How many different versions of digital games do we need?
At some point a guy told me that digital games were the answer to our salvation. I distinctly remember someone at a pulpit preaching about how the end-times of overly complicated game shopping were near. People held their hands up and screamed “testify.” We then all broke into song. A good time was had by all.
Yes, I’m stretching the religious overtones here, but I could have sworn being able to download games to the Xbox One on the day that they arrive without leaving my house was going to be a great way to save time and avoid confusion for those who aren’t clued into gaming news. Foolishly we thought that this would be a shelter from retailers like GameStop and Wal-Mart throwing exclusive content and non-sense at us with rapid speed.
Now, after a year of being open I’m noticing something a bit alarming in the Xbox One portion of the Xbox Store. The gaming industry – particularly publishers – have taken something as pure and simple as day one digital games and perverted it.
Take Halo: The Master Chief Collection for example. The game is available now in the Xbox Store ahead of its November 11th launch date. Searching for it in the Xbox Store gives users three options: a regular version, another version that includes a special pre-order bonus and a third whose existence baffles me. The Halo: Nightfall thing that’s supposed to be included with the game is listed in the Xbox Store as a fourth title. With The Master Chief Collection, Microsoft makes this a little better. Only one of these are available for purchase today, but they’re still there to confuse just about everyone. A more egregious example is Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. That game boasts three different versions that are all available for pre-order right now.
“How can I buy Advanced Warfare someone will ask me,” and I’ll need to reply “Go to the Xbox Store and choose from the three that are available based on your needs.” I’ll also need to provide them with a spreadsheet of the extras each contains. I could have sworn the point of digital games was that I’d be able to just say, “go to the Xbox Store.”
Microsoft and Sony have done their part. They’ve given us digital download and pre-order systems that make picking up a title without leaving home convenient. Unfortunately, an easier way of procurement hasn’t encouraged publishers to simplify their approach. It’s like they haven’t learned anything from app stores and the app development culture.