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.

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Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be

This last year has seen a lot in the way of end of life consoles and features. The Wii U is dead (finally), though frankly it was stillborn to begin with. PS3 will no longer support PS Now.

But this year also saw the release of the NES Classic console and a bevy of retro games (specifically on the E-Shop). And in the last couple of years, the “retro” 8 and 16 bit games have become increasingly popular.

But, how does this all stand up?

Don’t get me wrong – I grew up on the NES/SNES. Games like Contra, Zelda and of course, the titular Mario Bros games. And I do still love them. In fact, I recently got myself an SNES. But with the sophistication of current games – is simple nostalgia enough to keep us engaged?

I think of games like Mega Man. An absolute classic. I don’t think anyone could dispute that Mega Man 2 is easily one of the best games of the generations. That being said – how does it stack up next to say, Fallout 4 or The Witcher 3?

Obviously the older stuff isn’t as technically proficient. And, things like the controls are considerably more simplistic. But are those the deciding factors? Is there a way to say “X is better than Y”? Is that the question we should even be asking?

All I can say, from personal experience, is a lot of those games just don’t hold up like I (and I’ll say we and speak for some of you) would like them to.

I think of picking up the NES Classic, but then I look at those games and think: Do I really want to spend 80$ to play Bubble Bobble? Or, is the real fun of Bubble Bobble, in my mind – I mean, the memory of playing it side by side with my friends (and in my case, my grand mother) as a kid?

bub-2

And I know, for whatever reason, nostalgia is a huge part of this generation (age group). So I, by default, should be in love with all of the retro stuff coming out. And part of me is. But it’s just nostalgia for nostalgia’s purpose.

I think I’m more interested in where we are, and where we will be potentially over the course of the next few years. The potential in the gaming industry right now seems virtually limitless. VR, despite it being an early incarnation, has some very interesting possibilities. Games, in general, have gotten more complex in terms of actual gameplay, graphics, stories, etc. Even games that I thought there was no hope for the series – like Resident Evil – have surprised me and put out some super high quality games. Which is especially amazing, given the proclivity towards the retro, since Resident Evil 1 was easily one of my favourite PS1 games. In that sense, this nostalgic indulgence is definitely a positive for the future of the industry.

Ok, don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great that indie developers are reaching back to our roots and showing us where we came from – and are doing some things to make them new and innovative. I also think it’s great that consoles like NES Classic exist for those who never had the opportunity to play through Zelda when it came out.

But this focus (read: cashing in) on the nostalgia of our generation isn’t something I can really get on board with. As far as my consumer dollar goes – I will be laying it down for the new and truly innovative. That is to say, there is nothing wrong with working on something new with a nostalgic twist to it. Every new Zelda has been as good or better than the last – with a few exceptions.

What do you think? Are we better off looking to the past for inspiration and fun, or keep our eyes on the horizon and wait to see what breakthroughs are sure to develop – some in the near future. Let me know in the comments.

– The Ego

“Coincidentally”

I read a couple of good, albeit old, articles on the concept of day one DLC. You can find them here: Forbes + Cinemablend.

They both offered some interesting perspectives on the day one DLC issue. I have to say, I hadn’t considered it from the business perspective, that, offering that extra content to the end-user up front definitely influences the possibility of the extra purchase attachment. So, go businesses, I guess.

Pretty sure this is how the first meeting went:

That being the case, honestly, I still feel like releasing DLC that is a paid release the same day as the game comes out, is a huge gob of spit right in the face. To me, and others I can safely assume, telling us that the money that we’ve chosen to spend on that particular diversion over, say, going to a movie, a night of drinking, etc isn’t good enough for the developers/publishers. Now, obviously, not all of them fall into that boat. Getting that in my copy of the Witcher cemented in my mind that I will be that much more likely to purchase a CD Projekt Red title. Even if the DLC is minor contributions (though they are adding a New Game + option), I’ve never been as moved by a videogame company as I was when I cracked open my copy of Wild Hunt.

So when I see games go live, and then they “offer” you the further experience that can be added at a minimal cost, I just get mad. The issue is with the duality of my interests as a gamer. Because, like many, I do want the “complete experience”. Now, I’d like to have that out of the box, but the industry seems to think that we are just brainless consumers who are going to buy whatever is put out in front of us. Sadly, to some extent, they’re right. If we weren’t buying it, it wouldn’t keep being made and put under our collective noses. So we want it. Not necessarily on day one, but knowing that it’s there and you can buy it and then complete it at your leisure, it makes it that much harder to avoid. Especially if you want everything that is meant to capture the full picture. While the other side of me is screaming: THE GAME JUST CAME OUT AND YOU WANT ME TO BUY MORE!? So, where’s the line?

I also hate how a lot of companies sell the concept of day one DLC like it just so happened to work out as such. I can tell you, from my experience working in the gaming industry as a tester, DLC doesn’t just fall out of the core product like an apple from a branch. It takes weeks to prepare something as simple as a fully functional E3 demo. Weeks. And that’s, generally, a subsection of an (otherwise) functional game. Actually putting together a complete piece of DLC is something that can take months.

So when something comes out as DLC the day the game drops, there is no way that they just happened to wrap it all up after the game has gone gold. Hell, when I was working on the project I was on, they stopped even finishing correcting polish bugs just to make things look a bit shinier. So you can bet your sweet-ass they’re not producing even something as small as a new bonus character.

Like I said, releasing expansions, like WoW or Borderlands, at least, isn’t something that drops at release, and is easily justifiable in terms quality. If I have to put any real thought into whether or not it’s something worth it to pick up, then the truth is, it probably isn’t.

Now, I know how businesses work: They aren’t running charities. So, even when they are doing something good (Witcher 3) there is probably still something they’re planning on the back end.

Stay tuned, I’m prepping to tackle day one patches next. Hot topics in-bound.

– The Ego

Double/Triple/Quadruple Dipping

As a rule, I’ve always played my games one at a time. Maybe I’ve been corrupted by folksy wisdom/cliches about finishing what’s on my plate before moving on.

Lately, I’ve been doing the exact opposite. It definitely has the drawbacks that I thought it would. The more I steep myself in the games that don’t require me to remember story elements, the more I forget the important story elements of the games I’m playing when I’m “taking a break”. So, it is problematic. However, it’s nice to have a bit of variety.

I’d been playing Witcher 3 pretty heavily. It’s a great game, don’t get me wrong. The combat style took a bit of getting used to, but once I got the hang of it, I liked it. The story is good, but having not played the originals, I’m finding it’s taking a fairly big investment of time to get going. Probably not helped by my deciding to play the game on Death March. Dying a lot tends to slow things down a bit.

That being said, the investment of time needed is not something I always have…

So it’s nice to have games where I can turn it on, play for a half an hour or less and then turn it off. Because staying up till the middle of the night because I’m “trying to finish this part” isn’t the best option.

Evolve is proving to be a good diversion. That kind of sounds like I’m writing it off and I’m not. It’s incredibly fun. Like I said in the other post I wrote, unlocking characters is proving to be a bit tedious. And having to pay to unlock the rest, doubly so. That being said, I’m having a blast. The differentiation between characters in the same class adds a lot of depth.

So, currently, I’m bouncing between Evolve, Far Cry 4, Borderlands 2 and the Pre-Sequel. Even within those games, I’m not sticking to a single character. I’ve already beaten Borderlands 2, so I’m running through it the second time with a different class. I picked it up late into the release, because I wanted the GOTY edition (and I wanted it at a good price…30$ on sale), so my first playthrough was with Krieg, The Psycho. I have to say – it was a pretty awesome choice. I imported my save file over from the PS3, but I left him be for now and I’m trying the other DLC class – the Mechromancer.

I specifically waited for the Pre-Sequel on the PS4. I started as By the way, kudos to 2K Australia and Gearbox for making sure, several times, that I actually intended to play as Claptrap. I digress.

I was talking to a co-worker about the other classes, and the Lawbringer sounded pretty cool. So I started a new save file today with the new character.

I’m working on multiple tiers of attention deficit now.

So, all of that to say that I’m breaking my rules and I’m loving it. It’s kind of freeing. At least in the sense that I can just do what I want. Playing a mission here or there in Far Cry is all I really need to keep pushing through what I have divined about the story so far. Borderlands – not all that complex. Just keep note of the best butt and fart jokes so I have anecdotes to relate later on.

Just being able to game when I have free time, instead of considering the amount of time I need to make any real progress, is amazing. Like I said – freeing. I don’t have to feel like I’m not being productive. I don’t need to say “Oh, I want to play, but I have to finish up quickly because I have to do the dishes/walk the dog/run those errands or meet so and so at said time. Bailing mid-match in Evolve is bad, but not the end of the world. The game will finish itself.

Now, to start Batman. Mmmhmmmmm.

– The Ego