Why Retailer-Specific Pre-Order Bonuses?
Lately a new trend has begun to pop up in the video game industry, and it’s not a positive trend according to many. As most people know, in order to sweeten the deal for people, developers and publishers have been offering bonuses for pre-ordering their games. In many cases, these bonuses are nothing more than in-game trinkets of some kind, or some sort of stronger weapon to make you more powerful earlier in the game. In many other cases, these bonuses include many real-world items, from replicas of in-game items and characters, to art books and strategy guides. But recently, game creators have been adding in a new idea to the mix: retailer-specific pre-order bonuses. Basically, this means that each retailer that sells pre-orders for the game will offer a different bonus that the others won’t carry, forcing you to choose from either your loyalties of companies, or which bonus you feel is more important to you.
This trend has begun ramping up in 2010, and is continuing at full steam into 2011. The most recent example which showed itself is for the PlayStation 3 exclusive first-person shooter, Killzone 3. Depending on which retailer that you pre-order from, you will be given a unique PSN code which will unlock different abilities, and all retailers will be offering the Retro Map Pack, which features two of the most popular maps from Killzone 2. Here’s where things get hairy. If you pre-order from GameStop you get a code which unlocks all multiplayer weapons and abilities for the first 24 hours of multiplayer gameplay. If you pre-order from Best Buy you get a code which gives you double experience points for the first 24 hours of multiplayer. If you pre-order from Amazon you get a code which gives you three Unlock Points to use on a weapon or ability for multiplayer.
Unless you’re planning on getting the Helghast (Collector’s) Edition, then you won’t get any physical anything for pre-ordering the game. However, in the case of Killzone 3 here, this brings up an interesting question. As you notice, all of the bonuses that you can receive affect the multiplayer aspect of the game, which means that, chances are if most people by the game on day one, that mutliplayer for day one will be some of the most broken we’ve seen in quite some time. In the case of the Map Pack coming free with the pre-order, that makes the most sense of them all, especially because in that case, more than likely, they will offer it for sale for those who didn’t pre-order at a later date. But in the case of choosing which retailer to pre-order Killzone 3 from, it really doesn’t matter that much afterall. It’s the business aspect that we must look at though, to really understand it.
While it’s unclear as to exactly who and how they choose who gets which pre-order bonus, we can assume that the retailers pay a little bit extra in order to get a bonus of some kind added to the docket to make the deal better for the person who’s planning on buying it. We can also assume that the retailer that pays the most is expecting that they have the “best” bonus of everyone, and that more people will order from them instead of the others. It would be an interesting investigation to find out exactly which bonus is considered to be the “best” of them all, and who paid what to get these bonuses. But Killzone 3 isn’t the only example, and this other example didn’t come out more than a half a year ago.
Fallout: New Vegas took it up a notch even by having FOUR different pre-order bonuses spread across FIVE different retailers. Each different retailer; GameStop, Amazon, Walmart, Steam and Best Buy; were given a different pack of bonuses which gave them each a different unique type of armor, a different unique weapon and a few other unique items. Since this game is strictly single-player, the only thing that any of these pre-order bonuses would do is give you an edge into your own game in the beginning, and give you a unique weapon which you couldn’t have played with if you hadn’t of pre-ordered from that specific retailer. So why, if it isn’t going to make a gameplay difference, do you offer all of these different packs for different retailers and not just build it into the game so that everyone can get the full experience?
In another example, the new Mortal Kombat releasing in April will give you a different character skin and original fatality for different characters depending on if you pre-order from GameStop, Best Buy or Amazon. But for fans of certain characters, and even though all of this stuff is cosmetic, they are forced to purchase the game from a retailer that they may not like. There are other types of retailer-specific pre-order bonuses of course, that affect the game even less, but really give you incentive to buy from this one retailer instead of the others. With Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, the only way to get into the (PlayStation 3 exclusive) beta, or so they announced, was to pre-order the game from GameStop. One can only imagine what kind of deal GameStop had to make to be able to get that exclusive for themselves, but the money that they made from people buying the game from them and not others probably made up for it.
Retailer-specific pre-order bonuses are, for the most part, completely useless. If you’re not a fan of pre-ordering to begin with, chances are these examples that were used aren’t going to make you care any more about pre-ordering a game than you did before. But the marketing behind retailer-specific bonuses just feels underhanded to begin with, because technically you aren’t getting the full version of the game in some cases, unless you pre-order it from the retailer of your choosing. So what do you think about retailer-specific pre-order bonuses? While this probably won’t make you not buy the game altogether, does it change how you feel about the developer/publisher?