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.

2863254-million

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.

Prey for me

I know from time to time we all get at least a little excited – delve into the hype so to speak – over a new game. One of those games for me was Kingdom Hearts 3. When it was announced, I was going absolutely nuts. Waiting for it though, has softened that blow a bit in the interim. But Kingdom Hearts isn’t what I want to talk about today.

Today I’m going to talk about my new hype wet dream: Prey.

Before I get into it, if you haven’t watched the new footage released by Arkane Studios, do it now:

prey_box_shot

Arkane Studios is one of those up and coming game makers – well that may be under selling them a bit. Having released both Dishonored and its sequel – I think they’ve made it. But what I mean is – they haven’t got a lot of titles under their proverbial belt. But everything they have put out has met critical and financial success and has been extremely well received by fans.

And in comes my newest obsession: Prey. Now, when they released the first trailer at E3 last year, it piqued my interested. And, in my spaghetti against the wall method of pre-ordering games, Prey was one of those games. I mean, worst case scenario the game turns out to look bad or I lose interest, I cancel. But I can say right now – this is a day one buy and play. And, saying that about any game for me is basically the highest praise I’d give it. Even if I hadn’t pre-ordered it at a discount, I would happily buy this at full price on day one.

The game seems to carry with it tropes from a variety of different and amazing games. The one that strikes me the most from the onset is how similar it looks to Bioshock. And, given that Arkane did assist in the development of Bioshock 2, I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised. I digress. The similarity in level design and the HUD, play style are all great things. Arkane may end up turning Prey into the same giant success that Irrational Games was able to do with Bioshock. Of course, the story of Prey will determine whether or not it is able to reach those same heights. Prey also seems to be going along the same sort of upgrade RPG path as games like Deus Ex – using body modifications to upgrade the protagonist’s abilities. Of course, neither Bioshock nor Deus Ex had cool features to their RPG upgrades like Prey is currently boasting. As you’ll see in the video – using the alien mods  too often can bring about, shall we say, uninvited guests.

The thing that interests me the most about Prey is that even though it seems like a game we’ve seen before, it’s still showing that it has it’s own unique spin. There is still something that separates it out from the rest of the FPS and RPG games. And I don’t know if it’s the graphics or the style, but there is something about Prey. Maybe it’s the ingenuity it provokes the end user to employ to find creative solutions to progressing through the game. But it has that special quality that only truly great games possess.

Now, will it live up to the hype? That’s always the question that one has to wait out. Games like No Man’s Sky have proven that going too far down that road is extremely dangerous and leads to ethical and legal issues (despite being exonerated). Though, Arkane is good about letting just enough slip about their games to keep the appetite whetted but not enough to gorge ourselves on. And, like pretty much all Bethesda released titles, it will almost certainly be worth the wait.

As always, if there is a topic or game you’d like to see covered, let me know here in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook. Until Monday, enjoy your weekend and game like it’s your last.

– The Ego

Ego plays

Okay, I had some other articles I had planned to write and publish before this, but they’re going to get pushed off. Spolier – one is about D&D and the other, an introspective piece regarding the concept of ‘quality’ based on a request from a customer intrigued by my blog. That being said: Here’s today’s entry.

Mad Max, and the first impressions thereof.

Last year, I took a chance on pre-ordering a game. It was Mad Max. Now, I have zero exposure to the franchise. I missed Fury Road in theaters (as I’d expressed recently) and I generally despise Mel Gibson (again, covered)…Well, I’ll give him Braveheart. I do like that movie. So, when I saw the original gameplay videos teased at the E word last year, and to a lesser extent, this past event, my interest piqued.

With any game like this, where I don’t know what to expect, but at the same time I’m excited for its eventual release, I attempt to keep myself as pure as I possibly can before actually sinking my teeth into it. With Mad Max, it was especially difficult. It seemed to be proliferating the media. Mostly due, I’m guessing, to it’s rampant success in the box offices.

I left work yesterday, hoping that I would be lucky if the game actually made it to me before I got home. The likelihood, given past experiences, was low. However, I was fortunate that this particular situation was in the minority.

Graphics: Amazing. Breathtaking. I could throw a slew of synonyms at this game and not hesitate with any of them. The intro is live action, and sets the theme of desolation, redemption so well. It’s entirely engaging. And then, you start your game and get treated to a fast-paced, action-packed car chase, explosions and stylized violence. Cliche-ridden as that sentence was, it’s apt. The game really does start off like an exploding punch in the face.

Gameplay: I’ve only sunk about two hours into it so far, but there isn’t anything I don’t like. I mean, it’s basically a Batman game with vehicle combat and shotguns. What’s not to like? The controls are smooth, the fighting is tight. The only issue so far is I find the driving a bit off. I think everyone wants to do it like GTA and just can’t. That being said, improving your car and building your own “Magnum Opus” probably increases the competency of the driving and improves the handling with newer, better parts. Well, probably anyway.

Story: Can’t say as much of it has been developed as of yet. This is clearly a tale of redemption and pain. That much I can say with confidence. Broken and left to die, Mad Max has got a lot of work ahead of him before he’s ready to go gentle into the good night. That being said: The characters encountered even in the first five minutes are varied and cool. The dialogue between Max and Chumbucket is engaging. I mean, who would normally take anything said by a character named Chumbucket seriously, let alone enjoy it? I know I wouldn’t normally count myself among that list, but, he’s pretty awesome. The voice actor did an amazing job at selling the character. Beyond that, the choice of words is impeccable. His “old-time religion” themed delusion regarding Max and his place in the world sets him apart from the usual tutorial “lackey” that one often is met with in the beginning of any game.

Even the names are funny and fitting. The main antagonist being named “Scabrous Scrotus” is similarly funny and appropriate.

This game, thus far, is exactly what I hoped it would be. Without delving deeper, I can’t say one way or another if it will live up to it’s own ambitions, but I really can’t see how it will disappoint. It’s got just about everything it needs to push for the game of the year status that I predicted before even playing it.

– The Ego