Following an online campaign that involved many, many upset emails to EA and DICE's major executives - plus the rather less executive but rather more innocent staff of Rock, Paper, Shotgun - regarding a decision to make a trio of Battlefield 3 in-game items a retail pre-order exclusive, the great machine has settled on a public response to the matter. But not a climb down. DICE have posted a brief reply to the controversy, intended to appease fears that the Physical Warfare Pack (coming soon: the Metaphysical Warfare pack) will grant a frightful in-game advantage.
It's all done via a rather stern FAQ. I've picked out the most pertinent bits for you:
Q: Will Physical Warfare Pack imbalance the game?
A: The three exclusive items in the Physical Warfare Pack were specifically chosen not to be overpowered or imbalance or break the game in any way.
Q: Why do I want the Physical Warfare Pack?
A: Owning these items will give you a more varied arsenal, but it will not give you a significant advantage on the battlefield.
So that's the promise. I'm inclined to believe them even if I'm not a fan of the practice. Whether that's actually addressing the main complaint - that BF fans who don't purchase the game from a specific shop for a specific price aren't getting the 'full' BF3 experience - remains another matter. This will perhaps be contingent on the Funosity(TM) and EpicWarability(R) on the three scoolsive items.
Here's another bit from the FAQ, which I must confess made me snicker.
Q: Why do you offer pre-order bonus items?
A: Because we believe in rewarding our core fanbase with special offers -- such as giving them the Back to Karkand expansion pack at no extra charge.
So nothing at all to do with ensuring more in-store marketing and selling more copies of the game at full-whack pricing, then? Sorry, I must have got preorders completely wrong. Don't know what I was thinking.
Regarding the Back To Karkand DLC pack, DICE have this to say: "There is no way you can pre-order Battlefield 3: Limited Edition and not end up with the Back to Karkand expansion pack at no extra charge. On top of this, select retailers all over the world will carry the Physical Warfare Pack. Exact details for other countries and retailers will be announced at a later date."
Which, of course, heavily implies you'll be able to fork out extra to get your hands on the Karkand pack if you don't preorder the limited edition. Let's just hope its maps don't prove some of the game's most popular, eh? I can see why people are upset, why they might perceive this as being punished for not buying the game in the most officially-desired way.
This kind of thing isn't going away, of course. The only real way to reduce its power is for gamers en masse to stop pre-ordering games and thus convince publishers that there isn't a market for such incentives. Unfortunately, the words 'limited edition' retain a terrible, terrible power.