The major games publishers have had a bit of a rollercoaster ride with regards to their reputation over the years. From issues with heavy-handed DRM included with their games releases to their new and unusual ways of screwing over their customer base, it appears they’ve all been in competition with each other to become the most despised publisher in the video games industry. But now Square Enix has gone full crazy with their upcoming AAA title Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, the fourth game in the excellent sci-fi RPG(ish) series.
Mankind Divided was first shown off at E3 2015, with an impressive trailer showing the aftermath of what happened in the previous game, Human Revolution. The game looks like everything you’d expect from a new Deus Ex title, and the gameplay trailer shows off a good mix of stealth, action, cyborg augmentations and gruff voice acting. If there was any criticism coming out of the reveal, it was perhaps too much emphasis on the action, particularly in a series noted for its depth of story and non-lethal options.
Late last week, the publisher launched a new trailer, this time for the pre-order scheme. games companies have been getting increasingly aggressive with their pre-order marketing, doing their best to incentivise buyers into splurging £50+ before release by offering cool toys, extra in-game currency/items/skins and ‘extra’ playable content such as missions. Now, Square Enix has topped them all by announcing the Augment your Pre-order scheme, intended to encourage more and more preorder commitments to unlock new tiers of items you can add until, ultimately, Tier V gets the game released a whole four days early!
There are so many questions surrounding this decision that it’s unbelievable it got the OK from the top. Anyone with any common sense could look at this and see just how anti-customer this is. Not only does it show that there’s no way to get a complete game on pre-order (since you have to choose different options per tier), the very fact they know they can release four days early in fact means the opposite: they’re withholding the game launch to those that don’t pre-order. It might be their right to do this, but it certainly doesn’t garner any respect nor loyalty.
And that’s the rub: We shouldn’t offer any loyalty. We don’t owe publishers our undivided cash. Our purchase should be based on informed decisions, something that these pre-order schemes do their best to prevent, by forcing buyers to further ‘buy in’ to . Once you lay down cash on your pre-order, you’ve mentally committed to that purchase, making it psychologically harder to admit fault, regardless of what the actual quality of the product might be.
One very vocal critic of the idea of preordering games is YouTuber TotalBiscuit AKA Cynical Brit, who has been commenting on the issue for the last couple of years. His latest video on the Deus Ex pre-ordeal (see what I did there?) have some great points, some reiterated from the original story:
There’s been a fair bit of backlash in recent years against the concept of preordering games. The problem is, you’re committing to a purchase – sight unseen – that’s not exactly insignificant. If you’ve watched TotalBiscuit’s video, he gives plenty of strong reasons to avoid preordering, and in a digital age without scarcity, only one reason to: merchandise. So let’s reiterate the point again: DO NOT PRE-ORDER GAMES. There is no good reason to unless you genuinely can’t continue living without that 1:16 scale statuette of the hero.
Now, “What about crowdfunding like on Kickstarter?”, I hear you say? “Isn’t that like pre-ordering?” No! This might be just a whole other can of worms, and perhaps one that is a byproduct of companies misusing Kickstarter as a platform. Crowdfunding is not about purchasing the product before it is finished. You shouldn’t ever go into pledging support with the expectation of delivery. You’re buying into the idea being developed, helping the creators achieve their vision. You can hope for a return on investment, but that’s the risk.
In short: don’t give companies your hard earned cash unless you know what you’re getting for it. Be a responsible buyer and make sure you’re aware of your product. Caveat Emptor.
Do you preorder games? Have you been burned by a preorder and regret it? Let us know in the comments!
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is due out on 23 February, 2016. Maybe wait until then to get it?