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Opinion – Pre-Order Bonuses And DLC Are Why I’m Waiting To Buy Batman: Arkham Knight

by Mike Futter on Jul 10, 2015 at 06:42 AM

I have purchased every Batman Arkham game at launch. I finally sprung for the Collector’s Edition with Arkham Origins, and while it’s not the strongest game in the series, I enjoyed it quite a bit. I’m a big fan of the franchise and how Rocksteady has reinvented licensed games. I’m not buying Arkham Knight for a long time, though.

WB Games has given my interest in its games at launch a Bane-sized injection of poison. There was the Harley Quinn story mission and the GameStop (Disclaimer: GameStop is Game Informer’s parent company) exclusive Red Hood narrative bits. There were also a variety of skins at different retailers.

I’m tired of navigating the pre-order bonus waters. There’s no way to get everything on offer at launch without buying multiple copies. So, I’ve decided to wait for the inevitable.

In the coming months (possibly as early as the end of this year), there will be a complete edition. If Arkham Knight wins Game of the Year awards, it’ll likely be called that. But for $60, I’ll be able to get the core game, all of the gameplay DLC, and every skin. All I need to do is wait.

This is a practice the publisher has used for Lego games and the Mortal Kombat series, too. It’s confusing, and it adds stress to what would otherwise be a simple decision. I want to put my money down, but now I have to decide what content to miss out on? No thanks. I’ll just wait.

WB Games isn’t the only one that has created convoluted pre-order bonuses, and it wouldn’t be fair to single that publisher out. This morning we received a press release from Focus Home, touting different add-ons based on which platform Blood Bowl 2 players choose. 

Ubisoft regularly does this, offering different in-game weapons for Assassin’s Creed games (and other series) based on retailer preference. Even Nintendo got into the act with Hyrule Warriors, providing different cosmetic bonuses to various stores.

Not only does the messaging get confusing, but publishers are making consumers like me feel uncomfortable. That’s the absolute last thing you want to instill in a customer as he or she is getting ready to pull out their wallet.

There is often minimal opportunity cost for pre-ordering a game, especially if you are doing so at retail ($5 for standard editions, $25 for collector’s versions). But creating a system in which different stores have different items on offer adds another layer that often supersedes any internal conflict created by a small cash deposit. The more a customer feels like he or she is missing, the less rapidly a consumer is going to make a decision. If enough time passes, that decision defaults to the one I made with Arkham Knight: waiting.

Granted, the opportunity cost related to cosmetic items is tied directly to personal valuation. If you are a Batman superfan and want every skin available, having to make choices like this will be more painful. If you simply don't care about playing dress-up with your Dark Knight digi-doll, then the change in opportunity cost due to retailer-specific pre-order bonuses is negligible. 

For me, having the complete package is valuable. I've enjoyed the past Arkham DLC, even if just as a diversion to mix things up a bit. Delving into challenge rooms with different characters, and exploring other corners of the story, like the Harley Quinn's Revenge DLC from Arkham City, fills in all the blanks.

For the sake of openness though, there is an opportunity cost to my decision, too. I’m giving up the time to discuss the game with peers who are playing it now. I also run the risk of the game being spoiled. These are costs I’m comfortable with, because when I do finally play it, it’ll still be the same great game (possibly better with patches) and I’ll have all the content. Plus, I’ll be saving money by spending the same amount on the bigger bundle as I would on just the vanilla game.

Retailer-specific pre-order bonuses have become institutionalized, and they likely aren't going anywhere. That means sales data shows that the practice is successful. For people like me though, it's enough to put the brakes on a purchase and sit tight for publishers to inevitably repackage for a second wave of sales.