Game Devs are Gaming the Gamers

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.

Author: Christopher Smith

A 3rd year English student, I write on the side to get away from the writing for my classes. Writing isn't just a way to make money for me; it's a passion, a hobby, and a life.

3 thoughts

  1. I think your comments about Andromeda are pretty far off base, honestly. Say what you will about the game itself, but the advertising wasn’t misleading nor was there any pay to win structure or missing feature. There was a negative reception to the game pre-release specifically because the ads made the game look bad.

    Also, I do think it’s a bit silly to talk about how ‘game developers’ are doing this when lootboxes and microtransactions are probably all publisher-mandated.

    1. Oh, I’m sorry. I do see how that sentence structure could be confusing. I was attributing the pay-to-win structure to Star Wars: Battlefront II, not Andromeda. I’ll add something to clear things up.

      As for the ads, there is a marked difference in the quality of the various gameplay trailers and the quality of the final game. Lighting, animation, physics, effects, and textures all took a significant hit, one that in my opinion can’t be chalked up to a difference in rig. There are a few videos on YouTube that compare various trailers with the initial retail release, although BioWare has been working on updates since then that have fixed some things.

      You are correct, though, in that there weren’t any features advertised that were ultimately missing. That was from a previous draft of this article that didn’t get taken out. Fixing it now.

      Finally, you are correct in that there is a difference between developers and publishers, but it’s not guaranteed that a developer wouldn’t use the pay-to-win structure, nor a publisher the cosmetic items only structure. I will add something to distinguish between them, though.

      Thank you for your input!

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