July 16, 2009

How NOT to Make Preorder Bonuses

(Warning: This post is profanity heavy. No seriously, I kinda flip out here.) It's been part of the gaming industry for a while now... you go into, say, a Gamestop (I can pretend that I chose them at random, but we'd all know that was bullshit), and the employee behind the desk asks you if you want to preorder/trade stuff in. It's kind of what keeps brick-and-mortar places going, really- yes, you can make a profit with just new games, but that's not enough, not in an economy where businesses are being put through the ringer. So... preorders and used game sales. That's what I wanna talk about today. Cause frankly... I hate them both.

Preorders first, cause they're easier for me to discuss without devolving into mouth-foaming rage. Preorders were originally created so that both the story and the game's developer would be able to get an idea of how much demand there was for the game, and that purpose lives on today. At first, gamers used it so that they could be certain that they would get a copy on release day, and that was the sole motivator, but let's be honest- though stores like Gamestop preach gloom and doom, it's total bullshit. Very, very few titles is there any legitmate threat of you not being able to walk in and buy it when it comes out. Bioshock, Halo, Call of Duty. These, preorders might be warranted to guarantee that you get the game. Pretty much anything else, all you're doing is giving the store your money, so that they can drop it in the bank, and collect interest on it instead of you while you wait for the game to come out.

And gamers have, to some extent, realized this. So those corporations had to come up with something new, and what did they come up with? Preorder bonuses! Hurray! Now, preorder this game, and you'll get a special demo/in-game content/art book/gimmick! Two of those I think are good, two are bad. First, let's discuss the "preorder demo" phenomenon. A lot of games have demos that you can only play if you preorder. This. Is. MORONIC. For god's sake, demo is short for demonstration! You're showing what your game can do to convince people to buy it! What is the fucking point of that when you can only try this demo when you've already put money down on the game?! So incredibly stupid.

Well, what about the in-game content? Name me one, one single example of where this wasn't bullshit, and I'll concede, but I don't think you can. There are two strategies developers take with preorder game content- one, take something OUT of your game, and only offer it to preorderers. Well damn, that really fucks the rest of the world, doesn't it? The second option is to artificially allow earlier/less limited access to content already in the game. Get this gun two levels earlier! Start the game with this powerful sword! Again, this is a shit idea- it breaks the game experience and balance, besides just feeling artificial as hell. That's what it comes down to with in-game preorder bonuses- you're fucking the preorderers, or the late adopters, but somebody gets screwed.

Art books and gimmicks, I like, but they are falling out of style. The thing about them is 1) the sort of person who would preorder your game is likely an enthusiast, and therefore more likely to appreciate something like a collection of your team's concept art, and 2) they add to the experience by being interesting and useful while you wait for the game to come out, making the wait less tedious. You could also argue 3) that they provide these benefits without screwing over anyone who doesn't preorder. That doesn't sound like it should be a pro, but the other two didn't manage it, did they?

You know what? I'll post about used games later- either later today, or Friday. This preorder rage is plenty long enough of a post already. EDIT: Or Monday, cause I've got so much to talk about all of the sudden.


  1. Yeah, I feel much the same way about Pre Orders. I'm surprised you didn't hit the "Reserve" issue button. "Here. We'll take your five dollars and if you are late in picking the game up, we keep the money. Have fun!"

  2. Well, generally, people tend not to tolerate that anymore- now, they have the five dollars count toward your purchase, and leave it in their database. I preordered Zelda: Phantom Hourglass before it came out... and picked it up a year after release. Still got the 5 dollars off it.