: Assassin’s Creed Revelations. There are three versions (not counting the regular one): Animus, Signiture and Ultimate. The Signiture is the standard with a soundtrack and some in-game stuff, but what’s to make these things “Signiture Edition” exclusives as opposed to simply Gamestop pre-order exclusives since it’s only available at Gamestop. The Ultimate bundle on the other hand comes with all that and a figurine and a replica flying machine for $40 more. This bundle is also only available at Gamestop. The Animus edition (you guessed it: also Gamestop, but only in Europe perhaps?) comes with some kind of box, encyclopedia, another multiplayer character, all the stuff from the other versions, and some other undetermined “customization item”. You can read about that fiasco here. At Best Buy you get a bonus character and the regular game. Confused? Me too.
Then there’s the matter of pre-order bonuses (which, as I just discussed, are somehow blurring the line with special editions). Pre-order bonuses are often comparable between retailers, but why prevent some of your audience from experiencing some of the content? How can I know what content will be available for download later? And if you have to advertise special content to get someone to buy it from a certain retailer, maybe your product is too expensive to start with? Especially if you have all this extra stuff you’re milking for consumer cash.
No games are really doing this right, in the sense that I want ALL the pre-order bonuses. But that’s just me.
A game that is doing it way wrong: Arkham City. Rocksteady actually released a guide on their website to sort out any confusion, as the bonus is not only retailer dependent, but also region dependent. The skins are all really cool, and I do wish I could have them all, but regardless of whether or not they become available for download down the road, you won’t see me shelling out extra cash for them. However, look at something like Robin as a playable character and Joker challenge maps, and suddenly there’s more game there that you miss out on by ordering from one place or another. The only deciding factor here is that Robin is only playable in challenge mode, likely on the maps already in place, making the Joker the obvious go-to option. Regardless, this is a lot of great content that no one should have to shovel out extra money to download off of PSN Store or Xbox Live down the road.
And finally, there’s the decision to even buy new. The price tag on games today is hefty, and with every game getting bonus content down the road that you have to shell out more for, the incentive to buy new isn’t there. However, developers are countering this, too, with the onslaught of online passes and other garbage. Before you know it, we won’t be able to play at all without a code to activate it. This topic has been beat to death by the industry’s faithful since EA and THQ began the trend, and so I won’t go on about it again. I’ll only point you to the (incomplete) guide I am constantly adding to to try and give you a better idea of how to buy your games.