There’s been quite a bit for us gamers to get angry about over the last couple of years hasn’t there? Poor PC ports, stupid comments from developers, poor digital store curation, nickel-and-dime pricing structures, manipulative marketing, preorder culture… the list of things for us to be angry about goes on and on. Most entries on that list are valid reasons to feel annoyed or even angry with those responsible, but I have to wonder how much good our righteous fury is actually doing. Every time a developer or publisher does something stupid or shady, the gaming community works hard to make our discontent clear. Once it becomes clear that we’re angry, those responsible always issue some sort of apology, sometimes offer us an extra little-something to show their sincerity, and we let them off the hook since we don’t want to be the entitled jerks we’re made out to be. This would be fine if the same people didn’t keep doing those things that made us angry in the first place. It’s often not long after the big “we’re sorry” that the same garbage is pulled and we all get angry all over again and start yet another instance of this cycle we’ve been stuck in for so long now. Perhaps it’s time to try another approach.
Take the recent fiasco that erupted over Bungie/Activision’s “The Taken King” for example. Ever since it was announced, fans have been upset. Initially it was because of the proposed price of the expansion: $40 (also £40 and €40). With Destiny’s previous “expansions” barely justifying their $20 price point and few details regarding the amount of actual content in the new “expansion”, $40 seemed insane. After all, we’re talking 2/3 of the price of a full game, and the actual price of a full game if you’re a fan who deals with pounds or euros. So we got angry, and they fed us more details in response. This dlc package does indeed offer a little more than the previous packs, but I’m still of the opinion that it’s not worth what they’re asking. At any rate, the details calmed the fanbase down and everything was cool again, at least until we got wind of the “collector’s edition” for the expansion.
This was to be sold for the price of $80 and would include the base game along with all three expansions, some physical goodies, and some exclusive in-game content (most notably character animations, armor color shaders, and a couple of cosmetic items). The problem with this version was the exclusive in-game content it included. Current players felt short-changed. After all, why should they have to re-buy content they already owned just to acquire some extra content? Why couldn’t it be sold separately so that those who want it can pay a reasonable price for it? So Destiny fans got angry once again, a Destiny developer said made some tone-deaf comments which inflamed the fans even more, and so Bungie/Activision finally responded with another apology and graciously announced that they would make the extra content (again, not even a handful of armor shaders and cosmetic items) available to be purchased separately…for $20. This was followed by the announcement of an advertising partnership with Red Bull, the deal being that Destiny fans are expected to buy cans of Red Bull in order to unlock a mission in the game, a pretty good one too if their hype is to be believed. So once again the Destiny fanbase is angry, and this has all only taken place over the last couple of weeks! Simply getting angry and demanding a response isn’t working, and it hasn’t been working for a long time now. Unless we take a different approach, this cycle of announcement, outrage, apology and appeasement is just going to continue.
Instead of getting angry yet again, I propose that we each start exercising a little patience. Seriously, what if we all just decided to wait beat, even if it’s just a day or two, before going out and buying new games from problem publishers or developers? Better yet, we each decided to move on from a game next time an Activision or an EA tries some sleazy tactic to burn or squeeze money out us? No big public backlash, no internet flame storm, no demand for an apology, just a silent refusal to go along with it. I think that would be a more powerful message than even the ugliest eruption of anger that the online gamer community could muster. After all, anger can be responded to. Anger can be appeased. How could they address genuine loss of interest or fans deliberately waiting for a price drop though? Well, not easily. All they’d be able to do is continue then crash and burn, or take the hit and learn from it. Video game publishers aren’t stupid; they do these things because they know they can get away with it. They’ll only stop doing it once it stops working.
I’m not proposing boycotts or calling for people to stop preordering games altogether. It’s not about depriving yourself of the games you enjoy. By all means, buy a game if you want to play it, even pre-order it if doing so makes financial sense for you. All I’m saying is that perhaps, if we were to shake off this “I need it now!” mentality, the publishers would notice the decline and stop. With just a little patience and resolve, we each individually could help solve a problem that all the anger and outrage in the world could never hope to fix.
I’m convinced that this would work, but I’d still like to read your take on the situation too. What do you think should be done to get gaming out this mess?