Creative Assembly’s Rich Aldridge is feeling pretty disheartened about the overwhelmingly negative reaction to their decision to restrict the “Chaos” faction to pre-orders and launch DLC purchases in the upcoming release of Total War: Warhammer.
It’s strange to see Aldridge lamenting the fallout over this decision, since any member of Creative Assembly’s extensive long-time fan base could have easily predicted it. Total War: Rome 2 tried the same sort of shenanigans with its “Greek States” pre-sale incentives, catapulting it to record numbers for a Total War game. But when launch day rolled around, the sheer scale of the game’s problems were “totally unacceptable” to even their team’s own creative director.
Creative Assembly’s response to this was to do the exact same thing again with Total War: Attila. This time, you’d need to put your money and good faith in the title directly following the release of their previous troubled game if you wanted to play as the Viking Forefathers.
Now we’re approaching the next major evolution of the Total War franchise, and — as expected by now — the developer is up to the same tricks. Fans are getting fed up, but how is that remotely surprising? If anything, locking out the Chaos faction from Total War: Warhammer is the worst decision we’ve seen so far. Chaos is a mainstay of both the Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40K universes, rivaling any other faction as the most dominant antagonist. They’re also a fan favorite. Forcing people to pay for your game in advance in order to access the most prominent faction in the game, or locking it behind a post-launch paywall, isn’t going to do you any PR favors.
The defense for the decision is pure marketing-speak. Creative Assembly’s Creative Director, Mike Simpson, explains in a blog post that CA “really wanted Chaos Warriors in the main game, even without DLC,” but they “couldn’t do that within the resources for the main game.” The solution was for them to “[add Chaos] as the pre-order incentive that also gets sold on day one – making Chaos Warriors fully playable but also giving us the extra resources to add them as an AI race for everyone.”
His explanation is a bit hollow, for a couple of reasons.
First of all, including them as a “pre-order incentive” does absolutely nothing to gain the developers any additional funds. The price of the game hasn’t been raised for sales that come with the faction; they won’t be deriving any extra income from the inclusion. This brings us to our second, and even more damning point.
The Chaos faction will be completed and playable on day one of the game’s release, but they aren’t available to purchase at this time separately. This isn’t Kickstarter — they’re not collecting any of this money ahead of time. None of these sales, with or without the Chaos faction, will be delivering any sort of final stretch cash for the developers whatsoever.
There is one plausible reason for this scheme, and that’s to boost pre-sale numbers ahead of release, to generate hype, and try to guarantee that fans of the franchise will feel the pressure to get their copy immediately. For a publisher and developer combo renowned for nickel-and-diming their way through tiny incremental DLC purchases, having your fanbase installed ahead of the inevitable Game of the Year compilation at a lower price six months down the road is crucial. It’s the easiest way to make sure people don’t wait you out.
Sega and Creative Assembly would do well to earn back the trust of their fans before trying to gouge them again. Better yet, they could just try delivering a product that will sell based on its merits.
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