There’s been some bizarre drama brewing throughout the year, circling around Best Buy, Destiny 2, and pre-orders. Back in April, several reports of gamers emerged on Best Buy’s support site; they had cancelled their pre-order for Activision’s Destiny 2, and not long after received a charge for $20. Best Buy claimed it has a policy on digital goods, in that if a physical good comes with an unreturnable digital good, the refund would only apply to the value attributed to the physical portion. Thus, Best Buy valued the code for Destiny 2 beta access as $20.
Is it right for a player to pre-order a game, collect the pre-order bonus and then bail? Is it okay for a store to try to defend itself against that with extra fees? And, going further back, should things like beta access be tied to something like a pre-order in the first place?
Stores are always fighting against theft and things that can arguably resemble theft. It’s why buying PC games in retail spaces is generally a waste of time, and why returning a PC game is a thing of the past. (Although places like Steam are finally embracing taking another look at the concept). It’s why you can’t pre-order a game and immediately pick up whatever little bauble comes with it anymore. Heck, it’s why many pre-order bonuses are things like skins and tiny chunks of content. They want you to pre-order and lock yourself into the final purchase, with all incentives being either tied to the final game or held until you pick it up on launch day.
At the same time, having people agree to buy the game before they can try it out on what should be a totally free beta test is some pretty shaky territory. Even more so if retailers are starting to feel like they have some kind of ownership over that content. Things like ownership rights, especially for digital content, is an ongoing controversy bubbling under the surface, and some are beginning to argue that they’re being charged to test the game for developers. That’s not a good look, even if it’s arguably untrue.
This goes back to things like transparency on the part of publishers, clear policies on the part of retailers, and intellectual honesty on the part of consumers. Corporations are not your friends, and we’re just as guilty in enabling bad business practices as companies are guilty in enacting them. There’s a game of tug of war, pushing and pulling between what people are willing to pay for and what publishers try to get away with. Things like season passes are ostensibly starting to wane, and now the new hotness are things like loot boxes. Beta testing is becoming more and more of an incentive tied to pre-orders.
How do you feel about that? Let us know in the comments.