So, GAME, does your handling of pre-orders spell the Death of Video Games? Or is it a problem with pre-orders and special editions in general?
Let’s start by looking at how special editions have been tainted over the years.
Take Watch Dogs, a thoroughly average game burdened from overhype and a pre-order system so bad it requires a fucking graph to show which editions give you certain content. Look at this shit:
Case in point, Destiny. I’ve ragged on it before, but lest we forget the hack job that Destiny still is. Destiny claimed to have a huge story that was then later split up into three different DLC packs, meaning it would take over 12 months for Destiny to actually include all of the story it claimed to have since its initial release. On top of that, certain maps, weapons, missions and gear were made exclusive to PlayStation consoles. And of course, it’s special edition came packed in with a number of codes for cut content, including a season pass for the first two packs of DLC, both of which were originally on-disc content, with the ‘codes’ acting as keys to unlock areas already in the code on the disc. Fuck. That.
Okay, we’ve covered why the content of special editions is basically poison, but what of the other ways that they are ruined? What of physical goodies and retailer exclusives?
Physical goodies are mostly harmless, it must be said. However, they tend to jump the price of any video game into triple figure territory. In the UK, a standard game disc with no additional content will run you about £40. A special edition can run you anywhere between £60 and, are you sitting comfortably? £250,000. I shit ye not. Of course, the yanks have always outdone us, offering a special edition that ran at $1 million. These higher value special editions are of course more gimmick than anything, but any high value mass produced special edition can easily hit the £250-£300 mark without once blushing.
But like most things I discuss here, setbacks are aplenty. Here’s one I had personal grief from: Borderlands 2’s Ultimate Loot Chest Edition. And here we come to GAME, possibly the worst handler of pre-orders I have ever seen.
In and amongst all the chatter, Gearbox and 2K said that the demand for the Chest actually outnumbered the amount they could physically make. It was around this time that a number… well, most people who had actually pre-ordered the Chest were having their orders mysteriously cancelled. There was outcry, anger, rage and several thousands of minutes on help lines trying to secure their orders. It was pandemonium. I know because mine was cancelled. GAME cited problems with my bank over why they cancelled my order. I spent the good part of 5 hours on the phone with their help lines trying to fix my order. In the end, it was fixed and the Chest arrived as planned. A number of people didn’t receive their chests and the tales of low production numbers became more apparent. As it turns out, a money down pre-order does still not guarantee you a copy of a certain game. Because these are crazy times we live in. And also because GAME’s archaic system of pre-ordering when a product may not even reach order numbers in apparently a smart business move. Myself and other customers swore never to use GAME to pre-order games again. And we moved on to use Amazon and other services to get our games. And then…
Then Fallout 4’s Pip Boy was announced as a GAME exclusive. And the cycle began again.
But despite earlier disappointments, Fallout 4 launches tomorrow. And yet, these earlier disappointments were simply not enough. On Friday, the usual GAME shit show began, as people experienced a slew of horror stories about their orders, only 5 days before the game was due to arrive at their doors. Orders were cancelled, doubled, undercharged, overcharged, sent to wrong addresses, sent to stores for delivery prices, the works. Name something that could go wrong and it did.
And naturally, there was chaos. Customers showed their frustration on social media, through games media and attempted to voice their concerns on the ever-so-exclusive Fallout 4 Club Facebook page (Every time I mention it, it somehow sounds stupider). Aaaand, their posts were deleted. The moderation team at GAME performed ruthless damage control on the page, deleting any new posts discussing any problems with the pro-orders. Out of frustration, those with deleted posts made a separate Facebook page to complain and share horror stories, as well as share what little information GAME were offering as excuses. In time, GAME came to acknowledge their failures with a number of blanket statements (Ironically often sent to the wrong people), whilst mostly fixing the issues raised by the customers, at the expense of a completely destroyed online chat service, call centre lines that were busy for hours on end and a number of in store employees getting seriously harassed.
Fallout 4, please be a good game. Otherwise, some your fans may never forgive it.