VIP codes vs 2nd hand games

There’s been an increasing trend recently with games getting released with ‘VIP download codes’ which give you access to extra levels, weapons and other goodies for free. This has obviously been devised to combat the increasingly lucrative second hand games market. So what are the pros and cons in this bold move by the industry?

I recently was given Battlefield Bad Company 2 as a gift for my birthday. With the game I got a VIP code to download two maps free of charge, Laguna Alta and Nelson Bay to use when indulging in some of the insane multiplayer battles. With promises of another map pack for free at a later date, this offers buyers great value. I also got another code to unlock the AK47 weapon (which is unlocked after around 15 hours playing multiplayer!), which was thanks to pre-ordering the game from a well-known online retailer. This extra incentive to pre-order games is an interesting new twist of the download generation.

Battlefield Bad Company 2 has plenty of free downloadable content for first time buyers of the game.

If you purchase Bad Company 2 brand new, you get the extra levels free, but on the other hand if you buy the game second hand, no doubt the VIP code will have been used, and you are forced to buy the map pack from the online store for around £10. This is a very clever way of weaning consumers away from the second hand market, as some recently released second hand games are only around £5 cheaper than buying the same game brand new. I applaud the industry for this very clever move, as it means that even if someone buys the game second hand, the chances are that the buyer will fork out the extra money for the map pack that most other people will have, and so the publisher wins both ways.

Going back to the pre-order bonus of the AK47, Red Dead Redemption is another game that has exclusive pre-order goodies, and is available exclusively with ‘Golden Guns’ (more fame per kill), ‘War Horse’ (a tough and fast steed to ride) and ‘Deadly Assassin’ (which gives players better use of Dead Eye.) Each of these is available from different stores, and it can be a dilemma figuring out which one would be best for you for use in the game. This can only cause confusion with folk given too much choice, and no real way of knowing which one they should choose. I’m sure the others will be added later on as paid DLC, but whatever you choose will make the game play differently no matter. I also think the consumer who purchases the game on the day of release is being hard done by as well. Why should they miss out on extra perks just because they didn’t pre-order? They’re still buying the game and supporting the publishers by buying the game brand new, rather than waiting for the game to reduce in price, and getting it from the bargain bin, or second hand.

No this isn't the Village People reformed! This is one of the pre-order bonuses for Red Dead Redemption.

Where will this latest trend lead? Are we going to get half baked games released for full price with the promise of the rest of the game later? Will Activision release the next Call of Duty with one map, and gradually drip feed the rest out to you for free? Well that last one could come true, although they’d charge you for them! Whatever happens and like them or not, these bonuses are here to stay. Far too much money is being leeched out of the industry from the second hand market, for publishers to stand around and do nothing. With games costing millions of pounds to make now, the more money they make from initial sales the less of a gamble they’re taking with their multi-million pound investment. These sweeteners could tip the balance in favour of buying a game new, from getting it on the cheap, and can only be good for all concerned.

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Written by Kevin M

I've been addicted to gaming since my parents bought an Atari console way back in the 70's. I progressed to the iconic Speccy, Amiga, and all the Playstation platforms. Having seen games evolve from single pixel bat and ball, to HD constructed environments, gaming has changed much from my early years. Having defeated the rock hard R-Type on the Speccy, the biggest challenge I've faced so far is putting up with the hordes of American teens spouting abuse in the current generation of consoles, noob indeed!

7 comments

  1. KrazyFace /

    I usualy only pre-order games that I’ve been waiting on for ages, whether they have extra content or not. If there’s an added bonus for pre-ordering The Last Guardian for example then “woop-de-doo”, I’ll look forward to it but in all honesty it’s just one of those games I can’t wait for. Most of the time though I’ll wait for a game to come down in price till it’s under £15, but this is due to my playing habits rather than any kind of issue I have with the industry’s price expectations.

    Your article raises an importiant point for what all this DLC means for the industy’s future though, and I do think they (the industry) have every right to claw back some of that money they spend making their games. I’m just not easily swayed by their offerings is all.

  2. I think the industry is still testing the water here. If you take Bioware as an example, they kind of messed up with the dragon Age pre-order/deluxe edition bonuses, by giving the player items at the very start that were more powerful than most you’d find throughout the game (although extra companion Shale is brilliant). But for Mass Effect 2 they’d refined the system and the cerberus network is a really cool bonus for players who bought first time, with a drip feed of free DLC.

  3. JustWantedToSay /

    I just wanted to say that there is no AK47 in the game you mean AN94 (sometimes and in the game also called Abakan) that is the follower of the AK47. Just wanted to clear that out. In my opinion there is nothing wrong with these VIP codes if they give the industry a chance to make more great titles with big budjets.

    • Kevin M /

      My wife pre-ordered the game from Amazon and the email with the code does state AK47. I’ve not been able to unlock it yet though due to the online shop being down and I’ve been on holiday last week. So I’ll give it a go now I’m back, although you are right that the weapon doesn’t appear to be in the game. I’ll see what I get when I finally manage to enter the code!

  4. kashdbcvavb /

    hey you could by a VIP code for $15 US dollars and you dont unlock the AK-47 You unlock the AK-74 everyone starts with the 47

  5. not only is this used to combat second hand but to push sales for first week of release.

    But what p*sses me off the most is when you get something like collectors edition, a costume supposed to be exclusive to the game! Yet months later it becomes DLC so people can download it for a price. Basically I got the costume half price, since collectors edition cost more than the normal game.
    It’s just a rip off, because it’s a LIMITED/COLLECTOR or SPECIAL edition, so it shouldn’t be open to others later on for a price!

  6. I think your getting “free DLC” and “was already on the disc, but you need a code to use it” mixed up.

    How long will it be untill you cant play the game at all without this VIP code?

    And how can game developers justify charging $5 for on-disc content a month later (see Bioshock 2)?

    I paid $60 for this game. Or maybe $55. But if someone re-sells their copy of a game, its the developers fault for not making it fun enough.

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