It should have been a nice bit of news for a Monday. A release date for arguably one of next year’s biggest games, Deus-Ex: Mankind Divided. Even the expected preorder bonuses that latch on to nearly every big game release announcement these days would have been met with no more than a roll of the eyes by even the most hardened cynic had it been the standard bit of throwaway tat that everyone probably will end up getting anyway. Instead, we got a baffling mess that needs to be nipped in the bud swiftly before it gets into the heads of other companies’ marketing departments.
Square-Enix announced Deus Ex: Mankind Divided with a preorder scheme that takes on an odd crowd-funding approach by setting stretch goals for preorder content. The setup of the scheme is split into five tiers, and if preorder numbers are sufficient enough then all tiers will be unlocked, giving fans the opportunity to choose four of the possible eight bonuses with the sweetener of getting the game four days early being the final tier. Now it’s bad enough that a culture of preorder bonuses exists in the first place, but that’s a longer term battle. This freshest batch of preorder nonsense should start and end with Mankind Divided, because it is nonsense on several levels.
The tier system is insulting on its own, throwing in the caveat that you still only get some of the bonuses on offer merely adds to it. This isn’t Kickstarter funding promises, this is a full price major release that already has its budget and a large publisher behind it. If people are going to reserve their copy of your game in advance then the very least you could do is lay out the same extras across the board. Or you could just forget slicing off morsels of the main game to use as bait for the naive and keep them in your game to begin with, but like I said, that is the longer-running issue that needs battling. This though? This is a disturbing trend for preorder culture to follow, as not only will content be gated off for those willing to gamble on a game coming out several months later being good by putting an investment in upfront, but now even some of that content is going to be unavailable to them too. It’s alarming too, that there are no actual sales figures up for the unlocking of each tier. Transparency is key to projects on platforms such as Kickstarter getting funding and -with that- a bit of faith. Square-Enix has failed on both counts with this.
When it has been barely a week since CD Projeckt Red announced The Witcher 3 has managed over six million in sales worldwide by just being a rather good game that doesn’t treat its fanbase like sacks of cash, it only amplifies the desperate, insecure nature of many of today’s big publishers. This need to scream at the general public not to forget about their next big thing is sad at the best of times, especially when you factor in the glut of advertising and media coverage the majority of these titles receive in the months and weeks leading up to release. This stunt by Square-Enix is practically clawing at the feet of consumers and shrieking at them to hand over their money or miss out, even though there is little chance of actually missing out on much of anything. The absurd thing about this whole situation is that if there had been no preorder content and a guaranteed early release for those reserving a copy it would be applauded as a positive step.
I do get that preorders help a company gauge interest in their products and the normal kind of bonuses are at best, something everyone who just straight up buys the game at launch will probably be able to find in game if they so desire. It’s become ingrained into modern gaming whether we like it or not and it’d take a massive shift in public opinion to change it at this point (that’s not to say it’s impossible though), but this is something we can -and really should- prevent. If you, like me, are excited for Deus Ex on PS4, don’t boycott the game because of this, instead of preordering and validating this misguided marketing, buy it at launch as a statement that you don’t believe in this practice even if you do believe in the game’s quality.
Note – Square Enix has pulled the earlier video that it released on YouTube detailing the Deus Ex: Mankind preorder scheme. At last glance it had around 600 thumbs-down, and 300 thumbs-up.
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