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["Stop It" is a weekly feature which serves as a forum for me to express my opinions on things in the video game industry or community that need to stop. Despite the fact these things may never stop, this will, at the least, fuel discussion. Got something to say? Hit up the comments and keep the discussion alive. Got a lot to say? Register for a Gamer Limit blog and write a response.]

As a completionist, more often than not, I find myself trying to do and get everything in a game. In the good old days, time and commitment were the only things between me and that very goal. Now, I have one of the most absurd obstacles to overcome: pre-order incentives.

What was once an afterthought has now snowballed into a giant nuisance. Stop it!

Pre-ordering has quite a few benefits for both the publishers and distributors. For publishers, it helps give an accurate measure of the game’s first month sales – which is undoubtedly the definitive month for any game, as it helps shape and determine what its lifetime may be. For distributors, it helps determine the amount of games that will be needed for stock. It also allows distributors to pocket, invest and accumulate interest on the money gamers hand over for pre-orders.

Because of these benefits, it is quite easy to understand why a publisher creates these pre-order incentives to give to distributors. This carrot dangling in front of gamers’ faces has been a factor in deciding to pre-order for millions since its introduction. Whether or not it bothers you as much as me is the question. Am I alone in this frustration?

This first really set in when I went to pre-order inFamous. If you didn’t pre-order the game at GameStop, you were not able to receive an unlock for a melee power that, in all honesty, was an extremely useful power. Many thought that it would become paid DLC within a couple of weeks – try over a year! While I did pre-order at GameStop specifically for this pre-order bonus, thousands of gamers were left without the melee power.

Uncharted 2 is another great example. If you pre-ordered at GameStop, you were given exclusive multiplayer beta access as well as an unlockable item that wouldn’t be available for 10+ levels; at Best Buy you could receive a code for gold guns; and Amazon was giving out a fair amount of in-game currency to spend on upgrades. As a huge fan of Uncharted, I was frustrated by the fact that I couldn’t have my choice of any of these – even at a small cost.

Let’s face it, Amazon is easily the best way to buy games these days. Between Amazon Prime and the all too common ten to twenty dollar credit when pre-ordering, the decision is usually easy. However, when pre-order incentives are thrown into the fire I find myself playing a pre-order game. While this isn’t for every game, those games that I am very adamant about I will pre-order at GameStop, Best Buy, and Amazon.

Once I have received my pre-order codes I will return the games to GameStop and Best Buy. You may frown upon such action, but think about it from my perspective: I want these pre-order incentives and have no other option.

The fact that gamers who actually care about these incentives are forced into a corner is ridiculous. Offer these incentives a month down the line – not a year down the line, and certainly not never. EA had it right with Battlefield Bad Company 2 and their GameStop pre-order bonus. Some may not agree with me, but offering a smaller game mode to those that pre-order, and then unlocking it for free a month later for everyone else is a great pre-order incentive. It offers enough for those that are fans of the game to pre-order but also doesn’t leave a sour taste in the mouth of the gamer that either didn’t pre-order or pre-ordered somewhere else.

Ultimately, the way pre-order incentives are structured now is extremely cheap. There are much more elegant ways to go about getting me to pre-order a game without having an impact on the game itself. Despite what you may think, I am not an idiot. I am well aware that pre-order incentives won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. But the way it is now needs to stop! I’m tired of this pre-order game.

So do pre-order incentives bother you as much as they do me? Maybe you agree with me but it never really impacted you? Please tell me I’m not alone on this front. Or tell me I’m a whining idiot, your call. It wouldn’t be the first time.

  1. avatar djaxis

    I have to agree with you completely. If it’s an outfit, power, or something else actually in the game, it should either be available for everyone buying the game at any time, or at the least be tied to a special edition or such.

    My favorite preorder bonuses over the years have been the neat collectables. Like the best-buy nuka-cola bottle opener and the mini sword from LOTR conquest.

    • Couldn’t agree more. I still carry my nuka-cola bottle opener with me in my wallet (after removing the magnet of course… don’t need my credit card (note the singular…) getting f’ed up)

  2. I agree with you on virtually all points, as well as with the commenters on the fairness and appeal of physical bonuses (though I complain about those as well for the heck of it).

    However, I do want to ask this: if these pre-order bonuses were available as paid DLC, would people instead bitch about how they should be free? Gamers are frequently an Unpleasable Fanbase, of course.

    • Great point. There is definitely not a way to please everyone. I think if it weren’t too outrageous of a price for some of the things people won’t bitch too much. Although I can see the publishers doing what they do best and just cash grabbing.

  3. If you think this is bad you should have looked at Fable 2. In Fable 2 to max all achievements for the first few months of release up until I think the first DLC you either pre ordered or you were screwed. Then there was the free pub games (again for a long time required to get all achievements) that you could have gotten with a gamestop pre order, otherwise you had to buy that too.

    I agree with most of the things you say. I like the idea of pre order bonuses, but it has gotten out of hand. A in game skin or costume that just looks cool but otherwise is no different than normal gear? Sure sound fine. A making of CD or a soundtrack? Nice. A game mode no one who didn’t pre order can access or special items/powers better than most in game things? A bit much.

    • Exactly. Very well put. There are varying degrees of pre-order bonuses and some are definitely a bit much. It seems to be even more unfair for those overseas as this is something US sees a lot more of.

  4. avatar Ferahtsu

    The only pre-order incentive I’m ever on board for is those figurines. Castlevanias 8-bit Simon, and Prototypes Alex Mercer are neat examples.

  5. avatar TERMINAT0R

    I Agree with Karkarov. Retailers even use the existence of bonuses to deny the use of other discounts and coupons when ordering the games, further screwing over the consumer.

  6. avatar LegendofMoriad

    I agree whole-heartedly. Pre-order bonuses should be available to everyone. The best situation, in my head at least, is a bonus available later in the game, but unlocked early. Each store could have its own bonus, but they would all be available for the player avid enough to unlock them all in-game.

    • avatar Paola

      I went into GAME and asked to pre-order Sonic Generations on Xbox 360 and apparently it isn’t ltised, only on PS3 and 3DS. So I pre-ordered the PS3 version and when wanting to pre-oder the 3DS version they apparently ran out of pre-order spaces. So i went to another up the road and they don’t have the Xbox 360 and ran out of 3DS too. Am I missing something here or is GAME (One of the biggest game shops in the UK) messing around with me. All I want is Sonic Generations on Xbox 360 and 3DS and apparently there isn’t any !

  7. avatar Mouser X

    The only pre-order stuff that I find interesting are the actual physical objects. I got an awesome hat when I pre-ordered Scribblenauts (and I’ll very likely pre-order Sonic Colors for the same reason), a nifty stress ball when I pre-ordered A Boy and His Blob, posters when I pre-ordered Kingdom Hearts (DS) and Metroid Prime: Trilogy, and an audio CD when I pre-ordered Fragile Dream: Farewell Ruins of the Moon. Pre-orders which “award” the consumer with in-game content, however, do bother me. It’s a piece of data, some “1′s” and “0′s”, really. That’s fine for a pre-order, sure, but something so “trivial” (it’s just data!) should be available to *all* users of the game. If not initially, then at the very least shortly after the game was released. A month or two seems reasonable. If said content isn’t made available, then I say pirate it. It’s only fair, since no one would be losing money on it. You can’t even resell pre-ordered in-game content, so I see no reason why anyone should care.

    As I said though, the only thing I find worth-while is actual physical goods. In-game content rarely motivates me to pre-order games (and never has thus far. It’s just data). Just my two cents. Mouser X over and out.

  8. avatar Bob

    As a non online gamer this pre order DLC stuff stinks so much more for me. Takes the fun right out of pre-ordering in all honesty.

  9. avatar Tbone

    You are definitely not alone. I have recently found myself playing the same pre-order game you did. For example, when Halo Reach came out I pre ordered from Best Buy for the 20 dollar gift card and Gamestop for the armor and returned the Gamestop one. It is actually really convenient that Gamestop puts their codes on the receipt. I actually have three more games on pre-order that I will return immediately when they come out

  10. avatar Ahna

    I feel like a child in a candy store with different vendors hissing at me to choose here or there. There’s a youtube video that shows how I feel to some effect, it’s called Pixar the One man Band. A musician starts playing when a kid walks up, the kid goes to give him the coin, then another musician competing with him comes in and the kid walks to him, then begins the musician wars!

    I feel exactly like that little child with the gold coin :) . :

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