Many Big Games Now Have Two Release Dates, And The Earlier One Will Cost You

Many Big Games Now Have Two Release Dates, And The Earlier One Will Cost You
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Image: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (Ubisoft)

What’s an extra day of playing a hot new game early worth to you? What’s the worth of two days? It’s become more and more common for video game publishers to charge players for the chance to play games early. Or maybe they’re just sticking everyone else who pays a meagre $70 with a later release date. This practice has gone from rare to common this season. Here’s what’s being offered.

The new Tomb Raider sells for $69 and theoretically came out on Friday the 14th, but people who pre-ordered the special Croft edition — $US89 on Steam, $144 at retail — could play it two days early.

A shot of the base edition and special versions from JB Hi-Fi, along with the separate release dates.

NBA 2K19 sells for $69 and had a release date of September 11, unless you paid $149.95. Then you could play it four days early.

The special editions of Tomb Raider and NBA 2K both offered more than early access, but that was a major drawing card. You could argue that Tomb Raider was putting the price of about $US5 a day (if bought through Steam) on playing early, NBA 2K a lot more.

It’s not just them.

If you pre-order any of the various special versions of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey that cost $149.95 or more you will be able to play the game three days early. You can play Hitman 2 four days early if you pre-order the Gold Edition of the game for $249.95.

The lone major Xbox One exclusive for the fall, Forza Horizon 4, gives four day early access for its $139.95 ultimate edition. Battlefield V will also let you play three days early if you pre-order the Deluxe edition.

The difference in release — and price — between the Forza Horizon 4 editions. JB Hi-Fi doesn’t carry the special edition of the game.

Battlefield comes from EA, which has been doing the play-early thing for a while. The company’s EA Access subscription service has offered early access to its games as a selling point, though that early access has usually been limited to a set number of hours of play time. They also will just let people pay more to play the whole thing early. FIFA 19, Madden 19 and NHL 19 offer early access if you pre-order the more expensive editions, starting at $80 for all games.

Some of this has happened before. Last year’s FIFA 18 and NHL 18 games, for example, had Play Early deals, too.

Eidos Montreal)" loading="lazy" > Image: Shadow of the Tomb Raider (Eidos Montreal)

MMOs have been offering early access to games for years. If you pre-ordered Guild Wars 2 in 2012, you’d get the game three days earlier than other players. If you pre-ordered The Elder Scrolls Online in 2015, you’d get the game five days early. Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood also offered the game five days earlier if you pre-ordered.

Not every big game this season is letting people pay more to play early. We’re unaware of such deals for Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 and Red Dead Redemption 2, for example. Fallout 76 doesn’t seem to have one but it does have a beta in October, the month before its official release. (Editor’s Note: It’s worth noting that the Fallout 76 beta is a reward for those who pre-order.)

None of the major upcoming games from Nintendo will be available early if you pre-order, though the standalone Xenoblade Chronicles 2 expansion, Torna, is currently available only for people who bought the season pass for that game. It’s exclusive to those people for one week before everyone else can buy it.

Although there are a handful of big releases that aren’t going to let you play early, many upcoming games effectively have two release dates. There’s the release date for people who only want to pay $69 or $79, and an earlier release date for people who are willing to pay more, or pay early. These publishers and developers are banking on your impatience to persuade you to give them, sometimes, an additional $80.


      • no, anything with DLC will not be accepted for a return.
        All the extra content versions with any codes cant be returned, even if you don’t use the codes.

        • That’s funny, I’ve returned games that have had DLC codes before? The guys in the store have literally told me they’re able to get new codes from the companies easy enough.

          • Have been refused every time in Canberra.
            Even make a pointed note of asking specifically is the games have DLC.

            Would make life that much easier if they did. Never used to be an issue, but now it’s without fail.

          • That’s really weird? Wonder if that’s just a store choice thing? I returned a copy of Destiny 2 for the PS4 last year, which was accepted completely without issue.

  • Pay extra to get the same game a few days early?

    I can’t understand the logic.

    The first few days/weeks of a game are usually full of patching & updates anyway.

    I decided I wasn’t going to pre-order games anymore when this generation of consoles started and I’ve been better off as a result of it and less disappointed.

    • It’s a very smart move from a business point of view. They get to do some additional load testing/bug fixing while profiting from those who can’t wait. At the same time they’re increasing hype as articles/videos trickle out.

      It’s largely due to the streamers – best time to get those views is in that headstart period when everyone else is still waiting/riding that hype train (roller-coaster?) . Ergo they can’t afford NOT to buy it.

      Personally I’m at the extreme other end of the spectrum where I keep chipping away at old games and buy stuff when they’re on sale for <$15. Unless there’s some form of competitive multiplayer or it’s something with a strong story that you can’t deal with spoilers… Meh you dont really miss much. Hell, usually you get a much more stable and bug free experience, and a lot of the time you can get DLC for free (or GOTY etc).

  • What’s it worth?

    Nothing. I’ll wait for a sale if they’re going to pull this shit. I’m happy to pay for games if I like them, but shit like this? Haha, no.

  • I think they’re setting themselves up for disaster. This seems like a great idea but they’re forgetting how badly pre-release reviews can treat an unpolished blockbuster.

  • I never saw the point of early access. It’s only a few days to wait.
    It’s at a point where they’ll do anything to milk a little more out of you.
    Add this to the pile of other attempts to get your cash:
    Pre-order- Very rarely have I ever been to a store on the day of release and not found the game available.
    Season Pass- Half the time even they dont know what’s included in it or started making the content yet.
    Collectors Edition- Metal case and a happy meal toy. Rarely has a good art book or something worthwile.

    • Not having a go at your post, more talking in general:

      Yeah, fair enough – it is milking – but I like to remind people that games prices have NEVER really gone up in what.. 20-30 years at least. If they did – we’d be outraged.

      Development costs get larger, expectations are higher but price stays the same. The only way to move is to sell to more or give more ways to buy.

      It was $129 (I think) for Snes NBA Jam TE in like.. 1994.

      • Prices remain the same yet the games industry is larger than the movie industry and is constantly expanding year on year. We also frequently hear of new titles breaking sales records.

        They don’t need to charge more to get more money…they’re already doing that purely through the industry and amount of consumers increasing each year. They make larger profits each year and are also trying to milk even more out of people for each new game.

        • While I agree, counter to that is that big games have a LOT more development money invested in them. These aren’t groups of 5/10/20 people making a game, they’re studios of hundreds.

          Those big games breaking records can cost hundreds of millions to make. GTA 5 apparently cost US$265m to make and promote, and while its safe to say they got that back, did SWTOR get back the US$200m it cost? How about Dead Space 2, which cost US$120m?

          Just like blockbuster movies, theres that much money invested in those big games that one bad move can cost tens or hundreds of millions.

    • Its FOMO or similar. They MUST play the game as soon as they can, and its only a few bucks more, whats the harm?

      I’m not a fan of it myself, but when a lot of those games make it a race to the top, any advantage can be seen as a must have for those that feel committed to the game. It’s also a way to possibly one-up your mates – “yeah, I’m playing the early release of Game X tonight. What do you mean you’re not?”

      I don’t pre-order now either, unless there’s something I want that I can only get that way. Which isn’t often. Maybe a collectors edition, but I couldn’t say the last time that happened. But they’re rarely as good as they once were.

  • From the headline/lede I thought it was talking about when all the balancing/bugfix patches are done and the first season of DLC is out, with the bundle discounted.

    That’s the ‘real’ game, effectively re-released with better-balanced and performing, and cheaper than launch.

    • I thought the same that the article was going to be about the ‘GOTY edition’ release that every game seems to get these days where you get everything in the game for a song. Plenty of times i have bought the original release and they purchased the DLC included version of the game at a later date because it works out cheaper than paying for the DLC for the base game.

  • I’ve recently gotten burnt on Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Great game, if you can ignore the constant hitching (on modern hardware).

    I’ll never pay for early (or beta) access again.

  • So many ways to look at this…

    My own take is that I just can’t be bothered with any of the pre-order/super-ultimate-deluxe editions/season passes. I don’t know where the whole hype machine for pre-orders & being the first to play/have everything came from but the main beneficiaries in the whole saga have undoubtedly been publishers who’ve turned it into something of an art form. I’ve said this on a few comments now so sorry for repeating but if you wait 6-12 months you can usually pick up the ‘super’ edition + dlc for less than the original ‘standard’ edition rrp (if you even need the add-ons/extra stuff which by & large, you don’t). I get why for heavily online games waiting is detrimental, but for story stuff it’s almost a no-brainer now for me, but naturally to each their own etc – not trying to judge/sound condescending, just trying to understand/explain my own rationale! All i know is – and RDR2/forza horizon are guilty of this – selling gameplay boosts in the higher tiers is a dodgy practice that just puts me off buying at all, along with any MT shenanigans.

    The other way of spinning it is to think of the base price of a AAA game now as $130 – if you accept that & just go for the mid-level editions I guess it more palatable? Maybe? Not for me still but trying to see all sides 😀

  • When so many AAA games are released buggy and usually take a few days before they’re patched to a better state, why would you buy a game early?

  • You know what? I don’t mind having my games subsidised by impatient gamers. Unlike microtransactions and day one DLC it doesn’t really affect my experience and I know that devs need to make their money back some way that isn’t retail price. Assuming a few days delay doesn’t turn in to weeks or months I can live with it. It’s certainly better than P2W cancer and overpriced season passes.

  • The thing that killed it for me – at least in SotTR’s case – was the Croft Edition was $144 with Season Pass, effectively selling the SP more than the game itself. The SP has a few skins and tombs, not enough to validate the purchase of a whole other game.

    • All in USD, the base game is $60, the season pass is $30, the deluxe edition extras are $12 and the Croft edition extras are $8. So collectively the stuff you get in the Croft edition, if purchased as separate DLC, are $110 but the bundle has a price tag of $89. That’s not a bad price for game, extras and season pass, that’s pretty much on par with other titles.

      • Sorry, these are PC prices to be clear. I just noticed you were talking about the console version which is inexplicably more expensive here (the US console price is the same as for the PC version, $89).

  • I used to be a day one adopter, and still am if I’m super excited and have nothing else on the go… or can’t concieve waiting for a price drop before I get at the hot new thing. Chances are I’ll wait, the game development cycle is quicker than I can play these damn things. I’m still playing AC Origins, and between Uncharted and Tomb Raider, which I get the taste for every year or so, I’m behind the sales curve by one having just started Rise and anticipating Uncharted la femme (whatever its called). It helped when I stopped perceiving the special edition as the REAL version of the game, I don’t miss tombs I don’t know exist and always feel I haven’t earned riding a Unicorn (or whatever) out of the gate anyway.
    Go for your life you impatient few, I’ll catch you later. Or sometimes sooner, it depends on the pixie dust you’re sprukin!

  • This is just more FOMO bullshit.
    There are plenty of games to play and there is absolutely no need for this kind of practice beyond giving some sad gamers some dubious bragging rights on social media.
    I feel sorry for people who are like this.

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