Game Studio Shocked That Fans Don’t Like Their Pre-Order DLC

Game Studio Shocked That Fans Don’t Like Their Pre-Order DLC

Creative Assembly, the guys behind the Total War series — some of my favourite games — have along with publisher Sega tried something new for their next release. And it hasn’t gone down too well.

In October, Creative Assembly announced that Total War: Warhammer was going to have some pre-order DLC (reminder: don’t pre-order) that involved locking away one of the game’s factions and only making them available as a playable race to people putting down money in advance (or opting to pay to unlock them after launch).

This isn’t new for CA. Their last Total War game, Rome II, did the same thing with both its Greek States (in the vanilla game) and Vikings (in the expansion, Attila) factions. But for Rome II, this wasn’t that big a deal; the game featured a ton of sides you could play as and fight against, so having 2-3 missing from your roster at the start of a game wasn’t the end of the world.

In Warhammer, though, things are different. There are only five armies in the game. And the one CA is locking away, Chaos, is the most prominent enemy faction in the Warhammer universe.

Needless to say, reaction to the move has been…less than enthusiastic. Across forums and Reddit, fans were quick to voice their displeasure, and rightly so! At the time, it seemed like a dick move, beyond the pale of what’s generally considered acceptable for DLC shenanigans, even in this day and age.

Factoring into fan resentment over the plan is that they remember the last major Total War release. Rome II launched so broken that it’s the only “Not Yet” review I’ve ever given on Kotaku, and it was only after a few waves of DLC — months after release — that some of the game’s more fundamental issues were fixed.

A month ago, Creative Director Mike Simpson tried to explain the Chaos stuff in a lengthy blog post:

So in TW: Warhammer’s case, we had our four main playable races sorted, and we’ve planned for Chaos to have a big role to play later in the trilogy. But we really wanted Chaos Warriors in the main game, even without DLC — to give a big, bad end of game “boss” enemy Race for all players. But we couldn’t do that within the resources for the main game. So we added it as the pre-order incentive that also gets sold on day one — making Chaos Warriors fully playable but also giving us the extra resources to add them as an Ai race for everyone.

So is adding chaos as a pre-order incentive “cut content”? I think the opposite is true. If we didn’t add it to the pre-order, it would have been DLC later on and not in the game at release.

We thought we’d done well. Maybe there is a better solution – we’re listening to all suggestions for the future. Maybe pre-orders are becoming so toxic they will stop working altogether. You’d hope not though, as it quite simply means those incentives will end up just being paid DLC after launch.

Pre-orders create buzz, improve sales and give the whole studio confidence in what we’re doing. They genuinely let us give you something for nothing, and you can’t lose — if you aren’t happy with the final game, you should explore your refund rights. Even if you don’t pre-order, you get Chaos as an Ai opponent.

This was followed by a post from Total War Brand Director Rob Bartholomew:

We know pre-ordering is a leap of faith, but as Mike says it’s a very helpful indicator of interest in the game.   To help incentivise that and to say thanks for putting your faith in us early, we offer a pre-order bonus.   We try to make those as good as possible. Not just to convince you, but to add value as much as we can.   In the past we’ve done simple single units or factions as pre-order bonuses that were exclusive to certain retailers (see TW: Empire). We didn’t feel that was totally great as, even if you did pre-order, you never got all the available content because it was exclusive (either to a single retailer or it wasn’t available after launch).   So now we have a dedicated production budget to generate DLC in support of the main games, and we assign some of that cost to helping create a really great pre-order bonus. And what’s more we can make it available to buy from day one if you don’t want to pre-order. So the advantage is there if you do put your money down early, but you don’t miss out entirely if you decide not to.   And also you can wait for a sale after launch and still pick it all up, again because it’s not exclusive to a retailer.   We think it’s better to take the opportunity of doing a pre-order bonus and make it the best value we can.   Finally, you can take advantage of Steam Refunds, or any refund programme offered by your favourite retailer (and please check with them what it is before pre-ordering). We absolutely want you to be happy with what you’re buying and we’re committed to offering a deep and satisfying game.

Here’s another, newer take, from Total War Designer Rich Aldridge, who sat down with Eurogamer this week for an interview about the game:

I think some people are always going to want to voice their opinion and be heard, and sadly that tends to be more negative than positive. [Chaos are] a very important race and they do feature in the game. What we’ve decided to do is that we’ve added additional content and then made them playable. We didn’t want to disappoint people. We actually thought by adding more content, that would make it an exciting pre-order proposition for them.

He’s then asked about his reaction to the Chaos faction’s announcement trailer having over 40,000 dislikes on YouTube following the DLC reveal:

You never like to see there being a negative aspect of the game, but it seems to be something which is becoming, sadly, a more common trend with a number of games. Again, I’d just like to stress that we feel that by adding the additional content that actually the users get a far better game in the long term. And, obviously, it is their decision whether they wish to purchase now or in the future. We leave that open to them.

Do you know when Total War: Warhammer is out? August 28, 2016. That’s almost nine months away.

There’s a common sense of defensiveness running through these comments that misses people’s main bone of contention: that this universe doesn’t have many factions, and one of the best ones was — according to these responses — designed from day one to be locked away, whether as a preorder bonus at launch or as Simpson says as DLC down the line. That sucks!

The business model that relies on DLC being generated alongside the main game is never popular with fans, but it’s also a business reality. That’s fine. But had Creative Assembly announced the Skaven as bonus content, or the Ogres — or, you know, just had Chaos in the game from day one — I probably wouldn’t be writing this.

Aldridge also told Eurogamer that “certainly all of the criticism that we’ve taken and the comments that have been made, we have been absorbing and taking on board for future products.” That will be little consolation to Warhammer fans this time around, but as a long-time Total War devotee, I hope that’s true.


  • I don’t understand. How did videogames manage to be successful pre-DLC? Hearing some game industry reps speaking you’d think that DLC is not only necessary, but fundamental. The necessity of Pre-orders I can understand, but the prevailing mentality that goes “what part of my game can I cut so I can sell in separate ways” is disgusting. I remember when devs tried desperately to cram as much content as possible in games before release. Now, not only they don’t cram, they also cut.

    • Asura Wrath was a good game, first ending lead to a possible sequel but then you had to buy DLC for the true ending which bummed out its fans a bit.

    • To be fair, video games do cost a lot more to make than they used to. However, as a counterpoint, the market for video games and the number of copies sold has also grown exponentially in the last number of years.

      To be honest, a lot of it comes down to what the people in charge think they can get away with and people will still pay for it. It’s pure business and money making – and those decisions are usually made by the high level business people rather than the developers themselves. They just get told “this is what you’re doing” and typically wouldn’t get a say in the decision at all.

      CoDs $20/$25 map packs for 4 maps you played on the previous CoD anyway? Sold like hotcakes, so they kept churning them out.
      Season Passes that cost say $20? Generally sold quite well. So companies like EA are going “well, people bought it for $20, they bought it for $30, they bought it for $40… so let’s charge $50 for the season pass for SW:Battlefront.”

      Also keep in mind that many US game companies have shareholders, and according to US law, those companies can’t damage the potential profits/dividends for their shareholders. They are *legally obliged to* and can be sued if they do something that could affect their income from their share. So dropping prices, giving away stuff for free that they could actually sell… they not only won’t do it, but they can’t.

      Capitalism is a pretty dirty business at times, and in some cases it’s just the customers getting screwed. The best way to deal with it, as always, is to vote with your wallet. Don’t like the behaviour of the company? Don’t support them. Don’t buy their games. Let them know that their actions are not good enough. This isn’t about whinging or “being entitled” (and man, the people responsible for “entitled gamers” being a catchphrase deserve multiple hits upside the head) – it’s about consumers paying a fair price for a product.

      • FYI: Videogames may cost more than they used to, but videogames also sell far more than they used to, they reach a far wider audience thus gaining far more profit. They no longer take in tens of millions or just millions. Some of these take in billions, so they aren’t making a loss generally when they sell.

        • Purely playing devil’s advocate here, but I think while they sell more, it is not in proportion to the costs involved these days and the expectation of revenue that investors have…

          I think all sides have grown, but not within proportion to each other.

          • Unfortunately we don’t really have accurate stats to back this up, but it’s often touted that games make more money that movies these days, so we know the profits are not insignificant.

            I believe in the last 10 years or so, prices in the US for a game have risen $15-20 per game, and the overall consumer base and sales for a “blockbuster” title have risen by millions.

            When you toss (overpriced) DLCs into the mix – or at least they’re significantly overpriced in terms of development effort to cost ratio compared to the base game – the profit margins would seem to skew in favour of the producers.

            Unfortunately it seems to me that most of the profits (at least for the big blockbuster titles) tend to end up not in the hands of the people developing the games, but the producers/publishers/distributors – though again, we don’t really get published stats to be able to make a completely accurate assessment on that point either.

    Chaos is one of the most Iconic armies in the series, did they expect them to not notice or care?

    • Or when Ubisoft locked Ranger difficulty behind a paywall in Metro: Last Light.
      Nail in the coffin for ever buying Ubisoft for me.

      • Well that’s stupid of you since Ubisoft has nothing to do with the Metro games. Now you can buy every Ubisoft game that has been released since 2013.

      • Ubisoft has been responsible for many dickish acts, But they had nothing to do with the Metro series. That was 4A games and Deep Silver.

          • It does not now and never did require uPlay. Ubisoft has literally noting to do with the Metro series whatsoever.

            When you boycott a company over a dick move, make sure you boycott the right one! (Although UbiSoft have done their fair share over the years…)

          • Oh no, I dislike Ubisoft for a great many things. Must have just been lumping one annoyance in with another.

    • Agreed. It would be a completely different thing if they said “Hey we have an ALTERNATE Greater Daemon selection as day one dlc!” giving you standard greater Daemons, but to simply lock off an entire army? 9 months out? And declaring it DLC when it’s quite clearly able to be slammed into the main game as is? Jesus christ.

    • To be fair Orks and Undead (ie. Vampire Counts) were also quite iconic “bad guys” of the WH Fantasy world. Orks have always been the “old enemy” of Humans and Dwarves

      And technically Undead were the bigger threat for a while (remember that Nagash was the one who nearly killed Sigmar and it doesn’t help to have one whole “state” in the Empire pretty much defacto run by the undead – Sylvania) until GW decided to fiddle w/ lore and put Chaos at the forefront as the “big” bad guy.

      As for lack of races… let me see.. there’s still Elves, Wood Elves, Dark Elves, Lizardmen, Skaven, Beastmen, Brettonia and Tomb Kings. So plenty of other armies they can still add later. So i’m not sure where this whole “not a lot of factions” fuss is for.

        • I got the impression they meant overall from the article guess that was me misreading it =P

          Though IMHO 2-4 starting factions is pretty standard to most Strategy games in my books anyway.. the only exceptions to this traditionally really have been “historical” games like previous Total Wars, Age of Empires and so forth..

          For a “fantasy”/”original” setting 4 seems a decent number – DoW had 4, DoW2 – 4, SC – 3, RA – 2/3, C&C 2-3 and so forth… even CoH started out w/ 2 factions.

  • basicly says, we have the money to maek the DLC, and the A.I. and every thing else is already in the game for it, they didnt complete the game becuase they want you to pay for a story later on witch they hold out for DLC money.

    DLC becuase they want more money.

  • Total war games usually get heavily discounted after a few months, often with dlc etc thrown in. Patience reward.

  • I think the rule here should be: if you were working on a piece of content before the game went gold, you shouldn’t be charging extra for it or paywalling it.
    Even if it was something almost done but just couldn’t meet the schedule – release it as free DLC a la Witcher 3 and fans will love you for it.

    • Not unreasonable. Or at least be 100% transparent about when you started working on it (like the Witcher 3 guys, who admitted they started working on the paid DLC slightly before release but had completely finished the main game by then and its free DLC).

  • Micropayments For The Micropayments God!

    Oh wait, not even the ruinous powers would be this capricious… I completely get the position that they want to have something extra to generate revenue post-release and since these aren’t really story driven games, additional armies are the logical choice. Preorders this far in advance of the game is a very questionable proposition, to the point of feeling more like a kickstarter pledge than buying a game. Preorders this far in advance of a game for post-release content for the game added to the fact that there’s only going to be 5 armies is pretty much taking the piss, it certainly won’t help the screaming about cut content from the morons who don’t understand the first thing about project management.

    If they wanted to add new armies, there’s plenty of scope to expand beyond Empire, Dwarf, Vampire Counts & Ork. There’s Wood, High & Dark elves, there’s Skaven, there’s the GOOD Undead rather than the poncy vampire gits, there’s Halflings & Goblins, hell even add mercenary regiments that have weird unique mixes of everything

    All things considered it could be worse, it’s related to Games Workshop so they could have followed their model and made us pay $10 per individual unit. Want a cavalry squad? Well that’ll be $160, oh wait, make it $320, horses count as individual units. Oh did you want them to have weapons as well? It just so happens we have a marketplace for that

  • You’see game publishers… there’s a reason why you don’t get my money until the extended deluxe editions of your games are in a Steam sale.

  • It’s hard to imagine nobody wanting to spend money on a game that’s not only out but haven’t previewed or demo’d and ontop of that paying for shit which SHOULD be already included in the bloody thing.

  • After the steaming pile of shit that was Rome II, Creative Assembly can fuck right off if they think I am going to give them money up front.

    • Hear hear. I was pleasantly surprised by Attila, but even then I bought it in a Humble Bundle and gave most of the money to charity. Rome 2 had to be one of my most disappointed purchases ever, which is what sparked buying via HB.

    • Yep i’m still applying nourishing balm to my affected areas daily, after the first degree burning I got from Rome 2’s god-awfulness on release.
      They have defintely burned that bridge for me, thus will also likely wait for the inevitiable ‘gold’ version released 6-12 months after initial release, with everything in it, including the inevitable multiple patches required to make the game run OK.
      Seriously still shake my head at how awful so many critical parts of Rome 2 were on release, not that it is much better now to be honest, just find it an empty shell of what the old ones used to be like. Med 2 still wins for mine.

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