by Max Gruber
With the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One coming out this November, a new dawn of gaming will arise.
Each console promises jaw dropping next-gen visuals, improved performance, more compelling games, improved online play, and much more. As recent times have shown, console and software sales have been slowing down, and everyone is pinning their hopes that the new console generation will help rejuvenate gaming sales, as well as combat against mobile gaming in earnest. But, there are a few things that this generation adopted that the new generation should not continue, the terrible practices that have plagued this generation that should not be carried over.
In this discussion, I will be going in depth on what practices need to vanish into thin air when the next-gen consoles come out, and why they should no longer exist. Things like retailer exclusive pre-order bonuses and pre-order bonuses in general, Disk Locked Content, bribery in gaming journalism, and more.
To start this off, the first practice that needs to go is probably the biggest one: Microtransactions in full retail, $60 games. I think we’ve reached a point where microtransactions have become too ubiquitous for gaming—and many of them seem to be shoehorned into the experience. The trend of poorly implemented microtransactions started with Eve Online. Anyone who played it might remember a certain monocle that was purely cosmetic that was selling for $70. I wish I were making that up. Microtransactions aren’t rocket science, but to screw it up this badly requires skill of unprecedented levels. I know that Eve Online was an MMO, but it still applies regardless of the pedigree behind it.
The whole point of microtransactions is a separate game within the game itself: it’s a game that tests your patience. It’s designed to take an absurd amount of time to acquire that one hat you’ve been wanting, or to level up once. Take some of the Korean MMOs for instance. Some of these MMOs have penalties for dying a certain amount of times, where you have to wait until the next day in order to resume playing. Now, I know that sounds terrible, but hear me out on this. They do this, because it forces the player base to get better at the game, and results in the player experience becoming much better. You CAN pay the small fee to respawn again, but it’s not required to keep playing.
This doesn’t apply well to console games, because of the $60 price tag required to even enter that microtransaction space. Dead Space 3 is an example of an ineffective way to do microtransactions in full retail games. They give you the ability to purchase material and resources needed to upgrade your gear, and to purchase ammo and the like. But, there’s a level midway through the game that allows you to quickly farm for resources within a short period of time, thus eliminating the need to purchase resource packs from the workbench. You could also earn resources just by playing the game. They don’t make it harder to acquire the material to purchase items in the shop; in fact, they make it easier to find resources, especially with your scavenger bot. Microtransactions work best in free-to-play titles that are built around the idea of being free-to-play, and not $60 games that just throw it in at the last minute.
Please go away. You’re not welcome in this industry. Oh wait...
The second practice that has got to go is DLC. When I say DLC, I mean Disk Locked Content, not Downloadable Content. We all know that downloadable content has gone big since the original Xbox introduced Halo 2’s multiplayer, and we see all manner of games releasing DLC to keep people from leaving their game and moving on to a new one. But there’s a fine line between content that didn’t make the cut becoming DLC, content that is intended to be released as DLC, and content that is locked on the disk, awaiting a download to open that lock. In case if you weren’t sure, that last one is terrible.
This happened most notably with Street Fighter X Tekken, where people delved into the content on the disk and found several files containing characters that were not readily available to play in the game. It was later revealed that the missing content on the disk was being released as DLC for the game, which drove a great many people into a frenzy. Many people criticize Capcom to this day for their terrible DLC practice of locking content onto the disk in order for customers to pay extra money to unlock that content. After that massive wave of controversy, many people began to question the release of any expansions as locked content, and that we were just there to feed the publishers money. While these erroneous remarks aren’t always true, it does raise the question about the validity of content released as DLC.
Speaking of DLC...
Those are SO not on the disk...
The third practice that needs to die a slow and horrible death is a sin worse than Disk Locked Content: pre-order bonuses. Pre-order bonuses are essentially Disk Locked Content, except you have to pay even more money to unlock them the moment you buy a game; it’s even worse when the content adds significant value to the game, which I’ll discuss later on (SPOILERS. It’s not the next two paragraphs below).
I remember a while back when Square Enix announced the SOLDIER 1st Class Uniform being available to people who pre-order Lightning Returns at participating retailers. I was initially a giddy kipper when they announced this, but then I quickly realized, to my disappointment, that it was a pre-order bonus. Even though I sprinted to my nearest GameStop store to pre-order the game (I was under the impression that GameStop was one of the “participating retailers” to have the content, since most publishers make deals with GameStop on pretty much everything), it made me sick to my stomach that this content is only available as a bonus for pre-ordering the game. Now, I hear you saying,
“Well it’s just an outfit. It’s completely cosmetic.” That’s where you’re wrong. This is a direct quote from Square Enix’s site: “When you preorder LIGHTNING RETURNS: FINAL FANTASY XIII, you will receive the exclusive Cloud Strife SOLDIER 1st Class DLC straight from FINAL FANTASY VII for FREE! This epic throwback pack includes the iconic SOLDIER 1st Class Uniform, Buster Sword, Soldier Band and finishing animation." [Referencing the video] Did you catch that last bit? The victory fanfare comes with the Cloud Strife SOLDIER 1st Class DLC pack as well when preordering LIGHTNING RETURNS: FINAL FANTASY XIII!”
But, you know what’s worse than pre-order bonuses? Retailer exclusive pre-order bonuses. Hurray for not having the entire game unlocked!! No, seriously, this is the absolute bane of my existence. Not only is it locked content, but it’s also locked content that you’ll never get unless you pre-order the game multiple times. I remember the pre-order bonuses for Mortal Kombat at the time. If you pre-ordered from specific retailers, you got the retro outfit for Scorpion, Sub Zero, or Reptile, along with their respective classic fatalities. At that point, you’re essentially limited by what you can get. Do I get the outfit and fatality of Scorpion, Sub Zero, or Reptile? Which one looks better?
Pre-order this game at one of these retailers to get some bullshit that you’ll never get anywhere else.
From top to bottom: CinimaBlend, Gematsu, HybridGames, Game-Preorders
I want to strangle this next practice to death, and that is substantive content that is locked for a select few. I don’t think I need to mention this more than Simon and Alex have already, but you can’t have a discussion about this without Javik. The From Ashes “DLC” was so well done, but it was locked unless you payed more than $60 for the game. I had access to the content, but I didn’t initially get him, because I thought he was going to be like Bioware’s previous character DLCs, like Zaeed from Mass Effect 2, or Shale and Sebastian from Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age 2, respectively. But then I heard all the hoopla from the Internet about him, so I decided to grab him (I was probably on the mission where you go to Palaven to recruit Garrus when I heard about Javik.)
When I got him, I was completely shocked by how much he adds to the game’s plot. The fact that he was A) on the disk, and B) only available for an additional cost I think really frustrated a lot of people who had it. It absolutely boggles my mind when these publishers are so willing to push out content like this as bonuses for pre-ordering a game.
If the content was just throwaway material, like extra guns, gear, outfits, platforming sections, etc., fine; it can be locked for a select few. But if it adds so much to the overall experience, that’s where they cross the line.
It would seem that these Humans have no love for me. I am so lonely.
And the last practice that seriously has to go is bribery in gaming journalism. I don’t think I need to mention Jonathan Tung’s Mindshare about this very subject, but I will anyways. It sickens me when these publishers are so desperate to rake in as much money as possible using whatever methods are necessary to achieve that goal. They need to stop stressing themselves on making their game sell on par to Call of Duty, and instead just let the merits of the game speak for itself. In order to do this though they also have to stop budgeting their games so exorbitantly, to the point that they could make an MMO out of the amount of money involved.
I’m going on a small tangent, but these publishers have got to stop being as reliant on Metacritic for their profit as a child is to its mother. It’s gotten to a point where you can’t even trust Metacritic on the validity of the scores anymore. You can no longer go onto the site for a brief period of time to look at a game’s score and say, “Oh wow. This game has a really high score. I think I should go out and buy it, because it has a high score.”
Now, a while back, there was a video uploaded by Rev3Games’ journalist Adam Sessler, a revered member of the gaming industry for his brutally honest thoughts on the industry he works in, where he talks about how the industry treats Metacritic as if it were a crutch for them, and he discussed how none of this is practiced by any other form of media right now. Hollywood is more than happy to put out piss poor movies, because everyone eats it up without much thought. And the best part about his video? He ended it by saying this, which sums it up perfectly:
“And so it’s strange that they’re putting all this onus upon just review scores to try and stimulate sales. So here’s what I say to the gaming industry and the suits up there: GROW THE FUCK UP, AND STOP YOUR SHITTY MARKETING. End of story.”
This has to stop, as in for the rest of time.
If the industry wants to move forward, then they have to stop with these horrible practices that plague it every single day. It’s reached a point where it’s too opaque for the audience they create the products for, and even to the industry themselves. Whatever happens in this upcoming generation, we don’t want to have these trends popping up again to put this industry in total ruin.