Horse armor? What is this? 2006?
The gaming industry is living up to its designation, an industry. Seemingly more and more games are being developed that aim to capture the lowest common denominator, and to capitalize on whatever revenue publishers can rake in. More publishers appear to be pushing developers to include predatory practices as well. Developers chase trends like dogs chasing garbage trucks, and it usually ends about as well for them as you’d expect.
We are in the age of open-world games, microtransactions, season passes, and definitive editions.
To be fair though, I didn’t know it was going to get worse.
Get Comfy With Premium Mods And Lootboxes
Not long ago (at E3, in fact), Bethesda announced that they were starting up a new program for Fallout 4 and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition, in the form of the Creation Club. There, gamers would be able to pay real money, to acquire fake currency (like Microsoft Points), in order to buy
mini-DLC mods. They’ve attempted to alleviate concerns by pointing out that these mods will be curated by Bethesda themselves, to help mitigate potential issues or conflicts.
Except Bethesda can’t even get their own games right, to the point that modders have become adept at fixing their games. Their case sure isn’t helped much when looking through the current catalog offered through the Creation Club.
And while I can appreciate self-aware humor, it’s a little tacky that they’re charging for horse armor… again.
Don’t get me started on lootboxes, which apparently has become the default loot distribution method now that publishers realized that people are willing to gamble their actual cash on a chance to get virtual goodies. Electronic Arts appeared to be the first to normalize this tactic with their annual sports titles, mimicking the baseball cards economy by selling random packs of nonsense to players on the off chance that they’ll get a good player out of the deal. Not long afterwards, Activision joined in by shoehorning the practice into Call of Duty, and Blizzard followed suit with titles like Overwatch. Not to be left out, almost all major publishers have joined in. Square Enix, Microsoft, 2K, Sony, and Ubisoft (who has been doing this as long as EA really).
Of course, Warner Brothers didn’t want to miss out, so they have brought lootboxes to Middle-Earth: Shadow of War. No, I won’t stop complaining about that… You can’t stop me…
Is It Necessary?
Granted, I’m looking at this all rather simplistically, but I can’t help but wonder why microtransactions, lootboxes, paid mods, and all that other crap is propping up these companies. I seriously doubt that all of this ridiculous, money-grubbing BS is somehow paying for gaps left between the development and sales of their games. Even assuming that these companies need these new forms of income, I just can’t shake the feeling that they’re patting down their customers to fix a problem that they themselves created.
Just look at the indie game development market, which has seen great approval from the gaming community, and wonderful success. Even the big publishers like EA and Ubisoft have been trying to cash in on that goodwill by publishing games from smaller studios, as if that would help their image.
Their reasoning seems to be simple at the very least: get as much money as they can from each customer, and through every game release. The more money from each customer, the better, regardless of public image or the sustainability of the practice.
While I hope that these practices die in a fiery inferno, and dissolve into the void where hellspawn like the online pass came from, I can’t help but feel a little cynical. I can’t help but feel that even with the successes of games like The Long Dark, Slime Rancher, Undertale, and Inside, the big guns of the industry will continue plugging away at finding new, insidious ways to milk their customer’s wallets.
Perhaps things will get better eventually, but I just can’t see that happening until the big publishers realize that this isn’t a healthy or sustainable practice.
Header Image Credit: Bethesda.net
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