Downloadable content. Everyone hates it—but everyone buys it. We haven't had a look in a long while at the extensions and pre-order bonuses designed to crowbar money from you or direct you to spend it at a retailer you wouldn't otherwise. Can you still respect yourself if you go along with it?
Available: No date specified. My guess is as the All-Star Game approaches, either mid- or late-June
Price: Nominally free.
What You Get: You get the Online Home Run Derby, a feature promised in this year's edition but mysteriously missing at launch with no explanation. Well, now it's being added back in, but wait until you hear how you'll get it.
Why It's Evil: Because you have to download a stupid Taco Bell mobile app and play it against a friend on Facebook to unlock to mode in the game you bought. Even when Madden NFL 11 did that dumb 3D promotion with Doritos and ESPN the Magazine it wasn't this dumb, because all you did was buy chips and a magazine. Here, I assure you that app will be sending push notifications and the Facebook integration will be pulling your personal information to sell you and your friends crap no one wants. I suppose you can deactivate and delete everything once you play the obligatory game but it's a lot of hoops to jump through. Also, this app is for iOS and Android, which captures the two largest smartphone segments. But, what if I don't have an iOS or Android device?
Evil Score: 5/5. Not so much for holding out the content, because I really don't care for this gimmick mode, and I doubt many others do, too. It's the app and the forced visit to Facebook to inflate Taco Bell's numbers that pisses me off. Social media is best used when it builds your community; using the community to build your social media doesn't deserve much respect.
Available: When the game releases.
Price: Pre-order bonus.
What You Get: The original, modular, you know cool Optimus Prime you remember from the 1980s toys, if you're that old, plus Megatron's gun and the Shockwave Blast Cannon, as weapons. All of these may be used in the game.
Why It's Evil: Because they're sending you to GameStop for it. Also, because the alternate pre-order bonus is "Disco Bruticus" as Fahey calls him, a wretched generation two version of the Combaticons assembled.
Evil Score: 2/5. Pretty much steers the Transformers diehards to GameStop on day one, while everyone else must wait on what is effectively a timed exclusive reveal of content developed for the game.
Available: When the game ships Oct. 2
Price: Pre-order bonus.
What You Get: The current year NBA All-Star game arena and uniforms, and three events from that weekend—the Dunk Contest, Three-Point Shootout, and the rookies game.
Why It's Evil: This walks the line. In the current game, you only get the previous year's All-Star arena and uniforms. Clarification: Until after the actual All-Star game is played and the venue and proper uniforms are patched in. So while it appears like they're holding something out, they're actually improving the presentation. The inclusion of the licensed Shootout and Slam-Dunk contest, which had analogues in the Blacktop mode, gives purpose to those minigames. They had been the exclusive domain of EA Sports' NBA series, which has been off shelves for two years. It could release for free to everyone when the NBA All-Star Game draws near. But the way this is being handled means these features likely can't be available in the game's Online Association mode, because you can't assure everyone in the online league has the DLC.
Evil Score: 2/5. Not happy that 2K Sports is continuing to explore off-the-disc content despite an admirable record of giving all of it to everyone at the same time, on the disc. But this is a general pre-order bonus, it doesn't require you to go to a specific retailer. That's a respectful way to handle this while still driving NBA 2K13's goal of eye-popping day-of-release numbers. If this removes the Blacktop games, meaning it's preorder or nothing to play those, then that's pretty bad.
Available: When the game releases June 19 in North America, June 22 in Europe.
Price: "Free" but you have to lay down something to secure the preorder.
What You Get: A bunch of minifigs for play in the game which, despite the title, has an ensemble cast of heroes and villains. One pack of figs offers Blizzard, Captain Cold, Black Adam, Black Manta and Gorilla Grodd. Another gives you Nightwing, Damian Wayne, Katana, Zatanna, Shazam(a?). Amazon has the heroes; the villains are not confirmed stateside.
Why It's Evil: It's the usual cynical inducement to drive day-one sales to make a game look good. I'd also like to choose where I do business and not miss out on content in the game. Also, what if I want both Black Adam and Shazam?
Evil Score: 2/5. Readers have speculated that these characters will be unlockable in the game and that the preorder is just lets you get to them instantly which, if so, doesn't really twirl the evil mustache. Of course, we don't know that for sure.