Okay, so I lost my cool a little bit on this week’s Reset Transmission, but I am a frustrated gamer. I apologize. Listen, I like pre-orders as much as the next guy. I want stuff the day it comes out. I don’t want to wait in line if I don’t have to. I want the fourth alternate costume for my main character and a special shotgun. These things appeal to me. What I don’t want is to give five dollars or worse yet, $60, for something that was never going to be good.
I have been wary of the pre-order bubble for a while. It just always seemed weird. You pay for something, before you even know what it is, but I was okay with it because I was only pre-ordering stuff I was fairly confident would be excellent. Then Aliens: Colonial Marines happened and it was more than I could stand. Here was a game, released to scathing reviews and yet sales are good, even topping the charts in the UK over Dead Space 3. How could this be? How could a hunk of craptastic video game blah be viewed as a success by the company that released it?
Well my gamer brethren, it’s time we take back this pre-order system and make it our own. As long as we are paying for something before it needs to be good, quality will continue to decrease. So I am proposing new system. One where gamers get to hold publishers and developers to the product we agreed to pay for. Let me break it down for you.
It all begins with the pre-order. Right now the standard is five dollars, but I am proposing we up that to $15. This plan will be requiring a little more from developers so the buy-in should be a little higher. This gets you into the co-op development program. What is this magical program you ask? Well, this is where the relationship between player and developer is born.
The co-op development program is an all access pass to the QA process for the game you have put your hard earned money down to play. You can watch as the game is tested rigorously, all the while interacting with others that have also bought into the program. You will also be given access to report bugs that you see, ask questions about features, view development documents and basically participate in the process. This helps out both parties; for developers they get more and more eyes on the product to spot pitfalls and players get a better understanding of what it is they are paying for. Also, if you decide this game is not at all headed in the direction you want, you can get a refund.
That is the quick pitch, it needs to be fleshed out a little more, but you get the idea. We already have a culture of betas, pre-betas and alphas that players can get into, this is just paying for access to the game as early as possible. It make the publishers and developers put their money where their mouths are by exposing their game to the public before it goes on sale to the masses. They can’t hide behind controlled previews and glitzy marketing as easily. We gamers have to demand quality and we have to be willing to pay for it.