Archived Story

Joystick: Preordering games isn’t always a good idea

Published 8:21pm Saturday, July 26, 2014

Preorders have long been a controversial topic, but lately it seems game companies really are making things difficult for gamers when it comes to buying a game.

In the mad scramble for more secured dollars, developers and publishers are working out more incentives to entice people to buy games before they even hit shelves. It’s getting a whole lot worse as companies offer certain content to people based on where, and sometimes when, they buy the game.

That presents an issue for many gamers: No matter what you do, you’re not getting all of a game’s available content when you buy it.

It seemed like that was the case when Sega announced earlier this month it had brought together the original cast of “Alien” for special preorder missions in”Alien: Isolation.” There was such a huge furor about the announcement that Sega had to publicly confirm those missions would eventually become downloadable content.

Ubisoft had a similar issue when it announced preorder bonuses for “Assassin’s Creed: Unity.” You can get one of four special preorder items for the game depending on where you preorder it — Walmart, GameStop, Best Buy and Amazon each have a unique weapon — and a chance to win prizes from a weekly drawing the company is putting on.

The earlier you preorder, the more chances you get for anything from branded accessories to trips to San Diego Comic Con, among other places. Of course, in-game content is also up for grabs.

Let’s set aside how infinitesimally small your chances are of winning anything from Ubisoft’s random drawing for a second. Ubisoft is basically getting you to put down money for a game by offering the equivalent of a carnival game’s chances to win potential bits of gameplay.

I’ve publicly stated before how much I love getting cool add-on goodies as part of a game. I will totally read an art book, look at goofy cards and listen to soundtrack CDs that are packaged with a game. I’d prefer to do it as part of the game itself, though I’ve preordered games before based on the amount of useless trinkets that come with it.

Yet gamers have to draw the line somewhere when it comes to preorders. It’s gotten to the point where we’re buying game content for the sake of its exclusivity rather than how good it actually is. That’s a big issue for gamers, and for the industry as a whole that relies on many tried-and-true concepts more often than it relies on original games.

Some companies are taking preorders to the next level. Various outlets have recently reported GameStop is looking to partner with more publishers to provide more exclusive in-game content. That could mean parts of a game itself, rather than interesting (but ultimately low-powered) weapons or alternate costumes. So you’ll have to buy a game specifically from one outlet to get all of a game’s content, rather than from everyone.

It’s a smart move for game companies, but it’s a rough deal for gamers. If you feel like voting with your wallet, wait for a game to come out before you buy it. Odds are there will be plenty of copies available, even for a bigger upcoming release like “Destiny.”

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