Same Game Different Price: The Truth About Limited Edition Pre-orders

During 2012 a new trend in pre release games marketing has emerged - "The pre-order bonus".

A few years back I noticed a trend that caught on. I call it "pre-order bonuses" and it seems the Videogames Industry has adopted the name (smiley face). A pre-order bonus simply means, If you pre-order, you will be sent a code via email which gives you "bonus" in game content: A map, a suit, a weapon etc. Depending on where you decide to buy you game, you can choose what in-game content and how much extra you are willing to pay for it. Some pre-order bonuses become available to all, as DLC, other times they do not.

Once release day arrives web shops use to halt selling unsold pre-order titles and list the release title. But these days, they sell all "pre-order limited edition" versions until there are no more. The odd part is that it costs more to buy a standard edition game whilst Limited Edition pre-order copies are still in stock.

Today same store, same game, different price
  • Medal of Honor: Warfighter - Limited Edition (Xbox 360 / PS3) £36.85
  • Medal of Honor Warfighter - Standard Edition (Xbox 360 / PS3) £49.85

Why pre-order? The Medal of Honor Warfighter Limited Edition grants access to play the BETA (selected parts) of the upcoming Battlefield 4 game, i.e work in progress.

Pre-order bonus Nuketown 2025

As the gaming market increases year on year, with more consumers and more titles, the cost of making games increases too. The pre-order game price will need to go along way to covering the costs of developing, advertising and publishing, as game prices soon fall once pre-owned titles begin trading. The truth is publishers need to maintain the maximum return on their investment, but the caveat is they want to sell as many as possible as quickly as possible before the market price falls; whilst considering how much customers are willing to pay.

Reviews have a huge impact on deciding whether or not to buy, and with pre-orders an embargo will prevent reviewers from publishing final game reviews before release launch day.

With some titles it seems, the main incentive is the pre-order bonus content.

"Nuketown 2025 is a downloadable map released for Call of Duty: Black Ops II. It was available for free on November 13th to anyone who pre-ordered the game, purchased a launch copy, or purchased the Hardened edition or the "Care Package" limited special edition of the game."

Used copies of Medal of Honor Limited Edition have been trading today (launch day) for £33. But what will be the differences between both versions of the pre-owned title? None. In a word this is because of non transferable content. Another gotcha can be the bonus code will not be given if you buy after launch date. The game box shows all the lovely pre-order bonus content that has a one-time usage and most people don't know its a bad investment paying more because the limited edition content is not going be available.

Earlier this year I wrote about the laws surrounding rights to re-selling Bonus DLC content after you have sold your games. The forum post was generally to do with "who’s right is it, to sell digital content, once the initial sale has been made?". It can be very tempting to buy games pre-owned in Limited Edition boxes which cost more, but then when it comes to reselling, the buyer and legal owner can not access the bonus content as it was already unlocked by a one-time passcode. Should game publishers be responsible for issuing new unlock codes when games change hands?

More and more games have expansion packs, some argue it's a great way to add more gameplay - keeps the price up and keeps gamers playing online, others say it so lazy devs sell a half baked game at full price but only with 1/3 of the content at release and the other 2/3rds in future DLC pay to play patches. To recap, when you pre-order a game you have a chance of getting more in-game content (possibly exclusive) that may or may not become freely available at a later date.

What should become of unsold pre-orders and bundle copy games? That's up to the makers to decide, and no doubt at the right price most people won't be disappointed. Have your say below.

Pre-order bonus

Article last reviewed 02/11/2016. [Yep, the pre-order edition is still for sale on all formats from £5]

Written by Chip Searl 26/10/12.

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