My name is Jacob Steiner. I'm from Davie, Florida, and I'm 21 years old. I've been playing video games since I was seven years old. Mortal Kombat 4 for the N64 was my first game. It was gory, and I loved every second of it. I've been playing games ever since.
I'm now a film student at the University of Miami because my passion is now film. Games are a second home to me, and I hope to improve gaming films once I hopefully make my mark on the film industry.
It’s been a long time since I’ve written about video games. When I mean a long time, I mean almost six months. But, last week, I watched a video by Escapist Magazine’s Jim Sterling. The topic was Pre-Order Culture. After years of being blinded by GameStop’s pre-order incentives, Mr. Sterling finally ripped the wool from my eyes and violently incinerated it with a flamethrower. It screamed, and it died.
Firstly, before we delve any further into this topic, let’s start with a little history on expansion packs and DLC. Before DLC (Downloadable Content) even existed, there were expansion packs, which were sold with the game or in the store; the player could not download it. The first ever expansion pack, which added new levels, was created for a game called Dunjonquest, a game that was released on Apple II, Atari 8-Bit, IMB PC, Macintosh and various other consoles in 1981. And, the first title to add extra items such as armor and new quests was Populous: The Promised Lands, which was released for a plethora of consoles such as Mac OS, the SNES, Game Boy and Sega Genesis in 1989.
Then, in 1999, things changed… forever. Titles such as Team Fortress Classic and Never Winter Nights received free DLC. Most games on consoles in 1999 such as Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, Silent Hill, System Shock 2, Medal of Honor and Shenmu were all complete games; they didn’t need DLC or expansion packs, which is how it should be right now.
I remember when this whole pre-order ordeal started; at least I think I do. Capcom was announcing DLC for extra characters for its title Street Fighter 4 … when the characters were already on the disc! Folks started to notice this practice four years later and began to attack Capcom and boycott its products on release day; consumers wised up, and that’s why Street Fight X Tekken failed to sell any copies. Capcom gave in... eventually.
Now, let’s define pre-order culture. This sickening practice occurs when a publisher makes multiple agreements with specific retailers to portion off sections of its game so each sales company can acquire more sales. Basically, we are being divided into groups of cattle, which are mindlessly purchasing different sections of video games from different retailers. Sometimes, the publisher will cater to one specific retailer: GameStop.
For some, this newfound pre-order culture is not an issue. They see pre-ordering as a way to reserve a copy of the game even if the title will be easily accessible in every other store days after launch. It's more about convenience than the cool DLC. But, this is how I see it.
Imagine you’re excited to see a movie such as the Dark Knight at the theaters; that wasn’t hard. Now, here’s the kicker. A few months prior to the release, D.C. announces that it will be making a deal with Cinemark theaters around the United States. That incredible scene where Batman interrogates the Joker will be available ONLY at Cinemark theaters. But, no, it wouldn’t stop there. The scene in Life of Pi where Pi makes it to the Island of lemurs would only be at Cinemark, and the scene from Days of Future past where Mystique goes to Vietnam would be available only at Cinemark. People would be rioting on the Internet and, maybe, in the streets. There would be petitions all over the Internet. It would be a mess.
I’ll lob an even harder example at you just in case the first one didn’t make you want
to puke. Guitars have been an integral part of our society since the instrument was invented. But, for the sake of the argument, let’s say that Gibson and Fender make a deal with Guitar Center. If you go to Guitar Center, you’ll receive the guitar and the bottom e string with its tuning peg. If you went anywhere else, you would have to play the guitar with only five strings. Or, you would have to acquire different strings and pegs at separate retailers. The worst part is that a year later, the whole guitar would be available as the Guitar of the Year Edition. The thought of retailers participating in such a scam is just insane.
But, now, this sickening practice is getting worse. GameStop is announcing preorder DLC before games have even launched or been officially announced. The pre-order incentive for Alien pissed me off, but GameStop’s “special, surprise announcement” on July 22 for more pre-order DLC for Batman Arkham Knight made me snap. I snapped because consumers were upset when GameStop cut out the Catwoman portion from Rocksteady’s previous title Arkham City, and, of course, GameStop didn’t listen.
To make matters worse, GameStop CEO Paul Raines stated in an interview that GameStop wants to have a hand in the development cycle, “portioning off sections of the game for itself.” This is going way too far. Any other industry would view this putrid act as monopolistic garbage.
You, the reader, have a choice. You can stop pre-ordering titles from GameStop, Amazon and every exclusive retailer and buy it a day later or a year later in the Game of the Year Edition. Or, you can choose to continue supporting this… thing, which is robbing us of our money. It continues to grow every day as uneducated, innocent consumers sacrifice themselves to it.
American Historian Daniel J. Boorstin once stated, “The greatest enemy of knowledge of is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” Know your enemy, ladies and gentlemen. If we all fight it together, we may receive completed titles as we once did back in the good, old days.