The gaming industry today is thriving and doing better than ever, yet, it is a time marked by that of a rise in corporate greed and anti-consumerism; but is this merely a symptom of it’s success or is it an issue that we need to deal with?
Myself, along with many other video game enthusiasts, have noticed this discernible and, frankly, shameful degradation in the moral quality of many AAA developers in recent years. Admittedly, we have never basked in a Shangri-La voided from shady practices and poorly released titles (EA games has been the syndicated baddie for as long as I can remember), nevertheless, we have always had the shining beacons of hope that we lauded with pride. Namely that of games developers like Naughty Dog, Bethesda, Rockstar, Taleworlds and CD Prodjekt which bestowed us with strong and compelling narratives, fun and immersive gameplay and, above all else, originality and passion for the art of gaming.
Alas, even some of these developer’s moral compasses are being seemingly cast astray, in recent news Bethesda has come under heavy scrutiny following the near botched release of Fallout 76. This release has been mired in controversy, ranging from a core game that is not only inexcusably broken but fundamentally bad to Bethesda’s scandalous attitude towards those who have purchased the collectors edition of the game. The backlash to Bethesda has reached a boiling point, with the once revered and respected game developer which had received acclaim and love from the community now being picked clean by a horde of betrayed fans who have grown disenfranchised with their anti-consumerism. Such acts worthy of such a branding include the introduction of the ‘Creation Club’ (a thinly-veiled attempt to capitalist on Skyrim and Fallout 4’s well-established modding community), choosing not to publish Fallout 76 on Steam in order to deny refunds to the many unhappy customers, shamelessly and seemingly endlessly re-releasing overpriced editions of Skyrim for capital gain, as well as their general lack of action regarding their blatantly fraudulent and misleading Fallout 76 collectors edition; the likes of the latter promised a canvas dufflebag, yet, those who bought the exclusive bundle received a cheaply produced nylon bag. The real shame about all this is that not even a five years ago the company was still being heralded as a champion of pro-consumerism.
I also feel that, whilst the release of Red Dead Redemption 2 has been a massive success, Rockstar is heading down the same route as Bethesda. Since GTA V and its online counterpart, many gamers have taken to criticising the revered developer for placing a heavy emphasis on grindy gameplay and micro-transactions whilst neglecting aspects like single-player DLC, the likes of which was alluded to but never acted upon during the post-launch of GTA V. Red Dead’s recently released online component, whilst admittedly in still in beta, has proven to serve that Rockstar have every intention of transferring their money-grabbing attitude towards RDR Online.
Along with the expected undesirable behavior from EA, the shocking and literal death of Taleworlds as well as Blizzard’s mixed response regarding their upcoming mobile-exclusive Diablo release has many in the gaming community gloomily concluding that corporate greed is gradually infecting all recesses of the gaming industry. Such begs the question as to whether or not anti-consumerism can be resolved, to which I believe it can, but at a cost.
Following last years fiasco regarding EA’s Battlefront 2 loot box scandal, the company is now in the midst of dealing with Belgian anti-gambling laws, along with Bethesda potentially to be due lawsuits, it would seem that many gamers have turned to legal and lawful processes in order to combat anti-consumerism. But, personally, I dislike the concept of turning to outsiders for help, the likes of such can often embody out-of-touch baby-boomers who have always bore a confusion and/or disdain of video games and video game culture. Its a many feathered bird, as we turn to combat game developers we may soon find that lawful instituions may enact policies and bans that negatively affect the industry.
Our industry is by far from perfect, however, I feel that one powerful method to combat anti-consumerism is to take self-responsibility in purchasing products. Don’t pre-order, keep an eye on the production process and keenly observe the developers reputation and previous releases, and if a community is truly discontent then conduct a mass boycott. It can work, namely with the recent release of Battlefield 5. Now, whatever one’s views on the subject matter of BF5, one can’t ignore DICE’s and EA’s frankly arrogant and disrespectful attitude towards their core playerbase; after it was revealed that BF5’s had dismal pre-order statistics the company, shamelessly, began to tone back aesthetics to appease their playerbase as well the humiliating resignation of EA executive Patrick Soderlund (who had earlier made comments challenging the community not to purchase BF5) just prior to the revelation. BF5 also received a delayed release after fears that being sandwiched between Black Ops 4 and Red Dead Redemption 2, two of this years largest releases, would effect sales negatively, and yet, despite this effort BF5 is still under-performing to the delight of many.
At the end of the day, any developer is a company and companies have one goal. Make money. If such an organisation is given a reason to doubt that their upcoming releases are to make profit they will pander and appease all they can, especially the giants like EA. And game developers can indeed change, take Ubisoft for example. Ubisoft was, for a while, considered to be public enemy number two behind EA, however after numerous controversies and public criticisms the company took steps to re-brand itself as a more devoted and meticulous company. With its new games as a service model, Ubifoft have turned initially half-rate games like Rainbow 6: Siege into contemporary gaming success phenomenons, the likes of the latter has a thriving playerbase and has received widespread acclaim; additionally, Ubifoft’s flagship title Assassin’s Creed, which had become stale and repetitive by the time of AC: Unity and AC: Syndicate, has since been re-branded to much acclaim with AC: Origins and AC: Odyssey. Whilst Ubisoft games still retain characteristics of their old self, such as micro-transactions, they have come a long, long way from what they were and have proven that many companies do care about their reputation. In turn, this has proven that public sway can go a long way and that whilst the situation may seem dire the industry still relies on the core player’s willingness to cooperate.