It’s Christmas, or soon it is anyway! And despite the fact that shooting people in the face seems to be, yet again, the top choice for most gamers, it is the time for reflection and forgiveness. So this blog post is all about forgiving really. And to be quite honest, we gamers are a very, very forgiving lot.
Don’t get me wrong, gamers are quick to anger and a lot of us are very vocal when it comes to, what many of us think of as, “our games”. But in reality it’s as if it was Christmas all year round. Gamers forgive everything, and are happy to pay for the privilege.
2014 has been an average year for gaming in most respects. It being the first full year of a brand new console generation, combined with a leap forward in PC hardware specs (again), we have not actually had that much of a packed and outstanding array of games. There are a few games that stuck out (and each has their own favourites, so I not going to list the special ones for me), but for the most part it’s been mediocre.
What 2014 was all about though seems to have been massive day one patches and incredibly buggy software. It seems then that what the new generation of consoles has brought us, is even lazier developers/publishers and even more disregard to the actual consumer. 6 gigabyte day one patches, Assassin’s Creed:Unity bug disasters, broken content for Destiny, huge glitches (for some) on Alien:Isolation – in fact I cannot think of a single game I bought/played this year where I could simply insert the disk in my drive and start playing straight away and do so without having any issues at all.
But that’s ok! Because the average gamer is the most forgiving consumer on the planet. I would put this down in part to hope, hope that it will be fixed at some point, and fandom. Fans of a genre or game simply WANT their game to be good. Due to eager anticipation and all the hype before a launch, gamers often don’t even see the issues present or gloss over it. The number of times I have heard a version of “If you only look past…” or “Just play about 10 hours and then…” this year, is insane.
It is incredible really, because in general we (the consumers) have little patience for broken things and in general are very careful about how we spend our hard earned money and spare time. Just have a read through some restaurant or holiday reviews. I think most have seen some of the hilarious reviews people write on Amazon. We read these reviews and we trust them. Businesses have to change, because people will avoid them based on these reviews (I sure as hell won’t eat in any of these restaurants).
This system generally does not exist for video games. AC:Unity sits at a low 70s metacritic. That is well above average. Most reviewers don’t even mention the obvious bugs. No review I have ever read has lowered their score based on the fact that there is a 4+ GB day one patch. Imagine if you bought a DVD, got home and popped it into your player and then had to wait 2 hours (not everyone is on fast Scandinavian internet) to download the high resolution version, or half of the audio files, which did not make it on the DVD in time.
Imagine if you bought yourself a new gadget and half the functions it advertised were not accessible yet, needed to be patched or simply were glitchy – what would you do? Probably the same as me, which is go to the store and demand a refund. Most of us will test drive a new car we buy before we purchase it (there is a reason there are so few demos these days for games – any marketing/sales guy can tell you that the vast majority of games sell less if there is a demo).
But gamers do not do this, or only very rarely. Sure, they leave scathing reviews on metacritic, but the user review options there are not reflective or controlled. Unlike TripAdvisor or Amazon, they are largely anonymous and you can’t be held accountable for false info. Which is why, as soon as a game launches, you get 200+ positive reviews (number depends on the title and team) from those who made the game and the marketing team robots – all with fake, new accounts, giving the game a 10, because it’s their game. Then you get the haters who give it a 0 without having played it, simply because they hate the developer, the publisher or the game itself. So Metacritic is out as a useful tool. And game review sites obviously can’t be trusted either, not because they get bribed or are biased (some are, some aren’t), but simply because they don’t seem to take broken content or patches into account.
And this is what developers and publishers have come to realize. And this is why 2014 has been a year of massive patches and games full of bugs. And it’s only going to get worse. Of all the new powers and features the new generation of consoles have provided developers with, they have seized on one: the massive internal storage. This, plus the easing off on first party restrictions, has allowed developers to essentially print a known turd on a disc and simply provide a day one patch that is as big as the game itself. It allows publishers to hit their release dates and, while the discs are printing, keep working to actually fix the game. It used to be a naughty thing, delivering a day one patch. Developers used to apologize for it. Patches used to be a few megabytes at the most. 100+ megabytes was considered a large patch. No more! Now we simply deliver the basic installer and most of the audio files on disc – the rest can be delivered magically via the internet! Anyone who is not connected will just have to live with sub par content – our customer service team can always advise them to get the patch. That is if they do actually call customer services. It’s all about hitting that target window, hitting your launch date. Get the game out before the competition, or in time for Christmas. Do some fancy trailers, spend lots of money on marketing (one some high profile titles marketing spend equals or exceeds money spent on development) and hope enough people are lured into purchase and then forgiving enough not to throw the game back in your face.
In reality the vast majority of gamers is not exercising their consumer rights. Gamers allow developers and publishers to serve up products which are sub par. Any other product or service, delivered at this quality level, would be returned and shunned. But gamers are, to their own detriment, a forgiving bunch. Because they just want to play “their” game.
Perhaps, if this trend of day one patches and broken content continues, 2015 will be the year in which we see more class action law suits. Where we see developers and publishers shunned as they should be. Perhaps gamers will bring their purchases back to the shops in droves and demand a refund. Or perhaps the season of forgiveness will be extended another year. Publishers and developers gleefully rub their hands at the stupidity of the consumer, knowing that a turd can definitely be sold as long as it has a little golden shine to it. Perhaps patch it later if it’s really needed, or give away an old title for free to generate some good will and good press. Because our beloved dear little Jesus (whose birthday we celebrate in 2 days) knows, the games industry definitely does not really care about the customers at all.
The games industry should be asking for forgiveness this Christmas, and hope that the customer base is in a festive mood.
Merry Christmas everyone and check back in 2015!