My excitement about the latest Deus Ex title has devolved into an emotion that can best be described as a sort of mental middle finger after reading about Square Enix's overly complicated and consumer-hostile pre-order scheme for the game.
We've seen some cringe-inducing stuff when it comes to chopping up content in order to make retailers happy, but this tiered pre-order system is a whole 'nother thing. Let's dig in.
What is even going on?
Square Enix wants you to "augment" your pre-order, which is a Deus Ex universe way to describe how, if more people give the company their money, we all get more stuff. Not all the stuff, mind you — the most dedicated customers who pay $60 at launch are the ones the AAA industry has decided to rip off — but more of the stuff.
Here's the deal, per our earlier story on the situation. I'm not going to retype it because it makes me feel gross.
The Augment Your Preorder initiative starts today at Tier 1, which gives pre-order customers a choice between three load-outs; Tier 2 gives customers a choice between a digital art book or a soundtrack sampler; Tier 3 will unlock a mission called "Desperate Measures"; Tier 4 gives customer a choice between a digital comic book or a novella (that's like a comic book without pictures). Most notably, perhaps, is the final tier which, if reached, "the game will release four days before the official release date." Presumably, that early release will be available to everyone, whether they've pre-ordered or not, though we're checking with Square Enix to verify.
So you have a system where you have to choose what content you get at each level and, as more people pre-order, more levels are unlocked. There's not a single purchasing decision to be made here so much as there are a series of decisions where you have to figure out what you want versus what you're wiling to leave behind as more and more people sign up. At each step you're not getting something as much as you feel like you're turning something down. It's a constant reminder of what you don't get, and that's kind of gross.
There is a way to bypass all this, but you need to be willing to pay $150 for the ultimate bundle of everything-ness.
Let me break down the entire system in a way that makes the most sense: Square Enix wants people who will buy the game no matter what to pony up the most money as early as possible to get some of the bonus content they created, while charging $150 to get everything.
The rest of us can wait on reviews, wait for patches and make sure the damned thing works or, if we're really smart and/or frugal, we'll wait for the inevitable "Super Special Everything Edition" that will be released in about a year or so and include everything, including all the fixes and likely expansions, for much less money.
Why this is so gross
If a customer is willing to give you money before your game comes out, without knowing if it's good, you should send them a thank-you note and all the digital goodies you can muster. They are the people you should be treating the best. Instead, they're the ones you've decided you can treat the worst. The people who should get everything are being asked which digital bits and bobs they're comfortable not getting at launch, as if that makes sense.
It doesn't have to be this way: The Witcher 3 developer CD Projekt Red ran a clinic on how to treat their most valued customers with respect. They incentivized players in a way that gave them something for buying early, without all these strings and silly choices.
The rewards are obvious, as the game has gone on to sell 6 million copies to date, complete with a note of thanks to the game's fans. It did this by offering bonuses and content that didn't step on the people who ordered ahead of time, and the developer went out of its way to treat its customers with gratitude and respect.
A day ago I was really excited about Mankind Divided, but this scheme has turned that enthusiasm into a sort of weary hesitancy. The sale is coming, as is the version of the game that's less than $60 and comes with anything and everything. If they're not going to reward my day-one purchase, why not wait until then?