For many publishers and retailers, convincing you to commit to a day one purchase before anyone's played/reviewed their game is a big win, and pre-order bonuses are a handy way to entice customers and bank sales estimates before launch day. As these promised bonuses grow in heft and significance, we face increasingly frustrating dilemmas about where and when to put money down for new games.
Metro: Last Light's hardcore "Ranger Mode" is a particularly thorny example. It's advertised as "the way it was meant to be played" on the front page of the Metro site, but is If that's the case, why isn't it available to everyone who buys the game? Is it really, as implied, the definitive Metro experience? We put the question to Huw Beynon, global brand manager at Metro: Last Light's publisher, Koch Media, who explains why it was segregated out as a pre-order bonus.
"Offering game content as a pre-order exclusive is a requirement by retail"
"Game makers and publishers now live in a world where offering game content as a pre-order exclusive is a requirement by retail, and Ranger Mode seemed like the best choice since it was a mode for hardcore fans who would most likely pre-order the game, or purchase it at launch in any case," he says. "We rejected requests to make story content or additional missions exclusive. We also rejected requests to make this a timed exclusive."
Ranger Mode was added to Last Light's precursor, Metro 2033 after launch as "a direct response to the demands of the hardcore Metro community." It removes the HUD, makes enemies tougher and increases the scarcity of ammunition, which can also be used as currency in the Metro world. It sounds like a big feature. The ad phrasing makes it sound essential. Beynon suggests otherwise.
"We do not recommend Ranger Mode for a first playthrough, and this is made very clear both in-game. We expect Metro fans will want to try Ranger Mode for a subsequent playthrough, and we think that for this hardcore player, Ranger Mode offers a richer experience - but only once you've clocked the game at least once."
The difficulty mode will be "included in all copies of the initial manufacturing run While a pre-order guarantees this 'Limited Edition' it is not a requirement." Ranger Mode will be available to buy on launch day as DLC at $5/£3.99 - "the lowest 1st Parties would permit us to charge for content of this nature" Beynon suggests.
"We took all the steps we could to ensure that, while still offering retailers a pre-order incentive that met their needs, we did not force players to pre-order, or make them wait to get this content," he says.
Our review of Metro: Last Light will go live on Monday. How do you feel about pre-order bonuses? Do you pre-order or pre-purchase often, or do you prefer to buy games on day one?