No More Pre-Orders

My last thoughts, in what has turned out to be an impromptu three-part exposé on the release of unfinished games, turn my attention to the way that we shop for our games.

I am going to come off a bit hypocritical to some who have read this blog for a long time, and more so to those who know me personally. But I’ll say this in my defense: Over time, we all learn and either choose to adapt or continue in our own stasis. The reason for my hypocrisy is that I have been the biggest culprit of the pre-order. In the last few years I’ve been known to pre-order 20+ games during the E3 sales either to accrue extra points or receive steep discounts.

Now this is what I’ll say: I have learned, recently, that pre-ordering is just doing us a disservice. I mean, getting a game day 1 at a discount is great. In theory. In practice, what it means for us as gamers is that we’re adding to the companies bottom line and their brag-rights. Huge titles are almost always going to receive massive day one sales numbers. Why? Because most of us pre-order. Whether to get that discount, some knick-knack or some kind of digital chocolate chip cookie that they entice us with. In time, I have pre-ordered for every one of those reasons.

But what we’re seeing now is games coming out to repudiation of what should be consistent values among us gamers. Expectations of quality are not being met. Instead we’re getting games that become memes and that’s all they end up being known for. But the companies making these games are still seeing mass profits, ignoring user sentiment, and continuing with practices unchanged.

Now last week, I said: what can we do? And I didn’t have an answer then. But I have the semblance of one now. We need to stop pre-ordering games. This isn’t the only thing we can do, and it may not even be the best thing we can do, but I think it’s a good start.

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Look at the boast here. Now, CD Projekt Red and The Witcher are examples to the contrary of what I’ve been discussing lately, but I use the image to make a point. If games are getting a million pre-orders, then it doesn’t really matter what they end up releasing. Because even if it’s bad – if even half of those pre-orders go through as full sales – the company has already made back (a substantial portion at least) it’s initial investment. Meaning, they only see black in the books and whether or not it’s a good game is irrelevant. Companies like Ubisoft seem to be ignoring their user base on titles like For Honor, despite massive boycotts and protests like the one on April 3rd. For a company, I’m sure the comfort of seeing the numbers in the black is huge. And the concerns of fans can be brought up during the PR and marketing campaign for the (pretty much inevitable) sequel.

By avoiding pre-orders and trying to have a wait and see attitude towards all new releases, companies putting out games that are unfinished or inferior will have to take a step back and look at those red numbers for a while longer. And this can only serve to benefit us as the end users. A) We will (hopefully) start to see a change in the way games are released and B) by the time we get around to buying the games they will end up being around the price (in some cases and in others possibly lower) than what the discount we would have seen from a pre-order anyway.

If this post tickled you in all the right places, I fully recommend checking out this article I read on Polygon, that struck me as relevant to the discussion.

As always, let me know what you think in the comments below, or check me out and follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

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The Age of Quality

Or is it?

In a time where the prices are rising, DLC is proliferating the market at a staggering rate and the quality of games is seemingly going down.

Now, this isn’t to say that there aren’t great games coming out. I would be wrong in saying that. With new IPs like Horizon: Zero Dawn coming out and selling millions of copies and of course perennial favourites like Zelda, one would say my argument falls flat on its face. But, let’s look at things in a little more general light.

There are tons of games coming out from the big studios: EA, Ubisoft, etc that are coming out to infamy, rather than renown.

For example: Mass Effect: Andromeda. Granted, ME3 did leave a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths due to the poorly thought out ending. But it was a series that, for the most part, was beyond reproach. It’s one of those series, like Uncharted, that no one would dare question the quality and notoriety of. But here comes the latest installment and man, I haven’t seen anyone turn on a series so quickly or thoroughly in all of my life. It would be like if all of a sudden someone tried to tell you that Mario sucks. It seemed as likely as that.

Halo 5 is another one of those AAA entries that just bombed. It’s rare to see an big titles that go on sale as fast as it did (save for the big Ubisoft titles…but I’ll get to that). They were practically giving away the Halo 5 limited edition after a while.

Then there’s Ubisoft…Oh how the mighty have fallen! I remember when AC2 was rocketing in sales and everyone was looking at Ubi like it was the company of the future. And now? Now we get games like Unity, Wildlands, For Honor which get big sales numbers because people want to believe that the series has the potential for greatness. But they just flop. And then when they come out with new IPs, people want to buy into the possibility of how great it’s going to be. Then games like For Honor have their fan base setting a day of protest so that the company will listen to them. I mean, really Ubisoft? Is this what you’ve become? Is it only a matter of time before we end up with landfills like this:

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Only, piled high with Assassin’s Creed and Tom Clancy games.

With that said – Is this the age of the decline?

I worry that the great games coming out now are just the diamonds in the rough. The few and far between. I can say for myself that I was very excited for all of the Tom Clancy games coming out this year. Each one of them ended up more disappointing than the last. And then I had high hopes for the new ME, and I can say I’m glad I cancelled my pre-order.

Of course I still have high hopes for the industry as a whole. I know it doesn’t seem like it. I just worry that if the big companies let the quality slide, and they continue to buy up all of the small studios, it creates a dark cloud over the industry for me. One would assume that things should only be getting better with improvements in technology and people more willing to take chances on creating different styles of games, and the consumer willing to go along with them on an adventure.

But then why do we have so many bad games? Is it because the large studios are so set in their ways that they just produce garbage and assume people will buy it? There is definitely a symptom of complicity among the fans. Obviously, to some extent, to problem is that this has simply become a business. I don’t know that there’s one answer. I guess only time will tell whether or not things will get better, or crash.

– The Ego

 

For Honor…or something

So I participated in the For Honor closed beta test over the last few days. Now, I went into this pretty pumped. The concept to the game is pretty awesome. Some personal info about me: As a kid I was obsessed with medieval times because my fourth and fifth grade teacher did units about it that included projects like building an ideal castle for defense out of whatever materials we could find (mine was made out of old cracker boxes and paper towel tubes and had bitching arrowslits and battlements) paiting murals of medieval battles as a class and being knighted. And as an adult I’ve always had an affinity for the culture and concept of samurais.

Now, I’m glad Ubisoft has given us the chance to play this ahead of time, because lately (like many) I’ve had a much more wait-and-see attitude towards their games. Especially something that is pre-dominantly online (cough Division).

Here are my thoughts about it:

So, the graphics look good. I think they did a good job creating a convincing, well thought out environment. The characters themselves look good as well. The armour and weapons of each faction and class look interesting and relatively historically accurate.

Unfortunately, that’s about where my compliments end. Ubisoft has once again dropped the ball. This game is another Division or Rainbow Six: Siege. Great in concept, but failing in practical application.

First thing that struck me was how confusing the explanation is as to the larger picture of the game. I mean, I got it. It’s not that hard to comprehend. But you get a lot of information thrown at you very quickly. I guess the idea of territories being based on season outcomes is something new, that could end up being fun. But, right now, I’m not convinced. The other problem is that taking territories forces you into specific types of matches – like 1v1 brawls. Which, from experience this weekend, didn’t do a whole lot for me.

Speaking of game modes – I expected the whole thing to be massive battles with players functioning as some sort of hero.

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Well, it’s like that and it’s not. Two of three game modes are duels. And they’re exactly what they sound like. It is just a couple of people smashing blades and hoping the other team dies first. Now, some people might like this kind of mode – not me.

The part of the game I had the hardest time with was definitely the controls. While the tutorial gave me all of the skills I needed to succeed in the game, it is a hell of a lot easier learning against a dummy that moves slow and predictably. When you get into it with other people – it isn’t as easy. A quick rundown for those who haven’t played it, you have two types of attacks – light and heavy and you can attack from three directions: left, right and top. To block, you need have your weapon on the same side. Now, I’m no button masher (though one does almost want to do that with the way this game feels, rather than how it actually plays), but I had a really hard time getting used to the way the controls work. During duels, I did poorly. It feels like playing a third person fighting game, in a 3D environment. You’re expected to make quick movements to block and attack, varying them to oppose your defense and protect yourself. Honestly, I’ve never been great at fighting games, maybe that’s why I found the game difficult to play. But, in all honesty, I think the game just plays really clunky. Everything is slow and hard to maneuver and it really shouldn’t be considering how reliant on those controls the game is.

Anyway, this is all conjecture. I didn’t like it. I won’t be keeping my preorder. But that’s me. You read this, so I assume you care what I think.

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– The Ego