The age of pre-order bonuses, deluxe editions, and retailer-exclusive DLC is upon us, and it isn’t going to end anytime soon. Now, I’m not terribly bothered by cosmetic DLC (although games like those in the Tales series abuse it by relegating previously-free goodies like costumes to paid content). If a company wants to incentivize my day-one purchase by throwing in an extra skin or a PS4 home menu theme, I’m fine with it – it’s a harmless little bonus that doesn’t affect my game on a fundamental level. But pre-order practices like segmenting a game’s story behind microtransactions or providing so-called “booster packs” that provide unfair advantages in multiplayer games are unacceptable.
This week, we were treated to a flood of new Mass Effect: Andromeda information during Bioware’s annual N7 Day event. We’ve known about Andromeda for a long time, but only now are concrete details about its world, characters, and gameplay mechanics beginning to surface. I, for one, am starting to feel an initial wave of excitement at the prospect of diving headlong into a brand new universe. Bioware seems poised to deliver another incredible series into the hands of gamers everywhere. Now that Andromeda is taking shape as a real, tangible thing, its publisher, EA has opened pre-orders on a number of premium editions for the game… and frankly, they’re a complete joke.
Mass Effect Andromeda offers no less than five increasingly masturbatory special editions for pre-order. As a buyer, you’ll have to decide between the Standard Edition ($60), Deluxe Edition ($70), Super Deluxe Edition ($100, and are you kidding me), Nomad Die Cast Model Collector’s Edition ($100), and Nomad RC Vehicle Bundle Collector’s Edition ($200). The first three come with a variety of in-game bonuses, while the last two include a replica of the Nomad land vehicle, Andromeda’s answer to the Mako.
The kicker? The two Collector’s Edition bundles do not include the game. Yes, you read that correctly: you have to purchase Mass Effect Andromeda separately from its own Collector’s Edition. That means if you want everything the game has to offer at launch, including all of its premium goodies, you’ll be paying $300. Why even bother calling them Collector’s Editions? A slight shift in nomenclature – calling them the Nomad Premium Toy Packs, or something – would still be a blatant bid for consumers’ money, but at least I wouldn’t feel like I was being actively misled.
You may recall the controversy that surfaced when Watch Dogs debuted its premium editions and pre-order bonuses, which were so plentiful and complex that they necessitated a chart to track them all. Mass Effect Andromeda is no different; on EA’s website, you’ll find a complete listing of the myriad items to be included in each edition of the game. These include the Deep Space Explorer Armor, Nomad Skin, Multiplayer Booster Pack, Pathfinder Casual Outfit, Scavenger Armor, Pathfinder Elite Weapon Sets, Pet Pyjak, Digital Soundtrack, Multiplayer Deluxe Launch Pack, and Scorpion Solitaire.
Skins and the soundtrack are self-explanatory, but without context, there’s no way to know what any of those other items do. EA is nevertheless asking you to pay up to $40 extra for them. Who thought this was a consumer-friendly idea? The company goes on about how much they treasure their fans, and it’s certainly true that they need to make money to stay in business, but we’re easily half a year out from the game’s release and I already feel exhausted by its marketing.
Mass Effect Andromeda made an impressive debut this past week, and I’m still excited to learn more about it. I’d be remiss, however, to not express my sincere disappointment that EA hasn’t learned anything from the shady practices of pre-order campaigns past.