Downloadable content. Everyone hates it — but everyone buys it. We haven't had a look in a long while at the extensions and pre-order bonuses designed to crowbar money from you or direct you to spend it at a retailer you wouldn't otherwise. Can you still respect yourself if you go along with it?
Transformers: Fall of Cybertron — Optimus Prime
Available: No date specified. My guess is as the All-Star Game approaches, either mid or late-June. Price: Pre-order bonus.
What You Get: The original, modular, you know cool Optimus Prime you remember from the 1980s toys, if you're that old, plus Megatron's gun and the Shockwave Blast Cannon, as weapons. All of these may be used in the game.
Why It's Evil: Because they're sending you to GameStop for it. Also, because the alternate pre-order bonus is "Disco Bruticus" as Fahey calls him, a wretched generation two version of the Combaticons assembled.
Evil Score: 2/5. Pretty much steers the Transformers diehards to GameStop on day one, while everyone else must wait on what is effectively a timed exclusive reveal of content developed for the game.
NBA 2K13: All-Star Weekend
Available: When the game ships October 2. Price: Pre-order bonus.
What You Get: The current year NBA All-Star game arena and uniforms, and three events from that weekend — the Dunk Contest, Three-Point Shootout, and the rookies game.
Why It's Evil: This walks the line. In the current game, you only get the previous year's All-Star arena and uniforms. So while it appears like they're holding something out, they're actually improving the presentation. The inclusion of the licensed Shootout and Slam-Dunk contest, which had analogues in the Blacktop mode, gives purpose to those minigames. They had been the exclusive domain of EA Sports' NBA series, which has been off shelves for two years. It could release for free to everyone when the NBA All-Star Game draws near. But the way this is being handled means these features likely can't be available in the game's Online Association mode, because you can't assure everyone in the online league has the DLC.
Evil Score: 3/5. Not happy that 2K Sports is continuing to explore off-the-disc content despite an admirable record of giving all of it to everyone at the same time, on the disc. But this is a general pre-order bonus, it doesn't require you to go to a specific retailer. That's a respectful way to handle this while still driving NBA 2K13's goal of eye-popping day-of-release numbers. If this removes the Blacktop games, meaning it's preorder or nothing to play those, then that's pretty bad.
Lego Batman 2: Heroes and Villains packs
Available: When the game releases June 19 in the US, June 22 in Europe. Price: "Free" but you have to lay down something to secure the preorder.
What You Get: A bunch of minifigs for play in the game which, despite the title, has an ensemble cast of heroes and villains. One pack of figs offers Blizzard, Captain Cold, Black Adam, Black Manta and Gorilla Grodd. Another gives you Nightwing, Damian Wayne, Katana, Zatanna, Shazam(a?). Amazon has the heroes; the villains are not confirmed stateside.
Why It's Evil: It's the usual cynical inducement to drive day-one sales to make a game look good. I'd also like to choose where I do business and not miss out on content in the game. Also, what if I want both Black Adam and Shazam?
Evil Score: 2/5. Readers have speculated that these characters will be unlockable in the game and that the preorder is just lets you get to them instantly which, if so, doesn't really twirl the evil moustache. Of course, we don't know that for sure.