Tuesday, July 08, 2014

GameStop and Pre-Order Bonuses.

Fair warning. There will be swearing in this article.

I dislike pre-order bonuses when they involve in-game content. Why? Because I'm OCD and as someone who likes to complete things, I can never fully finish a game with full content because of "exclusive" store bonuses. This use to be only a costume or a weapon that would be good for 5 levels before it became worthless. But then they started to add on mini-games, maps, and short levels to make it impossible to ever truely finish the content of a game. Final Fantasy XIII-2, for example, had the standard fare of bonus costumes. But if you pre-ordered with Amazon, you got an extra dungeon and the secret Behemoth fight. Well OF COURSE I had to get it through Amazon. It had the bonus level! Le sigh .

Which is why seeing the news on Kotaku, and reading the full coverage on VentureBeat has made me weep for the future of games should this come to fruition.

The board at GameStop mentioned to investment company R. W. Baird in a recent meeting, that the company wants to expand it's foothold in gaming by getting involved in the development process.

[GamesStop] indicated that software publishers are more enthusiastic about partnering with it. For example, by offering exclusive content on each major game release, and longer term, future models may include GameStop offering exclusive game play.” - Colin Sebastian, Baird Annalist.

When asked for clarification, both Sebastian and GameStop confirmed that the company wants to get into the development process to offer exclusive content only if you buy [XX] game with GameStop. This could be anything from more clothing downloads to full levels, characters, even stories and mission development could alter the content of the game. Basically, GameStop could have control on how much of a game you see. If you want the half-ass version, buy it somewhere else. But if you want the FULL version of the game, you have to get it at GameStop.

Some people in the comments on the story around the internet seem okay with the premise. Most people get their games from GameStop, why not let them have some additional bonuses. Look, it's one thing if it's a digital costume or a physical t-shirt that you can wear. It's another when the story of the game is being developed for GameStop. They are not only changing the artistic, development, and creative side of the game, but they are withholding content from non-GameStop consumers.

I wonder if this is legal.

The only way developers might be able to get away with it is they released 2 versions of the same game. One priced much lower, because half of the content is not included, to all other retailers, and the GameStop version as the full game at the $59.99 retail price.

This seems like some form of a Monopoly, but not in the traditional method. By having control over the content, GameStop will effectively hold control over games and force consumers into choose to buy with them or not buy at all. I'm pretty sure that qualifies as a Monopoly, at least according to Wikipedia's definition. A Monopoly exists when a person or enterprise is the only supplier for a commodity. By controlling the development of games to create exclusive content, GameStop is effectively going to force other companies out of the business of selling games and become the sole supplier.

"But I would never buy from GameStop. Why should it matter to me?" Okay Mister Call of Duty fan. Let's say GameStop did get into the 2016 development cycle for the next CoD installment. Originally the game was going to have all 3 sides made available to gamers, American, British, and German. But wait, GameStop wants exclusive content, and they want the American story. So now you have one game with full access through GameStop and a second game with 2/3'rds of the content at other retailers (which will probably not get DLC to access the rest of the game). The last thing I would ever want is a business to dictate how I make a game. Well, second to last. I don't want a business to dictate how I care for my health. But I won't derail here.

It should never be the stocking store's decision about the content of a product. We should be allowed the choice, as consumers, to pick and choose what we want.

I'm also concerned from a creative level. To have a multinational company come in to my studio and start demanding how I should proceed on a project to fit their needs, because they can guarantee sales of the product, it would drain the creative juices. Games will become more staccato, less original. Projects will be tailored to fit GameStop's needs to push sales, and less innovation from the developers. Because people want guns, explosions, and half naked women! We don't want that other crap.

And that's a disturbing thought. I don't want games to be altered just to fit the needs to a retailer. They should be developed in whatever way the studio wants. Retailers should never be able to determine the content of a product. It's up to you as the consumer to figure out what YOU want. That's not our right as citizens of [XX] country, but a basic human right to make your own choices.

To that I say: Fuck. You. GameStop.

I hope this is not fulfilled, or I'm certain there will be legalities behind it. EA, be the bigger man for once, give GameStop the finger, a raspberry, and take your business elsewhere. You don't need GameStop Fuck them.

Additional Reading: Stop Pre-Ordering Video Games. Please.

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