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So, after 2014, I have been having a bit of a different mindset about third-party video game companies. I mean developers/publishers like EA, Square Enix, Capcom, Konami, Ubisoft, and you get the idea. What is this thought that I have been having? Well, to be upfront, I don’t really trust them anymore. I have grown to dislike them and the way they handle gaming.
I believe it started in 2014, because that was the year when third-party games were bombing left and right. Sure, a few slipped through the cracks and were amazing, like Shadow of Mordor, South Park: The Stick of Truth, and Wolfenstein: The New Order, but those were few and way far between releases that were really hyped up, but couldn’t really deliver. This was also the same year we got games like Assassin’s Creed Unity, The Sims 4, Destiny, The Crew, The Elder Scrolls Online, Dark Souls II, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XII, Sonic Boom, and when Call of Duty was starting to lose sales numbers (not enough to tank, but still noticeable). Ever since, third-party developers/publishers have been getting worse. I mean worse than they already were by that point in the gaming industry, but still. Something major happened during that point in time, and that sudden shift is still going on. There is just something about those companies that are personally not worth trusting.
Yes, at the end of the day, video games are expensive, and these companies want to make money. They want you to buy the game, pay for the DLC, preorder special editions, spend cash on microtransactions, and so on, so they can make money to make more games. However, it does seem like it’s now more than ever coming at the cost of consumers and the overall quality of the games themselves. Consumers are forced to spend more, while getting lackluster projects or projects that were not as advertised to the public. Sure, projects change over time, and sometimes for the worse, but I feel like there is only so far that as consumers we can go before we have had it.
Here are just a handful of examples. 2K’s Evolve was supposed to be the next big multi-player game from the developers behind Left 4 Dead. It had a cool concept of four players going against a fifth player that played as a giant monster that could evolve to become stronger. Unfortunately, 2K thought it was a good idea to put preorder offers up and multiple collectors’ editions before any actual gameplay was shown off. Once the game was released, if you didn’t buy any of the special editions, you were left with a slew of DLC that didn’t really do much to change up the game, and were more there to change the color of your gun. It didn’t help either that many players didn’t find the game that fun, and player bases dropped quickly after 2K went down the road of “DLC and Microtransactions make a game.”
Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs franchise might have been saved by the pretty well received Watch Dogs 2, but the first game is going to go down in history as the game that pushed graphics first, and everything else came second. It was supposed to be the true game to launch next-gen gaming, but after the big surprise reveal, the game’s graphics were downgraded. After it was released, it was laughed at and ridiculed for being a rather mediocre experience. I don’t care if it does a good job at recreating Chicago, the game was still underwhelming, and didn’t live up to its promises. Assassin’s Creed Unity was the first big push for a co-op Assassin’s Creed experience, but what we got at launch, was a pretty broken game. That was on top of a game that also got riddled with microtransactions.
Destiny was the next big game from the original Halo developers to be this big sweeping MMO-style first-person shooter with an engaging story and fun gameplay. What happened? The story was locked behind lore and backstory bits on a website, and Destiny was just an alright shooter. Nothing new, amazing, interesting, or to some degree, fun. Yes, it has probably gotten better after expansions and updates, but you ruined your first impression, and now everyone is hesitant to be hyped for Destiny 2, because Activision and the developers betrayed the trust of gamers and consumers.
EA hyped Titanfall as the next big multi-player-focused shooter, by for some reason, making it a console exclusive to the Xbox One, and shortly after it was released, people realized that while the game was fun, there wasn’t much to it. They even had a season pass available to purchase before you knew what was in that pass. Due to this, the player base died off fast, and now, no one really plays it anymore, unlike other multiplayer games like Overwatch. EA then tried to pull the same stupid business plan with their acquired Star Wars license for a multi-player-focused Battlefront reboot. Not only was the game still priced at $60, but they wanted you to go and buy the $50 season pass that went with it at a total of $110 plus tax on a game with barely any content at launch. It may have looked downright amazing in terms of graphics, but when people are expected to drop that much onto a game they don’t know is good or not, that’s a problem.
For newer examples, Activision has a whole saga of screwing over the intention and definition of what a video game remaster is supposed to be about with the Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remaster. By hiding it initially behind the newest Call of Duty, you had to buy the new one to get this Remaster. Then they sold the multi-player content separately, and added microtransactions. Yeah, you can’t really call it a remaster when it doesn’t have everything in it. 2013’s Sim City reboot was a trainwreck at launch, since it needed to always be online, causing players to not being able to play the game. The funny thing is that a year or so earlier, a game tried to do that by the name of Diablo III, and it almost killed that game’s player base. So, why do something that can and will do massive damage to your game’s longevity? I don’t know, maybe the ones who decided to do such a thing were stupid and ignorant to the problem at hand. Hell, EA fired a social media person for telling a potential consumer who was concerned about the always online design basically “sucks to be you. Not our fault you have crappy internet.”
And this is not even going deeper into the problems, like developers and publishers pushing graphics as the only thing that matters, going after certain genres too much, and not realizing why people like those genres, horrible PR nightmares, and putting in microtransactions into full-priced games that could break the balance. Heck, I could talk about how EA killed any potential and passion for the Mirror’s Edge franchise, releasing Titanfall 2 too close to its other big franchises, and how it doesn’t get why consumers don’t trust them. Square Enix killed Deus Ex: Mankind Divided with microtransactions that broke said polished difficulty and gameplay experience, while giving players a game that was considered good, but incomplete.
It’s getting maddening to a point where they act shocked when games like Bravely Default and Resident Evil 7 prove them wrong with genres that the big companies thought were dead. Dishonored and the immortal Elder Scrolls: Skyrim show that single-player-only games can sell well when big companies are saying they don’t. It’s aggravating because these publishers and developers don’t take responsibility, or admit that they were wrong. Apparently, their pride is more important than a healthy consumer base. Do I even need to bring up how Valve, while slowly improving, is still dumping games onto Steam that use pre-brought assets, are made by volatile developers who can’t take criticism, and so on? It’s hard to feel like as a consumer, your time and money are being respected and handled well. I don’t want to trust a developer or publisher that lied about projects like Aliens: Colonial Marines. Sooner or later, it’s going to happen where publishers go too far, and games won’t sell that are full of the reasons why gaming is becoming such a chore. Instead of doing things that are pro consumer, they keep doing the opposite, and I’m losing my patience with them.
So, am I going to shrug them off forever, and not buy anything from them? Well, yes and no. Sometimes, no matter how rare, I will buy a game from third-party publishers. It’s mostly to support a brand or a developer. For example, I love Dragon Quest and will buy games from that franchise to support its western appeal. Nier: Automata was amazing, and was made by the fan-favorite Platinum Games. I want to support that developer because they have made games I love.
So, what’s going on with my passion for games? It’s leaning more toward first-party titles, indie titles, and from time to time, I will buy a third-party title. I will use Gamefly to try out third-party games I want to try. Yes, third-party games are needed to keep consoles alive, but I’m starting to not really believe in that. People will go where the good games are going, and if they happen to be first, second, or third-party, then that’s just the case. I don’t plan on buying third-party games anymore, and would rather focus on games I know will be good, or try out genres that I wasn’t fond of, but am now because I have a console like the Switch. However, that is just me. If you like any of these games, or do trust or love third-party publishers or developers, that’s perfectly fine. I think there needs to be a push for better games and business ideals within the industry, and unless we stop buying the games, the publisher won’t listen. Maybe they will, like how many times EA made it clear about how many people complained about a lack of a single-player mode for the original Battlefront at E3 2017. Maybe they will change, but as long as money talks, I wonder if they will ever change.