A common trend for new games as of late is that of retailer-specific premiums; content for your game that can only be obtained if bought from one certain location. For example, retailer A might have a special weapon for the game that you want while retailer B has an extra mission, and online store C might have a different game mode entirely. Practices such as this change the consumer’s choice of where to buy their game from one of convenience to that of finding the store which has the best bonuses.
While at first glance this might seem to be harmless competition, with the stores thanking customers for their business through bonuses – one has to consider the deeper ramifications of these practices. More often than not, these extras can completely change how the game is played. The power of these bonus items can give the player an unfair advantage over others who bought their copy elsewhere, especially in titles with prevalent multiplayer components. Other times the extra missions, characters or maps feel like they were originally intended to be part of the game, but through backroom deals with the publisher, developer, and/or retailer, were pulled from the final product; ensuring that one can only get the ‘complete’ version from their store. In other cases, the premiums might not be as extreme but still welcome additions to the purchase; such as included bonus soundtracks, a download voucher for a free copy of one of an older but related title that the consumer might also enjoy, or even promotional materials like a poster or other trinket.
Although giving the consumer the perception of added value through purchasing the game from their store is a common and usually well-meaning practice of healthy competition; when premiums are used irresponsibly as is becoming more commonplace, they serve not to be an extra little thank you for shopping with them but instead a part of the product held for ransom – only to be returned to the game once it is purchased through that specific source. And when each store has a part of the game held aside for them, everyone loses out on something.