Pre-ordering games is a thorny issue for gamers. On the one hand, spending money on a game you intend to buy is an easy way of ensuring you will have one available to you in the case of physical copies; or a way of saving you crucial download hours by allowing you to load the game ahead of time in the world of digital.
But on the other hand, buying a game before you’ve had a chance to read reviews or be informed of possible technical issues can lead to frustration. In fact, some are actively encouraging gamers to not pre-order games, both because it will spare them the unpleasantness of having already paid for a broken or subpar product, and because it will help discourage game publishers from abusing pre-orders in the future.
One source of outrage in the gaming community is pre-order “bonuses” that consist of pathetic toys, unfair advantages, or carved-out content. The latest outrage is the Deus Ex: Mankind Divided tier system. But while that might be the worst, it’s far from the only awful pre-order bonus foisted onto gamers.
I’ll be including pre-order bonuses and special editions available for pre-order on this list. Remember, all of these things are intended to induce you to spend money on a game before you have a chance to read reviews of it.
Deus Ex‘s Augmentations
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided‘s “Augment Your Pre-Order” campaign is the worst pre-order scheme I have ever seen, or am ever likely to see. So let’s get it out of the way first.
The pre-orders are arranged on a “tier system.” Every tier is locked until a certain number of people pre-order, at which point the tier will unlock and everyone will be allowed to pick one bonus from a selection of content. They call this “customizing your loadout.” If enough players pre-order, then Tier 5 unlocks: Everyone gets their pick of another prize in the lower tiers, and they get the game four days early.
First of all, this means that those of us who don’t pre-order will be getting a launch-ready game four days late. Second, this means that those who pre-ordered will have to become a salesperson, convincing others to pre-order if they want to make sure that the numbers are met to unlock the next tier. Third, this is all content that is done and ready, yet has been sliced out of the game to be repurposed as “bonus content.” It’s a fleecing the likes of which I’ve never seen in gaming before.
Still, if there is any positive side to the debacle, it is the like-to-dislike ratio on the “Augment Your Pre-Order” video. Sometimes YouTube dislikes are well-deserved.
Borderlands 2‘s Golden Guns
Bonus weapons or skins are by no means unique to Borderlands 2, but their Gearbox Golden Guns are perhaps the best example of just why these don’t make good offers in any multiplayer game.
In a game that’s co-op/multiplayer-focused like Borderlands 2, keeping balance is an essential part of development. You cannot just hand players who pre-ordered the best guns in the game and therefore give them an edge over players who bought the game at release or later (though some publishers absolutely do).
From what Borderlands players say, the guns are no more useful to a starting player than the game’s starting weapons. While some might appreciate being able to use a sniper rifle from the start of the game, they don’t give anyone a tactical advantage over their teammates. They shouldn’t because it would be unfair, but they also should because they were advertised as doing so. It’s a Catch-22.
Watch_Dogs‘ Pre-order Spreadsheet
Until Mankind Divided‘s Augment scheme came along, the bizarre and complicated menagerie of special editions for Ubisoft’s Watch_Dogs would have been my pick for the worst video game pre-order bonuses.
In what can only be described as a transparent attempt to make people pre-order more than one copy of the same game, Ubisoft announced no less than nine versions of their game, each with a selection of extras and none with all of them. The list was so extensive and complicated that it required a spreadsheet for most to fully understand.
The two editions that were the most packed with extras were the Dedsec Edition, which came with an Aiden Pearce statuette among other things; and the Vigilante Edition, which came with Aiden’s mask and hat. Neither of these editions included any of the digital content available in almost all of the other editions.
Street Fighter IV‘s Thumb War Masks
Say you and your Street Fighter-loving pals get into another argument: Who’s really better? Your Ryu or their Ken?
How do you settle this? Get your PS3 copy of Super Street Fighter IV and fight it out with the characters themselves? Please, that’s too easy! No, you settle it the way your fighters would themselves: Bare-knuckled! So get out your thumb covering with the face of your chosen champion emblazoned on the front and settle it like a true street fighter!
You got these cheap fabric socks when you pre-ordered Super Street Fighter IV from Gamestop.
Here’s hoping they also fit over the middle finger, so both players and their favorite characters could flip Capcom and GameStop the same colorful digit they were undoubtedly being flipped in the first place.
Resident Evil 5‘s Snow Globe
Resident Evil 5 was a game whose setting defied its series’ established formula, to say the least. It takes place in an unnamed region of Africa which is clearly ravaged by war and poverty, and ripe to be preyed upon by the series’ many corporate zombie factories. The game’s sun-drenched environments were a far cry from the claustrophobic interiors of previous entries.
Did anything in that description bring snow to mind? If you said yes, then Capcom has exactly the pre-order bonus for you!
I’m not sure what’s funnier: The fact that this is actually a piece of branded Resident Evil memorabilia (remember, this is supposed to be one of the scariest gaming franchises ever made), or the fact that Capcom couldn’t even get the characters’ faces molded correctly. You could say that the snow in the globe is actually sand, but there’s no loose sand encountered in the game either.
Saints Row IV‘s Super Dangerous Wad Wad Edition
In terms of not getting enough bang for your buck, few pre-order packages are as disappointing as the unique edition of Saints Row IV. With a price tag of $1,000,000; it’s the most expensive video game that has ever been on the market.
The Wad Wad Edition, which was only available through the website Game.co.uk, offered a jetsetter’s dream package. The buyer would get two cars, two stays in luxury hotel suites, plastic surgery, a personal shopper, a trip to space, and a replica of the in-game Dubstep Gun (presuming it worked, that last one would have been particularly impressive).
Sounds like an amazing deal, right? Well, Ars Technica punctured that particular balloon by tallying up the total amount that such a bundle would actually cost. Turns out that, had they sold the Wad Wad Edition, Deep Silver would have made a cool $300,000 profit, because all those goodies only (“only”) cost $629,974.69.
For the record, the million dollar edition of Saints Row is legit.
— Steve Jaros (@SteveJaros) August 9, 2013
For the record, the Wad Wad Edition is no longer available on Game.co.uk, but it has been replaced with the slightly less baller Super Dangerous Wub Wub Edition, which has the Dubstep gun and a dubstep “doomsday button.” There’s no word on whether the Wad Wad edition was ever sold.
Dead Island: Riptide‘s Bikini Zombie Torso
Deep Silver, lend me your ear. If I squint and tilt my head, I can see where you thought you were going with the Zombie Bait edition of Dead Island: Riptide. Dead Island‘s setting is one of its selling points. The juxtaposition between the beautiful island resort and the slavering undead adds an extra layer of horror to a zombie apocalypse setting.
But still, I’m not sure what made you think a sculpture of a zombified feminine torso – complete with ample bosom, Union Jack bikini, and exposed rib bones dripping in blood – would best exemplify that selling point. Sure, you can call it a “striking conversation piece” all you want, but something tells me not even fans of your game will be as eager to put this on their mantels as you believe.
Understandably, Dead Island fans were repulsed both by the statuette itself and the implication that they would enjoy and display a mangled woman’s body in their homes. The outcry was strong enough to prompt Deep Silver to issue an apology, though the Zombie Bait edition shipped in some places regardless.
Please readers, if you have this and like to show it off, I don’t want to know about it.
Tell Us What You Think!
Was there a pre-order bonus you thought was worse than all of these? Were there any pre-order deals you liked? Let us know in the comments section below.