All this buzz about the impending Star Wars film has got me feeling quite hot and bothered for the equally as compelling Star Wars: Battlefront, the successor to 2005’s Battlefront 2 – one of personal favorite games of all time.
The game itself is standard action/shooter fare that I will not be discussing because, lets face it, shooters have never been the most mechanically “deep” games. You point at something, you shoot it. Whoo. At the end of the day, even the most die-hard fans will loose the pleasure of committing Ewok genocide with blasters alongside their stormtrooper cohorts.
But Battlefront is about to follow in the great stinking trench that AAA game publishers have recently dug so deep it would make a World War I dough-boy feel safe. A practice that has crept in and taken over every mid-high budget game in the last generation of consoles. What I’m talking about is “preorder Downloadable Content (DLC)” – the idea of throwing down money for a game you haven’t played yet to, essentially, gain some cute little items/characters/levels that should have been in the base game anyways. If the DLC is in the preorder, you can safely assume that the content was already made at the time of release and is simply being kept behind a pay wall to rustle the skirts of corporate execs.
The crux of the matter is that preordering is useless on the consumer end and is merely used by companies to project sales, gauge how many units they need to ship and, this is the big one, make money on you before you ever the play game.
“But Nate!” I hear you cry, “What if I know I’ll like the game and want to get it on release day and/or are a big fan-boy of the series what then??” Good for you – let me pat you on the back, rustle your hair, and send you off to your closest GameStop on release day to pick it up for yourself. You simply do not and cannot know if a game is worth your money before you play it, no matter what brand, genre, or other type of loyalties you could have. (Duke Nukem Forever and Aliens: Colonial Marines are two recent examples of games that got huge amounts of pre-sales – based on their pedigree – but ended up sucking. The list could go on.)
“But what if they run out of copies on release day??” You feverishly inquire as sweat forms on your brow and you pick up the phone to call GameStop. But has it ever been that difficult to pick up a physical copy of a game on release day? Hell, GTA V was the biggest video game release of all time and (weak anecdote coming) my friends and I were able to saunter out of a Best Buy with 4 copes without preordering it. Black Ops 2, Skyrim, and Diablo III all were huge releases too, and none of those were difficult to acquire either.
Whats more is that in this coming age of video games being distributed from digital retailers (such as Steam), the prospect of preordering to “hold your copy” of the game is even more ludicrous. Hold your copy? For what? From whom? There are not limited copies of digital games the same way there is not a limited number of MP3’s on iTunes or emo middle-schoolers at shopping malls.
I realize this makes me sound like an old, gray man who does nothing but sit in a rocking chair all day and bitch about how “the kids these days suck” as he knocks back whisky, but I get no joy from seeing this trend emerge.
However, this is not something that I can completely blame on publishers. The problem also stems from us, as consumers, continuing to preorder games. Yes, I have preordered games before – haven’t since 2011 – but I have. I was allured by whatever preorder bonus spunk cannon or whale harpoon a game could offer me. I soon realized, though, that from a consumer’s point of view, why does a publisher deserve our trust with a product we have not put our hands on yet? The previously mentioned Duke Nukem Forever – the highly anticipated, 12 years in the making continuation of the Duke series – was not only a terrible, terrible game but also offered such lucrative and enticing preorder DLC like an in-game hat, a t-shirt collection and a ‘big head’ mode. It’s the kind of miserable result that could only lead to one reevaluating their life sadly while staring at the game box thinking “wow, glad I shelled over money early for these cool electronic hats and a shitty game full of unnecessary alien genitalia.”
For Further Interest:
“Should you preorder videogames?” By Totalbiscuit
“Star Wars: Battlefront Made Me Realize I’m A Cynical Prick” By Jim Sterling
“You’d Have To Be Crazy to Preorder Star Wars: Battlefront” By Erick Kain