Retailer-Specific Bonuses: Who's to Blame?

With the recent release of details on Rockstar's upcoming crime epic L.A. Noire, the omnipresent video game trope of having retailer-specific pre-order bonuses has far outgrown the stage of "irksome." If you haven't seen the list, go check out Brad Nicholson's article here. Basically, it is grossly disproportionate. Once again (as Brad points out), Gamestop has drawn the big straw and has a pretty substantial pre-order bonus, including several game-changing elements. Retailers like Target and Best Buy, on the other side of the spectrum, have been relegated t-shirts and in-game outfits, respectively. This is just getting out of hand. This trend is not only over-stayed its welcome, it is now alienating large portions of the video-game playing universe. It doesn't just suck, it is fundamentally wrong. I understand that these retailers are in business to make money, and that if they can entice you over to their store and get a few extra sales out of it, that's great. But when these practices result in stores offering the same game that have relatively different experiences coupled with them, that is bad. Retailer-exclusive missions? Collectibles? I know this may seem small, but the principle of the matter remains the same. And I am angry. And I am sure I am not alone. But, now the question: 
 
To whom do we point the finger? Who is to blame here? Is it the retailers pushing the developers/publishers for exclusive content to inflate sales numbers? Is it developers parsing out this content to select stores in order to collect compensation? Or is it, as is likely, a combination of the two? 
 
One thing is for sure: these companies profit, and we, the consumers, are punished.    

35 Comments
36 Comments
Posted by BigLemon

With the recent release of details on Rockstar's upcoming crime epic L.A. Noire, the omnipresent video game trope of having retailer-specific pre-order bonuses has far outgrown the stage of "irksome." If you haven't seen the list, go check out Brad Nicholson's article here. Basically, it is grossly disproportionate. Once again (as Brad points out), Gamestop has drawn the big straw and has a pretty substantial pre-order bonus, including several game-changing elements. Retailers like Target and Best Buy, on the other side of the spectrum, have been relegated t-shirts and in-game outfits, respectively. This is just getting out of hand. This trend is not only over-stayed its welcome, it is now alienating large portions of the video-game playing universe. It doesn't just suck, it is fundamentally wrong. I understand that these retailers are in business to make money, and that if they can entice you over to their store and get a few extra sales out of it, that's great. But when these practices result in stores offering the same game that have relatively different experiences coupled with them, that is bad. Retailer-exclusive missions? Collectibles? I know this may seem small, but the principle of the matter remains the same. And I am angry. And I am sure I am not alone. But, now the question: 
 
To whom do we point the finger? Who is to blame here? Is it the retailers pushing the developers/publishers for exclusive content to inflate sales numbers? Is it developers parsing out this content to select stores in order to collect compensation? Or is it, as is likely, a combination of the two? 
 
One thing is for sure: these companies profit, and we, the consumers, are punished.    

Posted by tourgen

The fault lies squarely with all of the people out there pre-ordering games.  Just stop it.

Posted by BigLemon
@tourgen:
Yeah, I guess that is one way to look at it. Certainly if we stopped pre-ordering, the bonuses would stop. But I don't necessarily have a problem with retailers offerings some kind of incentive, it's just when said incentives are so vastly different and lead to different game experiences. That's where I draw the line.
Posted by DystopiaX

I don't have a problem with it as long as the content is dumb shit like the suits for LA Noire- the choice is clear, Gamestop has the only bonus worth anything anyway, losing "suits" that give you gameplay bonuses is no loss to me. I'll only start complaining if there's actual content being lost to them. Otherwise, I don't really care.

Posted by BigLemon
@DystopiaX: but you are losing something. If you don't order from either Gamestop or Wal-Mart, you don't get either of those exclusive game scenarios. And who is to say those will be released later as purchasable DLC?
Posted by l4wd0g

You are. If you don't like it, don't buy it.

Online
Posted by DystopiaX
@BigLemon said:
" @DystopiaX: but you are losing something. If you don't order from either Gamestop or Wal-Mart, you don't get either of those exclusive game scenarios. And who is to say those will be released later as purchasable DLC? "
You mean a shit mission? I've never played a DLC mission that was actually halfway decent or comparable to the game. Maybe it's just me, but I don't feel like I'm missing much. Does it suck? yeah kind of, but not enough for me to get up in arms about it. The reality is that if they didn't need to have multiple DLC options for the game, one or both of the missions probably wouldn't exist. Devs have said for a long time that it's not that they're picking content to give as preorders, they're creating preorder DLC.
Posted by WilliamHenry

Besides the bonuses, what exactly is the point of pre-ordering a game? Is there really a chance a retailer won't have enough copies?

Posted by BigLemon
@DystopiaX said:
" @BigLemon said:
" @DystopiaX: but you are losing something. If you don't order from either Gamestop or Wal-Mart, you don't get either of those exclusive game scenarios. And who is to say those will be released later as purchasable DLC? "
You mean a shit mission? I've never played a DLC mission that was actually halfway decent or comparable to the game. Maybe it's just me, but I don't feel like I'm missing much. Does it suck? yeah kind of, but not enough for me to get up in arms about it. The reality is that if they didn't need to have multiple DLC options for the game, one or both of the missions probably wouldn't exist. Devs have said for a long time that it's not that they're picking content to give as preorders, they're creating preorder DLC. "
Look, the value of the content will always be subjective, but you cannot change the fact that people are getting shut out of content just because they choose to buy from one retailer over the other. That's not doing right by the consumer.
Posted by jking47
@DivineCC:  Maybe because you like the game, and would like to get it for sure on release day? A retailer having a non pre order copy of a game on release day is by no means guaranteed 
Posted by LiquidPrince
@tourgen said:
" The fault lies squarely with all of the people out there pre-ordering games.  Just stop it. "
No.
Posted by tourgen
@BigLemon said:
" @tourgen:
Yeah, I guess that is one way to look at it. Certainly if we stopped pre-ordering, the bonuses would stop. But I don't necessarily have a problem with retailers offerings some kind of incentive, it's just when said incentives are so vastly different and lead to different game experiences. That's where I draw the line. "
Yeah I agree with you and I think you put the line about where it should be.
 
My concern with pre-orders is that it encourages people to buy a product based on artificial excitement and marketing hype rather than on the true merits of the product.  I personally think it would be wiser to wait a day or two for the in depth reviews to come in and then decide if it's worth the money.  This would send a strong $$$ message to publishers and developers that a quality product is absolutely necessary and expected if they want their product to succeed.  If enough people buy into the pre-order game it sends the message that marketing hype and retailer "bonuses" are more important than producing a quality product on day 1 of release.
Posted by DystopiaX
@BigLemon said:
" @DystopiaX said:
" @BigLemon said:
" @DystopiaX: but you are losing something. If you don't order from either Gamestop or Wal-Mart, you don't get either of those exclusive game scenarios. And who is to say those will be released later as purchasable DLC? "
You mean a shit mission? I've never played a DLC mission that was actually halfway decent or comparable to the game. Maybe it's just me, but I don't feel like I'm missing much. Does it suck? yeah kind of, but not enough for me to get up in arms about it. The reality is that if they didn't need to have multiple DLC options for the game, one or both of the missions probably wouldn't exist. Devs have said for a long time that it's not that they're picking content to give as preorders, they're creating preorder DLC. "
Look, the value of the content will always be subjective, but you cannot change the fact that people are getting shut out of content just because they choose to buy from one retailer over the other. That's not doing right by the consumer. "
I'd rather the content be out there than not at all, which is the alternative. You're acting as if some of that content would be in the retail game, which just isn't true.
Posted by ch13696

I blame it squarely on the publishers. Their business practices have basically ruined what gaming should be. The publishers rush to see what their day-one sales look like. So they throw in pre-order bonus' to gain the upper hand. As for the difference in bonus', that's all on the retailers. They want a different kind of bonus just to steal a pre-order from another retailer chain. 
 
At this point, it's very simple what we, the consumers can do. Don't pre-order the game. Yeah, most likely Gamestop won't get their shipment in till Wednesday in the afternoon, but at least that will give the Gamestop haters a reason not to shop there.

Posted by BigLemon
@tourgen said:
" @BigLemon said:
" @tourgen:
Yeah, I guess that is one way to look at it. Certainly if we stopped pre-ordering, the bonuses would stop. But I don't necessarily have a problem with retailers offerings some kind of incentive, it's just when said incentives are so vastly different and lead to different game experiences. That's where I draw the line. "
Yeah I agree with you and I think you put the line about where it should be.  My concern with pre-orders is that it encourages people to buy a product based on artificial excitement and marketing hype rather than on the true merits of the product.  I personally think it would be wiser to wait a day or two for the in depth reviews to come in and then decide if it's worth the money.  This would send a strong $$$ message to publishers and developers that a quality product is absolutely necessary and expected if they want their product to succeed.  If enough people buy into the pre-order game it sends the message that marketing hype and retailer "bonuses" are more important than producing a quality product on day 1 of release. "
That's very true. Pre-orders do seem to inflate consumer hype, and that can lead to major let downs. I pre-ordered Alpha Protocol with really high hopes, and the pre-order bonus, while not that great, was certainly a nifty incentive. And I don't think I have to remind anyone here how that turned out.. 
 
 
@DystopiaX said:
" @BigLemon said:
" @DystopiaX said:
" @BigLemon said:
" @DystopiaX: but you are losing something. If you don't order from either Gamestop or Wal-Mart, you don't get either of those exclusive game scenarios. And who is to say those will be released later as purchasable DLC? "
You mean a shit mission? I've never played a DLC mission that was actually halfway decent or comparable to the game. Maybe it's just me, but I don't feel like I'm missing much. Does it suck? yeah kind of, but not enough for me to get up in arms about it. The reality is that if they didn't need to have multiple DLC options for the game, one or both of the missions probably wouldn't exist. Devs have said for a long time that it's not that they're picking content to give as preorders, they're creating preorder DLC. "
Look, the value of the content will always be subjective, but you cannot change the fact that people are getting shut out of content just because they choose to buy from one retailer over the other. That's not doing right by the consumer. "
I'd rather the content be out there than not at all, which is the alternative. You're acting as if some of that content would be in the retail game, which just isn't true. "
I'm not quite sure what you're saying... 
 
Some of the content would be in the retail game? Do you mean content that is on the disc, but just not available? Because that certainly does happen.
Posted by DystopiaX
@BigLemon: No, I mean that devs specifically say that all preorder DLC, whether on disc or not, is created specifically for the preorder. You're acting like you're losing something by not getting it, when in reality it wouldn't exist at all if there were no preorders.
Posted by BigLemon
@DystopiaX: All right, but you're acting like the only two possibilities are either to have it the way it is now or not have it at all. There are better ways to do it that don't involve having your customers left feeling cheated.
Posted by DystopiaX
@BigLemon said:
" @DystopiaX: All right, but you're acting like the only two possibilities are either to have it the way it is now or not have it at all. There are better ways to do it that don't involve having your customers left feeling cheated. "
Then suggest them. The reason there are different ones per store is co-marketing money; suggest a way for them to get the same amount of money and still give their customers everything. Even publishers would do such a thing if they could see how; it'd increase their goodwill, maintain their ad dollars, and maybe even increase sales. Seeing as this is the best they could come up with...
Posted by Raven_Sword

The Terrorists.
Posted by IBurningStar
@tourgen said:
" The fault lies squarely with all of the people out there pre-ordering games.  Just stop it. "
This. Seriously. In fact, I think I can tell you the entire history of how this all got started. One day some guy at a game developer somewhere got a wild hair up his ass and thought, "Ya know what would be cool? If we gave people a reward for paying for our game before they have even played it. Just as a way of saying thank you for believing in this product and really showing an extra bit of support for us. Who knows, throwing something out there might spike interest and make a few more people buy the game. I mean, they reserved the thing, they might as well get it, no matter how they feel about it now." 
 
Turns out, this went well for them, so a few other people did it. Then stores noticed that they can make a sizable profit off preorders, because sometimes people forget they put their five bucks down. Pure profit right there. And just to make sure that they are the ones getting this awesome new money, they work out deal with publishers to do something special for them. Maybe even bribe them a little bit. Other companies started to follow suit. 
 
Amazon, Gamestop, and so many others are now fucking wallet vampires and we have only ourselves to blame.
Posted by OmegaChosen

I can't stop. I'm a completionist and if I have to put down five dollars to get some exclusive gun or sword I can't get otherwise, I'm doing it. Something in my brain compels me to do it. Help.

Posted by kishan6
@DystopiaX: You need to play some of the fallout 3 DLC lol
Posted by crusader8463

The idiots who keep pre-ordering. If no one did it then they wouldn't keep cutting content from games for this shit.

Posted by BigLemon
@IBurningStar said:
" @tourgen said:
" The fault lies squarely with all of the people out there pre-ordering games.  Just stop it. "
This. Seriously. In fact, I think I can tell you the entire history of how this all got started. One day some guy at a game developer somewhere got a wild hair up his ass and thought, "Ya know what would be cool? If we gave people a reward for paying for our game before they have even played it. Just as a way of saying thank you for believing in this product and really showing an extra bit of support for us. Who knows, throwing something out there might spike interest and make a few more people buy the game. I mean, they reserved the thing, they might as well get it, no matter how they feel about it now."   Turns out, this went well for them, so a few other people did it. Then stores noticed that they can make a sizable profit off preorders, because sometimes people forget they put their five bucks down. Pure profit right there. And just to make sure that they are the ones getting this awesome new money, they work out deal with publishers to do something special for them. Maybe even bribe them a little bit. Other companies started to follow suit.   Amazon, Gamestop, and so many others are now fucking wallet vampires and we have only ourselves to blame. "
I just think it's pretty lame to saddle consumers with the onus.  
 
And I don't really buy your theory about making more profit. I don't see these companies getting many more sales because of pre-orders, and it certainly doesn't cost any more to pre-order than it does to buy the day after release. Now if you wanted to talk about the bullshit that is Collector's Editions, than yeah I would agree with you.
Posted by WilliamHenry
@jking47 said:

" @DivineCC:  Maybe because you like the game, and would like to get it for sure on release day? A retailer having a non pre order copy of a game on release day is by no means guaranteed  "


I get that you might like a game enough to pre-order it, but unless its some small title, I don't see retailers running out of copies. So many places sell games these days that you can always find a copy.
 
 @BigLemon said:

" @IBurningStar said:

" @tourgen said:
" The fault lies squarely with all of the people out there pre-ordering games.  Just stop it. "
This. Seriously. In fact, I think I can tell you the entire history of how this all got started. One day some guy at a game developer somewhere got a wild hair up his ass and thought, "Ya know what would be cool? If we gave people a reward for paying for our game before they have even played it. Just as a way of saying thank you for believing in this product and really showing an extra bit of support for us. Who knows, throwing something out there might spike interest and make a few more people buy the game. I mean, they reserved the thing, they might as well get it, no matter how they feel about it now."   Turns out, this went well for them, so a few other people did it. Then stores noticed that they can make a sizable profit off preorders, because sometimes people forget they put their five bucks down. Pure profit right there. And just to make sure that they are the ones getting this awesome new money, they work out deal with publishers to do something special for them. Maybe even bribe them a little bit. Other companies started to follow suit.   Amazon, Gamestop, and so many others are now fucking wallet vampires and we have only ourselves to blame. "
I just think it's pretty lame to saddle consumers with the onus.  
 
And I don't really buy your theory about making more profit. I don't see these companies getting many more sales because of pre-orders, and it certainly doesn't cost any more to pre-order than it does to buy the day after release. Now if you wanted to talk about the bullshit that is Collector's Editions, than yeah I would agree with you. "

You're right, pre-orders don't lead to a ton of more profit, but it does give the publisher an idea on how much a game will sell and allows them to adjust their marketing accordingly. If a game is pre-odering like crazy, they can give it a larger marketing push and vice-versa.
Posted by DystopiaX
@kishan6 said:
" @DystopiaX: You need to play some of the fallout 3 DLC lol "
None of that was preorder, so what are you saying?
Posted by MooseyMcMan

I blame the people who pre-order things to get the content. These things only happen because the various stores want the sales, and they know that a decent number of people are going to pre-order a game to get extra stuff. 

Moderator Online
Posted by Pinworm45

I blame basically everyone involved.

Posted by supermike6

I have never had this problem, because no pre-order bonus has ever meant enough to me to warrant pre-ordering. Also I don't care about LA Noire.

Posted by Geralt

How can having a lot of options to do anything be a problem? I don't get it :1

Posted by ShiftyMagician
@darpa said:
" How can having a lot of options to do anything be a problem? I don't get it :1 "
The idea is that if not controlled, publishers and retailers might attempt to push it even further to perhaps sell actual gameplay content as exclusive extras only accessible by pre-ordering at certain shops.  The gameplay content he might be referring to is actual levels and missions that can give further game length and such and it would be a shame if it does come to that extent.  I wonder myself how far retailers and publishers are willing to go to keep this up, as well as how much will the majority of the paying public accept before they feel like it has become a problem.
Posted by Geralt
@ShiftyMagician: 
 
True, but in L.A. Noire case, if you feel the need for that particular content you can then buy the game from GameStop.  Isn't that a fair game for everyone? Because GameStop definitely put some money to make this deal happen.
 
The argument can't just be "if we let this happen then this will happen" cause from now on its the slippery slope argument.
 
I own the PS3 myself and I've been waiting for many years for Mass Effect to come to PS3. The exclusive deal trend can't be going on forever. The market won't allow it.
Posted by BigLemon
@ShiftyMagician: Exactly. And the content I was referring to was the "collectibles" they added to the Gamestop version, plus an extra case. Granted, that aren't huge variations, but they are somewhat significant.  
 
@darpa said:
" @ShiftyMagician:   True, but in L.A. Noire case, if you feel the need for that particular content you can then buy the game from GameStop.  Isn't that a fair game for everyone?"
No, that's not fair. That's what I'm pointing out. This is skewing market share in the games industry because some retailers get off with good content while others get short shrift. Maybe this is seen as "good" business practice, but I don't think it's right. Plus, if you order from Gamestop, you still don't get the content that the other retailers are offering. "Fair" would be guaranteeing the same game experience to your consumer no matter where they purchased the game.  
 
I dunno, maybe this is just a reaction to the deviation from what was standard for many, many years, but I am not a fan of the new direction video game marketing is going.
Posted by Geralt
@BigLemon: 
Okay, I see where you're going. Fair might be a bad choice of word in this case :1
Posted by burjeffton--defunct

I blame George Bush.  Oh - and that ugly Black Eyed Pea who they never show in the music videos... dude creeps me out.
 
The preorder bonus practice does suck for consumers...especially because the last couple times I preordered I didn't receive the bonus that was promised. Usually by the time I'm home with the game it's not worth going back to ask for it.

Posted by Video_Game_King

Odd that you didn't decide to blame the gamers who support this by buying into these bonuses. If it wasn't a profitable practice, then it would end, wouldn't it? However, since it's still around, that must mean retailers are profiting from it, which means people are buying into it. But who are those people? I'm guessing it's us (does pre-ordering Dragon Quest VI the day before it came out just for the plushie count?).