As a gamer in his thirties E3 confirmed something for me. The gaming industry is deeply flawed and doesn’t care about me anymore. Microsoft is in full on consumer rape mode, Nintendo thinks I need a tablet for a controller, and Sony thinks not being Microsoft is a feature. Sadly Sony is somewhat right. These three parties along with mainstream publishers/distributers have been systematically dismantling the industry and creating this bastardized version of aggravation and disappointment.
There have been warning signs for some time. First there was DRM. Implemented to fight piracy with the same draconian mindset of the out of touch film industry (let’s make everything 3D and charge more!) DRM is an insult. Online communities have been bitching about the practice for years and threatening boycotts. But there is no solidarity. Why? Because gamers are competitive and conditioned consumers. We bitch online about all the bullshit but we still end up lining up for new release day like excited sheep. I have escaped this cycle for the most part by using Gamefly but that might end soon, but more on that later. Then there was DLC. Then there was always on internet access.
The reason these things keep coming is that we don’t vote with our wallets. The outrage never goes further than the internet. We still buy the junk. I’m to blame too, I’m part of the problem. Case in point I bought Diablo 3. I regret this decision because it only strengthened the resolve of the gaming companies. Games have slowly acquired a list of flaws that we allow. It was not commonplace to sell unfinished games. Now a game is rushed through development to meet the schedule. DLC is preplanned before the product is even released. Nintendo the last stalwart against this has slowly and quietly reversed traction on DLC. And Nintendo’s policy has always been about the game. They built consoles around games. The Nintendo 64 was built around Mario 64. Sony and Microsoft build a console and developers create games for them. Sure they probably take some feedback but games are made to fit the platform not the platform is made the games. This is a wholly different mindset. I just wish Nintendo would make a console with a regular controller.
But is DLC really so bad? Yeah, they sold armor for your horse in a video game. And people bought it. You don’t need to protect your horse you just get a new one. There is no attachment to animal in the game. I can’t even compare it buying a an accessory for a doll or action figure. It provides nothing except a shiny pixilated reminder of how much an idiot you are and that you don’t deserve to manage your own credit card by yourself. This was bought by the same type of person who watches late night QVC and really thinks they might need a diamonique encrusted salad tong combination ball scratcher. Of course then you need to figure out where to store the salad tong combination ball scratcher, with your other cutlery or your with your unmentionables.
There is the argument that DLC is good revenue for the publishers and developers to combat the used games empire built up by Game Stop. You can sell back you game to this retailer for pennies on the dollar and then they resell it a few bucks cheaper than full price. And gamers have been flocking to the model. Problem there is that the publishers and developers get none of the money. It’s not really a problem but they want a part of it. I can’t blame them they spend tens of millions to produce a game that has around fifteen hours of game time. The DLC can’t be traded in and goes directly to the people responsible for the game. But perhaps the idea of making a game that has replay value and more than a few hours of game time might be a better choice. Oh yeah and day one DLC is insulting. Also exclusive content based on where you buy also insulting. Sell me a whole product not a partial one.
Then there is this always on internet bullshit. This was bad with Diablo 3 and worse with the newest Sim City. At least in Diablo they had some features that were rather useful. Easy to drop in and out of any friends game in seconds. That was cool. The game kinda sucked but that’s okay. Also quick note, developers please stop making games primarily set in gloomy atmospheres. If the majority of the game takes place in a burnt down, cobweb infested wasteland with two colors in your palette I hate you. A few colors are pleasing and makes me not hate to look at the screen. You can have a cohesive but visually diverse landscape (see Bioshock Infinite or the Elder Scrolls games). But inevitably with always on internet there is a server problem the day of release. This is the at the maddening height of fanboys fervor when the thirteen year olds are all sweaty with excitement. Then the crash happens. All that joyous excitement turns to impotent, internet rage and vile expletives.
But the reaction of the gaming companies is interesting to note. Mostly complete indifference and lying from the publishers and distributors while the developers mostly apologize profusely. EA simply tries to ignore the issue of Sim City and ignore the press. Give nothing to feed the trolls, eventually it will die down. The internet has a short attention span and gaming will have a new target in a week or so.
This take me to the new batch of console coming up. Nintendo has some exciting games ready to launch. They have Mario in a cat suit. The internet may not be ready for this. Also new smash brothers, new Mario cart, and new various other Nintendo only products. If you notice Nintendo is very tight on it’s licenses regarding their intellectual property. You’ll never see Mario on the Xbox, or Playstation. You won’t see him on mobile devices as well (discounting the Gameboy). Nintendo banks on its games. The problem is they have also banked on novelty and ugly annoying controllers. I want a regular controller. I’m sick of motion control. But I still might end up getting the Wii U at one point. I wish I could quit you Shigeru Miyamoto.
Then there is Microsoft. The Xbox One is an affront to gamers. It is region locked (sorry travelers and soldiers), has always on requirements (sorry rural internet or no internet users, those with connection issues), it flat out rejects used game (sorry Gamefly users and people who swap games with friends). It’s basically a box of pure hate. In my mind it is now the Hate Box. I use Netflix on my Xbox 360 now. I love streaming Netflix this way. But I also use my Xbox to play used games that I rent from Gamefly. I like to play offline because online multiplayer makes me want to gouge my eyeballs out and beat up teenagers. The first time I played Halo 3 some asshat teabagged my corpse in like ten minutes. He did so with complete disdain and the effortlessness of a person who has done this many time before defiling the faces of people avatars for his own odd pleasure. I stopped online play shortly after. The online lobbies of choosing games suck as I want recreational players not kids who have been playing this game online for months and doing nothing else. Yeah, you are better than me. I’d be good too if I had nothing to do other than waste my free time sticking my digital junk in faces. The Xbox One has a bunch of cool features but you know what I wanted? A gaming console. I did not want an entertainment conglomerate. Oh yeah and if someone bans you guess what happens to your games? Un-fucking-playable. It's not like there have been bans before n online gaming for no good reason. That never happens. Also online support for video games are useful filled with the most helpful individuals. Wait, no, they are awful swamp trolls from where the places nightmares go when you awake who delight in ruining your happiness and providing the worst support imaginable. Why? Because fuck you that's why.
Sony just ended up winning by saying they weren’t going to do what Microsoft did and treated it like it a was feature. Not fucking people over is not a feature. But there is an issue at hand. The Xbox One will still sell. It will sell a whole bunch. Because there are some cool exclusive games coming out and Microsoft doesn’t give a shit about people being pissed. They aren’t walking back their bullshit anytime soon. Sony isn’t an angel here. They are changing their online policy to make you need to pay to play online with friends. So if you have both console you need to pay ten bucks a month to utilize features.
There is a reason indy developers and mobile games are eating up the profits from these guys. Their target audience is two segments somewhat savvy adults who are getting annoyed and kids. The kids will bitch until their parents relent. The adults are where my hope lies. If sale of the new Hate Box suck they might wake up. They might realize having a Kinect have to be on might be not awesome.
If I had my way here is what my dream console would have. Good games first and foremost. A decent controller with a goddamn start button (stop taking away my buttons and adding lies). Also stop making me buy battery packs. Wireless controllers can come free with a wire that charges through your system like the PS3. Make an integrated easy to set up wireless internet. Don’t charge me for some ridiculous dongle. Don’t need a system update every five seconds for every game (I’m looking at you Sony). Every time I turn on my PS3 I need to update something and wait twenty minutes to play a game. Make downloads possible in the background. I shouldn’t be locked into a loading screen while I wait. Don’t make me use the cloud to save. An option is great. Also give me more than one save spot. If I want to start a new game I shouldn’t have to save over my other game. Maybe the industry doesn't want people to replay their games anymore. This auto save thing is annoying I should be able to turn it off I want. I should never have to talk to a server as offline gaming is important. You know like the ability to have friends over who sit on the couch next to you and play coop that way. Have an easy interface built mostly around games. I’m buying a console not a computer/cable box. I don’t care about internet search on my console, it's stupid and you're stupid for thinking I care. I have smart phone for that. Speaking of smart phones don’t let that be an integrated part of the gaming experience. Games are already going in the wrong direction half the time with countless sequels to crappy predictable franchises simply to grab money I don’t need extra peripherals. Just let me sit down after a long down and shoot an alien in the head. Games should be fun not frustrating. You are taking away my fun and replacing it with shiny pretentious garbage. Graphics and processing power is not that important to give that up. Just make a good product that is how you protect you investment.
I guess more than ever now is a good time to be a PC gamer. Steam must be feeling pretty good about themselves in the coming months. But y prediction is that gaming community will continue the slide into bullshit and allow publishers to put restraints on use.