The announcement that Battlefield 3 would employ the retailer-specific pre-order in-game bonus item scheme has some of the franchise's vocal fans breaking out big guns of their own: canceled pre-orders.
EA announced today that The Physical Warfare Pack (which will be available world-wide) will arm eager soldiers with the Type 88 Light Machine Gun, described as having "superior firepower;" a flash suppressor for the SKS sniper rifle that "reduces enemy awareness of your position" and is "the essential weapon mod for teamplay Recons at the front;" and armor-penetrating flechette shotgun ammo. All of these items will be 100 percent exclusive to the PWP. It also lists the DAO-12 shotgun (described as a "powerful" and with a "high capacity 12-round magazine) as a "Day 1 unlock" - presumably that means it will be unlockable in the game, but pre-order customers won't have to jump through any hoops to earn it.
EA's FAQ claims that the three exclusive items "were specifically chosen not to be overpowered or imbalance or break the game in any way." If that's true (and really, how can it be? Having more options is having more power), they really shouldn't be using words like "superior," "powerful," and "essential," and they definitely shouldn't have subtitled the Physical Warfare Pack as "Advanced Hardware for Battlefield Superiority," as that might lead gamers to believe that those who purchase it will have powerful, essential equipment designed to give them battlefield superiority.
EA seems to have struck a nerve with this one. Nearly every post on reddit.com/r/gaming today is either directly calling for gamers to boycott BF3 with screenshots of canceled preorders or general anti-EA ranting. It's worth noting that EA tried a similar scheme with the console-exclusive Battlefield: Bad Company back in 2008, but removed it after community protest. Though pre-order bonuses have since become a grudgingly accepted norm, the sales benefits EA could hope to reap from this kind of promotion could easily be outweighed by an organized negative word-of-mouth campaign.