Sunday, October 2, 2011
Amazon: You preorder your game the same as you'd order anything else. You aren't charged anything until the day the game is released. The game shows up at your door the day it's released.
Gamestop: You go into a store and pay $5 down (or more if you like) at the counter to reserve the game. On release day, you go into the store and pay the difference. The cashier hands you the game from behind the counter.
Best Buy: You go into the Best Buy store and ask someone in the video games section to preorder the game. He prints you out a ticket. You go to the front counter and pay $5 (and only $5) to reserve the game. On release day, you go into the store and hand your ticket to someone in video games. He tells you to go to the returns counter. You go to the returns counter and they demand your driver's license, because you're technically returning your ticket for $5 towards the price of the game you reserved. You hand them your ticket and your driver's license and verify your address. If it's wrong, the cashier corrects it, but the correction does not stick. The cashier walks over to the video games section to get your game, then comes back with it after ten minutes and rings you up, after you once again verify your address, which may be entirely different.
Hands up if you can figure out why Amazon is winning at business.
So why preorder anywhere else? Well, with the advent of XBox Live and the Playstation Network, video game publishers have figured out that they can sell little add-on packs for five or ten or fifteen dollars a pop to the games they put out. The biggest sellers are things like map packs or song packs (extra content), but you also see novelty add-ons like different costumes, weapons and paint jobs.
And as add-ons became more popular, publishers also figured out that they could use add-on packs to encourage people to preorder games (which means more money faster). So now games have special exclusive add-on packs you can only get if you preorder the game.
Fair enough so far, but then some bright spark came up with the idea of making these add-ons exclusive to specific stores. So, for example, you can order Batman: Arkham City from Best Buy to unlock Robin as a playable character, or order from Gamestop to get the Joker's Carnival challenge map, or order from Amazon and get $10 off and an exclusive comic book. And a whole lot more weird stuff: Gamestop stores in the United Kingdom get a Batman: Beyond costume instead of the carnival map.
Now here's the rub: None of this stuff is likely to be available for individual download, certainly not at launch, maybe not ever. Effectively, you cannot play the whole game, not unless you want to buy the game repeatedly, or else buy the codes on eBay at a premium.
And that sucks for the customer. But it's not really unethical for the companies involved; and let's face it, Best Buy and Gamestop could use the help. So I hereby propose the Video Game Downloadable Content Resolution:
That in the interests of fair play, no downloadable content will remain exclusive to a platform or retailer for more than one month, excepting cases where copyrights or technical problems make this impossible,
And be it further resolved, that no downloadable content will be produced which makes it impossible for people who do not purchase said content to continue to play the game, I'm looking at you Mortal Kombat, you know what you did.
I think that this resolution will be agreeable to all parties, and will cut back on the amount of nerd rage involved in ordering a video game. Because I like the animated Batman and Batman Beyond and Robin, and I don't like having to choose. Or having to buy games at Best Buy.
Posted by David