Exclusives, Exclusives, ExclusivesJune 16, 2010
Exclusives! It seems to be the way of things these days, game companies and retailers offering bonuses up the wazoo to the point I can’t even keep the number of special items straight anymore.
Obviously, I started thinking about this topic in light of Cryptic’s decision to put Star Trek Online pre-order bonus items in their C-Store. Even though my own STO account is lying dormant right now, it’s hard not to follow news about the game because one can almost always be certain copious amounts of drama will follow anything that happens. Anyway, pre-ordering customers and lifetime subscribers who have spent money to collect these “exclusive” items were understandably upset.
I can empathize. In an ideal world, exclusives should be exclusive, not something made available to everyone mere months after launch. But the thing is, we don’t live in an ideal world where all MMOs are successful like World of Warcraft, a game that for all intents and purposes have still kept their exclusives exclusive. It’s a sad truth that most MMOs will never see millions of subscribers and none will last forever. With so many games flooding the market right now, it’s becoming necessary to expect pitfalls within a game’s life cycle and the ensuing money-sinks.
To stay sane, I have to believe in general that companies aren’t out to deliberately screw over their customers. I do actually believe they want to honor their promises and have their exclusives remain just that…but they’re also in the business to make money. And sadly, sometimes it’s not pure greed but just the need to stay afloat. I don’t know for sure if STO is in this rocky boat, but obviously, most companies will have the foresight to work in a paragraph or two in their Terms of Service, usually along the lines of “We reserve the right to change or limit order quantity, price and availability of any product or service without notice” or something to that effect.
In the end, it’s because of this that we as consumers can rage and complain all we want, but there’s not much else we can do about it, infuriating as it is. I wouldn’t say the corporation gets to walk away unscathed either though. Make your customers upset and fall back on legal-speak one too many times, and people will start to lose confidence in your products and services, which is a very damaging thing to a company in the long run.
I’ve learned something from this. Admittedly, I’m easily dazzled by the promises of exclusives and special bonuses myself…*recalls my Age of Conan puma pet obsession*. I’d have it all if I could. Needless to say, I was pretty miffed that the only STO pre-order bonus available to me in Canada was the Constitution Class Cruser offered by Gamestop/EB Games, but in hindsight, maybe this was a good thing because it did spare me the decision and save me money. Now that these pre-order items can be bought piecemeal in the C-Store, a Liberated Borg officer or a Mirror Universe costume can be mine if I want them, just four and a half months after I bought the game.
Yeah, maybe Cryptic made these “exclusives” available way too soon (I did notice still no playable Borg though…smart move), but despite the grumblings, a lot of players were able to benefit from this. This is a good thing for people who missed out on the opportunity to get these items, and for the folks like me who weren’t even offered the choice.
Still, this whole situation just serves to remind me the importance of making a purchase decision based on the game itself, and not the bonus items. In a world of ToS agreements and markets where MMOs rise and fall, going forward I’ll certainly be more grounded and guarded when faced with the offer of exclusives. I’ve noticed that it has become a lot easier to get swept up in the advertising hype these days, now that more and more retailers are offering special pre-order, collector’s edition, or time-limited items and this trend doesn’t seem like it’s going to die down anytime soon.