With the controversy of launch day embargoes only just behind us some publishers have moved to locking more significant content behind pre-orders, forcing consumers to choose between a well informed games purchase and getting the full package.
2014 was not the best year for the games industry. We saw the release of some pretty broken games (Assassins Creed: Unity, Drive Club and Halo: The Master Chief Collection). This drop in the quality of launch day titles makes the work of games journalists and Youtube creators who review video games all the more important. The industry’s reaction to release day review embargoes has been largely positive with review sites such as Kotaku and Youtube creator Total Biscuit among the few people deciding to no longer accept games with release day embargos.
Sadly not everyone who buys video games has the benefit of making an informed decision. People who read this site and others are not in the majority, and this year we have seen a number of examples of the pre-order bonus increasing in value. Pre-order bonuses are often a source of anguish for a vocal minority of gamers, but publishers and developers still receive large numbers of pre-orders before reviews of a title have even hit the internet. Though it may be unrelated to better reviewer deals, publishers have come up with a way to seduce consumers into making a less informed decision. Offering content sometimes worth $15(Monster DLC, Evolve) or containing an entire character in a fighting game(Goro, Mortal Kombat X) is an anti-consumer incentive to put down your money before you can make an informed decision.
Holding back a chunk of gameplay only for those who decide to make a purchase before release is asking for trust that these publishers no longer have, a trust that they need to earn in 2015. I wouldn’t blame someone who had pre-ordered Evolve to save $15 on a future DLC, especially considering how the game has been boasted to support it more than any game before it. The problem is we are in a time when games are released broken, with season passes and “Game of the Year” re-releases, you’re either expected to pay up and pay up now or wait 10-12 months to play an experience that works and actually contains the content those who pre-ordered it received.
Though a game with a pre-launch embargo well ahead of pre-orders shipping will provide opportunity for more consumers to inform themselves, I worry that pre-orders containing more significant content will provide a new reason to rush into a purchasing decision.