News Article

Talking Point: Are Publishers Taking Pre-Order Bonuses Too Far?

Posted by Sammy Barker

Spoilt for choice

Pre-order bonuses used to be exactly that: pre-order bonuses. Retailers would compete over little knick-knacks such as t-shirts, keyrings, and action figures in order to secure your business, and you’d shop at the store that was giving away the specific goodie that you wanted. It was a largely harmless practice, with the inconsequential fluff rewarding those savvy enough to look around – without punishing those without the willpower or means to do so. However, this practice has gotten increasingly sinister over the past five or so years, with multiple permutations of virtually every PlayStation 4 product to pick from. So, is it time that we put our foot down?

We’re not especially against the premise of pre-order bonuses in their modern guise – after all, an additional in-game costume is just as insignificant as a real world top, but it has the added benefit of not requiring storage space. We can even deal with additional missions or playable characters; while these may appear more substantial on the surface, they typically amount to shoddy asides that you don’t really need to see. Alas, we’re rapidly reaching a point where there are not simply one or two bonuses to unlock, but a whole suite of them – and generally, they’re all available at different outlets, at different times, on different platforms. It’s about as anti-consumer as you can get.

Take upcoming sci-fi shooter Destiny, for example. Sony has partnered heavily with developer Bungie on the adventure, announcing that those that purchase the game on the PlayStation 4 or PlayStation 3 will unlock access to a couple of extra missions, maps, and weapons. From a business perspective, it’s proving a smart decision – sales are trending strongly on the Japanese giant’s formats – but it doesn’t necessarily seem fair that those paying the exact same amount on a competitor’s console should lose access to the content. Worse still, recent reports have confirmed that the add-ons are only exclusive until next year, when they’ll become available to everyone.

And, of course, Microsoft is not exempt from this practice either. It announced during its E3 press conference last month that Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’s map packs will debut exclusively on the Xbox One and Xbox 360, meaning that – assuming that past trends remain consistent – everyone else will have to wait a month to access the game’s add-ons. Strip away the corporate incentives, and this essentially amounts to one manufacturer paying a publisher to prevent content from appearing on a competing platform for a predetermined period of time. We can’t blame Activision for taking the cash, but it doesn’t seem right that we’re being treated this way.

And let’s be honest here, the likes of Ubisoft and Electronic Arts aren’t entirely innocent in all of this. Watch Dogs was perhaps the most extraordinary example of what’s currently wrong with pre-order DLC, with forum posters having to produce a walkthrough in order to keep track of all of the different options available. According to the frankly embarrassing buyer’s guide, consumers could select from a whopping ten different versions of the sandbox shooter, each including different pieces of in-game and real world paraphernalia. Indeed, you’d literally need to buy the game dozens of times over, in multiple permutations, across several different regions to get it all.

Of course, we shouldn’t necessarily expect to get every piece of content just because it’s being made – the industry is changing, and heading down a much more service orientated path. However, we often find ourselves scratching our heads over what’s available where – and we cover this industry for a living on a daily basis. With so many different options on offer, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for average consumers to know what’s up for grabs – it’s no longer about picking either a poster or an art book. And that inevitably leads to widespread confusion, which is exactly what has happened with The Creative Assembly’s otherwise intriguing horror title Alien: Isolation recently.

Only yesterday, publisher SEGA announced that by pre-ordering the game you’ll be able to play as the Sigourney Weaver-portrayed sci-fi icon Ellen Ripley, and you will – but there’s a catch. In the UK at least, it seems that unless you purchase the title from GAME, you’ll be stuck with the ‘Nostromo Edition’, which includes less content than the ‘Ripley Edition’. Indeed, the latter will only be available from the abovementioned UK-based store – where it carries a premium fee. This isn’t the first example of a retailer exclusive either, and it probably won’t be the last, with US giant GameStop recently hinting that it intends to get more involved with developers at a creative level in order to secure better bonuses.

The simple solution would be to try not to care, but it’s becoming more and more difficult to be blasé about such shady practices. We could certainly accept these initiatives when publishers were handing out small tokens to those engaged enough to register their interest in a game early, but there are so many options these days, that it’s hard not to feel like you’re missing out. Between platform exclusives, retailer exclusives, regional exclusives, and more, it’s almost impossible to know where to spend your money anymore. And while it may not be the best cause of action where great games are concerned, perhaps we should start keeping our cash in our wallets a little longer until organisations realise that current trends simply aren’t acceptable as they are.

What are your thoughts on pre-order bonuses these days? Do you find yourself shopping around in order to get the additional content that you want, or are you finding it difficult to care? Do you ever feel like you’re missing out? Take your pick in the comments section below.

Are you finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with pre-order bonuses? (62 votes)

Yes, there are simply way too many these days


Hmm, not sure I really care to be honest


No, I tend to be well informed on these things


Please login to vote in this poll.

User Comments (29)



Punished_Boss_84 said:

I don't let it bother me too much. I just wish that this 'preorder content' didn't take so long to find its way onto the digital realm.

As for the standard 'timed exclusive content' MS started it with COD's month, then Sony one upped with Destiny's year. Just ride it out is all i can say, theres no other option (besides the obvious).



glassmusic said:

Store-specific pre-order bonuses are a blight. I’m not supporting that model. I’m not going to spend $60 on an incomplete game so that I can spent $5/$10 later for the same game that others were enjoying from the word go.



ferrers405 said:

Well i'm inclined to buy almost everything digital now, just some games i buy physical and most of them aren't pre-orders, so i'm not the best sample to this...



FullbringIchigo said:

pre-order bonuses are not the problem, making them exclusive to only one place is

if your going to have a bonus then everyone should be able to get it no matter where they get the game from



N711 said:

I think. Some are making. Too much of a big deal for some exclusive or even timed content. I mean its not like when the full game got bought to be exclusive like it happens sometimes. As for pre order content (I think the article was about 2 different things) I don't really like this practice they should just be cheaper if preorder



get2sammyb said:

@FullbringIchigo I agree. It's also the wealth of options, too. While choice is usually a good thing, the fact that you can get x from shopping at y, but only z from shopping at a, b, and c is ridiculous.



rjejr said:

@N711 - "I think the article was about 2 different things"

Yeah it went from pre-order bonuses to store exclusives to console limited timed exclusives pretty quickly, and they aren't all the same thing.

I would like to point out this isn't a video game exclusive business. Just got back from Target and there was a HUGE Coldplay ad (have no idea if it was new or old) saying their album had 3 extra tracks on it at Target. I'm pretty sure I've seen this before at Target and I think Walmart does something similar w/ some albums sold there. And DVDs as well. Best Buy tends to have a lot of DVD exclusive content. (I wait all week to read the Sunday newspaper flyers so I follow this stuff.)

Found Coldplay at Target, apparently a couple of months ago:



get2sammyb said:

@rjejr @N711 That's fair, I probably should have focused on the single topic. It does all seem to fall into the same category, though: confusing consumers and creating an almost impossible number of options, which generally all mean that you're going to miss out on something.

The Coldplay thing is very interesting. I wonder how common that is. I've seen records get bonus songs in different regions before, but store exclusives seem pretty crazy. Amazing that those songs don't appear to be live versions or covers, too - they look like actual b-sides. (Though I'm not a Coldplay fan so could be wrong.)



sinalefa said:

I hate preorder bonuses, first for the reason @FullbringIchigo mentions, and also because they try to force you to buy a game you may not care about. I would rather wait for reviews to see if a game is worth it.

A friend of mine wanted Lightning Returns. I told him to wait a couple of months so the game gets cheaper (as the other two FFXIII) but he wanted the Cloud outfit that was only available in preorder. For me a simple thing like that is not worth the extra cash.




I don't and never will pre order a game on PSN or XBL unless the pricing structure is changed. Nothing to do with the bonus content offered. The article makes some very fair points but I'd rather see Microsoft and Sony pressured a lot more by journalists about their online pricing policies.



Carl-G said:

I couldn't care less about the extra stuff really. Even when a game comes out i hardly ever buy the DLC to. The basic game is all i want



Bad-MuthaAdebisi said:

It would be nice to get pre order dlc for free which is usually the case, I'm never that fussed to pre order anything anyway, elder scrolls online, Witcher 3 wild hunt, alien isolation, no mans sky. Only infamous second son have I bothered to so far



Mrskinner said:

@get2sammyb the music and film industries have been doing this very same thing for years. Now gaming is such a big entertainment medium it has followed suit. Personally I don't get involved in it all and I refuse to buy game exclusives, they always seem a rip off and a week after release the game exclusives seem to drop to the same price as the normal edition. Big rip off. I just shop around and buy the core game at the cheapest price



Mrskinner said:

@voodoo341 I agree. I think it is totally rediculous to pay more for a digital copy than a hard copy of a game. When I finish my hard copy I can sell it and recoup some of the cash. With digital I get the pleasure of paying more for something with zero resale value. No thanks



BertoFlyingFox said:

I dont like pre-order bonuses or store-specific exclusivity. A good chunk end up becoming overpriced DLC and while also instilling the idea of waiting for a nice price cut or GOTY edition.



CanisWolfred said:

I can see why. Not only do they force people to buy soon instead of waiting for a cheaper copy, perhaps even before the reviews come out, but by forcing a level of scarcity, it encourages people to keep buying day one.

That said, just because they want to manipulate the market to get more money doesn't mean I'm willing to get behind it. I only pre-order games when I know they'll be hard to find later, thanks to their general obscurity, and I know I'm definitely going to want to play them at some point.



Gamer83 said:

I'm not nearly as bothered by DLC stuff as am I by a huge publisher like EA taking the money hat and making a full game like Titanfall exclusive.



Dodoo said:

Anyone remember the good old days of the Amiga where everyone got the bonus T-Shirts and stuff that came in the game box, regardless of where it was bought from?

These days I couldn't give a monkey about art books, keyrings or other bonuses - I just want the damn game - so none of this appeals to me anyway. However it does seem to be bordering on the ridiculous.

Was it Watch Dogs that had about 5 different "limited editions"? If I was a collector then I'd be a bit annoyed that there are 4 other versions of my "limited edition" that I likely didn't have, unless I was stupid enough to buy all 5 of course!



FullbringIchigo said:

@sinalefa I bet your friend was annoyed when the Cloud outfit was released as paid DLC, he or she could have waited got the game cheap and still got the outfit



Beaston61 said:

I like Gamer83 - He says some pretty radical stuff. It gives the "Talking Point" life



SecondServing said:

I always, always, love the Talking Point and the Soapbox articles. Keep em' up!

And to answer the question at hand, I feel publishers are taking it too far, especially Ubisoft.



SecondServing said:

@Gamer83 Is that how you feel about FromSoftware making Bloodborne a PS4 exclusive? Is that how you feel about the many times Sony has done that in the past? (MGS4, Tales, Ni No Kuni, etc.)



Gamer83 said:


I've always hated seeing big releases (or ones with potential to be big) go exclusive if it wasn't published and funded by Sony, MS or Nintendo. So something like Dead Rising, MS went to Capcom, paid the money to fund the project and publish it. Don't like it, but it is what it is. Something like Titanfall is just EA taking the moneyhat and it hardly paid off. I bet if you asked somebody at EA off the record to give a real response, even they would acknowledge that was a foolish decision. No reason to limit yourself if you don't have to. With Sunset Overdrive, MS is picking up the tab. Sony is picking up the tab for Bloodborne, so it's different.



Zombie_Barioth said:

Thats not the same case as with Titanfall. The PS brand is where the majority of the Tales of fanbase is (i.e. sells best), its Namco's choice to make it PS exclusive. Its likely the same case with Ni No Kuni and Metal Gear Solid. Playstation is practically the home of JRPGs, and where MGS got big.

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