The Burning Question: What is the biggest problem facing the gaming industry?
It’s no secret that gamers like to complain almost as much as we like to actually play games. Whenever something draws our ire, we head straight to the forums to tell the developers and publishers exactly what we think of their crappy idea to downgrade graphics for consoles or exclude achievements from highly replayable games. While many of the complaints can be a bit ridiculous at times, there are definitely real issues that plague the gaming industry.
DLC & Pre-orders
As a massive fan of the Arkham series, I was ecstatic when Arkham Knight was revealed. Excitement quickly turned to disappointment, however, when the DLC was announced and, as it turned out, the combined price of all of it would cost almost as much as the original game. Don’t get me wrong, I like DLC when it provides additional content to an already complete game, as was the case with Dark Souls 1 and 2, because it allows me to have a bit more time with a game that I’ve already finished. When done right, it works a bit like expansion packs from the early 2000s where the additional content was exactly that: additional. None of the story or gameplay elements were being excluded from the main game in order to be sold separately to maximise profit. We now see so many games that will not only release DLC to fill in gaps from the main title but also make certain pieces of DLC available only as a pre-order incentive, forcing us to pay for the game before reading reviews if we want access to it. If you are patient enough though, you could always wait about a year for the cash-cow to return for another milking when the game is made available as a Game of the Year edition with all the DLC included, at the same price as a new release of course.
Freemium games,microtransactions and pay-to-win
Dawid has talked about this before, but here is my take on the issue. Micro-transactions, similar to DLC, are nothing more than a way for corporations to try to get as much money as possible out of you but with one major difference: even less work on their behalf. They charge you real-world currency in order to perform tasks such as constructing buildings or training units without having to wait a pathetically long time for them to be completed. Dungeon Keeper was one of my favourite games when I was young and it was one of the few RTS titles that I actually really enjoyed so seeing this beloved title from my youth being rebooted in the form of a cash-grabbing mobile game reminded me very much of this scene from South Park:
For the most part, microtransactions have focused mainly on the mobile gaming market which is all well and good (I suppose) for a game that you downloaded for free but it seems that the developers are now eyeing the AAA scene and licking their lips like a pack of starving wolves. We saw this with Assassin’s Creed: Unity which allowed you to purchase some of the best weapons and armour with real cash as opposed to doing missions and earning in-game currency. This pay-to-win model has also been adopted by a number of freemium games and basically leaves you with very little chance of getting very far without spending any real currency. This was very obvious when I decided to play Spartacus Legends and I got completely annihilated online because everybody had paid for better weapons, armour or fighters.
I want to make it clear here that I absolutely love remasters of games from my childhood. In the last few years, I have played remasters of Leisure Suit Larry, The Curse of Monkey Island and Abe’s Oddysee and it really was fantastic to see games that occupied so much of my time 10-15 years ago being given a fresh coat of paint while still staying true to what made the original so great. My issue lies with games that were released a year or two ago on the ps3/Xbox360 generation being repackaged with the DLC, given a slight bump up resolution and framerate and being sold again at full price. I really (REALLY!) enjoyed The Last of Us, especially considering my usual distaste for the zombie genre, but I don’t see myself shelling out nine-hundred bucks for a game that I already have when I barely notice the difference between 900p and 1080p as it is.
The first 3 points that I mentioned all boil down to corporate greed and annual releases are guilty of the same thing. When Assassin’s Creed was first announced, it blew my mind. The idea of exploring historical cities had never been done in an open-world title and Ubisoft was still riding on the success of the Prince of Persia trilogy (in my mind, there are only 3 and the 2 that followed are about as deserving of attention as Twilight fan-fiction). Due to the success of the first game, they developed the far superior Assassin’s Creed 2 which addressed a lot of the repetition that plagued the original and that’s when the series really took off. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood was released the following year and I honestly felt that the series had peaked because there was no way that it could get any better. The sad thing is that I was mostly right. From that point on, every year saw the same mechanics and very little innovation to plot or gameplay. Sure, the ships made for a really fun change of pace in AC4 and AC Rogue but ultimately, the main storyline involved the same boring missions that required you to tail some guy or eavesdrop on a conversation before eventually assassinating your target and killing/fleeing from guards.
I’ve mentioned on numerous occassions that I still like the Assassin’s Creed series and intend to keep buying it year after year but it’s mainly because I’m interested in history not because the gameplay or plot is particularly compelling. The same could be said for Call of Duty. The popularity of the series seemed to really take off at the release of Modern Warfare which really made for a fun game because it moved away from the regular FPS setting of World War 2 and allowed us to play as modern-day soldiers with access to all the current (at the time) weaponry.Even the single-player campaign, although quite short, told a decent story for a wartime FPS. Since then, Activision and Square Enix have made sure to release a new iteration at around the same time every year offering very little other than new weapons and maps in a very slightly different environment. What cut me deepest though, was the rumours surfacing that Dark Souls 3 will be revealed at E3 this year meaning that they, too, could be approaching the point of releasing annual titles that offer little innovation but maximum profit.
Lack of inclusion of minorities
This is probably the most delicate issue on this list so before I get into it, let me state that I’ve been called an “SJW” and been accused of being part of Gamergate despite the fact that I think that both sides have extremely serious flaws to their arguments. Putting that to one side though, gaming is growing and we, as people that enjoy playing games, should embrace that because it means that we will get even better games. In the early days of cinema, films were expensive to make and the profit wasn’t always very high so only certain demographics were targeted in order to ensure the movie’s success. As the industry grew, however, we saw more and more films being released that appealed to smaller demographics and now there are literally so many movies available that you probably couldn’t watch them all in 3 lifetimes. Hopefully there will come a time when the same can be said for games but in order for that to happen, we need to embrace change not fight against it. In the last few weeks, a number of commenters have written about the lack of racial diversity in The Witcher 3. They aren’t calling for any changes to the characters or plot, they just ask that CD Projekt Red include people of colour in the world, even if they are just random NPCs walking around. This allows for everyone to feel included rather than make it seem as if The Witcher takes place in an Aryan utopia. A similar issue was raised with the fact that the new FIFA would include the option to play with female teams rather than strictly male and a few people on the internet made a lot of noise about how this would destroy the franchise. It should be noted here that everything that was always available in the regular FIFA titles would still be there but it also gave women, or anyone interested in women’s football really, a chance to play as their favourite teams too without detracting from the main game. Fortunately, as Gavin Mannion over at Lazygamer pointed out, it seems to have been the vocal minority once again making gaming culture look bad as the majority of people seemed to be for the idea of inclusion of the women’s league. While I’m not saying that every single game should include every demographic (which would be impossible without sacrificing the artist’s creativity) we really have nothing to lose and everything to gain by including people where we can because after all, good art is appreciated by some but great art is appreciated by many.
What do you think is the biggest problem facing the gaming industry? Hit us up in the comments below.