GameStop’s Next Leap in Pre-order Exclusives

The practice of retailers getting exclusive downloadable content is widely known and, to the frustration of consumers, will continue to be around. This retailer exclusive DLC can range from costumes and weapons to entire missions. However, the possibility of retailer exclusive gameplay was always there but was nevertheless an after thought… until now.

VentureBeat has reported that video game retailer GameStop is developing a plan to participate in the development of video games in order to create and obtain exclusive gameplay which will only be available at their stores.

GameStop has come under fire for many business practices that are considered widely anti-consumer friendly before, ranging from giving gamers very little trade credit when trading in their old games (entire forums and editorials are dedicated to this) to raising controversy over inflating video game prices. Whether any of these practices are true or not, is left to interpretation but regardless, we cannot deny that retailer exclusive DLC does exist and is considered quite frustrating when consumers purchase video games.

However, when retailers participate in the development of video games in its early stages and obtain exclusive gameplay content, it undermines the value of the game–not every person who purchases the game will be given the full experience. We buy games to play them, and consumers expect their purchase to be the full stand-alone package with DLC simply being additional content. However, retailer exclusive DLC has all but crushed that concept and this new practice from GameStop will be seen as another line in bad business practices from video game retailers.

Pre-order exclusives do give people choice on what additional content they want to access. While we can argue that said content was already in the game, but has been taken out by the publisher and offered as pre-ordered content, it is a business practice that is going to stay.

Pre-orders aren’t the best business practice in the first place. We only have to look at Aliens: Colonial Marines or arguably Watch Dogs to see a good example of a finished product not being the same as what was initially shown. Because of this, consumers can be deceived by false advertising of the game making it seem like we are being shown the full experience. This means trailers like Ubisoft’s 101 trailer for Watch Dogs can suddenly become another avenue for false advertising.

GameStop’s upcoming practice brings the possibility of making gameplay trailers more suspect to deceiving viewers with certain gameplay aspects being exclusive to specific retailers.  Ask yourself: do you think developers and publishers will tell you which parts of gameplay in these trailers will be exclusive and to which retailer?

When customers buy a video game, they want value for their money and that value is derived from the game itself in its entirely. However when it is distributed as an incomplete experience, there is going to be backlash and this will hurt not only the retailer’s reputation but also the reputations of both publisher and developers.

Exclusive retailer gameplay experiences will only harm the industry and I struggle to see how it benefits us as consumers. I might be proven wrong but this is a business practice from a giant video game retailer which if it succeeds and is profitable, will set a precedent and it won’t be long before other retailers follow.


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