Somewhere along the line the past few years, retailers and video game companies came up with the bright idea that there should be some sort of bonus to consumers for pre-ordering a video game.  Not a bad idea in and of itself, but the idea then got turned in to, “Why not have different bonuses at different retailers?”, and that is when I think this whole idea went off the rails a bit.

I don’t have any problem with a bonus being offered with a game pre-order really.  If it’s a game I really want to play, then I’m going to pre-order it any way, if its one I’m iffy on, I’ll wait for it to come down in price or rent it, so the bonuses don’t make the decision for me usually.  What does make a difference is if it’s a game I want already and there are different bonuses from different retailers, then it gets complicated.


Bonuses started off with simple things like posters, duffel bags and so on.  Then companies got the idea to start offering various types of in-game items.  At first it was as simple as, “Pre-order the game anywhere, and you get a bonus gun color!”  Okay, cool to me, but then came the retailer specific in-game bonuses such as GameStop pre-orders for Batman:Arkham Asylum getting an entirely exclusive map.

This was kind of a no-brainer when it was just one retailer with in-game exclusive content, but now the fight has escalated again, and we have multiple retailers offering in-game content, and each of them is different.  The latest example is Red Dead Redemption which breaks down as:

Retailer Pre-order Bonus Golden Guns pack
Best Buy War Horse
GameStop Deadly Assassin Outfit

The problem here is that each bonus isn’t just something cosmetic in the game, each item actually does something in the game, such as War Horse is the best horse in the game.  Here is the problem with a situation like this is that it causes you to make a gameplay decision about a game you haven’t even played yet.  How do you know you won’t be satisfied with the horses in the game, but could really use the bonus of the guns, or vice-versa?  There is no easy way to make that call, but you’re being asked to do so now.

What gets me is how much each retailer must be paying to get these exclusives.  Each of these take extra development time, they aren’t just popping into existence without any one sitting at a computer creating them.  Are they really getting paid enough to make up for the time, or are they overselling just how much more special these items are than they really are?

As we see this situation continually escalating, and it is a rapid climb to be sure, one has to wonder what the next step is.  Are more retailers going to get into this mess meaning even more options?  At what point will the gamers finally go, “Enough!”?  All gamers want the most complete experience possible, so being locked out of portions of a game because we chose one retailer over another just seems silly.  (and lets be honest, we know the content is on our discs, the codes just unlock it so we can use it)  What if they were timed releases?  “Pre-order from Amazon, and get X content six months before anyone else!”?  Perhaps this is what we might see down the road, but left unchecked, this could get to be really annoying, really quick.