Friday, September 3, 2010

Pre-order Your Next Disappointment Here.

I have a bone to pick with the current state of video games. My internet BFF Remy made an excellent article about the current generation of consoles already but I'm after a different shade of red in their blood. I'm talking about the trend in video game marketing, specifically the use of exclusive offers and deals brought forward by the big chains in an effort to gain a foothold in the cut throat world of retail gaming.

I really couldn't tell you when it all began, though I'll venture a guess it was with the generation before this one. Xbox and Playstation 2 were dominating the market after Nintendo dropped the ball with their fantastic Gamecube which I will love to death but no-one else on the planet seems to agree with me. Strategy guides were no longer small books that covered many games at once, but were massive encyclopedias of information all about a single game. They had walkthroughs, cheats, behind the scenes information, stories, lists, stats... I could go on. They were a fantastic read and a great marketing tool, as when they were thrown in with the game as a package to the key demographic, usually that demographic would go to school / work the next day with the book in tow, and spread the word about the game through that form of covert advertising.

The retail chains began to sell “collectors editions” of games that came with this guide, and maybe a poster or two, then there were “game of the year editions” that added very little, maybe packaged some expansion packs with the game if it were a PC port onto Xbox (see: Morrowind). This was all well and good, as you didn't need the collectors or limited editions to enjoy the full gaming experience.

With this current generation however, things are starting to change. Collectors editions are serious business, gone are the days of a single game with a small bonus, you now have a game that comes with a behind the scenes dvd, a soundtrack, a poster, a book about some kind of crap, an action figure, night vision goggles, all in a custom box. And you HAVE to have it.

The only time I came close to buying a collectors pack was when Arkham Asylum came out with a Batarang, but when I ordered it the employee at my EB games store was kind enough to tell me the Batarang was a plastic piece of shit and looked nothing like the one in the catalog. He them pulled this hunk of plastic out from behind the desk to prove he was “no foolies”.

Again, you don't need all this shit to enjoy the full experience, they market the fuck out of it so you think you do, but in all honesty, you're never going to watch that behind the scenes DVD, and you'll play the soundtrack once in your car. So the industry stepped it up again.

Today it's quite common for games to include actual in-game items that are exclusive to certain retail chains, you don't need to buy the collectors pack any more, all you need to do is pre-order the game and you'll get your rare golden AK47 or alternative costume. Now I see this image and it scares me.

An extra hour of gameplay? The bonus quests are probably non-crucial, but the problem is where will it stop? When will it get to the point where you have to buy 2 copies of the game for all 3 systems from different retailers to enjoy the full gaming experience? They've done this before with additional features, like the Ada Wong level on the PS2 port of Resident Evil 4, and the Joker fight stages in the PS3 Arkham Asylum, these may be afterthoughts to grab attention, but when will we see the day where a large chunk of the story in a game is “Best Buy Exclusive”? It will be a sad day in the gaming world when the retailers decide on what content we're able to access. But the way things are going it's only a matter of time until you're shelling out 400 dollars for the Ultra-sex-mega-edition of Call of Duty XXIV with in-game naked stripper mode exclusive to EB Games, packaged inside a working combat shotgun dildo and optional happy ending massage by a trained masseuse when you pre-order the game.

It's supposed to be about the games, not the knickknacks they tack on them.

1 comment:

Remy van Ruiten said...

Every once in a while I'm reminded of an old signature someone on GameRankings used to have. "It's about the *games*, stupid."

That was pretty much the only sensible thing that came out of the game, but it was very well put.

Oh, and I love the GameCube too. I don't care a lot of my fond memories on that thing were with Dreamcast ports, that thing was fantastic. It had one of my favorite controllers too. Somehow playing Soul Calibur on a controller that isn't the GameCube's feels wrong.