I love the Pirates of the Burning Sea MMO. I really, really do. I’m utterly and totally addicted to both sea combat (pirating the merchant ships! yarrr!) and the economy. I plan to get into that in more depth soon. But today I want to talk about the pre-order thingie.
Here’s the deal. In order to encourage retail sales (which gets the game on shelves, which puts it in front of buyers, which results in more sales) SoE put out a pre-order box to retailers. This box includes a 60-minute CD of music, and codes for an early launch (two weeks before the normal start date if you just get the normal release box) as well as a couple of spiffy in-game items. The minor amount of money you spend on this box—$10—goes toward your purchase of the final game, so it doesn’t cost you anything. So far, so good.
Then everything goes to Hell. First, most of the companies supposed to be stocking these boxes had never heard of the game, much less the pre-order box program or what it meant. Most of that has been sorted out now, but there are still Gamestops and other outlets that have no idea what PotBS is or that don’t understand there’s any sort of pre-order program available before the major release date.
If that wasn’t bad enough, a lot of the boxes are missing the insert that has the pre-launch codes on it. Without those codes, the only thing you’re getting for that pre-order effort is the music CD. Buyers have been advised on the Flying Labs forums to shake boxes before buying (you should be able to hear the insert slide around) and to, if possible, get customer service to open up the box before you buy to ensure the insert is in there. Folks have reported going into a Best Buy somewhere only to find that fully half of the boxes are missing the inserts. If you get home and find the insert is missing, you’re supposed to go back to the store and swap your box for one that has the insert. Problem is, anyone who doesn’t read the forums isn’t going to know that.
Then there are the places you can order from online such as Amazon that list the various pre-order bennies in their descriptions, but also list the ship date as the major release date. And although it was stated at one point that Amazon would be shipping the pre-order boxes, when I asked if anyone knew for sure that this was happening and when, there was no answer.
So, while we kept our Amazon order in the pipeline just in case we couldn’t find the box, we decided to go looking for the pre-order box. I really want to get in on the whole early launch and so on. No luck at Gamestop, so we decided to try Best Buy. We went this Saturday.
The good news: they had a bunch of pre-order boxes on the shelves! Whooo!
We of course decided to do as suggested on the forums and take the boxes to customer service and have them checked for the insert. We explained to the girl there that many people had been finding that the boxes were missing some of their contents, and we wanted to check the boxes before we bought them. She looked at us like we were idiots and told us that it’s a pre-order box, it doesn’t come with software. We said yes, we know, we’re not talking about software—we mean the pre-launch keys that are supposed to come on a package insert. She rolled her eyes and said she’d check and disappeared into the back. A few minutes later she emerged and told us the box was supposed to be empty.
I’m thinking to myself… supposed to be empty? Why the hell would I come in here and buy an empty freaking box?
We calmly attempt to explain to her that no, as the box says right there on the back, buying the pre-order gets you early access to the game, and that there’s supposed to be an insert that gives you the keys for this. She gets angry and tells us just go buy the boxes and open them.
We leave at that point, shake the boxes well to make sure it sounds like they have the inserts, and buy them. Before we leave the store we double-check that they have the inserts in them, which thankfully they do. However, I have no doubt whatsoever that if they’d been missing the inserts, and we’d gone back to customer service to ask for new boxes, we would have been told the boxes were supposed to be empty and we couldn’t have new ones.
So the pre-order boxes were meant to encourage retail sales, and yes, they got me to go into a retail store and buy a game that normally I would have bought online. However, the experience of actually going in and buying that game convinced me never EVER to go to a Best Buy again if I can help it. And if you’re looking for Pirates of the Burning Sea pre-order boxes in the Annapolis area and go to the Best Buy near the Annapolis Mall, make damn sure you shake the boxes well before you buy them.
Right on the tail of the rockband packing fiasco… maybe we should have little “inspected by #8” slips of paper in game boxes too. Too many stores aren’t allowing returns, which means people who are honestly messed up by company errors are getting completely run over.
I ordered Hellgate: London and LotRO through Amazon and both times I got promised beta keys to the game relatively quickly. It took a few days to process, but compared to the ever-expanding collection of pre-order horror stories, those few extra days aren’t so bad if you order in early. Flying Lab needs to clear up whether or not order through Amazon will include a shiny beta key. I prefer Amazon, they’ve always been good to me, and I love my Prime. Otherwise, I’ll be shaking boxes like a Polaroid picture. Wow, I can’t remember the last time I bought a game at a brick and mortar store. Yohoho, glad everything worked out in the end. Nice shirt. 🙂
Scott: It just seems like the companies responsible for packaging and distribution aren’t even trying. I feel badly for the producers of the games—they have to go to such great lengths to bend over backward for the retailers to get their games in front of people, and then the distributors and retailers screw them over left, right, and sideways. They’re the ones that end up looking bad to most people, and I expect most of it isn’t their fault at all.
Krones: IMO, the more that distribution moves online and the smoother that becomes, the better. It seems like the retail sale of games is becoming a dinosaur. I know there are still plenty of people who buy their games by retail and that’s why companies have to jump through these hoops, but the lengths they have to go to, just to get screwed over in the end, argues that it might well not be worth it in the long run. I love ordering just about everything from Amazon too at this point… very centralized and simple. Glad you like the shirt. 🙂