Mega, multi-billion dollar video game retailer GameStop has begun taking pre-orders for Activision's Modern Warfare 3, and their bonus offering? A poster. No, seriously. An exclusive-to-GameStop wall poster.
That could also be the the best thing they could have done. Modern Warfare 3, also being part of a multi-billion dollar Call of Duty series, doesn't need to entice gamers into a purchase. The 2011 sales charts will no doubt be dominated by that behemoth, trouncing whatever efforts other gaming companies try to make waves with.
Why is this a positive? A lousy, likely soon-to-be-torn poster in trade for a $60 purchase? Because it's not "premium" content. Video game manufacturers have this odd way of making their games fragmented and fractured, providing odd pieces of content across multiple retailers. Rockstar's high profile recent release L.A. Noire came with individual in-game cases to solve, each unique to stores like Best Buy and Walmart. To get them at launch and complete the experience that runs $60, you would need to purchase the product roughly five times.
So, a poster seems almost lively in these days of monetizing not only the video game, but the pieces of it as well. It's one of those dirty little secrets that doesn't seem to have seeped into the mainstream as of yet, but should soon. It's not only pre-orders - Microsoft's varied fitness games for their ballyhooed Kinect motion controller offers individual types of workouts for only $3 each, a bargain if you didn't consider that the core experience itself already ran you $60 (never mind the cost of the Kinect camera itself).
Don't take this the wrong way, or even paint publisher Activision as a saint. No doubt Call of Duty will suffer the same fate, that franchise setting a new standard of offering additional multiplayer levels in $15 bundles. The original price for these typically ran free back in the days of early online access on the PC. That's another debate in and of itself, while the real question lies in what studios gain from providing pre-order exclusives.
Is there something deeper behind this, maybe a way to keep relationships firm with brick and mortar retailers while the slow shift to digital content becomes prominent? Is it enough of a boon for stores who hold the key to some digital golden gun in Call of Duty? Whatever the case, the strategy is taking a foothold as publishers and developers alike search for new, inventive ways of turning a profit in a tightening market. Me? I'm happy with a poster.