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Published on July 2nd, 2012 | by Brandon


Publisher Greed: The Insanity of Pre-order Bonuses

Once upon a time, pre-orders used to mean something. Back in the days when games came on discs, there was no worse feeling than walking into your local game store after the release of the game you’ve been looking forward to all year, only to find every copy on the shelf sold out. Luckily, in order to avoid this sad tale, you could make a pre-order–a down payment beforehand to guarantee yourself a copy of a game on its release day. You got peace of mind, and the game publisher got an idea of how much cash they were likely to see on release day–very much a win-win situation.

However, those days are far behind us now. In the digital age, game quantities are no longer limited by the constraints of physical media. Digital distribution has greatly simplified game releases, removing the layers of manufacturing and supply chain that were required in the past. So what happens to pre-orders when their initial purpose is rendered unnecessary?

Well, publishers weren’t about to give up that delicious guaranteed money, so they had to come up with something to entice customers to continue forking over their cash before having the opportunity to read reviews and potentially change their mind. Thus, the idea of the “pre-order bonus” was born. While these extras initially started out mostly innocent and insignificant, they have grown more and more egregious over time as publishers have become more desperate to hedge against any negative reviews from the press and sites like Metacritic.

Before Battlefield 3 was released last year, I discussed why you should be pissed off that EA was offering pre-order bonuses that affected gameplay and created an imbalanced playing field between pre-order customers and everyone else. Activision then followed suit with an equally absurd and awful retailer-specific pre-order bonus scheme of their own for Modern Warfare 3. While I didn’t think it could get much worse, Activision is apparently out to prove me wrong.

Black Ops II is right around the bend, and along with it, the now-typical pre-order bonus lunacy. In addition to retailer-specific bonuses, Activision has gone a step further this time around by forcing you to pre-order if you want to play the new iteration of the popular Black Ops map Nuketown. This goes past simply being a bonus–it amounts to you getting an incomplete version of the game if you don’t pre-order. Activision is holding content for ransom and punishing you if you choose to wait and make an informed purchase decision based on reviews and public opinion.

While Activision isn’t exactly known for its customer-centric focus, I think Black Ops II is taking it to another level. This practice reeks of a company that’s not confident in the quality of its product and is downright afraid of what reviewers will say, so it resorts to consumer-hostile measures to ensure that sales expectations are met.

While I’m sure many eager gamers don’t care and will pre-order Black Ops II in droves, I refuse to play into the insanity any longer. The state of pre-order bonuses is out of control and getting worse, and the only way to send a message to the offending publishers is to vote with your wallet. If you pre-order Black Ops II (or the next AAA title that inevitably tries something similar), just know that you’re playing right into the publisher’s hand–and giving them permission to go even further next time.

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17 Responses to Publisher Greed: The Insanity of Pre-order Bonuses

  1. Goose says:

    In general, I think pre-order bonuses have gotten out of control. I think the publishers are trying to get more money through the distributors via different bonuses at each retailer. Games that do pre-order bonuses through, for example, GameStop, Amazon, and Best Buy, and all three retailers have different pre-order bonuses, they should release the “pre-order items” as a DLC-esque content say, a month after launch, so that everybody can get all the items, as long as they are all digital items of course. Pre-order bonuses are stupid, and they should just go away and never come back.

  2. Jake says:

    I know it’s bad for them to do this, however when I don’t preorder it and I get left out on content all my friends have then it gets me mad. For me, if the extra $5 to preorder the game is worth it with the content you are getting, then why not?

  3. oIveehh says:

    Same shit different year…there milking the money from all the little 10 year old who JUST HAVE TO HAVE nuketown and CoD:Elite.

    It disapoints me :/

  4. TheDillsterr says:

    I think this article is just stabbing at something that isn’t as big of a deal as it’s being made out to be. Pre-order, basically give gamestop 5 dollars saying “i’m going to buy this game”, and you get one extra map. Whoopty freakin doo the world is falling apart. First off, anyone that expects decency from Activision EVER is a complete retard. The DLC prices are what need attention paid to them. COD DLC=$15 for 3 or 4 maps. Seriously? And it never goes down either. Even World at War DLC is still $15. It’s ridiculous.

    As for Battlefield Premium, that is by all means fair play. People forget that battlefield IS NOT call of duty. DICE doesn’t have a new game coming out in November, or any time soon for that matter. They have to make money somehow and battlefield premium is an easy way to do it. DICE constantly rolls out patches fixing and balancing whatever the community calls out unlike the fucktards at Activision/Infinity Ward/Treyarch so don’t even dare to try to make it like they’re being unfare. Premium is $50. You get 5 guns, a knife, all the dlc(which is a $75 value alone) and you get the DLC 2 weeks early. Is that really unfair? I personally have no problem letting a game developer inside my wallet so long as I can clearly see that they are putting the money, time, and effort back into the game especially when it’s a game I love to play.

  5. Applelololol says:

    how meticulously you apply such fine writing skills, brandon. quite like the way you spread thermal paste…or me ;)

  6. JUDE-JITSU says:

    To me this is the same thing as buying Battlefield premium or something else that treats certain people better than other gamers with the same game. The more people buy these things, the more publishers will want to do it. BF3 premium got 800k purchases really quickly, (mostly because it’s impossible to get into a server without it) and I think EA sees this disgrace as a success. Like The article said, If the nuke town 2.0 thing creates more pre-orders, Activision may see it as a success as well. Man, I’m so angry.

  7. GxSzKoba says:

    IMO Nuketown was the worst map ever devised I absolutely hated it to death. So if one thing they have ensured myself and many of my friends, who also hated that map, will not be pre-ordering BO2. Not that I would anyway because I refuse to trust a CoD developer to produce a good game.

    • Groundwater says:

      Yeah I really don’t understand why they picked a shitty map like Nuketown over some really fun maps like Summit or Firing Range.

  8. K9Hadouken says:

    I’m preordering nuketown2025N00b youtube account

  9. WhoisBigRed says:

    Just Activision being Activision.. Pre-order bonuses that segregate their player base even more than it already is with CoD Elite.
    The unfortunate part to all of this is that they don’t care. They know no matter what happens they are going to make loads of money and the cycle will continue the next year.

  10. Desng7 says:

    if i pre order do i get a guaranteed a pc worth while black ops 2??

  11. TheHaloDon says:

    This is why I I hate Activision more and more every year. I really hope this is the last COD, the series needs to die already.

    Also hate how EA is following Activision’s steps in making their games worse.

    • night4345 says:

      actually it’s activision following in the footsteps of EA. BF3 was supposed to have unique guns for pre-order that you couldn’t get anywhere else.

  12. I generally don’t tend to mind these kind of things as they are eventually released to the general public at some point down the line. In Black Ops II’s case, I think it’s a nice bonus for those who are passionate about the series and the game and would like that on Day 1 as opposed to those who are perhaps not too into it and therefore wouldn’t really mind missing out on a certain map for a little while.

    If it really divides up the game and makes it imbalanced like pre-order weapons or perks, then I think there’s a huge issue but for something like a map. In my eyes, it just rewards passionate fans.

    • It’s just another slimy thing Activision is doing to milk customers to death, because Nuketown was THE most popular map in Black Ops, there’s no doubting that. A lot of people liked it. Now you can get it in Black Ops II, but only if you pre-order the game. How many people do you think dropped there $59.99 upon hearing this news? I’m thinking many people did. They entice you to pre-order their game every year because you get a bunch of meaningless shit with it.

      I fucking hate Activision is my point. They get so much money for the over-hyping of their game, and then everyone who bought it shits it out in 6-8 months.

      Fight me at PAX, Activision.

    • JAYCguy says:

      I agree that pre-orders are fine so long as they don’t imbalance gameplay. Ten minutes ago, before I read this article, I didn’t even know Nuketown would be in BO2. It made no difference to me, and frankly still doesn’t. To say this guts the game of completeness is borderline entitlement, so long as plenty of other maps are included. The argument is much like F2P games and pay-to-win, if a pre-order bonus ruins the game for others it is absurd. However, if the bonus simply gives some a little extra incentive, it’s fine by me.

  13. Rannara says:

    What is this I don’t even.



Brandon started his PC gaming days playing Doom II (IDDQD/IDKFA for life) and has been hooked on online gaming since the original Starsiege: Tribes. The way to his heart is through proper grammar, corn dogs, and cookie cake.

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