This week, SEGA and Creative Assembly announced two story missions for Alien: Isolation. The Crew Expendable and Last Survivor missions, which bring together much of the original cast from the Alien film, sound like a dream come true for Alien fans everywhere. The original film cast! Reprising their roles! For a survival horror Alien game! In space!
There’s a catch.
Crew Expendable and Last Survivor are for those who choose to preorder Alien: Isolation. If you preorder, you will get (timed) exclusive access to two single player DLC missions.
First of all, why on (not)Earth would SEGA/Creative Assembly lock away the best content behind a DLC wall? Really? Why?
Well, I mean, apart from greed, since everybody will want to buy the damn thing.
Second, why link it to a timed preorder exclusive? Why not make it available for all immediately?
While the two single player story missions will be released “at a later date” – which is fantastic – as DLC – which is not fantastic – there is the question as to why it can’t be available on launch to everyone. I mean, obviously the content will be finished by release, if it’s being offered as preorder content. So why isn’t it available to everyone else with the money and inclination to buy it straight away?
Obviously, to make as many people preorder the game as possible.
I’m not opposed, in principle, to DLC. Or to story DLC. I’m not a fan of preorders. I am a little iffy about the combination of preorders and DLC. I am also wary of day-one DLC. That two story DLC missions are being offered day one as DLC for those who preorder is unfortunate. But the worst part is that these DLC missions, which are accessible day one for preorders, are not available for purchase or access day one for those who are planning on doing the smart thing – wait.
Publishers (and retailers) are increasingly incentivising preorders. In-game content, real world trinkets, labels and prestige and fluff. And if you like that, that’s great. Good for you. I can’t tell you what you can and can’t like.
But I can say that I don’t like how preorders are being increasingly pushed onto buyers.
A preorder is, after all, an up-front fee for an unguaranteed product. I say unguaranteed in that you may not receive the product you think you are, in terms of features and quality. This is especially true for games that have a long preorder lead. The further ahead of release a prepurchase is made, the more risky the investment.
That this unsure product is being held to ransom – for a little while, at least – by locking off content that could be available earlier is a blatant attempt to boost preorder sales figures. And preorders are inherently good for publishers and less good for consumers.
Everything we’ve seen so far of Alien: Isolation has pointed towards it being a great experience. Preview coverage is positive. Asset release is good. The developers have articulated agreeable design mentality. But nobody really knows how good it will be until after the game is released.
Alien: Isolation is not the first game to do the preorder DLC dance. It is the latest, most egregious example of an ever expanding industry practice. And it’s not a practice I want to see normalised in this industry.