If you pre-ordered Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, go throw your console and/or computer outside the nearest fifty story window.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about pre-orders. Once an OK option to make sure you reserved your hard copy of a game so it wasn’t sold out on launch, they are now desperate attempts from studios and retail stores to earn your favor.
You see, pre-orders are living long past their time on an increasingly complicated life support system. Like all things that are left out in the open for too long, they have become grotesque monstrosities that should be destroyed with fire. They are designed to make you drop sixty-plus dollars on a game before you find out it’s terrible and you’re stuck holding a $60 pile of garbage. As if pre-ordering wasn’t enough, publishers and retailers have been signing exclusive content rights to make sure you purchase it from one place over another. All for a cosmetic or weapon pack.
And you know what? To be fair, pre-orders are on the decline, which unfortunately just makes marketing executives try that much harder to shove an unreleased game down your throat. But overall trends still don’t forgive the 295,514 people that pre-ordered Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 two days after the first teaser dropped. The teaser! No gameplay, no plot details, no promise that the title would bring something new to the franchise. Just confirmation that the game was going to exist and almost 300,000 people started throwing their paychecks away.
But hey, that’s an established IP. Let’s take look at something else. Destiny was a brand new AAA title by Bungie that knocked the doors off the hype train’s barn. One week before release, the game had 2,157,478 preorders across all platforms. That’s enough people to make up a small country.
And for what? Activision has stated that digital sales were a large reason why their launch was so successful. Instead of waiting for official reviews that revealed the game to be pretty mediocre, gamers purchased it before release anyway. They bought the hype hook, line, and sinker, and were now stuck with a pretty average FPS with RPG elements. There was no reason for any of those 2,157,478 people to purchase the game ahead of time except to receive bullshit exclusive DLC that they probably forgot to redeem anyway.
Let me be clear. I’m not criticizing anyone for purchasing these games (that’s a completely different issue), but when executives realize people are still willing to part with their money months ahead of actually receiving a product, they start doing things like this:
I’ll break this down so you can fully process how abhorrent this is. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided has a multitiered pre-order incentive that unlocks more content as people pre-order. It’s a twisted reimagining of Kickstarter where a AAA studio blackmails you into giving them money in exchange for them completing a game they were going to release anyway.
Under the guise of “customizing your pre-order,” Square Enix is giving you multiple tiers to choose from, such as your typical DLC load-out pack, a digital comic or novella, and an art book or digital OST sampler (note, that’s a sampler, you don’t even get the whole soundtrack for your undying loyalty). The upper tiers get you a new mission and the game released four days early
If you’re a marketer, this sounds like a pretty good idea. Deus Ex is all about choice, so why not let your consumers choose what pre-order bonuses they get? Except, no, that’s not how this is going to work. Now you’re locking other content out that these players can never get unless they purchase multiple copies of the game. With every choice you make in your tiers, you’re leaving something else behind that you will never get to play. But that’s the least of this program’s sins.
That extra mission is now behind a collective pay wall. Pre-ordering a game used to mean reserving a slot so you got to play the game at all, not so you can be sure you’ll get the complete experience. To make matters worse, we have no idea what sales figures need to be reached to unlock the next tier. For all we know, SquareEnix could keep raising it until they’ve hemorrhaged all the money out of gaming community.
Lastly, threatening to release the game four days early is just shitty, no matter which way you slice the issue. If the developers already have a release date in mind and they are more than capable of releasing the game early, then they are literally blackmailing you into getting the game on time. On the other hand, if they are going to move the release date up four days early, four days that developers had planned to work out bugs and polishing, that’s just screwing over the devs who probably haven’t seen their families for the last month as it is. Four days for you and me is nothing. Four days of development time is an eternity.
Pre-ordering is a terrible practice that publishers have been trying to salvage ever since the advent of the digital age. There is no reason to ever pre-order a base game. If you’re into collecting figurines and novelty items, then by all means go ahead and purchase a collector’s edition if that’s your thing. But purchasing a base game ahead of time to get a cosmetic pack or a special gun is a shady practice that is exacerbated by retailer exclusive items and timed exclusive DLC.
Luckily you can do something about this! In order for SquareEnix to be successful in implementing the worst thing since banana shaped pencil holders, they need your dollar. The one that’s in your wallet right now. Hold onto that dollar. Spend it on something now. Then, when the game is released and you can make a fair assessment based on reviews or let’s plays, feel free to purchase it without the pressure of a AAA studio threatening your first born in exchange for a gun pack.
As a consumer, you vote with your money. It’s the only tool outside of internet message boards that you have. Luckily, the Augment Your Order™ video has been disliked right down to hell, so it appears consumers are more savvy this time around.
Stop pre-ordering games and we can get rid of this practice for good.
Steve hates augs. Follow him on Twitter @driver194.