And this little piggie went to market

I’ve written before that to most game companies, the only real voice a gamer has is his money. Word-of-mouth, positive/negative buzz, petitions, blog or forum posts; none of these count nearly as much as you making the decision to pay or not pay for a companies product. Yet it’s that most important voice or vote that many either ignore, or hypocritically abuse. Be it ranting for something different and buying more of the same (Aion), complaining about a lack of updates and then rewarding something trivial (WoW pets), voicing your anger about a companies greed and at the same time getting in line and asking for more (CoD:MW2), or complaining that gaming is being marginalized and becoming too profit-focused, and then playing/paying for a ‘game’ like Mafia Wars or any of it’s clones on Facebook, countless examples exist of gamers asking for more abuse.

And as Tobold correctly writes, you can’t blame the companies. Why would Blizzard kill themselves and release a ‘free’ content patch more often when they just got however many thousands of players to give them 2/3rd of a subscription for one pet (or 4/3rd if you bought both)? Why try to match the content/patch rate of other titles when clearly millions are willing to continue paying $15 a month and getting next-to-nothing, only to hand over $40 on day one for an update every two years? When Kotick proclaims he is being a nice guy and ONLY charging $60 for CoD:MW2, why get upset at him when plenty of little piggies are lining up and gladly handing him $120 for an obviously cash>player product? And why blame EA for not releasing original titles when each year millions rush to buy the same version of Madden rather than some original IP?

As gaming has become more mainstream, the model of quality=profit has been all but forgotten. ‘Back in the day’ the only people buying shovelware were unsuspecting moms at Walmart picking up a new game for little Billy, and look, it’s just $5 and has bright colors on the box. Today millions of ‘gamers’ are ‘playing’ Facebook games and buying (or being scammed for) points to push their name up some virtual board. Sure the ‘games’ suck, but look, your name on the internet! Even in the MMO space millions of people are literally paying to NOT play the game, or paying for something that REMOVES content for them (XP pots, items, mounts), because by paying they can get their shiny epics or whatever other meaningless achievement system is being used. At least some years back, you only had to shake your head at all those movie-based games that sold well, fully knowing they are terrible games aimed more at tricking someone into a purchase rather than trying to deliver anything of quality. Today it seems it’s every other title (if not more) on the monthly sales chart. On top of all this, many who consider themselves gamers and bitch and moan about the lack of originality or quality are the first ones illegally downloading a title. Congratulations, you are not only a hypocrite, but a parasite as well.

In any market that explodes in popularity, at some point a shift away from cash-grab crap will be made. Sadly as recent examples clearly indicate, we are not even close to that point, and unfortunately the piggie and parasite population is currently determining what titles are brought to market, at least at the AAA level. Until people like Kotick are proven wrong, and millions of ‘gamers’ stop asking “how high” when he says “jump”, don’t expect things to change.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Aion, Console Gaming, Mass Media, MMO design, Random, Rant, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to And this little piggie went to market

  1. Malakili says:

    Yeah, this is basically why I lament whenever a hobby I have becomes “popular,” and generally an poking around the edges looking for something fun to get into. Quality, not just in video games, but in most everything it seems, seems to go down the toilet when things get popular.

    It starts out with people doing something because they love it, but when it becomes popular everyone and their brother who doesn’t give a shit about the original thing gets involved trying to strike it rich, and in the process fucks it up for the rest of us.

  2. Tipa says:

    “On top of all this, many who consider themselves gamers and bitch and moan about the lack of originality or quality are the first ones illegally downloading a title. Congratulations, you are not only a hypocrite, but a parasite as well.”

    Name names. Baseless accusations are a Glenn Beck move, not useful.

    To your larger point, the goal of a publicly traded company is to make money for shareholders. There are no secondary goals; that’s it. Anyone who manages to get money from gamers and give them little or nothing in return is just being a good businessman. It is not the business’ fault for not being loving and caring people. It is their job to separate you and your money.

    In the end, it doesn’t matter what the motivations of the heartless megacorp that controls your game might be. All that matters is if you felt you got a sufficient amount of fun for your money. If the money you must pay becomes more than the fun you receive, it’s not the company’s fault if you keep paying anyway.

    • syncaine says:

      Shareholder value is not always a quarter by quarter deal however, and such market swings are actually based more on speculation and momentum than any real company numbers (which is one of many issues with the stock market, but that’s a totally different topic). Look at Blizzard (before Activision), they gladly traded quarter to quarter performance in order to build year to year success. They could have very easily released SC2 AND SC3 by now, and each version would have sold millions. But come SC4, the Blizzard name would not be worth as much, and in the long-term they would suffer. Outside of gaming this is also very true, including the company I work for today.

      In the end it is all about profits, of course, but it’s NOT good business to go for a quick cash grab today at the expense of long-term growth, or at least, it shouldn’t be. Kotick is banking on his audience being mindless drones, and at least with CoD:MW2, he is right.

  3. evizaer says:

    “On top of all this, many who consider themselves gamers and bitch and moan about the lack of originality or quality are the first ones illegally downloading a title. Congratulations, you are not only a hypocrite, but a parasite as well.”

    But if that game is one of the crap rehashes, isn’t it better (according to your twisted ethic) to pirate those games so as not to reward the companies for their asshattery but still experience the game?

    • syncaine says:

      No, it’s not.

      Do your homework, find out if a game is going to fit what you are looking for and make a decision. If the marketing mislead you, don’t buy from that company again without being extra cautious. If the marketing was accurate, and you just don’t find the product interesting, do a better job of knowing what works best for you. And really, if you can’t separate shovelware from a real game, don’t buy games Walmart mom.

  4. Pingback: Paying for crap! « MMOG Chronicles

  5. sid67 says:

    I agree completely. Anytime there is an emerging market, companies are going to see that as an opportunity to make a profit.

    It’s worth noting that’s not always the smart play when you already have a very established product.

    Many marketers will often change a very solid and reliable strategy for a new the new whiz-bang gizmo (like social networking or micro transactions) in order to stay in front of the trend.

    The facebook games, in particular, are an interesting subject. The gameplay at almost every level is crap and it’s all microtransaction based. So why do people play?

    In my mind, there are three forces at work. One is that these are social networking games. That’s very powerful because your “friends” are all presumably already on the network with you (i.e. Facebook). Right now, most of the pressure to play these games comes from “wall posts” and game requests. If devs of these games get smarter, they’ll focus more on the in-game interaction between Facebook friends not the external postings.

    The next force at work is the low barrier to entry. A facebook user can literally try dozens of games until he finds one he likes to play. At no cost to them other than their time. It’s only when they want to progress past certain Pavlovian points in the game do the microtransactions kick in.

    And the final force at work is, in my opinion, the most overlooked and perhaps the most important. People play these games AT WORK or DURING THE DAY — not at home or at night. This is why companies like Zynga (who make Farmville and Mafia Wars) are trying to focus more on time expired items (like harvesting crops before they spoil) to bring back players in the evening and weekends.

    This last point (a browser based game playable at work) is why it is difficult to compare these games to MMOs or any other high quality game. You couldn’t play Dragon Age in a separate window while sitting in on a webinar presentation for example.

    So I absolutely agree that these games suck in relation to any other real game. But the audience isn’t gamers — it’s everyone else.

    And unfortunately for us, the “everyone else” slice of the marketing pie is HUGE. So expect these games to continue to evolve and become more popular.

  6. mbp says:

    You are absolutely right of course – it is ultimately all about the money. If we want better games and a better service from gaming companies we are going to have to put our dollars, euros, Yen whatever where are mouth is.

    The trouble is at present it seems futile to even try and be a discerning gamer. I have decided not to buy MW2 but dear Mr. Kotick is not going to lose any sleep over the loss of my lone €60.

    I wonder if there is room for an alternative business model which facilitates the development of genuinely high quality games. Look at the influence of premium television channels which have proven that there is a lucrative mass market for high quality entertainment.

    s long as lots of gamers are prepared to pay for crap we will get more of it. We live in a depressing era when bean counters appear to have displaced genuinely creative people at the helm of much of the gaming industry.

    • syncaine says:

      As tree-hugger stupid as it sounds, every $60 counts.

      • Draglem says:

        The obvious answer is a black hat approach.

        If only there were an interest group for legitimate gamers, something to differentiate the connoisseur and the consumer, yet inspire the average to join a cause and aspire to something more. Some way to unite strength rather than fragment into powerless $60 entities. Allowing every voice to be heard only ensures confusion.

        The task seems insurmountable at best, but there needs to be a gamer union. Tanks roll over all the protesting students you can throw at them. Either get a tank or siphon the gas.

  7. Bhagpuss says:

    One problem is that big games cost so damn much to make. Bedroom songwriters, musicians or bands can, and do, write and release material as good as anything produced by multinationals. Costs are negligible, quality can be stratospheric. Filmmakers can win international prizes with movies that cost less than 1% of a Hollywood blockbuster.

    Even indie MMOs, though, seem either to cost millions, take years or both. It’s just such a time-consuming, expensive business. How long did Darkfall take? Eight years? Fallen Earth maybe half that?

    Nevertheless, if there’s to be a future for gaming that ressembles the endlessly self-refreshing, re-inventing scenes low-budget music and cinema have had for decades, then it’s got to come from outside the huge corporations.

    • mbp says:

      You raise an interesting point Bhagpuss. The corollary is that if I am prepared to put up with 1980’s style pixellated graphics I can have as much originality and quality gameplay as I want. However once I insist on high quality art and Hollywood style presentation I put myself at the mercy of Electronic Arts, Activision and their ilk.

      Herein lies the dilemma. Much as I admire the likes of Dwarf Fortress I also crave big budget big experience games like Call of Duty. It is just that I hate having to put up with customer abuse in order to be allowed to play them.

  8. Modran says:

    Mr Kotick is not going to lose sleep over 60$. But it adds up. And if enough people do it, he will.
    Works both way.

  9. Dblade says:

    Selective memory, syncaine. Crap has existed ever since games have existed, in exactly the same proportion. At least COD2 is a decent game, back in the SNES days they used to charge $60+ for crap games like Maximum Carnage, or poorly translated third-string JRPGs.

    What you are doing is romanticizing a past which had just as much cash grab ratio to good games as the current generation did, if not more. The problem is that when we first get introduced to gaming, we automatically remember the good times from that era and forget all the titles we dropped a lot of cash on that sucked.

    I agree with the rest of your points though, and definitely agree with piracy issues. Demos and free trials exist, and should be enough info to judge the game. Plus, especially with CoD MW2 it’s not like it hasn’t been endlessly discussed on the net.

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