Exclusives, Exclusives, Exclusives

June 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.


  1. I can understand this move if they’re hard up for money. I won’t begrudge them the ability to stay profitable.

    On the other hand, wheres the loyalty? MMOs survive by players being loyal and paying that subscription, it would help, i’m sure, if Cryptic was a little more loyal to their customer base.

    • Yeah, pretty much my views on this too. I worry for Cryptic, as I do have plans to go back to STO one day when they implement the content they’ve been planning. This feels to me like a move by a struggling game. At the same time, they can’t afford to alienate any more of their customers.

      • Season 2.0 is out in about a month. I’m thinking I may go back to STO for my July game to see whats new. I still haven’t checked out the new crafting.

      • Yeah, I’ll see what’s happening in July or August…if Season 2.0 looks like there will be a lot of stuff, I’ll resubscribe to check it out.

  2. I think they too many different exclusives to begin with. Blizzard has had two versions of WoW with each expansion, the Collector’s Edition and the regular version. The little extras were RL merch (some available later sold separately) and a minipet. That was it. The other exclusives are things like Murloc costumes for showing up at a Blizzcon.

    With STO, your exclusive items depended on where you purchased the game from, and some outlets were not available to all customers. And the lifers are screwed any way you look at it. What are they gonna do, cancel their subscriptions? Cryptic already has their money and is not going to get much more, only what they might purchase through the C-store.

    Honestly, I would not be surprised if they are really struggling to keep the game afloat. Which is a shame, because I actually enjoy it.

    • My post was mostly about exclusives in general, but yeah it’s important to make a distinction between stuff you can get from events or collector’s eds and the items you get from purchasing from a certain store.

  3. I’m kind of with Rowan on this even though I started out differently. I think it is a good idea that they opened it up because the preorder wasn’t open to all of the customers. On the other hand I think that location-based preorder exclusives are dumb. Have a suite of preorder items, give them the choice of one or two (or one per character) but don’t force people to go do XYZ store they probably would otherwise not shop.

    On the other hand. Way… too… soon. On top of that what NCSoft did with CoH after Cryptic got out of that game was perfect. They introduced loyalty rewards. Played the game X number of months, you get Y item! It was a great way to introduce the once exlcusive preorder stuff to the general playing population. First off it was 2-3 years after launch so the shiny of the exclusive items had long worn off. Secondly the player had to have had an active account for 6 months to a year to get the same items. So it wasn’t like brand new people could drop in and get the items. I certainly didn’t begrudge anyone who played the game that long getting items I got for preordering. We both showed loyalty to the game in different ways.

    However, a final thought. We do have a choice. Quit. One of my personal lines for P2P MMOs is not an item store but an item store which sells item that conveys in game benefits. Sorry, but trying to squeeze the subscription turnip for more blood just rubs me the wrong way. Fallen Earth recently went this route and although I originally wrote a glowing review of the game I dropped it instantly. They lost my $15/month. Not a major recourse but it is available to one and all.

    • Yes, location-based exclusives are pretty annoying, and in some cases they don’t even make that much sense for the retailer depending on the offers. For example, while I have no numbers to back this up, to me it seemed more people went for the Amazon preorder for STO from what I read, just because what they were offering was so much cooler than the other retailers. It would be more beneficial to everyone if consumers were given a choice of preorder items in your account or something, so gamers can still shop at their retailer of choice, and sellers don’t lose business just because they happen to offer a lamer item.

      And I agree as well that it was way too soon. I realize that “exclusives” don’t have to remain exclusive forever, but at the very least I would have thought they would hold off until it’s been at least a year since launch to roll these out in the C-Store.

      • Your statement contradicts itself. Let’s say your feeling is correct and most people went to Amazon because it was cooler than anything else. From Amazon’s perspective that was a win. That’s what the different retailers are betting on. That their preorder swag will pull customers they would otherwise not have gotten. The cynical side of me (which is, like 8/10ths of me, really) thinks that there is some jockeying for coolest preorder swag and maybe even some money changing hands.

        FWIW *if* I were such a consumer I would have gone with Game Stop. The original Connie is far cooler than a liberated Borg BO. 😉 But I went Steam. Not because of the preorder swag but because I’m a lazy S.O.B. with a broadband connection. Trip to my local Game Stop vs. clicking a button. The latter takes far less effort. 😉

      • Oh, I guess if you’re the retailer with the coolest exclusive then you’ll have reason to rejoice, but that still leaves half a dozen others feeling inadequate 😛 And I wouldn’t be surprised if the jockeying part of your comment was true. It’s an aggressive market out there after all.

        Heh heh, personally, given the choice I think I would have gone with the Borg BO, but I gotta admit the Connie is pretty cool too! EB Games owned by Gamestop was the only option I had in Canada so I actually ended up with that 😀

  4. I’m one of the crazy people who bought a lifetime subscription, a digital download from D2D, and a collectors edition; and this move doesn’t bother me in the slightest. The timing may or may not be too soon, but the decision to add the items falls in line with how everything else has been done. Cryptic has made a point of incorporating player feedback into updates, and there have been a lot of forum requests for the various TV series costumes.

    I do agree though that there were way too many exclusives tied to different pre-order packages, unfortunately that kind of thing is great for marketing so I doubt STO will be the last launch (by any studio) to do that sort of thing.

    • No, they definitely won’t be the last…I’m already seeing this trend with all games, not just MMOs.

  5. I suspect that selling previously exclusive items comes down to all of the work they put into the content see much more limited use. From a business point of view, not making them more available is a waste of resources.

    True story: I submitted a ticket in World of Warcraft when my paladin’s epic mount quest glitched. When the response came back, not only did I get the mount, but the GM also sent me the token redeem the original collector’s edition pet. No idea why, but now I have a little panda pet even though I never bought any WoW collector’s editions. I’m pretty sure there are people who would kill for that pet.

    • Actually I think this is backwards. Exclusive content is often what drives players to play the game. Take WoW, for example, How many people had T3 gear before BC? Heck, even now? Sure they want those assets to be used but, really, some exclusiveness to the assets is needed to provide one facet of the incentive to play (and par for) the game.

      • Ja, but T3 gear is available in-game to anyone who puts forth the time and effort. You can’t go buy it in the Blizzard Store.

  6. I never take much stock in most these companies calling anything Exclusive other than WoW maybe which have a long history behind it to back it up vs the flip flopping exclusive that most other fly night MMO seems to do to attract and maintain customers.

    • Yeah, WoW is the exception, as always. The problem is, a lot of people look at WoW as the way things should be but things hardly ever play out that way.

  7. The whole exclusives thing is getting a bit silly now IMO. I don’t mind the odd pre-order bonus or getting something extra in a boxed copy but when there’s 17 different exclusives, one for each game retailer then it’s hardly exclusive anymore 😛 I was also in the position with one game (I think it was Aion) when I actually wanted the exclusives more than the game itself! 😀 That’s not a good sign hehe.

    • Haha, I think I was the same with Aion! They managed to make me buy the collector’s edition, but that was about it 😛

  8. […] who spent extra money to get those extras – especially the Champions Online Lifers – but it’s like GeeCee said in a much better post than mine: “This whole situation just serves to remind me the importance of making a purchase decision […]

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