Multiple Deployment Options (or how to alienate your fanbase before your game is even out)

this kind of ******** only serves to make me less hyped about the game than I was before

Unfollowed. See you all for the GOTY edition next March, or whenever.

**** you, I’ll rent it instead

These are a selection of responses taken verbatim from a popular games forum, immediately following the announcement that yet another hotly-anticipated game is being released as a variety of different packages, offering differing, exclusive content to the customers of different retailers.

An apt title.

Back in the distant past games would either come out in a single, ‘normal’ edition, or they would be releasews alongside a special (and/or a collector’s) edition, allowing the keenest of fans to pay more money in exchange for benefits: most commonly tie-in merchandise like t-shirts and novellas.

This proved to be popular with dedicated fans and lucrative for both games companies and retailers, and as the concept grew in popularity, more features were added for those who wished to splash out – new game content might be reserved for those willing to pay for the special edition – and retailer exclusivity became more common, forcing those who wanted the most ‘complete’ versions of a game to shop at a particular store. This worked out well for the publishers: not only did they get to take more money than they otherwise would from their most ardent fans, they could strike deals with retailers (whether for more prominent in-store advertising, driving down their cut, or simply ordering more copies of the game in the first place) in exchange for offering them exclusivity rights to the special edition.

These developments, while a little inconvenient and cynical, were easy enough to stomach: again, the most ardent fans could spend a little more in a specific shop in order to get the complete experience, while the average player was free to shop around; you pays your money and you make your choice, as it were.

Oh look, a special edition that actually has all of the extras!

However, an incontrovertibly awful development was just around the corner.

Publishers soon realised that they could strike deals with even more retailers if they were to release multiple special editions, each with their own exclusive content. And, who knows, they might even get a few supremely dedicated fans to go out and buy multiple editions in order to get all the possible content – a win-win situation!

Only, it really isn’t. While this turn of affairs allows publishers to wangle deals with multiple retailers, and allows each participating retailer to tout their own exclusive edition, all of the effects on would-be players are negative.

The multiple deployments complicate: wait, who’s offering which edition again?

They confuse: how am I supposed to know which edition most suits me, which content I’ll enjoy the most, without having played the game?

And they frustrate: why can’t I get a version of the game with everything in it?

And, strangely enough, confusing and frustrating people by complicating things before they’ve even got their hands on your title is not the greatest way to build goodwill. In fact, it’s a damned good way to turn people off your product: as the quotes above show. At the very best, you’re likely to drive a lot of people who might have been interested in the special edition of your game into just giving up and buying the standard edition instead: I know that’s the effect this sort of ‘promotion’ has most often had on me.

You can sod right, Assassin’s Creed: Too Many Editions Edition

So I have to ask: is it worth it? Publishers: are you really sure that this helps your bottom line? Do the benefits of cosying up to several retailers really outweigh the downsides of draining the hype and goodwill about your product months before it comes to market? I’m guessing you believe that they do, judging by your actions. But I implore you to think again, to think long and hard about this. You can never know just how popular a game might have been had you not put that little dent into its public perception in those crucial final months of its development. But you can be sure that, at the very least, you will have annoyed some (potential) customers. Are you so uncaring of brand image – both of game and company – that you’re willing to damage it over so silly a marketing move?

Just think about it.

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