Time for another non-movie focused rant.
Earlier this year, I reviewed the Far Cry 5 main game and DLC packs. Those who follow know I was quite unimpressed by both, but the shallow and short DLCs may have broken me.
I love videogames, but lately they are more prone to piss me off than anything else. Independent games (Darkest Dungeon, for example) have proven to be a lot better for a lot less money. This is all fine and dandy, but with good ol’ Christmas approaching, I have been looking at the latest Assassin’s Creed as a possible gift. In preparation for this idea, I did what a lot of people do anymore: wait for the game to actually come out and see what non-bought reviewers say. My go-to for reviews is Jim Sterling (you can see his review here), now Sterling is sometimes flippant, but he is usually spot on. His reasoning of whether a game is good or not generally coincides with mine. (So once you hit like here, go watch and like his video, too).
Sterling discusses the rampant micro-transactions within the new Assassin’s Creed, and for me this is more or less a deal breaker. I like Ubisoft games, usually, and The Division 2 is perhaps the only major release I am at all interested in for the next few months. After Far Cry 5 I was worried about the company, with this, I am appalled. The reason I am writing this is in response to Sterling’s criticism. I agree with him, and he notes that enough people aren’t making more noise about this particular issue in games. So, despite this being primarily a movie blog, let’s talk about the business side of video games.
For those who don’t know, microtransactions are additional fees that a player can purchase for an in-game advantage, or a more personalized design on their avatar. Both are terrible, and represent one of the worst aspects of the gaming industry. No other industry is allowed to get away with this crap as frequently. Imagine going to a movie, but for $5 more you can see another 30 seconds of the film cut for everyone else—that is microtransactions in a nutshell. In the new Creed game, players can spend $10 to have the progression of the game speed up. To incentivize this, they broke the progression system to prey on peoples’ inherent impatience, or lack of time.
Gaming concerns tend to stay in the gaming world. Granted, this makes sense as those who are not familiar with gaming probably aren’t aware of corporate issues, but perhaps we should be. The consumer is being price gouged here, and the only reason this type of crap doesn’t happen in other mediums is that they haven’t figured out a way to do it. I imagine we will be able to pay $5 to have access to a new television episode three hours early at some point in the future, and people will be rightfully upset. We are normalizing garbage here.
Gamers are in a terrible position. Despite outselling Hollywood, the gaming community is still viewed as something that is immature, pointless, and something only people who are losers participate in. High profile allies of the culture are view and far between. Instead we have a bunch of independent journalists going up against billion dollar industries. It is no wonder the cultural stigma still exists around gamers—it benefits the companies to be able to brush off the complaints from one of the many high quality outlets that cover these issues.
The real kick-in-the-dick is the fact that a lot of people will still buy the new Creed game. Hell, I might. If it will make a good gift, why not? If the new game is truly much better with a permanent experience boost, maybe I will buy that. After all, good gift. Right? Boycotts are hard, and really, Christmas only comes once a year. Also, my one purchase won’t make a difference, right?
Above is the unfortunate position a lot of us (myself often included) take. This issue is multiplied greatly with any game that has a competitive aspect. Time not playing might mean a major disadvantage. Those of us hoping for a patch to fix the broken progression system might be victorious—in about a year. I am starting to notice companies capitulating to complaints (looking at you, Shadow of War), but only after the game has made all the money it likely will. The removal of these fees is just another last minute attempt to win over the few holdouts. Granted, if you were boycotting until the fees went away, you wouldn’t be wrong to buy it.
The whole situation just sucks. I am not sure what the solution is. Sterling (and many others—seriously, good journalism is still alive) has been reporting on this growing issue for at least a year (probably longer, but I have only been following him for about a year), and not much is changing. The loot crate nonsense seems to be going away, but now we are being sold deliberately broken games with the chance to pay to fix them. I am honestly not sure which is actually worse (reality: they both suck).
About five years ago, I made the argument with a friend that games should just cost $70 and there is no more DLC, bonuses, or other crap. I would still accept that compromise, but I am willing to bet most studios make more money by screwing their customers. One American politician has brought this issue up, but the crazy news cycle has made most forget about the issue. The next time videogames will be brought up is when gamers are erroneously blamed for some heinous act, again.
Maybe we should all boycott games with these sleazy practices. The problem with boycotts is they are simply a nightmare to make work. Further, gaming communities are highly diverse, and some might not care enough to not play the newest entry in their favorite franchise. I’m not going to knock those individuals. There are companies I would still buy from, even if they were dabbling in the shady shit. Maybe the more people talk about this the more we can actually make a difference. I have to assume a few of my normal readers aren’t abreast of this issue, so hopefully we now have more voices in the fight.
In short, we should appreciate those who are trying to bring these terrible business practices to light.