Pre-Order Incentives – Where Do We Draw The Line?

Pre-Order Incentives – Where Do We Draw The Line?

The concept of pre-order content for video games has become a hot topic in recent weeks. From access to betas to ‘exclusive’ missions, the whole idea is starting to expand beyond a few nifty extras. What started out as physical freebies promised by retailers has grown in content from games being cut purely to be given away as a pre-order ‘bonus’. What started as s harmless practice has grown into worrying trend, but the consumer is partly to blame.

On average, the retailers offering the pre-order extras are normally charging the most. Normally any sane person would be looking to save the most amount of money they could. The lure of pre-order goodies has become too good to pass up, leading to people paying top dollar (or pound) for a game they could get cheaper…all in the name of them little extras. The price difference begins to beg the question, are these even bonuses? Given you’re normally paying more money to obtain them over other stores, no…they are not bonuses as you are paying for the extras.


Away from price hikes, the trend of ‘early’ access to weapons/items in multiplayer games via pre-ordering is a rather worrying issue. Pay-to-win is often a term applied to free-to-play games packed with microtransactions, but in the last few years pay-to-win has became a issue with retail titles. Pre-ordering from a certain retailer and receiving (in this case Destiny) access to better weapons before anyone else is a distinct advantage. Anything with a competitive mode that is affected by pre-order extras (bar cosmetics) is a concept that should be rejected universally.

Pre-ordering a game should not result in a player gaining any sort of advantage over another in a competitive environment. If there’s one thing worse than this awful practice, it’s cutting content from the game just to give away as a pre-order intensive. The biggest companies in the industry are actively doing this with almost all of their games, it’s not a growing problem but a very present and relevant issue. Combine this issue with the obvious practice of cutting even more content to sell as day one DLC and it begs the question, what exactly is our money paying for?



As the old saying goes, it takes two to tango…and the consumer is certainly dancing. These pre-order extras are clearly getting the job done. Games are pre-ordering so well that they are already being green lighted for follow ups with Watch Dogs being the latest example. The only way to combat the problem of questionable pre-order goodies is to simply not buy into them. The issue has been growing in intensity, and doesn’t show any sign of stopping, but if there’s a time to say no then that time is most certainly now.

Are all pre-order bonuses bad? No, of course not. There’s a number of pre-order bonuses that do not cut down the core games content, nor do they unbalance the multiplayer element. Physical extras are always fun, and mostly harmless. The latest World of Warcraft expasion, Warlord of Draenor, offers a single character boost to level 90. This boost is a perfect way to bring back old players, give current players a new class to try, or even bring in new players. It’s a extra that only enhances the game, while giving the player choice in how ( or even if) they want to use it.

As video game budgets become inflated, and the price of failure becomes heavier and heavier, it’s understandable why these pre-order extras started. Obtaining a strong sales base before the game has even launched is surely a great big feather in the hat of the publisher and developer. The problem is, the purist of this feather has result in these pre-order bonuses becoming increasingly intrusive and almost exploitive. Where will it stop? Will it ever stop? Why is it even accepted? It’s a problem only the consumer can affect, at least that how it seems.



Sean Halliday

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