Will Next Ratchet & Clank’s Pre-Order Incentives Piss Fans Off?

According to the people who want to sell us the next Ratchet & Clank game, "everyone's favourite Ratchet & Clank weapon" is the Sheepinator, a gun that transforms bad guys into sheep.

According to these same game-selling people, the only way for any series fan to get the "classic version" of that weapon in the next Ratchet & Clank game, is to pre-order the game at WalMart.com.

Too bad if you're one of the series' fans - one of those "everyone" - who doesn't want to shop at WalMart. Too bad if they, say really likes the insult-throwing robot-buddy Mr Zurkon, who will only be available in this new game, Ratchet & Clank: All For One if you pre-order the game at GameStop. You didn't want the Morph-O-Ray, the gun that turns enemies into dinosaurs, did you? Yours only if you pre-order at Amazon.

The previous Ratchet & Clank game was superb (I reviewed it), and the next may be the most innovative four-player co-op game since Left 4 Dead. In the perfect world, both that history and that potential would sell the game itself, but apparently flagging Ratchet series sales - it's not been the hit in the PlayStation 3 era that it was in the PS3 - have dovetailed with the publishers' new favourite marketing trick to present another case study in how annoying pre-order incentives can be.

Game companies have decided that a great way to convince big retail outlets that an upcoming game will sell well is to coax consumers into stores months early with differently flavoured carrots suspended at different shops. The Mortal Kombat people did this late last year, offering certain classic finishing moves only to consumers who pre-ordered the game in one place or another. The people behind L.A. Noire just did it too, splintering off some cases and even a game mode to different consumers based on where they pre-ordered the game. It's not enough for companies to convince all the shops with one great incentive. Nope. GameStop needs their special bonus; Amazon needs theirs; Best Buy gets something else; let's not leave any of the big guys out.

The pre-orders don't tend to be exclusive forever, which means, of course, that they were never exclusive to begin with - except in the video game company manner of telling consumers they can only get something one place, when the truth is that, if you wait, you can get it all. Former Assassin's Creed creative director Patrice Desilets once told me that all of Assassin's Creed II's so-called retailer-exclusive downloadable content would eventually be available to all gamers. What was unusual is that he told me that before the game came out which, I later heard, didn't go over too well at his company. Shame on him for messing with the marketing team's version of reality.

Earlier today, Sony's public relations team sent out a list of game retailers and their respective Ratchet pre-order perk. I e-mailed them back, asking if those special weapons would eventually be available to anyone who gets the new game. "These pre-order bonuses announced today are exclusive to the retailers listed below," a Sony rep e-mailed back. "We'll keep you posted on any additional announcements."

The smart money is that the classic Sheepinator, Mr Zurkon and any other pre-order incentives will eventually be for sale for all Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One gamers to buy. After all, if "everyone" loves the classic Sheepinator, why not sell it to everyone? The smart money's also on Sony not acknowledging that they'll do that for a while. They'll see if they can get retailers to believe, months before the new Ratchet's October 18 release, that people want this game, any fan aggravation be damned.

As the pre-order incentives for games get sweeter, as they continue to be divided across multiple shops, it seems like consumers are being asked to make choices about giving up on small pieces of the very things that delight them. Unless the gamers see through it all, of course, and wait it out. Skip the pre-order, skip the panic. Trust that it'll all come out eventually. And if it doesn't, many the publisher plan backfires, and maybe gaming retailers will have to find another method for figuring out what's going to be a good game. Better that than turning game customers ever more into sheep.

Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One Releasing October 18th [PlayStation blog]


Comments

    Might be a typo there.

    "it’s not been the hit in the PlayStation 3 era that it was in the PS3"

    Kudos to Codemasters for offering copies of their old games as preorder incentives; Steam purchasers get a free, giftable Dirt 2 and EB purchasers get GRID (PS3 and X360, not sure about PC). No preorder DLC means you don't have to worry about having the complete Dirt 3 experience, and a free game is always awesome.
    I still picked up the pc version from ozgameshop for $35.50(!) because I'm tight, and already own Dirt 2.

    The European Playstation Blog says that the preorder bonuses are for early unlocks of the weapons.

    Presumably if you buy the game from a different retailer you'll just have to play through a bit more of the game before you can start turning enemies into sheep.

    These sorts of shenanigans end up having me wait until there is GOTY or Collector's edition of the game with all the DLC and "exclusives" included, usually at a cheaper price than the original retailed at. I might have to wait longer before I can play them, but I'm tired of that feeling that there are components purposefully left out of games so they can be attempted to be sold to me at an unworthy price

    I don't pre-order anything. I just haggle until I get the bonuses anyway.

    I hate it when game companies do this, I've come close to pre-ordering at several places, buying them all to get the bonuses and then returning all but one of the copies a couple of days later.

    It is an early unlock... all the pre-order bonuses are in the game the only difference is if you pre-order the game you can use the weapon straight away, no more playing for 2-3 hours to unlock it.

    Its says they're for "Early Unlocks" meaning even if you don't
    pre-order you will receive the items through out the game play through. So regardless you will get the items.

    So in what way would this aggravate fans? I'd rather choose not to pre-order and receive them at the games natural pace.

      because some people are oblivious to the idea of 'early'. They think it's permanent

    the new camera makes this look like a zelda/donkey kong/ mario #fail also clanks not on your back, gay

    You know what's better than DLC? Getting the full game for the original price.

    I hope this game doesn't ruin future games with the whole Ratchet, Clank and Dr. Nefarious working together.

    The video insert is covering a large part of the article text for me.

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