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Square Enix to "set the bar" for pre-order incentives with Hitman: Absolution

Square Enix to "set the bar" for pre-order incentives with Hitman: Absolution

Thu 10 May 2012 12:58pm GMT / 8:58am EDT / 5:58am PDT
Retail

Sniper Challenge will be a standalone experience, playable immediately, offering players a "genuine reward"

Square Enix and IO Interactive are aiming to "set the bar" for pre-order incentives with Hitman: Absolution.

Retailers will begin taking pre-orders for Absolution on May 15. In return, customers will receive a download code for Sniper Challenge, a standalone experience purpose-built to fill the gap between the pre-order and release.

"We really believe we can take this brand into the top 5 [selling] games of the year," said Jon Brooke, brand director for IO Interactive, speaking to GamesIndustry International. "It's a big statement, and we realise that.

"Hitman: Absolution, although the fifth game in the series, is our first with that focus of taking it up a level. And we know to get into the top 5 you've got to do an awful lot: you need a great game, you need great marketing, you need full commitment, you need unique features."

Brooke considers Sniper Challenge to be one of Absolution's unique features. It is the result of an, "interesting conversation between the brand group, the marketing teams in different territories, and the dev team," and is based on a prototype created by one of the team at IO.

"We really believe we can take this brand into the top 5 selling games of the year. It's a big statement, and we realise that"

Players effectively control the scope of Agent 47's rifle as he observes a roof-top party from a nearby building. He has a target, and killing the target is relatively simple, but there are a number of ways to boost your score, from remaining undetected to environmental kills to fulfilling a range of sub-objectives.

The goal is to offer the consumer a "genuine reward" for placing their pre-order, and depart from the approach taken by the majority of AAA releases.

Pre-order incentives are now ubiquitous, but for the most part they are either relatively trivial - an extra gun, a suit of armour - or content that many gamers feel should be included with the price of the game. In addition, they are often confusing, with many major releases carrying a web of different incentives for different retailers, many of which are sold separately at launch.

Brooke believes that Sniper Challenge addresses these concerns: it is substantial, it is playable immediately, and Square Enix has no plans to release it at a later date.

"I know that sounds like a really simple philosophy, but when you look at the pre-order incentives in the market they don't always offer a real reward," Brooke says. "They don't give anything of huge value.

"We want to set the bar with this. We want people to see it as the best pre-order incentive in the business, and a really positive way to do a pre-order campaign"

"Obviously, I can't predict the consumer reaction to this; if it's going to be more confusing, if it's going to be seen as a watch-it moment. We can't really consider the issues with the industry at large when we come up with our plan. We really just think of what's positive. We want positive feeling among our customers."

As a standalone experience shipping ahead of the full game, Brooke believes that Sniper Challenge is a "greater undertaking" in terms of the resources than any other pre-order incentive. However, he insists that it wasn't created with a specific pre-order number target in mind. From the very beginning it was was motivated by adding value for the consumer, in the belief that success will "naturally come" as a result.

"If even one person pre-orders it, they'll play it, they'll review it, and if they really think it's great they'll rate it accordingly," Brooke adds. "We're not putting our customers in a situation where they're having to take a gamble.

"We want to set the bar with this. We want people to see it as the best pre-order incentive in the business, and a really positive way to do a pre-order campaign. Gamers will respond positively to that...and even the most cynical can read reviews and make their own mind up."

8 Comments

Anyone know of any other pre-order bonuses like this, besides the Ocarina of Time / Master Quest disc people got for pre-ordering The Wind Waker? That's pretty cool.


Since it's a download they don't have to spend money on manufacturing and shipping for something like this either, which helps keep costs down. It might be viable for companies to offer this sort of thing with older games like Nintendo did, or with current but low-price digital games. For Atlus, "Pre-order P4:A and get a digital download of Persona 3" would be a good way to try to get a portion of the people caught up in the fighting game craze to try their RPGs, for example.

Although, I like the idea of throwing in stand-alone games like Square is doing with Hitman. That's like how the original Portal was just thrown in with the Orange Box, but was so cool that it got it's own sequel.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Joshua McCormick on 10th May 2012 3:36pm

Posted:2 years ago

#1

Bryce Hunter
Producer

10 2 0.2
I really do like this concept. I'll be interested to see the rest of the marketing and, eventually, the actual game to see if the love for the audience Brooke is espousing is through it all--I really hope it is, I loves me some Hitman!

Posted:2 years ago

#2

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,530 1,330 0.9
First of all, it does sound really good.

However, my problem is that this is actually worse than generic pre-order bonuses, like armour or weapons.
it is playable immediately, and Square Enix has no plans to release it at a later date.
So, they're asking gamers to pre-order a game which has had some awful word-of-mouth amongst Hitman fans (everything from ignoring the previous game's storyline to not having the same voice-actor), with no knowledge of how good it is, and with no way to get the pre-order bonus once release day hits. That's just asking for trouble from fans.

Either people get suckered into buying what is in the end a poor game because they're convinced there's no other way to get the special mission, and they don't know how good it is/it's going to be. Or, the game is absolutely amazing, and the people who buy it after they've waited for the reviews to hit - like any sensible person who isn't rich - get screwed because they wanted to see if it was worth the money.

This pre-order business really is taking the mickey.

Posted:2 years ago

#3

Meelad Sadat
[a]list daily editorial director

51 30 0.6
there's risk here with releasing a slice of game play that's not representative of the game. hopefully they have a demo too.

Posted:2 years ago

#4

Greg Wilcox
Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,174 1,123 0.5
Well, I know of a few people who don't care about this because (gasp) - they can't play the challenge because they can't download content to their consoles. But who cares, right?

Oh, Morville? Those Hitman "fans" can suck it. After all this time without a new game in the series, guess what? Stuff changes. Why are they questioning the quality when the same studio that made the game is making this one? It's not as if Eidos handed the game off to oh, I don't know, the folks who made, Muzzle Flash on the original Xbox (a truly awful game) and said go make a Hitman for us, now!

These folks who want to live in a previous console cycle want the same old game and gameplay, don't grasp that perhaps the original voice actor might nor be interested (or hell, might have wanted too much money or was doing something else) and in general ignore the hell out of me with their ranting and raving. Trust and respect is what it should be about, not pissing and groaning and poor forecasting about a game they'll probably like when it ships.

But, whatever - at this rate, no one will every buy anything in the first two weeks because they'll be waiting for reviews before sitting around a month or two waiting for the price drop or 2 for 1 sale...

Posted:2 years ago

#5

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,530 1,330 0.9
@ Greg

The original actor had no clue why he isn't involved. He mentioned not being asked back on his Twitter.
Trust and respect is what it should be about, not pissing and groaning and poor forecasting about a game they'll probably like when it ships.
Yeah, true. But, hell, gamers (and fans) have been screwed over by good IPs and good studios before. Look at Dragon Age 2. Look at ME3. Look at how bland the Modern Warfare series is becoming. I'm not saying Hitman will be the same (there was a hell of a lot of pissing and moaning about Deus Ex:HR, and that's fantastic), but I am saying it's a dangerous PR game to play, and isn't as good for the consumer as they're trying to make out.

Posted:2 years ago

#6

Greg Wilcox
Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,174 1,123 0.5
@Morville - amusingly enough, I got an email about the original actor not long after posting. Oh well - maybe they didn't like his voice to begin with, heh... Still, it's not like the new guy sounds like Gilbert Gottfried, right?

That said, From what I saw of the game, fans have nothing to worry about. DA2 and ME3 are interesting examples because they were being put out pretty quickly after the last installments and the same could be said for the MW series (and to some extent, Assassin's Creed up until III, which is going a different historical route and should be a lot more interesting than the last game. I hope).

That said, each of last sequels in those franchises had things going for them that kept them in my consoles 'til the end. Although, I have to admit I was actually a hell of a lot more disappointed with Dragon Age 2's entire (and seemingly rushed) final section (as well as the ridiculous overuse of the same interior and exterior map layouts) than the ending of ME3, if you want some perspective.

As for CoD, I like the general action movie-ness of the last few games' single player campaigns (each game has those great fun moments where you HAVE to throw your brain out the window, not take anything seriously and just roll with it) and I avoid online entirely because I'm just burned out on multiplayer shooters and I think more focus on narrative and less on septiplexing one's XP and all that goes with it might make for a more impressive experience.

Like Max Payne 3 (although Remedy has nothing to do with it, Rockstar paid close attention to the old games while making MP3 completely their own), IO has the benefit (and luxury) of a few years away from the franchise so they can come in and make it better (thanks to not churning out a new Hitman year after year this generation).

Posted:2 years ago

#7

Mike Wells
Writer

61 28 0.5
Unfortunately, 'the 98% of everything is c**p' rule applies to games just as it does in other entertainment media. Pre-ordering any title (perhaps with one or two exceptions - this ain't one) is a big risk for the consumer. And they know it's going to cost a tenner less in a matter of weeks after release. And, for the real faithful, there is no promise ("... has no plans ..." is meaningless) that this is the only way of getting the extra game. This comes across as trying to outwit (and consequently disappoint) your customer rather than serve them in the best way possible. Why not release it for free now to generate interest and word-of-mouth and give anyone who buys the full game some kind of automatic in-game bonus if they have also completed the 'challenge'?

Posted:2 years ago

#8

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