Deceptive Con: War For Cybertron Exclusives

By Alec Meer on April 30th, 2010 at 5:53 pm.

See this axe? Yes, the imaginary one I’m holding, made from laserbeams and impossible fury. Well, I’m going to grind it.

I quite like Transformers. Ergo, I am quite looking forward to Transformers: War For Cybertron. One of the Transformers I most quite like is Shockwave. Shockwave is a playable character in War For Cybertron – but only if the game is pre-ordered from Gamestop. Or, if you’re all goody two-shoes and want famed Autobot Jazz, you can only play as him if you pre-order the game from Best Buy. There’s also Demolisher if you get it from Amazon, but whatever.

Basically: aaaaaaaargh. Angrytank, roll out.

This store-exclusive unit trend has been going on for a while – RTS especially seems to love it, with Total and Dawn of War cynically saving various desirables for whichever retail chain licked their feet. This isn’t just some dudes in slightly different hats or a power-sword with a silly name. It’s fan-favourite units being, essentially, denied to the people who most want this game. Unless they buy three copies at the highest prices going. Even being forced into buying one copy at the highest price going is bad comedy. It’s not as though these characters are just an incidental bonus – they’re even covetable enough to warrant their own flashy trailers:

I know, I know – but I still want Shockwave even though he turns into some sort of penis-jet rather than the comically gigantic spacegun of yore.

With crushing inevitability, these robot heroes will doubtless will be available as paid DLC further down line, along with Primus knows how many other fan-favourite characters. I’ll get ‘em if I’m prepared to pay extra. That’s uncomfortable, but it’s not the issue. I am an enormous geek who’s getting upset because he can’t play with quite as many pretend robots as he’d ideally like. That is also uncomfortable, but not the issue. The issue is whether or not the game may be unreasonably filleted at launch of some of Transformers’ most iconic content in order to obtain heavy promotion from big stores. I don’t like the potential precedent of it. The way some DLC has been lately – apparently removing significant chunks of game to be sold separately later – is bad enough, but if this way of thinking spreads to store exclusives too, we’re in for a miserable time.

The case for the prosecution: it’s Jazz and Shockwave, characters recognisable to even relatively casual Transformers fans. Jazz especially, as he was in the first Michael Bay ‘movie.’ If I want both of ‘em – and I do – I need two copies of the game. Also there’s Demolisher, but whatever.

The case for the defence: there are around 18 playable characters in the base game as it is, and the store-exclusive characters would only be playable in certain multiplayer modes. Obviously that can’t be stated with any confidence either way without playing the game, but it’s eminently possible these three bonus chaps will feel like marginal additions in the end.

We’ll see. I get why a publisher would want to do this kind of deal-sweetening, but the degree of nerdrage I’m experiencing (as, I’m sure, are many other children of the 80s) suggests they’ve picked the wrong targets here. Keep this kind of thing to skins, please. Or just Demolisher.

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58 Comments »

  1. Marcin says:

    Has there been a case where these pre-order bonuses have NOT been made into DLC later on? I’m still waiting on Just Cause 2′s monster truck and hovercraft to be announced :/

    If they *are* offered later, then this is merely annoying. If they aren’t, well … nerdrage indeed.

    • Quasar says:

      The Monster Truck was released a week or two ago, on Steam, for the utterly insiginificant price of 75p. Totally worth it. They also released a second pack this week, with a new jet plane, a new rocket launcher, and thrusters for the parachute, for just under £2.

      Not sure on the hovercraft yet – I got it with the UK special edition, and it’s pretty fun. Not game-changingly fun, though.

    • Marcin says:

      I’m on the 360 alas, and I see no monster truck there :/ That’s all they put on Steam, though? Just the *one* item? Weird.

      Surely by now the first wave of buyers is gone, and now it’s time to be working on game longevity. I’m your audience right here, Avalanche! GIMME vehicles!

    • Marcin says:

      Self-reply: well, ask and you shall receive: more JC2 DLC coming – http://gamevideos.1up.com/video/id/29206

      So if all preorder bonuses end up as DLC later, they’re relegated to mere annoyances at purchase time.

  2. pkt-zer0 says:

    You did not even mention that this would also involve pre-ordering three copies of a console version. This “bonus” doesn’t apply to the PC one.

    • DuckSauce says:

      Yeah spotted that myself too, it’s apparently not for PC, so either PC gamers get all of them… or none of them. In the latter case I can see the rage coming. In the former case as well but from console gamers.

      Uh oh!

  3. Auspex says:

    It’s an easy choice though isn’t it? It has to be shockwave even with his new more rubbish voice.

    In other news – balloon Optimus.

  4. CloakRaider says:

    Death spasms of the store sellers in the face of digital distribution on PC it seems lile.

    • Lilliput King says:

      Maybe, maybe not. Dragon Age had all this crap from the digital distribution platforms too.

  5. dadioflex says:

    Can’t you just buy a code from someone?

  6. FunkyBadger says:

    Call me back when Grimlock is included.

  7. Severian says:

    but isn’t Shockwave supposed to transform into a laser gun? LASER GUN???!!!

    P.S. As a side-note, I always liked how both Megatron and Shockwave were, in a sense, dependent upon the presence of other Decepticons for their usefulness. Typically, Megatron would jump into Starscream’s hands, for example, which I think contributed to Starscream’s overblown sense of self-importance.

    Of course, there were those times when Megatron and Shockwave fired without being in someone’s hands. So… really, this is just a pointless comment.

    • Pew says:

      Perhaps that is why Megatron turned into a gun 1/50th his size when he ends up in Starstreams hands, while he becomes a pretty damn big gun by himself. The gun is his ego??

      Does that also mean that Shockwave’s hexagonal gun barrel mean he goes all 6 ways Transformers can sexually interact? Oh the conundrums!

  8. Dain says:

    Heh, anyone remember when developers used to try and cram as much cool stuff into their games as possible and NOT cut it out to sell to you later?

    • Wulf says:

      I remember that. I also remember that a number of developers would stuff fun little additions into their boxes for players to have fun with, making buying a boxed game worth it without them feeling the need to jack up the price and call it a collector’s edition.

      I kind of miss those days. :(

      The only reason digital distribution is winning by strides these days is because it’s much more convenient and buying retail has no bonuses at all. Even if it was just cheap crap, I loved that stuff. I still have my Ultima VII box in tact, complete with cloth map, fellowship book, and fellowship medallion.

    • Dain says:

      Modern game industry seems to mostly try to make me sad and nostalgic.

    • bob_d says:

      Yeah, that was back in the day when game development cost a quarter (or less) of what it is now (i.e. a couple years ago).
      Game development costs are pretty much following Moore’s Law, the audience isn’t growing very quickly and video game prices haven’t changed much, either. (It amazes me that I actually pay less for many games now than I did when I was buying cartridges for my Atari 5200, even though one person could make a best selling game in a couple months back then, and now it can take 500+ people working for three+ years.) Publishers know they can’t increase prices, so you can expect to see a lot more nonsense like this in the future as every possible way of generating revenue is explored.

  9. malkav11 says:

    Store specific exclusives really shouldn’t have gameplay impact. Hell, preorder exclusives shouldn’t. If it’s going to have gameplay impact, it should be available to everyone.

    • Optimaximal says:

      Which is probably why these are just simple skins…

      Why, for example, is Shockwave using a random gun found on the floor rather than his arm cannon, and why is he transforming into a generic plane rather than the humongous space gun of yore?

  10. Wulf says:

    The only one I’m more partial to the others will either end up in DLC or won’t appear at all, all the other Transformers are about equal to me, so this doesn’t bother me in the least.

    Thankfully they’d never do something as risky as tossing an unknown like Mindwipe (the movie toy version) into a preorder, so I’m safe. I hope he makes it into the game as playable, though, as it would be great funsies to order around a horde of enthralled Autobots. Why, it’d be pseudo-RTS in the Transformers Universe!

    Generally though, I’m pretty Transformer neutral. A shame for those who really liked those characters, though.

  11. Zwebbie says:

    There’s only one sensible thing to do in this case, boycott the game!

    (…and complain on its forums!)

    • DuckSauce says:

      And half the people will play it anyway :P
      We all know how that goes>.>

    • Zwebbie says:

      Yup, no doubt. But at least you’ll be able to proudly tell your grandchildren that you never bent to anyone during the great War for Cybertron debacle, even when all the other people caved in.

    • bob_d says:

      Given how desperate the industry is to find new revenue streams, you’ll probably have to give up games altogether in a few years if you want to avoid this.

  12. Vague-rant says:

    Does anyone know what comes first, the pun titles or the actual news items?

  13. Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

    Horse Armour…

  14. PHeMoX says:

    I hate this commercial promotional crap of pre-order ingame bonus things…..

    It doesn’t make sense whatsoever.

  15. fuggles says:

    ZOMG, they actually spell it demolishOr, is that a US-ism?

    Anyhoo, this really grates. Things like the black hole gun for Mass Effect 2, which even had a hilarious trailer, have never made it into the game. I don’t even know what a gamestop is – guess it’s some american store I have no chance of ever seeing.

    Irritating. Can they not just filter down over time anyway?

    • Klaus says:

      I believe ‘Demolishor’ is his name, period. The word is spelled ‘demolisher’ in American English.

  16. manveruppd says:

    Well, if it makes you feel any better, Alec, at least they limited it to secondary characters.

    Also, console yourself with a little bit of a Shockwave revival here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-ItfWY3xMQ :)

    • Adam Whitehead says:

      Shock – “These humans are more primitive than I thought!” – wave is a secondary character?

      Since when?

      (unless you are arguing that he didn’t appear until issue #8 of the original Marvel UK run and thus doesn’t count as a primary, original-line Transformer, in which case fair enough)

  17. Fitzgamon says:

    Actually, still no monster truck in JC2, just a fancy ice cream truck.

    Guffaw! Guffaw! *pout*

  18. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Exclusives. I -HATE- EXCLUSIVES.

    Aargh. Whoever came up with and propagated the idea should be fired. From a gun, t’wards the moon.

    • bob_d says:

      I hate them too, both as a consumer and developer (I was last working at a studio where the publisher asked us to create exclusive content for one distributor; the studio rightly refused, but it was also shut down shortly thereafter).
      The problem, however, is that this is an attempt to get consumers to pay the true cost of AAA game development, a cost which has, up until now, been borne by publishers and developers. Publishers have traditionally used their occasional hit to support all the games that didn’t make back their development costs, and developers have seen their benefits reduced, work hours increased and jobs sent to third-world countries where salaries are a lot lower. None of those strategies are working too well, anymore.
      Exclusives are by far the least unpleasant new wrinkle that will be added to AAA game sales, and if they make money, they’ll be around for a while.

  19. WiPa says:

    Just buy one copy, then wait til the pirates work out a way to get the other two into the game.

    If publishers are going to shit on you, throw it right back.

  20. Grunt says:

    I have pre-ordered the game from Amazon. I am excited. I am not bothered by the lack of DemolishOr, and only mildly irritated by missing out on Shockers and Jazz.

    Why? This is [potentially] the first proper Transformers game for the PC! (Those things in those live-action abortions weren’t Transformers, and the games were soulless drek)

  21. Vinraith says:

    Honestly I haven’t minded exclusives so long as they’ve been irrelevant vanity garbage and overpowered items I wouldn’t use if I had them (yay, I have an item that removes all challenge from the game, wait why is that something I’d pay extra for?). I don’t really care about Transformers, but I have to agree that relegating “real” content to store exclusives is a very bad precedent indeed. I have to hope that either this does turn out to be “garbage” exclusives in that the characters in question aren’t really usable for much, or that it goes badly for them so others aren’t encouraged to follow a similar course.

  22. bill says:

    Do these kind of exclusives even help retailers?

    If there was only one exclusive, and your store had it, then it’d be a bonus and i can see how it’d help.
    But if each store has a different exclusive, it essentially means each store is selling a different product. So you’re limiting your potential audience.

    While some people might buy from gamestop because they want soundwave, jazz fans are now going to avoid gamestop. That’s not really much of a net gain for them.

    Weird.

  23. Juan Manband says:

    Love the “bad comedy” reference <3

  24. wyrmisne says:

    Aww. Jazz was the first Transformer I owned, and not coincidentally, the coolest. Shockwave was the first Transforrmer I owned as a cut-rate Japanese import, for 1/3rd the price and with equally discount colouring. He was superior largely because he was affordable and easily accessible. There’s a lesson there, I’m sure of it.

  25. Jewce says:

    hell yes I remember. Sierra was the best for inserting LARGE amounts of additonal stuff with their games, The games that stick out in my mind are Starsiege and Starsiege: Tribes. They included beautifully drawn books depicting the timeline and lore. Good times indeed. My heavy gear 2 manual is also gigantic. I miss the times when publishers gave developers the money to satisfy the fans.

    • bob_d says:

      You mean the time when publishers gave developers a million to make a game, versus now when they give 40 or 50 million to make a game? Or did you mean back when 200K sales would make it a successful game, versus now when selling a million isn’t enough to make development costs back? I think people are actually spending less money on boxed PC games than they were in 1998, too.

  26. Chevluh says:

    Just for info, there’s gonna be at least 8 exclusives in total (because there’s partnerships with 8 retailers), though it’s not known if they’ll all be characters. At least the fourth one must be an autobot character, for the same of symmetry.

    Also the exclusives are for some of the multiplayer modes. Whether it means the exclusive is normally available on single-player or not is unknown. Maybe they’ll just appear as opponents.

    Also also at least some of the exlusives are indirectly available in the create-a-bot mode (for multiplayer), ie if you take an autobot scout with white and black as primary and secondary colors you end up with a model exactly identical to Jazz (though probably missing jazzy voice clips).

    Shockwave’s not a gun first because there’s no gun vehicle class in WfC, second probably out of toy considerations (even though only four characters have been confirmed for toys so far everyone’s designed with it in mind, just in case). Worth noting, though, than when you man a turret in-game your character transforms into part of the turret, so there’s probably gonna be a visual homage to gun-Shockwave there.

    Also yes, Grimlock or someone very Grimlock-like has been spotted in screenshots, though whether he’s an exclusive still is unknown.

  27. TheSombreroKid says:

    just buy the game and steal the content they refuse to sell you.

  28. Grunt says:

    The films (correction, film; I skipped RotF once my fears were confirmed by the reviews) rendered the whole line null and void for me. I shut my eyes tight, prayed it would all go away, and enjoyed the Animated line instead. :)

    Having said that…I WAS looking at a twin pack of movie-verse Bludgeon and Whirl the other day. Despite it all, they at least looked nifty. Fan-w*nk yay!

    • Grunt says:

      arrg: reply to Wulf

    • Wulf says:

      I wouldn’t argue for the film either. I’m sure some liked it, and I could see that there was stuff there that would be appealing to newer, younger fans, but it wasn’t for me. I did dig the toys, though, since the transformations with them were fairly advanced. Having watched a few reviews, I was actually surprised at the complexity of them. Those things must cost an arm and a leg…

      And yes, fan-wank is fun. >.>

  29. Grunt says:

    That picture of Shockwave is glorious, however. Is there a wallpaper, one wonders?

  30. ZIGS says:

    Here’s an idea Activision: next time you release a game, release it in 5 separate boxes/editions. You must have the 5 boxes/editions to be able to run the game. Each box doesn’t reveal with edition it is, you’ll have to keep buying them blindly until you get all 5.
    When you get all the boxes, you’ll then be able to access the game’s official website, where you can play a simple flash game of slot machines in order to get your multiplayer key. Each spin on the machine will cost $1 (this would actually be in Activision Points, in a way where you’d always have to pay more than needed to get the right amount of said AP you need/want).
    Furthermore, you can only spin the machine 10 times/day. You can however, pay an extra $25 to reset the counter and get 10 more spins. When you win 3 times in a row, you’ll be sent your multiplayer key in your email

    • Adam Whitehead says:

      And you think Activision is even remotely capable of recognising this as sarcasm? You don’t think they might read this and go, “That’s a good idea!”

      When it turns out we have to buy 5 copies of DIABLO 3 just to make the damn thing work, are you prepared to take the blame?

  31. Triangulon says:

    Lame. Jazz and Shockwave rock. However, it does say in the videos that they are Multiplayer only and 360 and PS3 only. Not sure where that leaves us PC types.

  32. Mortis says:

    ARE ALL DEAD.

  33. GriddleOctopus says:

    Shurely you can just pre-order, get your codes, then cancel the pre-order?

  34. Johnny Go-Time says:

    Shockwave owns one of the best comic covers of all time:
    http://images.wikia.com/transformers/images/c/cb/Shockwavearealldead.jpg

    Also, look upon this madman’s work, ye mighty, and despair:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/revlimit/2758958138/

  35. reparo de para-brisas says:

    This is definitely a topic thats close to me so Im happy that you wrote about it. Im also happy that you did the subject some justice. Not only do you know a great deal about it, you know how to present in a way that people will want to read more. Im so happy to know someone like you exists on the web.