Today, there are all sorts of free games to play online, and, for less than a Benjamin, one could bloat his digital library over the course of a single seasonal sales event. As a young and unlikable mutant, I would have been happy with just being able to afford a single new game once a month. I never imagined I would be able to someday gorge upon this inexpensive smorgasbord of interactive creativity that is practically impossible to properly keep up with. Of course, being the caring dumbass that I am, I can't help but think that the gaming market has become a little too generous with all of these incredible prices, frequent sales, and free-to-play titles that don't even have in-app purchases. With all of that in mind, it's no surprise at how many have become spoiled and disrespectful towards those hard-working folks who are willing to spend months (possibly years) of their time creating one of these experiences. Imagine your own game on Steam and its overall score is being lowered by reviews that only say, "No ultrawide support," "...can't run at 4k," and "Dis Suck de nutz," all while people complain about a $10+ price tag being too much to ask for something that isn't provided by a major developer.
My favorite example of this comes from the $10 price increase (originally $15, now up to $25) of Shovel Knight back when it was announced the complete edition was going to be renamed as Treasure Trove. Everyone who helped with the Kickstarter campaign or bought Shovel Knight prior to the change would still receive all new content for free, but that didn't stop a rather loud group from whining about it... you know, the people who never bought the game to begin with. Despite being on sale during special events, despite free updates and added features, and despite the option to pay nothing for the soundtracks (original and DLC) on Kaufman's own Bandcamp, Yacht Club Games has been repeatedly accused of greed from many of those who were waiting for a significantly higher price drop from its original cost (60% or more), claiming that because other people already paid for content and stretch goals through the Kickstarter campaign, everyone else should be equally entitled to every piece of that content now and forever for less than ten dollars. "It's not a bad game, but wait until it's on sale." If it's not a bad game, then why not pay them the full price for it?
On the other end of this discussion, questioning the $60 price of triple-A titles has been going strong for several years now, but with minimal hard evidence (i.e. straight-from-the-horse's-mouth figures) to really understand how challenging this dollar amount is to maintain for many developers, consumers are left to merely speculate as to whether or not it's a serious issue. Typically, everyone who isn't an investor is only provided an estimated final cost and, perhaps, some numbers to go with the general aspects of the process, like marketing, which can sometimes amount to half the overall budget of the game's production. That may sound bloated and inefficient (because it is), but it's not as if one could just make several accounts on various social media sites for free and simply tell their consumers about upcoming releases as many times as they want... because who would pay attention to anything a small publisher like EA or Activision might want to post about on their official Twitter account or Youtube channel? Then again, refusing to tell us what we want to know is kinda like telling us what we want to know.
So, does anyone really believe selling a well-crafted sequel to a popular franchise, such as Street Fighter, FIFA, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Call of Duty, Forza, and NBA 2K, at $60 is far too risky of a business decision? Call of Duty, Star Wars, and NBA 2K, in particular, are among the top-selling games of 2017, despite the numerous, vocal complaints about their excessive, rapacious methods for attaining yet more money through microtransactions, overpriced DLC, special edition packages, loot boxes, and advertising tie-in deals. Clearly, having the best-selling games, circumventing income tax, possessing a strong resistance to economical recessions, and being able to indulge in ridiculous tax breaks (within the US) just isn't enough when trying to amass the necessary level of wealth to become literal gods.
On the plus side, EA did take a temporary hit in their stock value during the outcry against their pay-to-win tactics, but that's over now, and the company is up nearly 20% from last year's numbers, so I guess that means they will no longer need to have microtransactions in SW:BFII.
|...except they were never needed to begin with.|
The average weekly paycheck has not properly kept up with inflation, either. The last time I researched the matter (googled it), the buying power of a low-income worker was no stronger now than it was back in the 1970s. Meanwhile, the buying power of many high-income positions has roughly tripled since that time, all while dragging the good name of several major businesses through the mud for the sake of short-term profit alone. Fuck the customers. Fuck the company. Get it. Bleed it dry. Get out. Now, with that kind of mindset, what would happen if the price of AAA games did go up? Certainly nothing benefiting the players. There was (and is) no proven evidence to justify microtransactions and loot boxes in these premium titles to begin with, so an extra ten or twenty bucks would simply mean a pricier base game (a hollowed-out version) and everything else would remain the same, because they always demand more. I suppose claiming that would require evidence of my own, right? Well, no, since this blog entry is for my personal amusement, and greedy people being opportunistically greedier every chance they get has proven itself to be true every moment of our lives. Bungie's been actively proving my point (and the point of every other gaming complainer on the matter) with every new disingenuous, formulaic apology they've made about how they continue to mishandle Destiny 2. I gotta ask, "Why are there still people playing that anyhow?" Isn't Monster Hunter World out already? Doesn't that have better scores than even the pre-fucked version of Destiny 2?
|If this was another fighting title from Capcom, I'd totally understand.|
|...and all the options are terrible.|
Besides, you always get something in return when you buy one. It's just like baseball cards! Exactly like baseball cards... except those are tangible purchases with the possibility of being sold or traded for equal-to-greater value so long as the individual has them (and hasn't smeared them with stains and boogers and bent the corners like a complete idiot, because they're baseball cards, not playing cards, you disgusting pig!) You could even glue them to your body and turn them into a set of armor. Samurai card armor, that would allow you to stand directly in front of a pitch and guarantee you a home run when struck by the ball. Try it out for yourself. In reality, you'd be lucky if they were similar to baseball cards. Rather than unboxing entirely new weapons, skins, and gear, some publishers only offer you parts of those weapons, skins, and gear. At that point, it's like buying a pack of baseball cards, except they're all ripped up into pieces for you to tape back together. To offset this frustration (if that's actually possible), you can exchange the pieces of those copies (isn't that sad to say out loud) for near-worthless currency, kinda like the Boyer play money that you can redeem to turn yourself into an advertisement for Mallo Cup. Then again, at least you can enjoy the candy after you open it. If it was up to EA, they'd hollow out the food and hide it in separate wrappers with higher odds of receiving relish, mustard, and tartar sauce, instead, all while leaving you to ask yourself why you didn't just settle for the heart-shaped Reese's cups. Then, you realize how dumb that is, because Reese's cups are now controlled by Konami and all Reese's candy has been replaced with pachinko balls.
|It's pachinko for breakfast!|
For the few games where these randomized prizes can be bought and sold for actual money, players are enticed with the prospects of skin gambling, an unsavory practice that frequently results in rigged outcomes. It seems to also encourage under-aged gambling, as there have been several reports of kids taking their parents' credit cards and blowing thousands of dollars on these sites. It doesn't sound appealing, either: Skin gambling. *shivers*
It seems like no good can really come of microtransactions and loot boxes within AAA titles. Major developers claim they are a necessary means of staying in the black, but lack any and all reasoning outside of sheer greed to prove those claims. The rest of us already know the answers, but let's ask them anyhow. "Couldn't you, at the very least, sell these items directly? And, if not, could you provide us with the numbers to properly verify your statements? If your high-budget video games are unsustainable in their current state, why even bother?"
To clarify, I'm mostly fine with this on free-to-play apps, though I rather see direct purchases for their items, as well. Offering prizes with fractional win percentages to ensure obsessive completionists go bankrupt is disgusting and abusive no matter where one finds them.
You know, Nintendo's current method seems to be the most respectable. At $60 ($40 for the 3DS), Nintendo likes to retain the full price for many of their first-party games far longer than that of any other publisher. Maybe it's a long-term strategy to ensure they get back what they put into their product, or maybe they're milking the star power of their biggest franchises. Possibly both. Probably both. Regardless, it seems to help minimize excessive, randomized, and various piecemeal methods for additional profit. Heck, even the Amiibo paywalls are slightly more tolerable. Despite the exclusivity arrangements with major retailers and sheer number of them being created with every new game (there's nearly 150 of those things to collect right now), at least a person can decorate his home or work area with them. They're even a popular background choice for Youtubers with game-related videos. Nintendo's doing a fair job of not allowing these vulturous business practices to ruin the fun experience we've all come to expect from their products. They are definitely a bunch of assholes when it comes to seizing and demonetizing Fair Use videos about their content, and periodically forcing wonky control setups that many of us don't really want to "get used to" in order to play, but they're eccentric and obnoxiously overprotective about their brands. It's frustrating, but somewhat understandable (mostly frustrating), and, most importantly, a heck of a lot better than what the others big companies are doing.
As I typed (for whatever reason) at the start of this lengthy, boring post, I played an awful lot of games in 2017. The variety is there and it's affordable. I appreciate that immensely, and I do what I can to support those who make my hobby feel rewarding. I know I'm not the only one, either. Many games, like those on Newgrounds, GameJolt, and itch.io, are free AND completely devoid of all in-game purchases. Sometimes, leaving their creators with a helpful review or a supportive remark is all they really want. I guess what I'm typing is that telling me "it's just optional" is basically another of saying, "don't even bother with our products."
Thanks for the warning. I'll be sure to heed it.