Evolve shows how not to do preorder incentives

, | Games

Pre-order incentives are nothing new. Putting money down on a game before launch may be a sucker’s bet because you don’t know how the game will actually turn out, but publishers love these programs because they lock customers into the purchase. The old reasoning given for preorders, that stores needed them to gauge demand for supply, has nothing to do with digital sales, yet the practice thrives. Sometimes, they’re fun little bonuses like a gold version of a weapon, or an extra mission crammed into a game with umpteen quests, but lately pre-order incentives have either become too convoluted to suss out or place a significant feature behind a paywall. Evolve goes for option 1.

Let’s figure out what we need to buy to get the full game after the jump!

Evolve’s pre-order plan is kind of crazy. Turtle Rock’s monster versus hunters multiplayer game has a tiered approach to pre-ordering mixed with a season pass scheme that makes figuring out the bonuses a homework project. To start with a positive, all DLC maps will be free for the life of the game. That’s a consumer-friendly move that keeps multiplayer working without splitting the community, and should be applauded. Bravo Evolve!

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Things get complicated when it comes to DLC characters. The game will ship with three monsters and twelve different hunters normally. For $24.99, you can purchase a season pass that will eventually give you four more hunter characters and three cosmetic monster skins. The Monster Expansion Pack that gives you a fourth monster comes free with a pre-order, but it will be $14.99 after launch. But wait! There’s a fifth DLC monster and two more hunters planned for later. You can’t have those unless you buy the PC Monster Race Edition (a bad pun on already unfunny joke) for $99.99 which bundles all the previous rewards together. Presumably those extra DLC characters will be available for purchase separately later, but at higher individual prices. Adding to that uncertainty is the possibility that by the time these extra characters come out, the player base may have dried up.

Turtle Rock points out that all DLC characters will be available to everyone to fight against regardless of purchase level. You won’t be kicked from a game because someone else is using a DLC hunter that you don’t have. The studio’s co-founder Phil Robb posted a lengthy explanation of the DLC strategy that included a bit of a finger point at publisher 2K.

Ultimately, TRS makes the games, we don’t sell them…and as the developers we’ve done our best to make a game that people want to play. We then have to trust our publisher to make the best decision on how to sell that game. We’ve done everything we could to keep this stuff as open to choice as possible and despite how it may look to some, there isn’t anything here that forces people to spend more money than they are comfortable with. We feel like all of the Evolve bundles that 2K announced just offer people choices, and having choices isn’t a bad thing.

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Even more mind bogglingly, pre-ordering on the Xbox One allows customers to skip level progression and unlock characters in the basic game that you wouldn’t normally be able to access until after a lengthy grind.

Keeping map packs free is commendable. As gamers we should absolutely support that kind of behavior. It’s frustrating being booted from a server for not owning the right DLC. It’s even more aggravating to buy DLC and never see it in matchmaking. (Bioshock 2, I’m looking at you!) And of course, a developer’s work should be compensated with pay. No one is saying all DLC should be free. The issue here is that much of Evolve’s gameplay variety (based on alpha and beta gameplay) comes from the different characters. Keeping them exclusive to pre-orders and expensive DLC means a much poorer experience awaits those that aren’t willing to commit before the game even launches. As a multiplayer-focused game, Evolve could easily go the way of Titanfall, which had a strong start then fell off dramatically leaving season pass holders in the lurch by the time the last map pack launched.

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