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Aliens: Colonial Marines, or why pre-ordering is bad for the consumer.

2/22/13 9:02pm
tl;dr

Pre-order marketing hype should be ignored as long as developers and publishers focus on creating a fun and engaging gameplay experience second.
 

Excitement (albeit of the delusional variety) swept over me on the morning of February 12th. I woke up from the depths of dreamland with not only the wonderful realization that I had the day off work, but also that a long awaited AAA title had released and I would soon be squandering hours of potential productiveness in front of my PC. I ripped off my blankies, snagged a quick cup of coffee and fired up Steam. It had taken about 2 hours the night previous to pre-load the game, and subsequently that amount of time to "quit to desktop" in rage and never look back. Marketing hype had gotten the best of me again, and a frothy brew of mixed emotions took hold (http://www.nooooooooooooooo.com/) as I realized I had already payed whoever was responsible for this train wreck; thus validating their poor efforts.





It wasn't the first time. (see: WarZ, The Old Republic and so on)

It happens to the best of us. One sees the screenshots, the developer commentary and interviews, the promises of innovation, the pre-order benefits and discounts (false incentives) and can't help themselves. I go ape shit on the Steam sale just as much as the next guy, but there must be caution when dealing with the unproven and uncharted territory of new IP's. We bust out our velcro sealed black and white checkered canvas wallets from Hot Topic and make it rain too hastily. It may work out the way one had planned, but all too often these days one receives an unfinished or mediocre product while those that duped the paying customer slip off into the dark with a briefcase full of whatever money was made before the legions of fanboys realized what slapped them across their blemish scar-tissued foreheads.

This is where the concept of voting with your dollar should be applied. When throwing hard earned cash at something it should be understood exactly what will be given in return, otherwise, the next iteration of crap will come along to mimic the business model of marketing a bunch of hype, and focusing on solid and fun gameplay mechanics second.





Look, I understand that there should be exceptions. I purchased Company of Heroes 2 via preorder months ago and feel completely validated in that venture. Namely because I would trust Relic Entertainment with my future baby mama's life, given their stellar track record and their penchant for creating games over the years that to this day insight nerd chills with a mere mention. Then there's the relatively new kickstarter campaigns that have garnered a lot of attention as of late. One might argue that funding one of these projects and expecting consistently great results isn't reasonable. However it is inherently different in that the creation process is much less restrictive and for that reason arguably superior. We as individuals directly fund these projects/developers and therefore they are beholden to us as investors and feel an obligation to those same individuals. It's a much different dynamic as compared to a publishing giant funding a developer. There are far more barriers, deadlines and bureaucracies involved as opposed to a developer who's only task is to make a great game and to please the fans. So while anticipatory money spending isn't always ill-advised and should be paired with personal discretion, it is important to take heed to the warning signs of the potentiality of an epic-fail release.

Aliens: CM indeed had many red flags if one had done any amount of research (and let us not forget that I too fell victim, so this is not being written from my high-horse but rather face-down in the gutter where landing after falling off). There was an extremely long development arc with several delays, which doesn't exactly indicate a smooth and unhindered process. A bi-product of this also being outdated graphics technology and lighting within a DX9 architecture. Or one could look to Gearbox's misguided handling of the Duke Nukem franchise. Or maybe most apparent, the fact that there was a review embargo before release. These factors could point to the merits of holding out and waiting for the ensuing tidal wave of poopy reviews and public outcry the game would receive.





Ultimately the dollars spent by the consumer shape the market. Buying up a pre-order because of an [insert typical useless exclusive in-game cosmetic here] perhaps isn't the best way to tell the industry that they can and should do better. Maybe next time we'll re-fasten our wallet chains to our JNCO jeans, wait for opinions and critiques from within the industry, and withhold our monies for what we know to be truly worth our dime.

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