Today, Warner Bros. announced a Game of the Year edition of Rocksteady’s heralded Batman: Arkham City. This version, unlike many GOTY packages, includes a bit of new content called “Harley Quinn’s Revenge”. Like other GOTY packages though, it includes everything you could have purchased up until now as well. This version of the game is set to release on May 29th, a mere 7 months after the original game came out.
There are a lot of fans of Arkham City out there. Personally, I thought that opening it up to a wider world actually did it a bit of disservice and made it lose direction. Unlike its predecessor Arkham Asylum, I put it down quickly and said to myself, “I’ll eventually get back to it.” Oh, if I only waited to buy it! Instead of worrying about just getting that Catwoman ‘online pass’ for buying new, I could have had the whole package.
This situation is becoming more and more common. If a larger name title receives DLC post-release, a year later you can expect a ‘complete’ edition for those who didn’t receive prestigious accolades, or a GOTY edition for those that did. These generally come to retail at a cheaper price than their initial releases and offer an entire package instead of just the ‘base’ game. Using the most recent example, if you were to buy all the DLC for Arkham City as it was released, the full product would have cost you roughly $80 (unless of course you bought the Collector’s Edition).
$80 before tax doesn’t sound too terrible, but the difference between this and a $40 GOTY edition is itself $40. You’ve paid double for all of Batman: Arkham City just because you bought it at launch.
Even if you don’t want to wait for that “true” version and you just gotta’ play it now, a month after release you’ll often be able to find deep discounts. Mass Effect 3 for example is already at $50 and has dropped to $40 at times. Pre-order bonuses from retailers are rarely anything worth obtaining but they too can often be found in the whole shebang edition. So where’s the value?
DLC is often used as a carrot on a stick for early buyers. Publishers believe that if there’s the promise of content down the line to a game they truly loved, there’s less of a chance that product will be brought back to GameStop. Sometimes that content turns out to be fabulous, but for every Shivering Isles you get four Genkibowls. This stuff just isn’t a sure thing.
Just about the only thing a release date buyer gets is the opportunity to talk about it online at the same time as all the other early adopters, and a bunch of bugs that need to be patched.
I’d personally like to see some sort of tangible incentive for early adopters. Publishers could just as easily monetize that pre-order bonus by knocking $10 off the price for those willing to take a leap of faith instead of putting in an online pass and calling it a bonus. BioShock included a Big Daddy figure with the Limited Edition. Why not make some of those style rewards exclusive to a pre-order or first-run and not charge extra? I’d rather have a physical tchotchke than a gold in-game Lancer.
Publishers continually fail to provide any real value for purchasing their products at launch. Instead they have erected barriers and hide features behind one-time-use codes making it more difficult to play your new games. Combine that with the potential savings along with receiving all the content associated with a game and the early buying consumer gets raked over the coals. Excitement is being exploited instead of being fostered.