The games industry is an enormous business; every single year men and women with manicured hands and tailored suits are filling their company coffers with the money we pay for the next big AAA title, the next Call of Duty or Battlefield or whatever blockbuster Blizzard has been incubating for the last ten years.
We’re talking Hollywood money, we’re talking billions. Companies are built on the success of a single game (Minecraft) or ruined on a failure (Homefront).
It can be a risky business, which is why I don’t understand why companies keep doing the same damned stupid things, and why we, even more stupidly, keep giving them our money. Things like…
Hamstringing your customers with unreasonable DRM
Have you ever pirated a game you own? Is that even a thing? I’m not sure, but I can tell you I’ve done it. The experience of playing the cracked, bootlegged version of a game I actually own was more enjoyable than installing it off the disc.
Prohibitive DRM is often misused by people as an excuse to steal games – that’s wrong; piracy is bad and you should feel bad. But the people who should feel even worse are the idiots who are making these games so hard for paying customers to play. It’s like getting a Playstation for Christmas, opening the box and finding that you have to assemble the damn thing yourself. Except the instructions are in Japanese, there are 3 screws missing and a small man leapt out of the box and punched you in the crotch.
Publishers, let me let you in on a little spoiler: It. Doesn’t. Work. Your game will be hacked anyway, your customers will be pissed and you’ll have a PR nightmare on your hands. I’m looking at you, Maxis.
Not listening to the people with the money
This is a lesson Hollywood has learnt. It doesn’t matter how bad a movie is, if the research shows people will line up to see it, it’s going to get made. Because money is awesome. This is why once every couple of years the sun is eclipsed by Michael Bay’s magnificent man-parts as he squats over us and lays a steamy Transformers-turd right on our faces. And then we thank him and give him our money. And buy the DVD.
This, however, is a two-way street. If people really don’t want something in a game, take it out. Game developers/publishers seem to have this all-knowing arrogance, that gamers are just little whiners (fair) that don’t know what’s good for them. It doesn’t matter how much they bitch and moan, because we’re right and they’re totally gonna love this.
When 200,000 people sign a petition saying they want dedicated servers, you don’t give them the finger. That’s what Activision did with Modern Warfare 2 and the it’s-totally-going-to-be-awesome-guys multiplayer matchmaking system, IW.net. Unfortunately, as usual, people didn’t want to miss out on the next big thing and that game bought Bobby Kotick three more sovereign states for his real-life game of Risk, but IW.net was still ridiculously bad and was ditched for the next go around. Why couldn’t they just listen the first time?
And while I’m ranting, who the hell thought fans were going to sit through the end of Mass Effect 3 and go, “Yup. That’s exactly how I wanted it to end.”? Listen to your consumers, people; they’re the ones paying your bills.
Lying to your customers
Lying is kind of a broad term, so let me clarify. I’m not talking about some heavy-handed marketing, like “John Romero’s going to make you his bitch.” Yes, that was a lie, but it was also hilarious so it’s kind of okay.
What I am talking about is things like, “The game will not have any DRM”, “[Any Blizzard Game] will be released on [any date]”, “[It’s impossible for us to allow offline play]”, “[Anything Peter Molyneux has ever said].”
The worst example of this recently was Maxis, who said that SimCity was impossible to play offline as a lot of the game’s core gameplay was handled by the servers. This was quickly found to be, well, a load of crap.
We’ve also had a lot of lying about features that games will include, that never come to fruition. Molyneux is obviously the worst offender, but there are plenty of others who make promises they either can’t or just don’t keep.
The gaming community is smart. It doesn’t consist of confused pensioners roaming the aisles of Incredible Connection looking to buy Norton Antivirus for their televisions, we’re talking about technology-proficient people who are not going to fall for BS statements to the press. You can’t tell us your game has no DRM and then release something with an always-connected requirement under the guise of Facebook integration. If you tell us your game allows us to do something, expect a backlash when we can’t do just that. We’re not stupid, stop treating us like we are, and stop lying. We know when you do.
Making games that are unplayable at launch
This is a recent problem, but it’s becoming endemic. Every single time a game is released that is going to require a lot of people to connect to servers simultaneously, they crash in the first hour and everyone stands around looking surprised. Every time we’re told that preparation has been made, that there won’t be any problems. And every time there are.
Seriously, is this really that hard? Can someone in the comments just point out what I’m missing and tell me I’m a moron so I can move on? How hard is it to rent a bunch of excess server space, just for the launch, and scale it back as needed? It doesn’t seem like rocket surgery.
Whenever this happen I ask myself the same unanswered questions; it feels like I’m stuck in some kind of limbo where I’m forced to watch the Lost finale over and over.
I know I’ve left out a lot. There is a lot of crap that gamers have to put up with, and we do it smiling anyway – truth be told, we’re easy money.
So tell me, what do publishers/developers consistently do that you can’t stand? What’ll it take for us to actually protest with our wallets? Let’s have a nice little rant in the comments; we’ll all feel better.