I hate the phrase “Triple-A”. It seems like something a shoddy journalist or one of the arse-kissers at Gamespot would say but it’s slightly less wordy than “big budget pile of crap designed to sell to as large a variety of demographics as possible” so let’s just run with it.
Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about the Triple-A games industry lately and after talking with some friends who share my opinions I’ve been able to come up with one word to describe the state of the mainstream gaming scene:
Seriously. The whole thing is dumb as a bag of hamsters.
DLC that costs as much as a full price game, so you are essentially only getting half a game at £40 plus a pop?
Selling online multiplayer-only games at full price with only a handful of maps then charging extra for more content that you could have put on the disc?
Spending millions on a hotly anticipated title then making it console exclusive, essentially eliminating two-thirds of your potential audience?
DUMB! DOLTISH! MORONIC!
And of course…
That console exclusive one really strikes home, me being too poor to get all the consoles and settled on an X-Boner. I know Microsoft want us to call it “The One” but I refuse to reward pretentiousness that isn’t my own so I made it into a dick joke.
See, whilst I accept there are multiple ways to judge or critique a media product, the one I tend to go with the most is comparing how much money I spent with how much fun I had. If fun had is equal to or greater than the money I have spent then it gets a Maisie Menace thumbs up. With regards to video games I also factor in how much content there is, but in modern times and the excessive amount of downloadable content (DLC) available for even the most pedestrian of games I have to conclude that developers are deliberately leaving content out to squeeze more money out of consumers. I don’t know about you but this leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.
I don’t mind paying full price for a new game, I do mind being shafted. For example, 2K’s annual wrestling simulator WWE 2K16. On release it came with a £49.99 price tag. Followed by a £25 season pass for additional wrestlers and game modes. Then an extra £7.99 for Arnold “The Terminator” Schwarzenegger, which is a bullshit DLC considering how heavily he was used in the hype prior to release. Then another £7.99 for a patch that I will argue until I’m blue in the face is the only thing that makes the MyCareer mode playable.
So if you’re doing the math, that’s £40.98 spent to complete a game that already cost £49.99. So essentially 2K has shipped half a game, charged full price then charged nearly full price again to make it whole. That is despicable.
When I think of games like Skyrim that already come with more content that a single player can feasibly get through then add reasonably priced DLC months after release I see examples like the one above as a problem, and a growing one.
Anyone play Asura’s Wrath? If you didn’t, good. Don’t bother. It sells itself as a Bayonetta style spectacle fighter (a game loaded with content that didn’t get ot need DLC) but is actually just like watching a bad anime and playing with buttons. Then add to that the fact there are two glaring plot holes that are only filled in with premium DLC, and that you need you need to pay for a third lot of DLC if you want to see the ending, I can’t help but feel like I’m being shat upon. Especially when compared to something like Skyrim.
About a year ago, sick of being shafted by uncaring corporate pricks I took to Xbox Live and PC game streaming service Steam to play some cheaper indie titles and it’s been great. I think I’ve spoken before about Dontnod and Square-Enix’s masterful Life is Strange but that’s really the tip of the iceberg. Starship combat sim FTL: Faster Than Light and Lovecraftian procedural horror The Consuming Shadow (by Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw, more on him later) at 7.99 a pop have both brought me more hours of fulfilling entertainment than most £40 titles ever have.
I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed some of Telltale Studio’s efforts such as The Wolf Among Us. Telltale have found their niche as makers of point-and-click adventure games based on popular franchises and whilst their engine is starting to show it’s age I still point to them as masters of affordable interactive storytelling. So it is with some disgust that I must declare them as a studio falling foul of the modern trappings of DLC culture.
I played Telltale’s The Walking Dead Seasons 1&2 on my old Xbox 360 and found them both fun and emotionally poignant, some of the events and decisions absolutely broke my heart. Honestly, these games were what introduced me to The Walking Dead franchise and I’ve been hooked ever since. The problem started however when I realised they are now available on X-Bone. What bugged me was that both seasons are individually priced at 19.99, or as a bundle for 39.99. For those doing the math, that means that paying individually would cost 39.98, cheaper than the bundle!
…Okay maybe that’s just me nitpicking but it wouldn’t be a critique if I didn’t pick nits like an OCD chimp. Perhaps the extra penny is worth it for the convenience of a single download but doesn’t making the games cheaper individually entirely defeat the object of a bundle deal? It’s a penny now but if we as consumers don’t call developers out on this now then how long until a precedent is set and developers, Triple-A and indie alike, are getting away with more?
Which leads me to my main point: the stupidest part of all of this is us, the consumers who pay for this and let it happen. By giving them our money all we are doing is enabling behaviour that we can all clearly see is bullshit. It’s like giving an alcoholic the keys to a liqour cabinet then being surprised when we run out of ingredients for a banana daquiri.
In his video review of Atari’s E.T., Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw talks about how the Western games industry crashed back in the 1980s in the wake of developer’s fuck ups and how it could happen again.
My concern isn’t so much that it could happen again, but more along the lines that perhaps it should.
That and my local game shop stocking the X-Boner games on the wall where people queue up so everyone get’s confused when browsing the shelves.