Members of the gaming community can be a rowdy lot, loudly voicing disdain over proposed changes or other supposed slights against their favorite franchises. Dig deep enough into any online gaming community and you’re bound to find at least one outrage of any moment. While it’s easy to dismiss the constant clamor of angry forum posts as a case of fanboys being fanboys, legitimate points do crop up.
The current outcry comes following the recently announced preorder bonuses to the latest entry in the “Deus Ex” series, subtitled “Mankind Divided.” In terms of critical reception, the series itself has a pretty respectable reputation; the original game launched in 2000 and has maintained a sizable following throughout the years and a devote modding community. The welcome for the second game, 2003’s “Invisible War,” was far less warm, but 2011’s “Human Revolution” entry brought the series as a whole back into good standing with most gamers.
Now, “Mankind Divided” is taking preordering into a new and terrible place by attempting to capitalize on the Kickstarter-driven craze for stretch goals. The game is offering preorder bonuses in five tiers, with each new tier bringing some extra into the fore, but only if enough other people preorder the game as well. This is a pretty scummy tactic in itself, as it automatically creates bias in those who have preordered the game to praise its virtues to friends in person and strangers online in hopes that more people will pre-buy, unlocking more crap.
Things get particularly shit at the highest tier of bonuses. If enough people preorder “Mankind Divided,” then those impatient few will get to play the game four days early. This is pretty terrible for those who want to avoid spoilers on the Internet, as it’s almost guaranteed that some players will blaze through the game and attempt to ruin the storyline in online boards for those who didn’t preorder.
I say “enough people” because there isn’t actually an assigned number of preorders needed before this fifth tier is hit; only percentages have been given so far. This basically allows publisher Square Enix to decree on a whim when these tiers are hit and rewards are bestowed. Given that, it’s easy to assume that this four-day early launch for preorders has already been scheduled and slotted in, and another marketing blitz will hit right before the game’s launch sometime in 2016, generating a false sense of urgency in players and encouraging them to pre-buy now or be left behind.
Ordering a game before release means buying something before review embargoes are lifted, or any real information about a game beyond the initial promotional videos and canned campaigns are available. More importantly, preordering means buying before potentially game-breaking first-day bugs are found and corrected — the PC release of “Batman: Arkham Knight” earlier this year was plagued with enough errors to make Warner Bros. suspend sales of the game until the issues were fixed.
“Mankind Divided” is stacking the shit a few feet higher with its effort to combine crowdfunding with preordering, and it’s a practice that shouldn’t be tolerated lest it become the norm. I’m looking forward to the game, but there’s a skepticism now present that will be hard for Square Enix to undo.
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