Sometimes, it really pays to read beyond the headline. For example, if you were sent a press release that says “Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Launch Date Revealed,” you would think that the press release was mostly about the game’s launch date and a little bit about what is available for pre-order.
That what I thought it was until I got to the subheading of “Player Choice Prevails with Augment Your Pre-Order Campaign; Collector’s Edition Unveiled.” At first glance, player choice and pre-order bonuses seems like it’s a long-awaited change to the typical pre-order plan. Then you see how Square Enix has put it together and you can’t but help but hit your head off your desk.
The Augment Your Pre-Order Scheme seems fairly harmless depending on the implementation. There are five tiers of pre-order bonuses with three of them giving players the option of which bonus to choose. Tier One has three custom character skins and bonuses to pick between, Tier Two has options of a digital art book or a digital soundtrack sampler, and Tier Four has a choice of a digital comic book or a digital novella.
It all seems so sweet and innocent compared to the usual array of pre-order bonuses being segregated by platform and retailer. That’s especially true when all the pre-order bonuses, including the bonus mission at Tier Three, are available for everyone pre-ordering the game regardless of platform and store.
But then you come to the fine print and the big catch. You had to know that there was a catch. There’s always a catch.
Square Enix has set up the Augment Your Pre-Order bonus scheme in tiers not to influence your choices of bonuses or to protect future options for additional DLCs to be sold. Well, I guess I can’t rule that out but it’s not the primary reason for tiers.
The tiers are in place as a carrot on the end of a stick. In order to get a chance of picking your Tier Two or Four rewards, enough people have to pre-order the game to unlock tiers beyond the first. How many pre-orders are required? Oh, you didn’t actually think SqEnix would give that away. So this effectively turns everyone who has pre-ordered a game into a salesperson for the game (which is advocated by SqEnix in their pre-order FAQs). If they can convince other people to pre-order the game, it benefits them through the unlocking of those higher tiers and better bonuses.
Of course, to make it all worse, there’s Tier Five. I haven’t mentioned the fifth tier because this might be the most broken pre-order bonus of all-time. If enough there are enough pre-orders of the game, Tier Five launches the game four days early. Instead of launching on February 23rd, it would launch four days earlier. I would assume that would have to be exclusive to pre-orders rather than including retail outlets in the early release because of how much of a headache it would be for the brick-and-mortar stores to make that big of a last-minute change in plans.
As of writing, the Augment Your Pre-Order site says that we are 25% of the way to unlocking Tier 2. It was like that yesterday afternoon when I logged on the first time and it was at that same percentage last night when I checked. I don’t have a lot of faith in these sorts of programs when you can’t see the metrics they’re using to unlock these tiers. When it’s done on Kickstarter, we can see how stretch goals are achieved. Here, we just have to take SqEnix for their word.
Of course, there are all sorts of the usual pre-order concerns that we have to note as well. The third tier has a pre-order exclusive level which means that it’s content that’s ready for launch but will be withheld for this scheme and likely released as DLC some time down the road. The same can be said for all of the other pre-order rewards on offer here, though. Even with the choices you have, there will be lots still to buy in order to get a complete game.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of Deus Ex, Square Enix or video games in general, this sort of pre-order scheme is anti-consumer. As a consumer, you’re being forced into pre-ordering a game that hasn’t even seen a vertical slice land in the hands of the press for only a portion of a game rather than a whole thing. While Steam refunds will help a little bit in reducing the risk to the consumer, I’m not sold that it would be enough to protect consumers. After all, Steam had to waive the two-hour restriction on refunds for Batman: Arkham Knight.
By the way, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided launches on February 23, 2016. I guess that’s unless we reach Tier 5 of pre-order bonuses which will see the game launch on February 19th.
Source: Square Enix PR, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided – Augment Your Pre-Order