The games industry, for what feels like a long time now, has been harping on at consumers about how expensive games are. It feels, to me, that they are blaming us for them losing money instead of looking to their exhaustive business practices and various stupid moves and risks that they make regularly. I want to talk today about the myriad of reasons for why you shouldn’t ever buy a new game from a triple A developer again.
Triple A developers are trying to screw over retailers while simultaneously needing them to sell their games and get their product out there. Retailers survive on reused games. In an industry that takes £38 out of every £40 game sold, retailers need another source of revenue to pay for lights, rent, staff and heat., and used games is the primary way they do this, because even the little accessories you can buy for your DS or Xbox or whatever are made mostly by Microsoft or Nintendo, and if they’re not then their products aren’t sold in big game retailers. However, Triple A developers insist on putting forms of DRM in their games, like when EA only gave new customers the code to access the multiplayer in their games, and all it does is hurt the developers’ sales, or the terrible Simcity launch last year, or the terrible Diablo 3 launch in 2012. I’ve never seen forceful DRM done well. If you think you have a game that’s done it well, tell me and I’ll disprove your argument.
Secondly, microtransactions. It’s becoming ever more common that big games, that sell for full price, have microtransactions in them. Dead Space 3 is the game that leaps to mind as it was tire-ironed in to try and squeeze some more money out of people who have already paid £40 for a game. That was only two years ago, and, thankfully, a lot of more respectable publishers have veered away from such practices but a handful of publishers (I’m looking at you, EA and Konami, sitting in the corner hoping I don’t notice you putting gum under the desk) insist on keeping them in their games. Do you know who doesn’t deserve your money? EA or Konami.
I think this might be one of my most important points but; the free market shouldn’t allow for people who can’t do business to survive. We’ll ignore my cynicism regarding the banking crisis for now and move on to looking at how Square Enix can be disappointed in Resident Evil 6’s, Tomb Raider’s and Hitman: Absolution’s combined 13 million sales. There is a very simple reason why: big publishers don’t know how to limit their expectations. Hitman was a niche stealthing game with a very recognisable main character and quite sleek aesthetic. It had a reasonable audience, and its name obviously helps, as it has been shown that sequels generally sell better than their predecessors. Tomb Raider has, likewise, a reasonable audience but a very recognisable name. This particular game had the best launch in the Tomb Raider franchise, selling 3.4 million units. Square Enix was disappointed because they are idiots, and doesn’t understand that you need to budget a game to the size of its audience. Then there was RE6, a vast critical failure which sold really well because it has a big fan-base. Not Call of Duty size, but perhaps Battlefield size. In this case, Square Enix forgot that the most important thing about selling a product is to have a good product. You can’t convince people to spend £40 or $60 on a game when 4/5 reviewers say it’s the worst entry in the franchise to date. I thought it was crap and I own every single Resident Evil Game besides those that were on PS1. Businesses that can’t do business deserve to fail, regardless of the ramifications their failure has.
But lastly; most developers aren’t interested in their audience. The game designers are, because they are the people who are passionate enough about games to make it their day job to make fantastic pieces of story telling and art. Unfortunately, the companies that publish the games are the ones that ruin them. They are the ones who estimated that the Wii U would sell the same amount as the Wii. They are the ones who make developers fart out games in 2 years rather than giving them the 3 years to not only make the game good, but make it playable as well. Take Fallout: New Vegas for example. I loved Fallout: New Vegas, but everyone knows that the graphics weren’t quite as good as its predecessor, it had huge framerate and technical issues but, most importantly, everyone who finished it thought “is that it?” The game was literally unfinished because it had to be out in time for Christmas. If Obsidian had had 6 months more on it then Fallout: New Vegas would have been fantastic, instead of a slightly worse Fallout 3, like many people now see it. I even think that Bethesda is one of the best big publishers at the moment, but they make some of the most disgusting business decisions in the games industry. I’m looking at you paid-mods.
So, what should you do if you want to buy games? I mean, I’ve already panned Steam because it has a monopoly. It’s all fine while they’re the good guys but that won’t last forever. I also think it’s reasonable to want to reward the people who make games, but if you can’t buy them new then what should you do? Well, preowned games. Keep the retailers afloat. Either that or, if you think you’ll really want a game, don’t preorder it or buy it on launch day. Wait until a demo comes out or pirate it first if that looks like an impossibility. For all the credit the games industry gives it, 99% of people who pirate games are only doing so because games are too expensive (because of the ridiculously oversized budgets) or because there is no way for them to try it out before they buy it. Piracy isn’t killing games or movies or music, in much the same way that video didn’t kill films or online distribution didn’t kill music.
Oh, and those bad business practices we talked about are the exact reason why there are so many new indie developers popping up at the moment. No one with sense works in the big video game companies anymore because they just can’t be heard amongst the shouting of the baboons who run it. All the smart people have left or are in the process of leaving to form their own studios to make small games that they can budget to their audience.