GameRant: Game Editions & Pre-Order Bonuses

If you read the Chi-Scroller with any regularity (and you should be!) you’re probably aware of my propensity for curmudgeonly opinions by now.  There are some things I really like, and those things I tend to voraciously defend, everything else though, tends to fall into my crosshairs at one point or another.  Today, I feel like going off about a topic of particular disdain for me; games that feature different content for different platforms and editions, and feature pre-order bonuses.

Let’s start with the most egregious sin, platform exclusives.  To be clear, what I’m talking about is this; Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag includes content available only for the PS3 and PS4.  The Xbox 360, Xbox One (the PC had access through the UPlay Gold version of the game) versions of the game simply don’t have as much content.  So again, to be clear here, AC IV for PS3 and PS4 featured more content than the same game at the same price for the Xbox 360 and the Xbox One.  It just blows my mind how this is even possible.  I mean, ok, we’re only talking about games here, it’s not like the milk you buy at Walmart is pasteurized and all other milk isn’t.  It’s a relatively small thing.  But how is this considered acceptable in the industry.  How is it ok that companies can release one game for platform a, and then the same game plus some other cool stuff for platform b while calling them the same thing and charging the same price.  I purchased AC IV for the PC, but if I had been and Xbox 360 player, I would have been livid.  It’s simply not fair.

In the same vein, let’s talk about “editions”.  Whenever a game comes out these days there is the standard plebian version of the game that all of us peasants buy, and then there is anywhere from 1 to 35 different up-sale versions that contain who-knows-what.  As far as these upgraded editions go, I really could care less as long as the things you get don’t include game altering items.  If you want a four foot tall pewter bust of the main character, fine.  Soundtrack, no problem.  Behind-the-scenes DVD, all yours.  You can have all your little doo-dads and enjoy the hell out of them.  But when the uber-mega-awesome deluxe edition includes some weapon or armor that makes the game somehow better, easier, or more fun, that’s a problem for me.  Go look up Watch Dogs on Steam right now and you’ll see what I’m talking about.  Depending on the version of the game you buy, you get all these upgrades which, by the way, make no sense because you can’t play the game and figure out if they’re worth it.  Regardless though, giving out in-game items that affect gameplay (different costumes and skins are fine) makes me feel like I’m forced to buy the upgraded edition if I want the full experience.  In a case like Watch Dogs, it’s already a full-priced retail game, so it feels extra slimy.  If the game was $30, I might be tempted to let it slide a bit more, but at $60 I feel like I should get the whole game.

On to pre-order bonuses; these little scummy pieces or crap are the little morsels they try and shove down your throat to con you into buying a game before you know if it’s good or not.  In last week’s debate club, myself

and Chris went back and forth on the merits of reviews.  Regardless of where you come down on that argument though, it’s clear that more information is always better when making a purchase, whether that comes from reviews, word-of-mouth, podcasts, etc…  The thing is, you used to pre-order a game because the store would run out of physical copies of the game you wanted.  Today, that’s far less of an issue.  The digital download of Dark Souls II on Steam featured pre-order bonuses.  It wasn’t like Steam was going to run out of digital copies, so what’s the point of pre-ordering?  Why not wait until you have some better information on whether or not the game is worth buying?  Pre-order bonuses do everything they can to circumvent the buyer’s information gathering process.  To point the finger at Watch Dogs again, there are pre-order bonuses for the Steam version of that game that include better weapons.  The world at large knows virtually nothing about the quality of Watch Dogs at this point.  It’s a new franchise, from a developer that has made some great and not-so-great games in the past few years.  It’s a total mystery.  And Ubisoft wants you to buy the game now, a month before its out, in the hopes that it doesn’t somehow turn out to be a flaming turd.  To be fair, Watch Dogs looks great, and probably will be great.  Still though, you really never know.

I love playing games, but I’m tired of getting jerked around by developers and publishers who cut their own deals with specific platforms, upsell me on games that they’re already charging me full price for, and then ask me to pre-order their product so that they can count their revenue now, without even a discussion as to whether or not the game was worth buying.  As consumers we tend to get the shaft fairly often, but these days, the gaming industry is getting near the top of the list of offenders.