Wednesday, July 9, 2014

By Jamaal Ryan

It’s summer time. I’m low on money. My gaming has fed off of Playstation Plus and Games with Gold free-bees as well as trade-ins. On July 17th, my fiancé will be visiting her mom on Florida for 8 days.

So what’ll keep me company for over a week? The Destiny beta of course.

When picking up Wolfenstein: The New Order last week (look forward to my review early next week), the GameStop representative gave the whole, “Would you like to pre-order anything today?” spiel. Usually the answer is a quick “no” by the time they get to “pre-order”, but knowing that PS4 owners will be treated to a almost 10 days’ worth of the Destiny beta, and pre-ordering would grant a beta key, I couldn’t resist. However, after reading about Gamestop’s rumblings of more intrusive pre-ordering deals, it made me feel a little gross.

Pre-ordering as become more and more irrelevant in the traditional sense as day & date digital versions of retail releases are standardized. Walk in to your brick-and-mortar for shelved copy of Call of Duty/ (Enter popular AAA release hear) upon launch date, chances are that there might still be a few available. Because of this, pre-orders have mutated into a different form of incentivization. They surpass the call of special editions, offering (ideally temporary) exclusive content depending on the retailer as Walmart, GameStop, and Best Buy vie for customers.

But in this multi-way tug of war, GameStop is planning on hiring an Icelandic strong man into the competition. Originally reported by Gamesbeat, the chain has sat down with investment company R.W. Baird to discuss more intrusive methods of pre-ordering. GameStop’s PR spokesperson Jackie Smith has confirmed that:

“We are working with our [development] partners to build in a longer lead time…And we are working with them to get both physical and digital exclusives for our customers.”

In other words, this could very well mean that we’re looking at permanent exclusivity through GameStop purchases only.

This smells like shit.

It almost sounds like the sort of thing that the FTC would investigate as it not only interrupts the battle grounds of retail competition, but it is completely antithetical to consumer choice. As AAA consumption can be completely digital, and the indie market is booming with digital only titles, GameStop is getting desperate, and this is an ugly move on their part.  

Imagine if there were exclusive directors cut versions of films that were only available and AMC theaters, or certain chapters in books were only available at a specific chain of book stores (I know, a bit of a dated example to all you e-readers out there).

Though I can’t imagine that the potential exclusive content would be much more than side missions rather than significant mainline story beats or multiplayer exclusives (because no publisher would agree to anything as fucked up as that, right?), this is still one of the most despicable corporate moves I can imagine in the games industry.

So the next time I’m asked if I want to pre-order anything, my internal reaction would be…

“Fuck off.” 

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