Adam's Rant: EA Need To Stop Messing With Pre-Order Bonuses

By Adam Ma on March 4, 2012, 4:15PM EDT

Remember when pre-ordering something used to be fun? You'd be guaranteed a little poster, an art book, perhaps the soundtrack for the game if you were particularly lucky. It was a fairly simple trade-off for everyone involved, the developer/publisher got what was generally a guaranteed sale and the average gamer would walk away with some sweet bonus loot for financially declaring their love for the game in advance. Not to say that there wasn't a potential for error somewhere in there. There was always the chance that a store may accidentally be shipping too few copies of a pre-order bonus, or there was too much demand leading to a swap for a different bonus. EA's just taken things to the next progressive level: cancelling the pre-order bonus altogether after getting massive interest in their game as a result of the initial incentive.

The deal in question here, points towards the offer whereby, if you pre-ordered Mass Effect 3, you'd get Battlefield 3 for free. This deal was supposed to go through until the 5th of March, but EA cancelled it weeks before this.

I'm regularly surprised that throughout each new outraged post regarding EA's bonus cancellations, that no one has ever brought up the term Bait and Switch. Unless of course someone else can think of a better way to describe offering a promotion to give incentives for buying a game, only to revoke all incentives after hearing profits are rolling in. It's dirty business, plain and simple, but the worst part about it is that consumers (despite all the huffing and puffing generated on the internet) are fairly gullible folk. Every time EA have pulled this stunt the results are consistently the same, which is strange given the fact that this isn't the first or second time that this has happened.

Maybe the advantage is that EA never hits the same console twice with this sort of scam, giving enough time between the first rip off and the second that when the next big pre-order happens everyone forgets exactly why pre-ordering any game from EA is a terrible idea. It's a lot more comforting to believe than one individual being tricked into thinking that they would get a free copy of Dead Space 2 with a BF3 pre-order, or that PS3 owners would get a free copy of BF1943, only to find that they've now been tricked a second (or third) time using the exact same plan.

On one hand perhaps it wouldn't have made a huge difference since most people would say that they were interested in getting Mass Effect 3 anyway; but a pre-order guarantees cash towards the sale in advance which is quite different than simply buying the game on release. It gives publishers a simple means of gauging the hype for the game, perhaps allowing for enough time to toss out another quick promotion or two if pre-orders appear to be lower than normal.

The problem isn't the matter of not giving out enough free games, or giving out too many, but rather in making and breaking promises far too easily. What's the point of asking for gamer loyalty when, as a publisher, you're not loyal to the gamers that you're asking so much of?

To make matters worse EA is notorious for shoving their digitally distributed content down our throats in the form of day one DLC, or general DRM, so it's not as if saying 'we've run out of copies' is a reasonable excuse anymore. It seems fair enough to reason that a publisher has as many copies of a game as it can publish.

Although the circumstances surrounding Mass Effect 3's pre-order disappointment are different, it's hard not to wonder if anyone will be taking action against EA in court yet again over a broken promise. It happened over the lack of BF 1943 after all, and there's certainly no reason why gamers would take this situation any differently. Perhaps this third time will be the charm that makes EA customers a little more savvy.

Getting them to promise anything in writing is obviously useless, but perhaps holding off on a pre-order or two will get them to wisen up and start making some more realistic incentives. Like a poster, or maybe an art book. I would personally settle for a Garrus action figure alongside ME3, but somehow I bet they'd send me an Ashley instead. What a rip off.

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