Pre-order bonuses are a relatively new string to the game marketeers bow. So new in fact the first one I received was with Duke Nukem Forever last year.
I doubt anyone would have used the junky plastic Duke head as a keyring but it was pretty awesome at dealing with cold-calls.
“Did you know you could be entitled to thousands in compensation…”
“Blow it out your ass”
“No joke sir, thousands!”
“Balls of Steel”
“Yes you cold use the money to replace your balls with steel ones… if that’s what you’re into”
“I’ll rip your head off and shit down your neck”
Good times! But pre-order bonuses aren’t always good…
5) It means you’re going to get socks for your birthday!
I think gamers have to be some of the easiest people on the planet to buy presents for. And that statement should mean I’m easy to buy for, but I’m not.
Let’s pretend you’re birthday is on 14th of November and you want CoD: Black Ops II. That’s 1 day after the release. So just enough time for someone to get to the shops and pick you up a copy, without being too long for you to wait. So why does this happen:
Present Buyer: “Hey, I know… I could get you Black Ops II for your birthday”
You: “Nah, that’s ok, but thanks”
That’s because the above reply is way better than this one:
You: “Yeah ok sweet, but pre-order it TODAY and show me proof! I really NEED Nuketown 2025 because it may be the only good map. If I didn’t get the extra map it would ruin my birthday, year and life!”
So you just reply politely, pre-order the game yourself and count down to the day you’re pwning on Nuketown 2025 wearing cookie-monster socks.
In fairness though the Black Ops II bonus is actually quite good in comparison with some…
4) They add options willy-nilly (after many have already pre-ordered)
I was a massive SSX fan so as soon as I could pre-order; I did. I went to my favourite merchant (ShopTo.net – pls send me free stuff!) and pre-ordered. I’m pretty sure there weren’t any bonuses listed at this time so I had no reason to be anything but excited.
Then, a couple of weeks later, I find out I have to make a choice: Cancel my pre-order and use a different merchant to get a the Eddie character AND additional Mountain, or stick and get a snowboard for a character I’ll probably never play.
Out to loyalty and laziness I stuck with ShopTo. I paid the same as others but got less of a game.
Needless to say I rarely pre-order now before the last minute…
3) They stops us pre-ordering!
Take Dishonored, in the UK you have four choices:
- GAME & GameStation: Special Edition complete with cards and relatively balanced sounding in-game-bonuses.
- TESCO: “Stealth Edition”.
- ShopTo.net: “Butcher Edition”.
- Amazon: “Killing With Style Edition”.
At this stage you should be clicking “Check Out” on your pre-order but now you’re analysing videos. Which is not a good thing! You may realise you don’t like the look of the game any more, now you’ve gone over with with a fine Toothcomb (WTF is a Toothcomb anyway). Even if you still love the look of the game, indecision is never a good thing when it comes to getting people to part with hard-earned money.
So if I buy the “Butcher Edition” then realise I enjoy playing the game more as a stealthy-killer-in-the-shadows, what do I do?
Well it’s not like you won’t be able to play stealthy with the other ‘editions’. But every time you enter a building via a window you just smashed and promptly get caught or killed you’re going to get pretty fucked off you didn’t pre-order from TESCO.
So short of pre-ordering all four copies then…
2) The game has already fucked you off before you receive it
It’s not really a good start, is it?
With Duke Nukem Forever I had the choice of the cold-caller-keyring, a baseball-cap-bottle-opener or a pair of sunglasses. None of which effected the game in anyway – unless you were wearing the sunglasses or had opened a lot of beers! So it really did feel like a bonus.
However when it’s something digital that DOES effect the gameplay you can’t help but feel the code is already on the disc and they’re just holding it back. In the case of Dishonored they’re making a point to say “Downloadable Upgrade Pack”. Well, we’ll have to see what the ‘hackers’ say about that a couple of days after release. My guess is you only download a 2kb unlocker and the files for all the packs are already on the disc. Sorry I’m so cynical.
I know it sounds like I’m singling out Dishonored but I’m really not. It’s the idea I hate. Dishonored looks like an awesome game and I’m sure it’s going to get great reviews. It’s just a shame about this pre-order crap!
And lets not forget our beloved Rockstar did pretty much the same thing with L.A. Noire and their “Detective” and “Sharpshooter” suits. (Can you think of any other examples? Let me know in the comments)
But the real reason these bonuses can fuck off is…
1) It’s easy to do it the right way!
In the same way there are The Three Laws of Robotics I propose there should be The Three Laws of Digital Game Pre-order Bonuses (I’m still working on the name):
- The bonus must be designed to thank the loyal fan,
- The bonus must be universal, every merchant has the same bonus,
- The bonus must never effect the core game or gameplay.
So if you’re a game marketeer and you’re dead-set on offering a digital pre-order bonus then please follow the Black Ops II model and not the Dishonored one.
How do you you feel about pre-order bonuses? What was the best, or worst, you received? Have you pre-ordered Dishonored, if so which did you go for? Let me know in the comments!
P.S. I should get some sort of kudos point for not using the sentence “Dishonored’s pre-order bonuses makes me feel… Dishonored!” – Oops too late!