First of all, what exactly is “My Musings” supposed to mean? Well, I’m always having thoughts about different things and topics in the gaming industry, so I figured I could start a series of articles in which I give my thoughts on a couple of topics that I have been thinking about, hence, musing. I will apologize in advance, since these are my thoughts, they could very well be random, and incoherent. I will attempt to make them coherent, though anyone who has heard some of my emails to the podcast will know that can be a tall order. So here I go.
My Musings on Pre-order Bonuses and Gamer Entitlement
Hearing some opinions on the Mechromancer class that you can get as a pre-order bonus for Borderlands 2, and the Nuketown 2025 map for Black Ops 2 is what got me thinking of this. I have heard opinions that deals like these are fracturing the player base right from day one, and altering the experiences of the player based on what they want to pay. First off, is there even a problem with this? Do people not realize that this is how many things are in life? For example, buying a car. I can go to Joe Schmoe’s Auto and buy a brand new, standard, SomethingOrOther 300 for $10,000 on the day it is first available. Great, right? But then another person comes along and buys the deluxe one with AC, cruise control, heated seats, and the turbocharged 0.95 L engine for $11,847.52. That person’s experience with the car on day one is going to be completely different from mine, AND THAT’S NOT FAIR, RIGHT? What I’m trying to show though this analogy, (Notice, ANALOGY. That means it is not going to be completely the same, so no need to nitpick details), is that I am still getting 100% of a car, it still drives and gets me from place to place, it isn’t just part of a car. This is what I think people seem to be missing, and where I think the entitlement comes in. It seems that sometimes gamers think that they should be given everything for a game with their purchase of that game, regardless of whether they purchased the Deluxe Edition of a game or not. There is nothing wrong with a developer giving something special to the hardcore fans who are more than likely going to be the ones who will pay the extra money for a Deluxe Edition of a game, ESPECIALLY if said content can be had by people who did not purchase the Deluxe Edition after the game releases.
As far as fracturing the player base, is this really even an issue? By this logic, would not for example Borderlands DLC have done the exact same thing? I don’t recall people ever complaining that Borderlands wasn’t a complete game on its own, and that they had to buy the DLC to get the complete game. To look specifically at the example from Borderlands 2, the Mechromancer was scheduled to release 60 days after the game launched, which is approximately 2 months. Now, Borderlands released on October 20th, 2009 for consoles North America. The Zombie Island of doctor Ned, the first DLC, came out for console on November 24th, 2009. That’s only 35 days after the game released! If the Mechromancer were to be ready and Gearbox released it in half the time that they planed to after the game drops, it would only be a few days sooner than the DLC for the original Borderlands! And again, I have never heard anyone complain that the DLC was “nickel and diming” then, even though it changed the game just as much as the new class will likely change the second. I would personally say that I think the problem people have is because Gearbox announced the DLC before the game released. If they had said nothing about it, not had it as a pre-order bonus, and simply released it somewhere in a window of 30-60 days after launch, everyone would have simply been talking about how great Borderlands 2’s first DLC was. But since it was mentioned before release, and given that it is a pre-order bonus, there seems to be some gamer entitlement that they want everything that is mentioned before release to be in the game, regardless or whether it is a pre-order or not. And like Eric has mentioned before, if you are planning on playing day one, why not just pre-order? And even if you may not have the money right now, if you are going to purchase it on PC, pre-orders I have seen before run at least until the day before, if not right up until the time the game unlocks, so you simply could pre-order it the day before.
It just boggles my mind at how people can get all upset and angry about getting a good deal on something. Let’s take a moment to run some numbers here. Doctor Ned cost 800 Microsoft Points = $10. Now, let’s guess that it takes about 15 hours to complete it once. From what I’ve played of it so far that might be a little low (and not taking into account multiple playthroughs), but I’ll use it to make the calculations easier. That works out to a cost of $0.66 per hour of gameplay. Now, I haven’t seen any price point yet for the Mechromancer thus far, but let’s assume that it will cost $10 as well. Now, I also think it is safe to make the assumption that Borderlands 2 should be roughly the same length as the first game. I pretty much everything in the main game in about 50 hours, so we’ll take that to be the length of 2. If you bought the Mechromancer, and did a complete playthrough with her, you would be paying $0.20 per hour!! If this is nickel and diming, I definitely want more of it! And that is just a single playthrough, that doesn’t even take into account to playing through multiple games with friends, or extra playthroughs.
I will admit, DLC can be done wrong, where it is simply cut out of the game to be released later. Capcom is somewhat infamous for this with their fighting games, holding out different modes to be released in special editions of the game and such. They were also involved in Asura’s Wrath, of which it was said that if you wanted the true ending to the game, you need to get the DLC.
As I have said, it boggles my mind how we can complain about getting a deal on something. If you don’t want to pre-order a game, then don’t. Just don’t complain about not getting something extra for not doing it. And if you know that you will be getting the DLC, why not take advantage of the deal and save some money? The logic involved simply does not add up to me. I have no problem with a company rewarding people who are willing to support them before a game releases, providing that what they are rewarding them with will be available for people to purchase if they didn’t buy early, and providing it does not lock out portions of the game’s story (like the ending for example) if you do pre-order.
We need to remember that we are not owed anything by developers, we should be grateful that they give us games that are complete on their own when we purchase them, and if they are willing to give away content for free if you pre-order, then is a bonus. If the trend was towards making you buy the beginning of the game, and then the ending separately, then I would gladly join in on the outcry. However, as this trend is not going in that direction, it simply does not make sense.