With gaming just as popular as it has ever been, is it now suffering the consequences of being an industry which generates billions of pounds a year and rivals the film and music industry? Are developers compromising quality for money? Following shambles which was Batman Arkham Knight, which has since been pulled from Steam, does the industry need to change?
I am a huge gamer and I have been ever since I was a young child, so much so that I have dedicated my time the past few years to running my own video game news and reviews site. My life revolves around games and as a result, I have seen the gaming industry change and evolve, for better and for worse. Technology has come a long way, games which wouldn’t have been possible a decade ago are now commonplace to gamers, graphics are getting more and more realistic and what PCs and consoles such as the Xbox One and PS4 are capable of are being challenged year on year.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t all been good and gamers, as consumers, are facing the consequences of an industry which has become increasingly money-orientated, with developers and publishers alike seeing dollars rather than focusing on providing quality games which are worth their $60 price tags. We only have ourselves to blame though as we continue to buy DLC and overpriced games by the millions. Not all is bad, but with Steam’s Early Access, which on the whole has only added to the problem, along with greedy publishers and developers, the video game industry needs a serious shake up.
So what is wrong with the video game industry in 2015 then?
Problem 1) DLC
DLC. What is there to say? Gone are the days when you could pick up a finished game and have access to all the content without having to pay extra for features which should have made it into the game in the first place. A franchise which I have always played is one of the worst offenders. I have to admit to falling into the trap that EA set with regards to The Sims 3 and now, The Sims 4. It has always been a prevalent issue of The Sims series, but I have now had enough. Following the release of the “Back to Work” expansion pack, which while neat, was hugely overpriced for what it actually offered and left me disappointed and a hole burning in my wallet, I have decided against buying any further expansions pack for the game.
Now, I don’t have an issue with developers releasing DLC when it is needed, however what I do have an issue with is developers charging the price of a full-game for one piece of DLC, especially when most of what it brings to the table should have, and probably was at one point, included in the base game. I’m looking at you Sims!
The Total War series, developed by Creative Assembly and published by Sega, is another franchise which has really annoyed me. Not so much for its story expansions, but instead for the cheek of charging £1.99 so that I can witness decapitations and blood effects in the game. In terms of how much DLC costs, £1.99 is just a drop in the ocean, but to charge for a feature which should be included in the game free of charge, it is disgraceful. Having offered this for Total War: Rome 2 and now for Attilla, I think enough is enough.
Let’s not forget Call of Duty either, with the latest game in the series, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare already having 37 pieces of DLC available since releasing in November. Come November, Black Ops 3 will be receiving the same treatment, with customisation and map packs galore. Who even buys these anymore??
Unfortunately, so long as people are prepared to pay for this rubbish, allowing developers and publishers to cut content from the game only to paste it into an overpriced piece of DLC along with the continuation of the good old copy/paste and repeat formula frequently seen in the DLC of popular franchises, this problem will persist.
Money talks. If less people buy these ridiculously overpriced packs then things may change. Until then though, expect more of the same.
Problem 2) Early Access
Oh Early Access, how I love and loathe you at the same time. Ever since Minecraft showed that releasing a game early in development and continually developing it while gamers played it could be a huge success, the Early Access program has exploded out of control with developers left, right and center all releasing alphas, and most the time pre-alpha builds at that, in exchange for your money. However I am constantly stumbling across games which have been abandoned or seen development slack off, despite bringing in huge amounts of cash which should be used to develop the game.
Not every game which has taken advantage of Early Access has been a drain on the gaming world, take the likes of Kerbal Space Program which has found huge acclaim within the industry for its innovation, which without Early Access probably wouldn’t be as great as it currently. With the success stories however come the scams and dishonesty which has fractured people’s trust in handing over their money to developers.
The Stomping Land and Starforge are just two games which spring to mind immediately. One abandoned by its creator without a trace, the other pushed through to release while actually being far from the finished product. Planet Explorers is another game which could be heading the same way after a huge time without any updates and no communication from the developers. Even my much beloved Cube World has seemingly been abandoned which hasn’t received one update since the alpha build became available to purchase nearly two years ago. Oh Wollay. Where have you gone?
Not only are gamers being ripped off, but absolute trash is being served in front of them. Forsaken Uprising, a game which released in Early Access back in December 2014 at a premium price was pushed out as a finished product no more than 6 months later at a much reduced price of £1.99 as it is simply, shite. And it’s still not worth the price.
Despite the warnings about Early Access, how much longer will this go on for? As a gamer, I wish I didn’t have to worry about whether or not a product which is available for purchase will be finished as promised. It does a disservice to genuine game developers out there who have a game to release on Early Access and need the money to make the game and improve it as they are now also suffering. For me, Steam’s Early Access is getting out of hand and needs to be reined in!
Up until now Early Access has only been a PC problem. That is about to change as Early Access has made its way onto Microsoft’s Xbox One. While I am confident that games entering Early Access on Xbox One will have to be of a higher quality than that needed to get on Steam or the PC, I am concerned about it having a negative impact on the development of said game. Cross platform development takes time and resources which could potentially leave those who have invested in the game on PC longer to wait for the finished product as the game is ported to console at the same time.
Problem 3) It’s all about the money!
Without money, you can’t do jack. You need money. I need money. They need money. However, where is the line crossed between making a profit and becoming greedy? For lots of publishers, that line is all too often crossed. Developers are under pressure from publishers to release games as quickly as possible so that they can start raking in the cash by the millions and this is highlighted perfectly by the recent release of Batman: Arkham Knight which was pushed out the door way to quickly and was in an ugly, disgusting mess. That was the reason it was pulled from Steam. The game was unoptimized, featured glitch after glitch, crashed periodically and featured broken AI and a pathetic excuse of a workable Batmobile, I mean a Batman game has to have a well functioning Batmobile, right? Right?
Assassin’s Creed: Unity was also in a pretty severe state when it launched back in November 2014. Unity was the yearly release of the series and was again rushed out to meet its release date by publisher Ubisoft. Both these games are considered AAA titles, charging full price for products which fell well below par come release.
Publishers and Investors alike are now more concerned by how much money the game can generate over its lifespan, rinsing it for as much as they can regardless of whether or not the game is actually any good. Quality has been compromised in exchange to make as much money as possible. This links back to the DLC problem which has become a horrible plague on the industry.
I understand that the price of developing an AAA game, or any game for that matter is not cheap. However publishers are throwing cash at advertising and PR in order to hype games up as much as possible, whether or not they actually live up to their expectations. Evolve is one such game, hyped to death yet when it releases, it left many feeling disappointed with its lack of classes and monsters and varied gameplay.
How do we get back to the days when AAA games actually offered AAA gameplay and content and weren’t stripped to their bare bones so that the developers and publishers could pickpocket gamers for even more money through DLC? So long as people continue to fund these developers and publishers and are happy with spending the amount of cash on overpriced gargabe, then the problem won’t go away and will only get worse.
Until then, expect more of the same. However I for one am sick of the bad habits the video game industry has got itself into and therefore I am happy to steer clear of DLC unless it offers value for money for a game which is already been filled to death with content and not stripped back.
I wonder what 2016 will hold in stall for gaming? Another Call of Duty, Battlefield or Assassin’s Creed game perhaps? No doubt about it. More DLC than you could possibly ever need? Well in fact you probably would need it if you want to play an enjoyable game after it has been decapitated and hacked to pieces by its developers.
Here’s hoping though that maybe, just maybe the industry will wake up and see how sick it has made itself.