Buyer alert: Don't gift these console bundles without opening them, or ever


How many gigabytes until Christmas?

A public service announcement for the casual holiday shopper: Do you mind that your video game gifts may not be playable that day? You might want to double-check that box.

It's age-old wisdom to connect a new game console on Wifi and update it before you give it to someone, that we all expect. What you might not be ready for is having to also download the entire games that you thought were physically there, and in some cases you can't even do that. Since digital games require logged in accounts, you can't pre-load a digital copy without knowing a person's private gamer login or tipping them off in advance. 

No pre-installed digital copy or physical copy inside

To be clear: there's nothing functionally wrong with these products, but the product packages are deceptively labelled. They are vastly misrepresented in how quickly they can be played off the shelf, and also don't disclose much hard drive space will remain following the install of the "bundled" hardware. That's a whole other outrage for a different day. Today we're dealing with making sure people can play their games on Christmas day.

My particular beef is a growing trend of misleading packaging when game consoles and "bundled" games are sold together. It would be one thing if they were digital and already on the hard drive. They're not. You'd have to be an eagle-faced Cumberbatch to notice:

In the case of the Forza bundle, you'd have to catch it written in what looks like a 7 point font on the right side of the box. To be fair, it's written three times in a 7 point font, but in two other languages you probably can't read either. I'd like to see a sticker on the box that said "Family Bonding Edition - 3 to 24 hours of watching paint dry before you can play!" To add insult to injury, it appears again in what must be a 4 point font in a sticker next to photos of the game boxes, which are again implied to be inside but are not.  

This is the new digital norm, but probably not fine for a special certain day of the year. Not all game bundles are playable right out of the box. In fact, many Black Friday deals didn't even label them correctly.   

Somehow along the way, "bundled" can now mean digital and not actually in the box. A new cost-cutting trend is spreading, where the games included are digital codes that must be redeemed after massive downloads and jumping through online registration hoops. I bet many parents, lovers, and brothers-from-different-mothers think that they would be playable right out of the box, and that's exactly the problem. 

Don't expect online shops to label it correctly, either. This Microsoft-run store on Amazon does not disclose that the games are not actually in the box at a glance. You have to work your way down the page and sort it out, which is weird because Amazon is usually pretty good about putting "Digital" in the product titles. This is going to piss some people off. 

To my surprise, on the official website it says "what's in the box" and gives people no clue that what they're getting is not the game, but a flap of paper with a code. It's entirely possible that physical copies and digital copies are being tested in different markets, or at least that's what a PR person should say to prevent a class-action lawsuit.

This is bad design. Shape the games like apps, like download arrows, anything. Disclose. 

Is this even a problem, outside of the holiday season? There's evidence that it's not going over smoothly: GameStop changed their policies and refuse to carry some of these fake "bundles," while others appear to still be sold.

Here's what's actually "in the box" - a flap of paper that resembles a retail box with a code. Seriously?

This is pretty flagrant. I feel like I got professionally trolled.


These misleading boxes must be correctly labelled ASAP

When I see artwork for the physical game package on a bundle, I expect that little box to also be inside the box. You know, like the picture of the console and the controller. Putting that there and then offering a digital code with no clear label is absolutely misleading. 

It's not just Microsoft doing it. Where the hell is the digital voucher label on this box, Sony? Oh! I see it. It's on the far bottom left there. And it expires! Good to know that's front and center, and thank heavens I go shopping with my magnifying glass.

You're not fooling anybody. No wait, they are fooled. Way to <3 your customers

Tech savvy people are used to these annoyances. We're so mentally hardened that we're not surprised or tell each other that this is new, modern, or normal. Elsewhere, it's not. 

Could you imagine if iPads and iPhones were this bad? You go to the Apple store, you choose your poison, and then what? Can you imagine if that person can't even take a not-trying-too-hard selfie until like 8 hours later when the camera firmware arrives? No way. There would be gluten-free riots in the streets. There's no way Apple would sell you a phone that says it has a camera, not actually include the app, and instead loads your device with film and TV offers. That level of disrespect seems exclusive to leading video game consoles.

I'm calling you out industry, you're failing normal people. It's predatory. It's pathetic. It's in your bloated firmware, your locked launchers, and now it's even on your packaging.

I'm picking on Microsoft because I recommended their product and it ate half of my Sunday, but this, Sony's PS4 Uncharted Bundle and Nintendo's 3DS Animal Crossing Bundles are just three examples of bundles that only come with the coupon. Everybody's guilty, but some hide it more than others.

At least Nintendo puts a warning on it on a big red box, front and center, even though 3DS games are hardly a 70 gig pill to swallow.

Nintendo clearly labels their digital bundles, at least: 

All I'm saying is put an honest label on the box, and use a larger font this time

Don't get it twisted: I'm not advocating physical vs. digital. Completely misses my point.

If the games came digitally pre-installed, great. You have to install a physical game on the drive anyway. It's also not as easy as parents setting up their console for their kids the night before.  Digital games must be bound to an account. You can't pre-cache a bundled game like the manufacturer can without binding that game to an account, which may ruin the surprise for some or make pre-loading entirely impossible for others.  That's where a physical copy or a pre-loaded digital copy is key, or that's one day they forfeit from the holiday stuck on a big-ass download.

People should have a clear understanding of what they are buying, and these Microsoft and Sony bundles above don't give them that. This is not OK.

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Niero Gonzalez
Niero GonzalezMeat Vessel   gamer profile

I keep Destructoid weird. Also I'm a playable character in Retro City Rampage, look: (along with the whole 2009 Dtoid Editorial team) Sometimes I have a villainous mustache My dog CoCo chec... more + disclosures



Filed under... #Destructoid Originals #Forza Motorsport #public service announcement



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