Gears of War 3 may not include incentive content due to low redemption of 'Flashback' DLC

By Xav de Matos, Apr 08, 2011 10:15am PDT

In order to incentivize the new purchase of Gears of War 2, Epic Games decided to include a code that gave users free access to a map pack featuring maps from the first game in the series--dubbed the "Flashback Map Pack." According to Gears of War franchise executive producer Rod Fergusson, Gears of War 3 may not include a similar promotion due to the response of the Gears of War 2 offer.

"That wasn't as successful as we would have liked it to have been," Fergusson told me in a lengthy interview at a Gears of War 3 Beta preview event in Toronto. Though Gears of War 2 was a commercial smash-hit, Fergusson says that "the rate of redemption on that code was really low."

"For the fact that it was free, I was surprised that it wasn't redeemed as much as it was," he said. Fergusson didn't have exact numbers, but says it was low enough to still keep ideas of attempting a similar program for the third game's release up in the air.

Since Gears of War 2 launched in 2008, other publishers have adopted a similar program to incentivize the sale of new games, including EA and THQ. Warner Bros. is also rumored to be using a similar program with its upcoming line-up. In all cases, the 'free, one-use code' included at retail was also immediately available for sale.

"I actually kind of feel that, with the 'Online Pass' stuff--I think we gave people permission to start doing that stuff. I felt like we were one of the first." Fergusson said of the one-use code trend sweeping the industry, clarifying that companies tend to watch each other to see what ideas have potential in the marketplace. "You're basically trying to find a way to deal with game retailers who allow for used products and so you're trying to avoid that, but retailers are your bread and butter. There's this love/hate relationship. Anytime anybody attempts to do something they don't want to offend the retailers too much, but also they're trying to prevent used games as well."

The "Flashback Map Pack" included five remade maps from Gears of War: Canals, Gridlock, Mansion, Subway and Tyro Station. In early 2009, the Flashback Map Pack was made available for users that did not utilize (or have access to) the free download code--for $5.

The problem, Fergusson agreed, seems to be at a consumer education level. "I think its systemic to the notion that people just don't want to type in five-by-fives [five blocks of five characters]. A lot of people either don't look at the pocket inside their case or they think it's an ad, not a code they can type in to get free stuff."

Epic has yet to decide if Gears of War 3 will include an incentive bonus with new copies. While the offer wasn't successful in 2008, Fergusson admits that the actions of other publishers may have helped educate customers to take a closer look at the papers stuffed in the retail box, which could translate to a higher percentage of free code redemptions.

Gears of War 3 launches on the Xbox 360 in September 2011. A beta for the game's online multiplayer begins on April 25.

The full, forty-minute interview with Rod Fergusson will be posted early next week.

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