The Quest For Profit

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.

Wait, I already talked about this before…

To be fair though, I didn’t know it was going to get worse.

Get Comfy With Premium Mods And Lootboxes

Paid Mods
Sure… They’re totally not paid mods.

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…

Where is all the money going? Seriously? I mean, Warner Brothers’ income isn’t hurting… Electronic Arts isn’t going under… Activision isn’t going to be dying off soon…

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 DarkSlime 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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12 thoughts on “The Quest For Profit

  1. I think devs have realized they can get away with DLC and all the other nonsense, charging $60 (or more) for what is, in effect, an unfinished game, and then selling DLC for another $10 (or more). They’ve really created this DLC/microtransaction culture and forced us to accept it (or at least play by its rules), and while backlash comes in drips and drabs (folks expected DLC for Andromeda and are annoyed they’re not getting it), eventually (I hope) the backlash will be enough that they will actually take a look at what they’re doing and change some of their practices.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the Andromeda DLC thing is an isolated incident. For me, I was disappointed to hear that they were ceasing any further development of the game only because they hinted at the final Ark showing up, only to announce that not only were they not doing any DLC, but the IP would be put on hold as well. Just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

      I think you hit on the angst I have with the situation in your post to Bioware about Dragon Age 4 quite perfectly.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree, it gets annoying when games turn into pay to play games. The card game that I play on mobile was at first free and u could buy coins but when they introduced diamonds the game got harder. Now if you dont have diamonds, it’s near impossible to get the rare drops. It kind of ruined the game for me because while I’ll spend 2 to 5 dollars here or there I’m not going to keep buying diamonds.

    -Luna

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s part of the reason that I can’t get into mobile gaming. I love some of the stuff I’ve seen, but with microtransactions taking such a hold, it’s difficult to find a game that isn’t a blatant attempt to funnel cash from your wallet. They often make it impossible to do anything without spending actual money.

      Like

  3. It’s no surprise that indie games are becoming more and more successful when they have a lower cost of entry plus don’t have all the micro transaction tripe in them. Part of me wonders if the big publishers are noticing fewer sales due to some customers turning towards the smaller developers.

    All this reminds me of something Jim Sterling said regarding publishers not hurting for income but implementing these cash grabbing strategies all the same: “Publishers don’t want more money, they want all the money.” It sounds like hyperbole, but it’s probably not far from the truth.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jim Sterling usually provides me with a suitable amount of ire towards the gaming industry. While I don’t always agree with him, I can at least appreciate his… straightforwardness.

      I can’t really think of a better way to put it than he has. They really act like they need every last cent.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I hate how the whole video game industry has become all about money. In game currency is so annoying and I hate console exclusive stuff. The one that drives me nuts is Destiny. They aren’t releasing some of the exclusives that were on PS4 to Xbox until after the release of Destiny 2..I just can’t even

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree with you – and have noticed how tempting they try to make it. Seriously. Especially with Overwatch and their seasonal lootboxes… I missed out on a few skins I wanted but I am all about NOT paying for stuff if I don’t have to. Even on my phone games, I will do the free option and milk that as long as I can. Nope.
    Only thing I tend to pay for are the season pass on CERTAIN games and it has to be more than LOOT. It has to had like a whole new section to the game. (Like Jack-The-Ripper storyline in Assassin’s Creed.)

    It is just ridiculous and I am over it. Nope. Naw. I will stick with my stuffs thanks. I already paid for the game, not to do just extra stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have mixed feelings on this. Taking something like Overwatch, sure it has loot boxes, but as far as I can tell with my time playing, the loot boxes only offer cosmetics and don’t impact the game in any way besides having characters look/sound different.

    I’m also with you on why this needs to be there though. On one hand, I can see that Overwatch will funnel in money through the loot box revenue, but on the other, prior to this whole mess of micro transactions, Blizzard was already supporting their games for years without any DLC.

    Liked by 1 person

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