Broken Pre-Order Promise Angers Fans Who Wanted Rubber Watch [UPDATE]

A pre-order mix-up has left a number of gamers upset at both retailer Amazon and Aksys Games, the publisher behind the great adventure game Virtue's Last Reward.

On September 14, Amazon promised to ship the above rubber watch as a bonus to anyone who pre-ordered Virtue's Last Reward, which is out tomorrow for 3DS and Vita. Both Amazon and Aksys assured fans that even if they had pre-ordered the game before September 14, they would still get the watch.

Something changed. Last week, Amazon e-mailed some customers—notably, customers who pre-ordered the game before September 14—to inform them that they would not be getting the pre-order bonus.

Aksys addressed the issue in an official statement on their website Friday, pinning the blame on Amazon:

It has come to our attention that a number of customers who have pre-ordered Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward in hopes of getting the pre-order bonus have received an email from Amazon regarding a complication with their order. Unfortunately, it appears that the contents of the email have told customers that they will not be able to receive the pre-order bonus along with their purchase.

When we began our pre-order bonus promotion, our understanding was that all pre-orders placed before the promotional date would be honored by the system and allow customers to receive the bonus without any additional involvement from either party. However, we were just informed today that technical difficulties arose in the implementation of this conversion, preventing certain customers from getting the pre-order bonus. We sincerely regret and feel for our amazing fans (you) who have waited patiently for this bonus item.

Amazon will be handling any logistics involving orders placed at Amazon and the pre-order bonus item. While we would like to do everything we can to ensure that our fans are able to obtain their favorite games and products without any complications, our involvement in the final delivery of products is limited.

If you have any further questions, please contact an Amazon customer service representative.

Some folks weren't too pleased with this response.

"As a long time fan and a cosplayer who really wanted this watch, I'm truly heartbroken," writes Aksys commenter skyenix. "What perhaps disappoints me the most is neither party seems to be going out of their way to doing something about this, only apologizing that there's limited supply."

"[It's] good to know how much the loyalty of fans who ordered all the way back in March is appreciated," writes commenter obvioustwoll. "Way to go to bat for those guys, Aksys."

Commenter DrMason:

Miscommunications happen. I understand that. Dealing with a huge retailer can be problematic. I understand that also. Yet, I feel that simply blaming Amazon and throwing your hands up in the air is the wrong solution. It's poor customer service and it's patronizing. Let me explain why.

You announced the bonus edition and very clearly stated, multiple times, that everyone who pre-ordered the game prior to the announcement would receive the bonus edition. You then announced two runs of the bonus edition, specifically telling people who pre-ordered earlier "DO NOT CANCEL AND REORDER. YOU WILL RECEIVE THE BONUS EDITION." And we, your most loyal customers, the true fans, relied on your announcement to our detriment.

And then we're told that, not only will we not receive the bonus edition, but that there is no recourse for us. You blame Amazon, and Amazon blames you (yes, I also engaged in a live chat). And worse still is that, from a business perspective, you've chosen not to do anything about it because there is nothing we can do. Every element exists for a meritorious "promissory estoppel" or "fraud" lawsuit, but you know you the watch and tin aren't worth the $400+ it would take to get into court. We can cancel our pre-order or shut up.

Being true fans, not many of us will cancel either. It wouldn't be fair to the Japanese team or to the legendary writer Kotaro Uchikoshi. They've done nothing wrong. But this will be the last game I buy from Aksys, and I feel I'm probably not the only one. You've put me in my place as the lowly consumer, and I feel seriously taken advantage of. I was planning on wearing the heck out of that watch and telling people how awesome the game and Aksys was. Now, I can show them my bare wrist and tell them how I was put in my place.

Aksys forum member smatchamo says he's filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau:

Aksys, this is not okay. Your company should not have taken any official stance on telling customers to not cancel their normal pre-orders to purchase the special edition. Whether intentional or not, this led to misinforming your customers. You can't just get away with a "OOPS, sorry."

According to California Business and Professions Code section 17500, it was unlawful to make the public think we were buying one product when we are really getting another. This code makes no distinction on whether if the intent was direct or indirect, only that the information was untrue or misleading.

Your representatives promised us that we would receive a product that we are ultimately not receiving. This is a clear violation of this provision. I will be filing a complaint with the California Better [Business] Bureau.

I've had success in the past with going to the Better Business Bureau for untrue and misleading actions by game companies. Here is the link to the California BBB. They're all business there, so please stick to facts only. Try to weed out opinion and conjecture. Truth is that the facts are damning enough.

This might all seem way out of proportion for an inessential trinket, but fans of Virtue's Last Reward and its predecessor, Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors have been very passionate about the limited-edition watches included with each game. Watches from 999 have gone for a few hundred dollars on eBay.

Interestingly, as of right now, it appears that Amazon is still offering the watch with new pre-orders of the game. The Amazon listing currently says "Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward (with Pre order bonus item)." I've reached out to Aksys to see what's up.

Update: Aksys has confirmed that Amazon is giving fans another chance to get the pre-order bonus.

They also issued another statement:

To Fans of the Zero Escape Series, Aksys Games & Amazon Customers,

As many of you are aware, there have been some technical difficulties as well as miscommunication issues over the "Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward" pre-order watch bundle sold on Amazon. While we appreciate Amazon's best efforts to ensure that this pre-order promotion runs smoothly, we are deeply saddened and would like to apologize for placing an undue burden on Amazon customers affected by this. In order to provide a clear explanation, we have detailed what has transpired over these past couple of days.

When the first pre-order bonus wave was announced, we were informed that Amazon was planning to honor customers who had already pre-ordered a bonus bundle by switching them over at a later date and to set aside enough stock to fulfill all of those orders. We believe Amazon has done everything in their power to ensure this process would go smoothly, but due to technical issues, customers would have to modify their own order in order to receive the pre-order watch bonus after we had informed customers that they would not have to make this modification.

In order to rectify this situation, Amazon sent affected customers an email detailing that the switch to "pre-order bonus bundle" had not been made and that they would have to switch it themselves once the stock was available. According to Amazon, the email provided a special product page containing pre-order bonus bundles to minimize exposure to others, so the affected customers would have the exclusive privilege to switch over.

Amazon has now reopened the window and is currently allowing customers to switch and re-order the pre-order bonus. This window will remain open until Amazon exhausts their stock.

We would like to once again apologize for placing an undue burden on Amazon customers affected by this situation. Although it was our intent to help Amazon customers as much as possible, as a publisher, we regret that we do not have the capability to fully assist customers who have chosen to purchase Aksys Games' products through Amazon. Therefore, we realize that during the "first wave," our pre-mature involvement may have worsened the situation. We will continue to be in communication with Amazon about this situation and will determine if either Amazon or Aksys Games can take any further actions. While we understand that this explanation does not fully rectify this situation, it is our sincerest hope that you will remain our fans of Amazon and Aksys Games.