Putting the ass in assassin. Both times.

As the scoop hit social media, indignant incredulity was quickly overwhelmed by the bitter wave of resignation achingly familiar to those of us accustomed to the game industry’s unending conveyor belt of bullshit.

News that the upcoming Assassin’s Creed movie will have an array of ludicrous pre-order bonuses was reported in tones that knowingly toed a line between indifference and horror, with lots of ‘of course this has happened‘ and ‘somehow this is a thing‘ being bandied about. It’s the exact sort of wordage one uses when forced to discuss how yet another video game is dragging out yet another manipulative pre-order scheme, because it’s old news. But this isn’t old news. This is an important event.

We all knew that the games industry is diseased; now we know it’s infectious.

ubisoft watch dogs pre-orderA year ago I might have gotten angry. Now I’m nothing but a husk, much like Watch Dogs’ personality vacuum of a protagonist.

This particular scheme involves a tiered system – and remember kids, the higher your tier, the more of a fan you are!

Pay fifteen dollars and a shiny new movie ticket can be yours, along with an ‘official digital copy of the script’. Presumably this is for the cinemas that are hosting special read-a-long showings of the film. Also included in this first tier bundle for the plebes and the proles are ‘behind-the-scenes extras’; this hopefully means a round-the-clock fly-on-the-wall documentary that follows Michael Fassbender around as he comes to grips with appearing in a movie that is beneath him.

Assassin's Creed Movie FassbenderRumour has it, if you pay ten thousand dollars you can actually get Michael Fassbender to come over and recite lines from proper movies.

Climbing the ladder of greed and avarice, you’ll pass little goodies like t-shirts (face-shatteringly exciting), a toy hidden blade (I’ll always remember the first time little Jimmy pretend-skewered his first police officer), and Assassin’s Creed hoodies (you know, those widely-available hoodies that everyone already got for far cheaper, and without having to get a ticket for a film several months in advance.)

If by some miracle of the modern age you’re not swayed by any of these delights, and you happen to have $1,200 just lying about, then you can own a full scale replica of a Spanish crossbow, which, according to the marketing blurb, is ‘used in a pivotal scene’. Personally, I think it’s going to end up being the love interest.

All right, enough with the silliness. Not that this ridiculous move warrants serious discussion, but let’s at least try to pick apart the logic here.

Pre-orders in games are shady as fuck partly because they prey upon the good-will of a fanbase that are eager to get their hands on the latest iteration of a beloved franchise. They’re also, by and large, successful because of that very reason. It took the outrageous extreme of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided literally saying they’d push forward their release date if they got enough pre-orders for people to kick up enough of a fuss to put that plan in the landfill where it belongs. The reason that the bastards get away with it so often is because people wholeheartedly love the games.

Deus-Ex-pre-order-1080x671Remember this, huh? GOOD. NEVER LET THEM OFF THE HOOK.

Does anyone love the Assassin’s Creed movie? Hell, does anyone have any strong feelings at all about it? The last I saw, people were actively changing the soundtrack to the trailer in a desperate effort to make it palatable, and even then the global response seemed to be a resounding shrug of the shoulders. Will people be willing to enter the murky world of pre-orders for something so irrelevant? It’s like a supervillain telling you that you have to shoot yourself in the foot, or they’ll stomp on your pet puppy – only it’s not actually your puppy, and it’s not a puppy, and it’s a cockroach, and it’s already dead.

Of course, there’s always the argument of ‘Well, aren’t people allowed to do what they want with their own money?’ To which my answer is no, not until they’ve read thoroughly through my think-piece and considered the ramifications.

Not really. I don’t really think that.

Still, if we’re acquiescent to this kind of bollocks in video games, then fine; but please, can we not let it seep out into other markets ? I don’t want to have pre-order bonuses for everything. I don’t want to pre-order a sofa as part of a two grand bundle that includes a history of sofas, a miniature sofa replica, and a heartfelt sonnet from Clive, the resident sofa maker.