Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pre-Order Bonuses

Within the past few years, a trend has cropped up in gaming. That being offering bonus SWAG (Souvenirs, Wearables, and Gifts) when you pre-order a video game or related media from either a game retailer or online. Many being something that you will eventually be able to purchase separately if you really must have it. There are a few however, that you can only get this way.

There are different types of pre-order bonuses with games. Sometimes the pre-order is a new quest or adventure for your hero. The most common is an in-game item or costume that is only available with said pre-order. In truth, after a period of time, some of these become available to purchase over the respective networks of the consoles. However, my favorite type is the SWAG. These are physical items that you get when pre-ordering your game - usually t-shirts with an image from the game or the company's logo; but they can range from stickers, posters and bandannas, to concept art books and soundtracks - giving you something to show off at conventions or gatherings of your fellow gamers.

But why are pre-order bonuses so prevalent? Some speculate that it is an incentive to entice more people to buy the game. But is this so? Do more people buy games when there is SWAG involved?

For the most part I would agree - especially with the American consumer. Free anything is always desired no matter what it is. However, does the SWAG go one step further and draw in an entirely different audience who may not have been interested in that game? Non-gaming culture seems to think of all gamers alike - that we all like all types of games. This is not so. There are many casual gamers who only play the big names once in a blue moon because they saw a cool trailer or add in a magazine; there are hardcore gamers who's lives revolve around video game release dates; and there are many levels in between. I myself would fall in the middle but lean toward the hardcore category. I love games, but there are only a few genres that I actually like. The same can be said for many gamers out there.

There are dozens if not hundreds of different types of games, and not every gamer may be interested in them all. Games range from easy children's games to sadistically difficult adult games. There are puzzle games, strategy games, shooter games, sports games, and a wide array of adventure type games - just to name a few. For me, I enjoy games that require you to think - puzzle, strategy, etc. I also enjoy the mindless shooter every now-and-then, as well as adventure games. On the other hand, I'm less likely to find myself playing a fighting game, or a racing game. They just don't appeal to me, likewise with sport games. And I'm sure the avid sport game player won't be seen playing the cerebral mind games. I'm not saying people who play sport games aren't intelligent, I'm simply saying that it may not be their cup of tea.

My point being that it is unlikely that simply adding a pre-order bonus to a game will draw in a new audience. For an example, the new Mortal Kombat game has an in-game pre-order bonus where you can have Scorpion's "Old School" costume from the original game. While that sounds cool, it does not entice me to buy the game. As I said, I don't normally play fighting games; and the pre-order bonus is not enough to get me to start. On the other hand, would a SWAG bonus prompt me to pre-order a game I was already going to buy? For me, that's a difficult question. I prefer to pre-order games to begin with because it guarantees me a copy come release day. This decision is not affected by the fact a game may have a SWAG or in-game bonus. However, when I find out a game has such, I will get it. But what really entices me is whether a game has a limited edition version. Normally those come with SWAG and goodies as well. Combine that with a pre-order bonus and I am in heaven.

So, the final verdict: Do pre-order bonuses increase sales of games? Yes, people are more likely to pre-order games if there is an incentive, and the prospect of getting something free that other people wont have is very appealing to consumers. Do pre-orders expand the game's audience? Possibly, for me not necessarily, but for others it may. Sometimes it's good to try out new games and see if you like them, but that's what Blockbuster and GameFly are for. Don't go wasting nearly $70 of your money for a game you don't know if you'll even like. Of course you can always trade them in at GameStop. Allons-y, and happy gaming, all.

Random Ninja Attack, March 2011, Eric Hesselberg

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