There is a terrible phenomenon making itself known in the gaming industry, and it’s becoming more and more of a problem. Things that shouldn’t happen, are, with frightening frequency, and nobody seems to be doing anything about it.
When you buy a game, you expect that game to be a finished, self-contained experience that you can enjoy for the price listed on the box. You pay once, and the whole entire game is there for you to play. It is implicitly understood that the purchased product should be complete. There is, of course, leeway for early access passes and games that are part of a series, but those are specifically advertised to be unfinished.
The problem arises when you buy a game, take it home, and find it’s riddled with glitches, game-breaking bugs, and even outright missing content. Gamers are finding this to be the case more and more these days, and it’s worrying.
If I had to pinpoint an exact day that this phenomenon started, I’d say it started with the release of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. That game had so many glitches and bugs that each copy came with a free exterminator. Fortunately, Bethesda games are notoriously easy to mod, and so the community had a fix ready in record time.
That set a dangerous precedent.
From that one instance of gamers fixing up a few hundred lines of bad coding (that cart to Helgen can eat my entire axe), developers seemed to get the idea that if they released a buggy, unfinished, can’t-even-start-it-without-crashing excuse for a game, some modder would fix it for free within a week. Thankfully, they don’t yet seem to think that mods will eventually replace actual content, but that’s only because they’ve begun releasing content that should have been included at the start as DLC.
This has led consumers to the inevitable conclusion that devs have become more concerned with making money than making a good game. By far the biggest offender of this is EA Games, perpetrator of the unmitigated disaster that was Star Wars Battlefront II’s Star Cards/Loot Box fiasco, but BioWare and the disappointment of Mass Effect: Andromeda is hot on their heels.
While the pay-to-win structure of Battlefront II and the terrible, awful, disastrous graphics of Andromeda didn’t help, it’s not about all of that – it’s about expectations.
In the case of Andromeda, they went to E3 primed and ready with a bunch of trailers intentionally made better than the actual content they were going to put in the game. Quality of animation disappeared between E3 and the eventual release, a marked difference that simply cannot be attributed to a difference in PC rigs, and they bloody well did it on purpose! They got people interested with a shiny hook, and then left them dangling on an over-inflated price tag that wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on.
And that’s another thing. Originally, prices for triple A games were as high as they were to make up for distribution, marketing, and maintenance costs – printing a million CDs is expensive business, and if you wanted to patch something out, too effing bad.
Nowadays though, those costs have all but disappeared. Games and updates are distributed online, so much so that computer manufacturers aren’t including disc readers in their computers anymore. Ads are also distributed online, and I’d bet that the cost of those ads is a lot cheaper than they were even ten years ago. Even if they’re not, the inclusion of micro-transactions in most games should more than make up for them.
Micro-transactions have their own slew of problems, as the aforementioned Star Card gambit can attest, but you can read about that here.
Basically, developers are releasing games that aren’t finished, have game-breaking bugs, and rely on modders to fix these problems. They expect to be able to charge more than they have in the past for these travesties, and not only that, they expect to charge extra for “DLC” content that should have been included in the base game.
In conclusion, I am bitter.