We are nearing the end of an era. The current generation of consoles is on its way out. They brought a lot of joy to an immense number of people, but along with that joy they also introduced some new trends I’d like to see retired with with the consoles. Most are too profitable to be retired and will likely be tied to the next generation of consoles as well, but a man can dream. Here’s a list of 10 gaming trends I would love to see met with a brutal demise.
If Diablo 3 and SimCity taught us anything, it’s that online-only DRM is never justifiable in the slightest outside of a MMO or an 100% online game, like online chess or one of those cheap free-to-play FPS games. Games like World of Warcraft and Guild Wars 2 have to have an Internet connection to play, because the entirety of their worlds – including player locations, world events, and even their commerce is always updated in real-time to give players the most immersive experience the genre can offer. While games like Diablo 3 and SimCity do have a high focus online-play, they could easily be played solo if it weren’t for the online-only DRM. I don’t think any fans of those games would complain if only the online portions were restricted during server outages and Internet-breaking midwestern thunderstorms.
I may be in the vast minority, but I didn’t hate Mass Effect 3′s ending. Well, the original ending that is. The fact that I now have to specify which ending is a pain in the ass, but the original wasn’t as bad as everyone made it out to be. Due to ridiculously over-entitled gamer backlash, Bioware ended up releasing a different ending as DLC, which really digs up old emotions regarding the “games are art” debacle. You don’t change the ending of your creation! Going back to it and adding stuff or updating the visuals is one thing, but to drastically change such an important part of your artistic vision over fan backlash completely undermines what makes art, well, art. If that’s not bad enough, Asura’s Wrath took it one step further and released the game without an ending. Seriously, the final chapters had to be purchased as DLC. It was even marketed as the “true ending” by Capcom! The “lost episodes” are easily forgiven as they aren’t key to the plot, but the final four episodes of the story were priced at $6.99. It doesn’t stop there, no. But a couple of episodes had extended cuts and were priced as $1.99 each before the final four were released. And speaking of games as art…
“Video Games Are Art”
Everybody knows that video games are on the same level as film, television, music, and that painting of dogs playing cards. They are art, plain and simple. And you know what? Nobody cares. It seems gamers and developers have taken the opinion of Roger Ebert a little too personally and set out on a personal vendetta against an old man who is understandably disconnected from the culture surrounding video games. You don’t expect a child to know how to spell “encyclopedia” by the age of 3 or expect a Mormon to be taken seriously, so why are we as a culture trying to convince an old man what’s new, hip, and acceptable as a form of artistic entertainment? The argument is dead and has been for some time now, but every time an indie game with colorful aesthetics pops up, a million gamers feel the need to shout “Look! Games ARE art!” across the Internet in an attempt to prove an old man wrong. Get the hell off of his lawn and go play a game, your whipper-snapping delinquents.
Amazon hasn’t even shipped the copy of your most anticipated game yet, but the developer is already announcing an entire season’s worth of DLC for it. How does that make you feel? Most of the time, details are scarce about what’s even going to be included in the season pass because the content is still early in the creation process. Why would you want to give them money for something you know nothing or next to nothing about? It’s a stupid business model that relies solely on customer trust. A trust that can easily be shattered when the same publisher pulls a “GearBox” and treats a beloved franchise the way Aliens: Colonial Marines was handled. Instead of wasting resources on season passes, some game companies need to focus on improving their games instead of creating content gamers might not even want, let alone buy up front.
Like most of the gaming elite, I love gaming on PC’s because of the freedom and ease of purchasing, downloading, and playing games. Sure, you can do the same on consoles these days, but the PC has perfected the digital game market thanks to online retailers like Steam and Amazon. Of course, good things can’t last forever. It’s only fair that of all corporations, EA would be the one to set PC gaming back to the dark ages with their strong focus on ruining everything we know and love. EA and Ubisoft are the main two offenders, requiring all (or at least most) of their games to be purchased, downloaded, and launched through their attempt of a Steam-like experience - which has always fallen short of everyone’s expectations. Sure, expectations were low to start with, but EA and Ubisoft manage to push the interest of digital game purchasers into the negatives whenever their game client is mentioned.
Game-Altering Pre-Order Incentives
I understand why retailers want to offer preorder incentives, but I don’t like it. When a new game is about to come out, I want to buy it on Amazon or pick it up at the closest store that sells video games. I don’t want to waste my time scouring the Internet for which retailer offers the best bribe to get me to buy the game at their store. I have no problem with a cheap hat or lanyard being offered, but we start treading on rocky ground when the incentives are offered in-game. An in-game outfit or skin is one thing, but pre-order incentives that alter the game or give select players an advantage are another. You know 14-year-olds with something to prove are going to flock to GameStop’s 50+ XP preorder incentive over Amazon’s weapon skin, leaving gamers without an option to buy it at a certain retailer left in the dust.
Physical-Priced Digital Games
Video games can be expensive. The average for a console game is now $60 and handheld games are generally around $40-50. You’d think that buying games digital would not only save you the hassle of going to a story, but would also be less of a burden on you wallet. Sadly, you’d be wrong for thinking that. In a shocking turn of events, most new releases are made available digitally for the same price of their physical counterparts. There was a time when PC games were slightly cheaper than console games, but that ship has sailed thanks to good ol’ fashioned corporate greed. While game codes aren’t necessarily plucked out of thin air, they do lack the noticeable environmental burden of manufacturing a case, cover art, booklet, a disc or cartridge, and shrink-wrapping it up. That’s enough to warrant at least a $5-10 difference between the two.
Online Multiplayer Passes
“Hey, Dave. Want to play Battlefield 3 online? Oh, never mind. I forgot you’re poor.” I’m not one to buy used games. If I do buy a game post-launch, it’s usually still new thanks to Amazon or NewEgg. The introduction of online multiplayer passes really separates gamers in ways that were previously only reserved for console fanboys too stubborn or willing to swap systems. If you buy a used game and have to pay an additional $15-20 for a pass to access the online portion of the game, you aren’t really saving any money. It’s like a huge “fuck you” to the middleman. Not only that, but online passes can even have an expiration date. Yes, like spoiled milk. If you buy it new but enough time has passed since the launch window, you’re still stuck paying an additional fee to play online. If the game isn’t very popular and the playerbase is nonexistent by the time you get around to buying an online pass, then you’re screwed once more since you can’t return your pass.
(editor’s note: What makes this even more ridiculous the that retail stores like GameStop will give a customer less money for trade-in due to the online pass, but then sell the used game for the same used price as a non-multiplayer pass game.)
Paying for On-Disc DLC
Releasing DLC for a game is now a highly profitable business model, so it’s not going anywhere. In fact, DLC doesn’t really bother me. What does bother me is paying for “downloadable” content that doesn’t even need to be downloaded since it’s already on the disc. I mean, that’s pretty low. When you download DLC, you see the size of it. Gamers are kinda tech savvy so we know that an all-new game mode will be bigger than 20kb and no map pack can be downloaded in seconds unless you’re one of the few lucky enough to have Google Fiber. At least have the common decency to lie to consumers by making downloadable content seem bigger than it is by only allowing us to only buy it by bulk.
Paying For The Right To Play
You just bought a $500 console, $60 game, an extra $60 controller for the flithy hands of your friend, and now you’re ready to play online with the “lovely” Xbox community. Oh, wait. You can’t. You forgot to pay an additional $60 to access the online services that are available for free on other consoles. Kind of regretting that purchase right about now, aren’t you? Sony seems to have been making up for the PSN’s incompetence in the past with the benefits of PS Plus, the service that actually pays for itself, unlike Xbox Live. It’s even $10 cheaper than Xbox Live’s yearly Gold subscription plan. If anything is heading the way of the dodo, it’s likely pay-to-play subscriptions like the one Microsoft offers with Xbox Live.
Not every unwanted trend could make the list, but these were the 10 I personally would like to see die. How about you? Agree? Disagree? Is there any gaming trends you loath and I didn’t include?
Tell us in the comments.