Why I Hate Preorder DLC For Video Games
Recently, I wrote about how I’m going to have to pare down my new game purchases for the rest of the year to just a couple. At the top of that list is Batman: Arkham City. It is easily my most anticipated game of 2011, now that Dragon Age II is sitting on my shelf. I’m trying to stay in the dark on this one; with Batman Arkham Asylum I ended up watching a ton of trailers (and there were a lot of them, indeed) trying to ascertain if the game was really as good as it appeared, or if it was smoke and mirrors. Now that I know what Rocksteady Games can do with Batman, I don’t feel the need to spoil any of the game with preview coverage or trailers.
With that being said, however, I came across a news story about these awesome preorder DLC costume skins for the Caped Crusader:
I was very excited, especially for the classic blue and gray costume. While it makes more sense for the Dark Knight to wear all black and dark gray, I have a special place in my heart for this look, thanks to my exposure to Jim Aparo’s art on Batman in the 80s. The animated series skin is interesting, but unless the entire cast got a Bruce Timm makeover (awesome, but highly unlikely) it would just be too jarring to play the game that way. I’m not a fan of Frank Miller’s Batman, but his design could work in the No Man’s Land inspired Arkham City. The only thing that would have made me geek out about this more is if there was a Tim Sale or Jim Lee inspired version of The Bat.
But wait a second. Let’s pump the brakes on this Nerdmobile, shall we? These super cool costumes are slated to be retailer-specific preorder DLC bonuses.
I’ve been a pretty staunch supporter of DLC almost from the start. While none of us were stoked about the infamous horse armor for Oblivion I saw potential for DLC all over the place. I’m less enthused about retailer-specific preorder DLC, though. Odds are that the costume that you want is only going to be available at a retailer that you would rather not shop with. Or maybe you’re like me and reject the idea of preordering a huge triple-A title when you know there’s no chance of it selling out. Or, maybe you aren’t sure if you’ll be able to afford the game on day one, so preordering it isn’t an option for you. Whatever the reason, you’re going to miss out on some content that you may want due to preorder DLC exclusivity.
Oh, but wait! You will be able to buy all of these costumes at a later date! I call shenanigans on that, too. Now, keep in mind that I’m an idiot that spent way too much money on costumes for my fighters in Super Street Fighter IV, but I’m still a little peeved about this turn of events. I felt one of the only things missing from Arkham Asylum was unlockable costumes for Batman. It’s kind of a staple of the superhero game at this point, probably going back to Spider-Man for the PlayStation. Superheroes have so much history and so many costumes that part of the fun of controlling them in video game form is being able to outfit them in the gear that you are the fondest of. The Spider-Man games did a great job of this, but so did Marvel Ultimate Alliance and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Multiple costumes are almost an expected feature for a Batman game, wouldn’t you say?
Okay, maybe that’s just an assumption from a bygone age (ah, PS2 era, I miss you!). But let’s say that we as the consumers are okay with this content being used as a preorder bonus with the option of purchase at a later date. That sets a bad precedent, in my opinion. When you preorder a game, it doesn’t cost you anything. Maybe you put 5 dollars down, but that money is taken out of the price of the game at checkout. If you preorder on a site like Amazon it doesn’t cost you a dime. You get your preorder DLC bonus, and it’s just that: a free bonus item. But having to pay money for the other content that was free to people that preordered at other retailers seems a little shady to me. Why not offer these preorder DLC items for free to everyone (okay, maybe people who entered in the inevitable “new game” code) at a much later date? Say, three months after launch? That seems much better to me.
I’m not against DLC. I support it when developers put in the effort to make something worthy of my money. And I think that’s what devs need to be trying to do; make better downloadable content. If it’s quality content that adds value as opposed to something that feels like it was held back from the retail disc people will buy it. And it’s something that people will support and not complain about (well, no more than usual). But I feel strongly that preorder DLC is unfair to gamers.
But what do I know? I spent 30 bucks on Street Fighter costumes, after all.