Tiers of War: why premium access really grinds my gears


Look at that face. That face right there is the grizzled mug of Mr. Marcus Fenix – an old, battered war veteran who’s seen things we can’t possibly imagine. And that expression? That expression is his reaction to the fact that Gears of War’s next-gen debut could be accessed four days early for twice the price.

Naturally, he’s wondering what went wrong.

And, frankly, so am I – because Microsoft’s pay-for-priority price structure couldn’t have landed a deadlier blow to my enthusiasm for its chainsaw-laden whack-a-mole simulator just months prior to release.

Wait, sorry — prior to its pre-release release.

If this post were an episode of Friends, it would be ‘The One with Rage, Bitter Disappointment and Too Many References to Rear-End Gas Expulsions”.

What should’ve been a highly-anticipated release, then, instead slipped out like wet fart that’s just a little too wet. Sure, it might feel good – as I’m sure The Coalition’s fledgling efforts do – but, like said fart, it seemingly ‘just happened’, leaving only the lingering odour of deflation and methane-tinted disappointment.

Not that my farts are like that or anything. No, my farts are totally awesome.

Indeed, nothing kills the sense of collective mystery and anticipation by releasing a product days early – a product that very same for which that that collective waited years – to those willing to pony up twice the pennies for the privilege.

Of course, there’s always some lucky sod who farts their way into legend – that one guy who finds a cheeky pre-release copy or re-mortgages their house to procure a disc from eBay. But that’s different – it’s not built into the system. That’s a discovery the collective can get behind because they gamed the system.

Nowadays, though, the system games them.

And it feels downright anti-social. Exclusionary. In a world of extensive multiplayer suites and co-op campaigns, the “buy it before they do” price structure means groups that might’ve discovered a game together are much more likely to discover a game days apart. Days in which campaigns can be completed ad nauseam.

And yet EA – of all publishers – presents an example where this is done a little less terribly via its Origin Access service. You pony up the extra cash, of course, but it’s a relatively small amount. Drop a fiver for a month’s service, get your early access, drop the service the following month. To add to that, EA limits this access to 10 hours, meaning it’s tougher to feel left out.

In this case, EA has produced the drier fart. Nice one.

But even with the previous 432 words aside, the whole practice just feels crappy. It feels exploitative, cynical – it feels plain wrong.  Now, nothing is sacred: Health packs for sale, check. Experience points for sale, check. Beta tests for sale, check. Release dates for sale, check.

Tiered release dates should return to the emergence hole from whence they came – and mine is staying sealed for games that engage with this particular practice for an age to come.

Bar the occasional gas expulsion, of course.

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