You know, I think most of us thought that games would only get better as time went on. Since the 90’s, every new generation of hardware brought major advancements in terms of features and gameplay experiences. Even in the seemingly-stale military shooter period of the PS3 and Xbox 360, we still saw advancements and could count on certain basic features. Games had to be good in order to compete, so they were still getting better even if the formats and settings were getting old after a while.
With the arrival of PS4/Xbox One, things freshened up and I think most of us thought we’d get the best of both worlds moving forward, yet here we are in the “most powerful” console generation getting neither and paying more than ever for the privilege. Too add further insult to injury, most major online multiplayer games now release without major features or even just straight-up broken. The future truly is wonderful, isn’t it?
I’m not sure what carries the most blame for this situation. It could be the greedy business tactics of the major publishers, but that would be ignoring that even individual development companies engage in similar practices. It could be the push for visuals more than anything else, yet this has always been the case and didn’t cause nearly this many problems. It could be gamers themselves and our willingness to support stuff just because we’re fans or want to look cool. To be fair though, I think all of these are to blame. It takes two to tango, after all.
Crappy business practices are probably what started this whole mess. Publishers like Activision, EA and the rest are always looking for ways to reduce costs and maximize profits; it’s just how businesses operate after all. Before, they were limited by technology and thus had to produce good, finished products if they wanted their game to compete and do well. Pre-orders undercut this somewhat, but they still had to launch well regardless. No though, there’s no such restriction.
Companies can release the game in practically any state they want because A: they can just promise to patch it later, and B: they can sell extra stuff through the now-standard cash shops present in every online game. I think putting extra resources into visuals contributes too since it takes quite a lot to make the super high definition games of today. This push for ever-improving graphics was eventually going to require sacrifices in other areas, and it seems we’ve finally reached that point. Yet, I still think the biggest reason we’re seeing this is the simplest: it makes money. And why does it make money? Because we support it!
Halo Infinite, Battlefield 2042 and now Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 (the second one) all released either broken or lacking major features (or both). Each instance evoked massive outrage from the fans, and the developers/publishers have always been quick to apologize for the “mistake.” It’s not a mistake though. Of course it isn’t. These are calculated risks that have paid-off each and every time because no one is willing to just wait a hot second to see if the thing they’re buying is actually good. Worse yet, they can’t even wait a minute to “look cool” in this game that might not even be good. Simply put, it no longer matters if these games are good or are even functional because they’re always instantly successful.
The instant the latest Halo, Battlefield or Call of Duty goes on sale is the instant that Microsoft, EA and Activision make massive amounts of money. People still preorder, still foam at the mouth for the chance to play more of the same and still itch to just pour money into cosmetic items that they themselves can’t actually see most of the time anyway. That kind of rabid fandom used to work in gamers’ favor since companies were incentivized to foster it with ever-improving releases, but now it’s the opposite.
Instead of fostering it, they’re exploiting it, and we’re all just angrily going along with it. Want your games to work on release? Then stop buying them when they’re broken! Want cash shops to stop being the focus of multiplayer games? Then stop buying crap! The big publishers and developers are certainly jerks for taking advantage of us to be sure, but they’re only able to do it because we let them.
Modern multiplayer gaming is getting worse because of all of us. Companies are just plain making inferior products while demanding more money for them, and we’re all buying them anyway and usually doing so sight-unseen. Frankly, until our buying behavior changes and we stop throwing money at every new entry in these franchises, we have no right whatsoever to complain about the product being bad or broken. We still bought it after all, and many of us went even further and paid even more to “look cool” in the bad or broken game. Basically, we’re getting the games we deserve. Yay everyone.
How do you feel about modern multiplayer gaming? How do think it can be improved?
Image by Flickr user: KniBaron (cc)