The games industry has changed. A lot. An industry that was once innocently focused around making games as enjoyable as possible has become somewhat… convoluted.
I remember the days when the majority of the time, you’d buy a game and that was literally the end of it – no DLC, no lootboxes, no seasons passes. I can only recall one game from my childhood in which you could buy extras after the initial release of the game as separate expansions, and that game was The Sims. I’m sure there were probably more, but even then it was very optional. Not that fussed about having pets in the game? Fine. Don’t buy The Sims Unleashed. Not that fussed about throwing house parties? Fine. Don’t buy The Sims House Party. It wouldn’t massively hinder your overall gaming experience as they weren’t important, majorly story-driven parts of the game, and rightfully so, as expansions were made to enhance a game.
But things are a bit different now though. Then – players were mostly rewarded on skill and their commitment to the game which would include things like playing a certain amount of hours, defeating a boss in a certain way etc. Doing these things would unlock new characters, weapons, stages etc. Now – the players commitment and skill are rewarded via an achievement system instead (which provide no in-game rewards), and to get those extras you now have to pay more money. Essentially, games are released with components missing, which are then later released as paid DLC. So lets look at it from this perspective:
See what I mean?
In the early-mid 2000s, we started to see more and more games being released with on disc DLC. For those that don’t know, this is a problem because games would essentially be released as a ‘full game’ upon first glance, however after digging deeper some additional content would be found hidden on the disc, but the bad part of it is that the players would later have to pay for this content despite it being ready and on the disc upon release. Capcom (and a few other companies) were picked up on this, and Capcom said that the additional content was already on the disc to speed up installation times….which may have been the truth but is it the whole truth? A lot of people didn’t seem to think so, and they believed that it was more so them trying to make gamers pay for extra content that should’ve been released with the game to start with for free.
Unfortunately for Capcom….a lot of gamers lovingly renamed Capcom, Crapcom. Gotta love the gaming community sometimes.
However it doesn’t stop there, we only wish it did. Next in line is season passes. Now don’t get me wrong, they’re not always a bad thing, but they can be. It gives gamers the option to get a bunch of DLC at a discounted price which isn’t bad in itself, but the problem lies in coercing the player into handing over their money before they even know what is included in the DLC – it could end up being really crap but by then they have your money right? Ultimately it is down to personal preference and the willingness to take that risk, but the thing that is even more amusing is that some games purposefully exclude DLC from their season passes, so the buyer ends up having to pay for EVEN MORE DLC on top, usually over a prolonged period of time.
Also, although not considered ‘as bad’ as season passes, a similar thing could be said about pre-orders in regards to encouraging the player to pay for the unknown. No matter how many alpha and betas you’ve played, or reviews you’ve seen, you never know how a game may turn out upon release. Remember No Man’s Sky? That’s a perfect example of why you should think twice about pre-ordering. The problem with pre-ordering is also exacerbated by pre-order exclusives. These are made to make pre-orders seem even more attractive, further encouraging players to spend money on a game before knowing the quality of the product.
Oh, and lootboxes. There has been so much controversy surrounding Star Wars Battlefront recently and lootboxes in general, that it could be one article in itself so we’re not going to go into it in too much depth. But if developers are purposefully giving gamers the opportunity to get a distinct advantage over other players via paying more money, then that’s a big no-no. Other players shouldn’t be punished for not wanting/being able to splash lots of extra cash on a game. There’s also an aspect of gambling with these lootboxes, but is that any surprise when you come across things like this?:
‘One morning in April this year, designers, programmers and tech entrepreneurs from across the world gathered at a conference centre on the shore of the San Francisco Bay. They had each paid up to $1,700 to learn how to manipulate people into habitual use of their products’. (Source: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/oct/05/smartphone-addiction-silicon-valley-dystopia).
These companies want to take advantage of those with a high tendency to gamble. Lootboxes that only contain cosmetic items aren’t as bad of course, and won’t be an issue to the average person, but it’s still bad business practice to a degree because it can be used as a form of exploitation.
Not only that, but we started seeing the quick release of games taking precedence over producing good quality games, because money money money. For example, the Assassin’s Creed series began to churn out games yearly. When Assassin’s Creed Unity was released in 2014, it had so many bugs that Ubisoft eventually had to issue an apology to gamers for releasing such a broken game. Thankfully there are still some studios out there that focus primarily on producing a really good game. As an example, I am so happy that Square Enix are taking their sweet time with Kingdom Hearts 3 and aren’t following suit.
I mean, it is of course understandable that ultimately, making games is a business. But it’s gotten to the point where it feels as though the industry has deterred so much that games are losing their clarity – it’s no longer about creating immersive, quality games but it’s more so about monetisation. I don’t believe that these new practises will ever go away unless there is a massive boycott that triggers change. It worked in removing the DRM within the Xbox One, and it worked in suspending micro transactions in Star Wars Battlefront 2 (but only temporarily, supposedly). But the trouble is, these only small aspects of the bigger picture and so many companies conduct these bad practises. Don’t get me wrong, some companies aren’t too bad with the DLC and the like, but some take it too far. So unless people stop buying and supporting the majority of games with lootboxes that provide unfair advantages, season passes, on disc DLC etc., then these things will most likely continue….
By Lisa Waldron