When Activision announced that the original Modern Warfare was getting a remaster earlier this year, it came with a rough caveat: The remaster will only be available if you either pre-purchase 2016’s annual series entry Infinite Warfare or if you buy one of the two higher-priced special editions of the game.
Note that “pre-purchase” is different from “pre-order,” in that it means you can pay full price early (in turn for access 30 days early, exclusive to PS4). Alternately, you can buy Infinite Warfare’s Legacy or Legacy Pro editions, for their counterpart digital versions, which go from $80 to $120, at the most expensive. Confused yet?
Muddled messaging aside — I had to fact-check the above info with a few different sources to make sure I got the details right — this is a horrible idea to everyone who doesn’t benefit from Activision’s bottom line. If you want to play the Modern Warfare remaster, you have to either submit to pre-order culture or buy a more expensive version. Publishers have been doing this for years with DLC items, but there’s a huge difference between some skins or custom weapons you might miss out on versus an entire game.
Frankly, players shouldn’t pre-order games under any circumstances. To use one particularly egregious example, marketing schemes like “pre-loading” are an insult to fans; having something downloaded on your machine days or weeks in advance, just waiting for the powers that be to turn off the lock that keeps you from accessing it early, is ridiculous and plays into the idea of instant gratification.
More importantly, this kind of thing keeps all the power in corporate hands. To drum up hype, publishers typically will make a new game available for pre-order the second its first trailer drops; it goes without saying that it’s tremendously irresponsible to immediately spend cash on something that isn’t finished — ironically what rage-spewing gamers are so reluctant to do on Kickstarter with a slight change in roles — and that’s not even touching on the cynicism of something like retailer-exclusive DLC.
Regardless, bringing full games into the mix of corporate baiting (and sometimes switching; see (Aliens: Colonial Marines) feels like a bridge too far. Call of Duty isn’t the only game getting a pre-order/pre-purchase remaster deal, either. Earlier this month at E3, Ubisoft also announced a similar program to get a remastered version of their excellent 2014 South Park RPG The Stick Of Truth — again, locked behind a pre-purchase commitment to the follow-up, The Fractured But Whole.
In the past, some “exclusive” DLC has eventually been released, after a good long while, to anyone who didn’t pick up a pre-order for a given title. Since an entire team of developers probably spent months putting together each respective remaster, it’s possible that this madness may only be temporary, and the remasters might eventually hit the marketplace as their own thing. The strategy certainly doesn’t show the teams much respect for their efforts.
In fairness, these are remasters we’re talking about, rather than brand-new games. You might have played them already. Yet it also could be seen as the potential start to an alarming new precedent, where players interested in the best version of anything are punished. Judging from how the success of pre-order gimmickry has led to increasingly brazen publisher action, we have only ourselves to blame.