Sometimes it feels like nothing can be done when major game publishers tie extra content into ridiculous pre-order marketing campaigns – the kind that tie that content to a specific store, console, or specific “collector’s edition” wrapped in a plastic figurine (or, er, a mini fridge). That’s not always true, however, as Square Enix and Eidos Montreal proved today with the almost universally derided “Augment Your Pre-order” program for Deus Ex: Divided Mankind.
The Augment Your Pre-Order program, first announced a month ago, implemented a complicated system where new levels of rewards were unlocked as more customers pre-ordered the game, though Square Enix has never publicly announced which pre-order targets each level would unlock. Once a level was unlocked, all pre-orderers could choose a single reward from that level, such as an additional in-game mission or a digital soundtrack sampler in level two.
Those who didn’t want to choose their bonuses could invest in the $140 Collector’s Edition, which included all “unlockable” digital bonuses, as well as physical bonuses such as a figurine and art book. As a finishing touch, Square Enix also promised to release the game four days ahead of its scheduled release date of February 23, 2016 if there were enough pre-orders to unlock the mythical “tier five”.
The overarching idea behind this complex plan was to “overcome the divisions of humanity and unite to fully unlock and increase your pre-order!” according to the marketing copy. And in the heart of a marketing department meeting, it probably felt like a good way to harness the excitement of popular Kickstarter campaigns and the collective “stretch goals” that reward the entire community for reaching fundraising goals. Of course those goals are public and usually applied to crowdfunded niche games with small but devoted fan bases, not major AAA blockbusters like Deus Ex.
So it’s not too surprising that online gamers’ response to “Augment Your Pre-order” has been overwhelmingly hostile, ranging from mere confusion to outright anger from potential buyers. Many message board commenters went with somewhat obvious “I never asked for this” jokes from 2011 Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Others were particularly angry that Square Enix was “holding the release date hostage” with the top notch early release idea.
A month of relentless negativity from the player base was apparently enough for Square Enix, which today said it’s making all previously “unlockable” digital content available to anyone who pre-orders or purchases the game on its release date.
“When [Augment your Pre-order] was first thought, we wanted to give you more choice on what you receive in terms of pre-order incentives – because in the past we’ve seen when we choose those packages ourselves and divide them across regions, it has created frustration,”, the companies wrote. “We quickly realized that this approach was causing even more frustration than before, resulting in a huge amount of negative feedback.”
So take heart, internet. If you complain loudly and “resoundingly” enough, maybe a big company will actually listen to your marketing overrun concerns. Or… maybe this was a relatively unique case.