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'Exclusive' Pre-Order Offer Turns Out To Not Be Exclusive

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Often in gaming, what’s “exclusive” isn’t really exclusive. Here is exhibit #1564.

After five months of telling gamers to pre-order WWE 2K17 to play the wrestling game as former WCW star Bill Goldberg, as if that was the only way to play as him, publisher 2K Games is now letting everyone else play as him, too. The publisher waited less than a month after the game’s October 11 release and will charge $5 for the opportunity.

Forget any headlines you read like this one:


Reflect that when 2K announced Goldberg’s inclusion in the game in a May press release, they avoided the word exclusive even as they described playing as Goldberg as “bonus content” for those who pre-ordered it:

Goldberg will appear in WWE 2K17 through two playable characters representing his WCW and WWE personas. The playable characters, along with two playable arenas – WCW Monday Nitro and Halloween Havoc – will be available as bonus content for those who pre-order the game at participating retailers


Observe that the game’s pre-order trailer pushed the idea that to pre-order = to play as Goldberg:


Understand that when a video game publisher says this, when they decide to, say, lock off the most significant addition to their annual series’ roster as a pre-order bonus, they will, soon enough, remember to tell you there’s another way to play as Goldberg. 2K mentioned that today:


Of course you didn’t have to pre-order to play as Goldberg. You could have, but you also just could wait and pay extra.

You might observe that many game publishers do this with their pre-order offers. They do. They do it to increase pre-order numbers, which encourage retailers to stock more copies and allows them to tell stockholders that the game is going to be a hit. They do it because the business goal of big-budget gaming is to sell as many copies of a game as soon as possible, before retailers lose faith, cut the price and clear it out.


They therefore won’t tell you what should be obvious, which is that any elaborate downloadable pre-order bonus is eventually going to be sold as an add-on to the game. Remember that next time you see the pre-order trailers in the spring offering a must-have addition to a game you might want to play in the fall. It’s up to you to weigh your time and your money and decide whether you really need to commit early before you’re read a review or watched a YouTube play-through, whether you really want to always play Goldberg on day one, whether you want to save yourself the $5 penalty for waiting and wanting to play as Goldberg later.

Just don’t be fooled into inferring or even believing the claims that pre-order DLC is exclusive and unobtainable after a game’s launch. It rarely, if ever, is.