I know what you are thinking: “Man, that is one hell of a sensational title you have there Brian.” Well, it is and it is not once you think about it. On the one hand, it’s a title that you would expect from any one of these click-bait websites because the headline is very short and makes a bold statement. On the other hand, it’s a title which delivers on exactly what it says… and that is my thoughts on why gaming sucks these days.
As the title suggests, the topic at hand has been split into multiple sections: the business, the media and the gamers. Where better to start of than the top? That is right, let’s talk about corporations and how they are systematically screwing everyone over.
DLC, Season Passes, and Pre-orders – Money Now, Game Later
The best place to start are with the practices I hate most. Very few things make me cringe as much as hearing the phrases “pre-order,” “DLC,” and “exclusive” in a sentence. Well, apart from the sentence: “exclusive pre-order DLC.” It’s a sentence which makes me question exactly what these executives are thinking. I mean, in what other industry do you have to pre-purchase an item simply so that you can access ‘extra’ content which, for some reason, will be not be available with the core game? Sometimes this content should come in the base package considering the price of the game.
To make matters worse, the content can be locked to a specific retailer. There is no better current example of that than Batman: Arkham Knight. At the end of the first trailer we got news that Harley Quinn will be locked unless you pre-order. I do not know about everyone else, but I found this insulting. It was months before the release and they started carving up the game and offering pieces so that they can give the illusion of a better value.
Then on top of that, there are companies which have the nerve to offer a season pass. Yes, on the outset it sounds like a good idea until you realize it isn’t. It’s like being told that you can either get hit with a baseball bat four times or get hit with a mallet once. Sure, getting with the mallet is better, but at the end of the day you are still being hit by a blunt object. It does guarantee that you get all the DLC, but remember when you paid once for a game and it came with all the content and more?
All these practices revolve around a central theme of trust in the companies. The issue is that none of these companies have done anything to earn this trust. How many times has the old bait ‘n’ switch been pulled on us? Yet these same companies expect us to willing give them money before we even know if the game is any good. I am aware that reviews exist, but I’ll get to them in the next part.
Remember when these practices actually meant something? People would pre-order to guarantee a copy of a title. Now in the digital age however, copies are near limitless. The idea of DLC was that it would add more content to your favorite game without having to wait years for a sequel. Now these publishers see how much of a game they can hack off and serve later at price hike. To make things worse, I do not see them stopping anytime soon, especially now that they’ve found a new toy…
HD Remakes – Why Give You Something New?
Now this is something that is often strongly debated. On side, there are people who believe HD remakes bring the title to an audience which missed them. Then there are people who believe it is nothing more than a cheap cash grab, another round at the buffet table if you will. Both sides raise valid points, however, I think it’s another excuse for these companies to be greedy. I mean, why go through the hassle of making a whole new game when they can just shine up what they served you last year? Now that these consoles have no backwards compatibility, there is almost no reason for them not to re-release games. Making things worse are gamers who not only justify this practice, but also buy remastered games. The one thing I’ve noticed is that if there is a demand for something then these publishers are more than willing to supply it. You only have to look at the sheer number of games which have been ‘inspired’ to buy the Call of Duty series.
Now you might be saying: “But Brian, gamers get to play the games they may have missed out last generation.” This is true but at the same time, the seventh generation is still alive and kicking. You can still purchase a last-gen system for almost a quarter of a current-gen console. However, the biggest kicker is that the games will play exactly the same. Almost none of the remasters alter the gameplay in anyway. Metro Redux is the only one (known at the time of this writing) which actually improves the gameplay along with the visuals.
Now, I have far less of an issue if they decided to remaster a classic title which is no longer available or is from a long gone generation. The perfect example of this is the Resident Evil remake. Gaming has expanded exponentially since that game was first available and with recent entries shooting themselves in the foot, Capcom needs a way to restore the franchise to its former glory. What better way to do that than by dusting off the original and testing it against the new age horror fans?
Patches Galore – Ship Now, Fix It Later
The previous issues do not really get to me. I buy all games digitally so there is no need to pre-order anything, I can easily choose not to buy DLC since my backlog is ever growing and I can look past remasters as I play the ‘Grey Poupon’ editions of these same games. However, this ‘ship now and patch later’ mentally is one of the few things which rubs me the wrong way.
When I purchase a game, I expect the product I purchase to be in an acceptable, working order. I fully understand that producing 100% bug free software is a near impossible, but I do expect titles coming from experienced studios to be of a high a standard. Though what brings this standard down is up for debate, I believe the issue lies with the publishers.
Take a look at the Indie scene, those titles are produced without pressure from publishers and the results are rather impressive. Then compare it to the AAA market where there is so much pressure to deliver a high quality product in a timely manner. The result are terrible ports (most early PlayStation 3 games), unfulfilled promises (Watch_Dogs, Aliens: Colonial Marines) and broken games (Battlefield 4, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and DriveClub).
This is why I never get upset when a game is delayed. I would rather wait the extra couple of weeks/months so that the issues are ironed out rather than get stuck with an unfinished mess of a game. These games are expensive and are an investment of both our time and money.
Gamers Are The Problem – It’s All Your Fault
The blame game is the most irritating game ever made. You could be playing this particular game without even knowing that you are participating. As is sometimes the case with some publishers, for some reason they like to blame us, the gamers, as the reason why their titles did not sell as much as they wanted. This is a case of the teacher complaining about the attendance record to the students who attended.
Most of the time, gamers are not to blame for not buying certain titles. Take SOCOM 4 for example. The SOCOM franchise was pretty strong until SOCOM 4 (Confrontation doesn’t count). The problem with that game was that the developers wanted to attract a wider audience. Thus, they diluted the core SOCOM experience which caused the fans to ignore it as it did not satisfy their needs.
Publishers need to learn that you cannot attract all gamers and it’s better to focus on a certain core group. The best example of this is the Souls series. Those titles are built and targeted at a certain demographic of gamers and don’t cater to a wide audience.
To summarize for those who do not like reading:
- DLC, Season Passes, and Pre-orders – They end up hurting the value of the base game. Their sole purpose is now for getting as much money from us as possible.
- Remakes/Remasters – Pointless money grabs especially if the game is available on a platform which is still readily available.
- Patches Galore – A good example of how companies actually value the user experience and how competent they think we are.
- Gamers Are The Problem – Doesn’t happen often, but why blame poor sales numbers on bad business decisions when they can blame us instead?
Stay tuned for part two when I talk about what is wrong with the gaming media.