Metal Gear Solid: Phantom Pitchforks

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve seen Konami and Kojima saturating headlines for weeks. We’ve gone from the publisher removing Kojima’s name from Phantom Pain promo material, to rumors of Silent Hill – another project Kojima was invested in – being canceled. In the last week or so, the internet has discovered some striking similarities between Italian Doctor Sergio Canavero – who has, himself, made waves in the news with plans to perform a head transplant – and a doctor we’ve seen in early Phantom Pain footage. Everyone wanted to know: What’s fiction, and what’s reality? Well, thanks to journalist Gabriel Galliani (Official Playstation Magazine of Italy, and Byte-Size Impressions Editing Advisor and Podcast Co-Host), we finally have an answer.

Meet the Head Transplant Doctor at the Center of a Metal Gear Conspiracy

Could The Metal Gear Solid Lookalike Doctor Really Sue Konami?

People weren’t sure if the similarities were mere coincidence, or the best marketing ploy by Kojima to date. In a statement to goodgame.hr, Doctor Canavero stated, “No link, thanks for the heads up, I will notify my attorney.” The knee-jerk response from the gaming community has been, “Isn’t that precisely what he would say if he was in on it?” Well, maybe… but journalists have to run off facts, not assumptions. So, Gabriel Galliani decided he wasn’t satisfied with that response and did some old-fashioned sleuthing. And we’re talking the whole nine, here. He called anyone and everyone and obtained official documentation.

In the end, he got answers straight from the horse’s mouth: Not only had Doctor Canavero contacted his attorney, but he’s also filed charges with local authorities. He was also able to confirm that Canavero is looking to sue Konami for using his likeness, although the doc’s attorney needs to do a lot of legwork to see how plausible their case would actually be.

Hear that toilet flushing? That’s the sound of a ‘wink-wink, nod-nod’ marketing conspiracy going down the drain… maybe. But hey, at least we can finally speculate as to what might have happened between Kojima and Konami.

I know a bunch of skeptics still want to believe Kojima is trolling, and because things still don’t make much sense, they could be right. But, on the surface, it appears that Kojima was SO fascinated by his research on phantom pain, that he couldn’t help but interject Canavero, and his work, into Phantom Pain. His likeness was used BLATANTLY, and not just his look. No, we’re talking mannerisms, accent, the whole shebang. Maybe he wanted to use this specific doctor to push a message? After all, in 2010, Kojima told us:

“The next project will challenge a certain type of taboo, if I mess up, I’ll probably have to leave the industry. However, I don’t want to pass by avoiding that. I turn 47 this year. It’s been 24 years since I started making games. Today I got an ally who would happily support me in that risk. Although it’s just one person. For a start, it’s good.”

So, despite knowing he was going to enter dangerous territory, he’d rather stand up for his beliefs than avoid controversy, no matter how damning it might be. He calculated the risk, and took the plunge anyway.

But who was the ally he spoke of? That seems like a key piece of evidence, doesn’t it? For all we know, that person could have been the neurosurgeon in question, but that makes the prospect of a lawsuit seem kind of… awkward.

Another strike against the ‘marketing ploy’ idea is that while most people believe Canavero only ‘appeared’ in 2013 (mere months after Phantom Pain’s reveal), that’s simply not true. He has writing that’s been published prior to that. Also, in 2008, various Italian news outlets reported the neurosurgeon had successfully pulled a girl out of a coma. According to the news source linked, “she was able to swallow food and obey simple commands.” Wouldn’t this all have predated anything Kojima would have done for Phantom Pain? At least in terms of stealth marketing preparation?

So that’s why I believe this might be a case of Kojima having art imitate life, and to a dangerous degree at that. In early MGSV footage, for example, we see Big Boss awaken from a coma. One of the first faces he sees is that of Doctor Canavero.

“But they didn’t use Canavero’s likeness. They used an actor.” True enough, but does that make the connections and similarities any less real?

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Also, remember Quiet? Of course you do. The scantily clad female character had everyone screaming ‘sexist portrayal of women!’ from the rooftops. But the interesting thing to note is that, like the patient in the story mentioned above… she can’t talk. What if she’s another in-game representation of Doctor Canavero’s work? What if she went under the knife, had her brain tinkered with, and has to obey commands from evil men (including dressing like a fishnet hooker)? Kojima is on record defending Quiet’s attire:

“I know there’s people concerning about “Quiet” but don’t worry. I created her character as an antithesis to the women characters appeared in the past fighting game who are excessively exposed. “Quiet” who doesn’t have a word will be teased in the story as well. But once you recognize the secret reason for her exposure, you will feel ashamed of your words and deeds.”

Anyway, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure all of this spells trouble… and what troubles me, is that nobody seems to be questioning any of this. Instead, everyone’s content with laying the blame at Konami’s feet. They’ve been labeled the bad guy, and people are marching on their castle with torches and pitchforks… but, why? All we really have at the moment is speculation. Has nobody entertained the idea that maybe, just MAYBE… Konami is innocent? I know there’s a ‘publishers are bad’ mentality at play, but come on…

Put yourself in their shoes:

Let’s say YOU had Kojima and his talented team working for you. You owned the MGS franchise, but Kojima had complete creative control. Then, really late in the development process – in which a considerable amount of time and resources had already been spent – you find out Kojima was playing with fire, leaving YOU to (likely) get burned because your company name is all over the product. So, perhaps a dialogue opens at this point. You say, “Hey, Kojima, you can’t do this. There might be legal repercussions, and the themes you’re tackling are going to attract all the wrong kind of attention.” Maybe Kojima says, “Tough noogies, brah, but this is what I want to do. I’m not running from controversial ideas just because a ‘suit’ tells me to.” So, in order to protect yourself, you distance yourself from Kojima as much as possible. This includes ripping Kojima’s name off the product, ‘firing’ him after development on Phantom Pain concludes, and canceling whatever other projects Kojima had in the pipeline.

I’m not saying that’s what happened… but it’s a plausible theory, don’t you think? I mean, what the hell was Kojima thinking? Using ideas and theories is one thing, but to essentially replicate a real person with a controversial career in your game without their consent? Another thing entirely. Such a thing could jeopardize that person’s image, and that’s precisely what’s happening with Canavero. He’s been labeled a real life Frankenstein. He could have ignored the criticisms now, sure… but what happens if his planned head transplant procedure fails? He’ll likely be branded a monster and a hack, and who knows, he might have to step away from his career in total. And who would he set his sights on for compensation? Konami, of course.

Again, I don’t want to say Konami is innocent… just that it’s possible. Regardless of the type of relationship they might have had with Kojima, with the theory put forth above, the publisher would have little choice but to put their best foot forward. Distancing themselves from Kojima would have been the only way to do that, at least for the time being (that is, without straight-up canceling MGSV). Maybe this is why there’s so much confusion on whether Kojima was actually fired. Maybe he wasn’t… maybe he was ‘let go’. Maybe Kojima WANTED to go, and Konami let him. Who knows?

And those are the key words: Who knows? Nobody right now, really, except for those directly involved. So, put down your pitch forks and stop threatening to boycott the company in the future. We have no idea what happened.

But, I will say this: There’s still a slight chance this was a marketing ploy, and we’re all the fools for buying into it. Or, maybe Canavero is helping Kojima retaliate against Konami. Maybe Kojima planned the whole thing to help fund Canavero’s research. All I know for sure is that regardless of what the answer is, it can’t be good. I mean, at best, what do we have? Kojima is leaving Konami, one way or the other… and if this DOES happen to be some sort of ploy, well, reporting a false incident to the Italian police is illegal.

Let’s just wait and see… Because nobody has enough information to take sides.

As for Gabe: Despite all the evidence pointing towards Canavero and Kojima not being in cahoots with one another, a healthy dose of skepticism remains with him, as there’s some minor inconsistencies he’s not ready to talk or write about just yet.

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Why Do You Play Video Games? A PBS Game Show Response

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Why do you play video games?

That question seems a bit absurd, I know, but I ask because every once in a while, I find myself in the thick of a quantity vs. quality debate. It’s an important conversation to have, for sure, as countless games have been padded to manipulate our perception of value. However, these discussions often take such a disheartening turn, that I can’t help but feel like I’ve wandered into an alternate dimension, one that could only befit an episode of The Twilight Zone. Expectations of gaming are going to vary from person to person, sure, but there are certain arguments I’ll just never be able to wrap my head around. Jamin Warren, host of the PBS Game Show, is my latest source of bewilderment, because he’s making the case that video games are too long.

I was intrigued to see if Mr. Warren could produce a reasonable argument in his video segment, but it took less than a minute before my eyes had rolled to the back of my skull.

To showcase the extreme amount of time we, as gamers, have to invest if we’re to play through today’s hottest games, he begins by pointing a finger at Forza Horizon 2, which takes about 10 to 15 hours to complete. Personally, I wouldn’t classify that as a long game, but to each their own.

Next, he brings up the considerably longer Grand Theft Auto V remaster, which boasts at least 30-35 hours of gameplay. Acknowledging he’s already played through the last-gen iteration, he’s still willing to tackle the lengthy heist drama once more.

Now, this is where my head begins to spin. Not because he’s willing to invest up to 70 hours on a single title, but because he’s already invalidated his opening argument. A 15 hour game is, apparently, too much to handle… yet he’s justifying a 35 hour game – twice, no less – merely because he likes it.

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Of course, in the same breath, he has to go that extra sensationalist mile with Dragon Age: Inquisition, as he says the prospect of its 40 to 80 hour campaign made him ‘weep inside’.

So, one 70 hour investment is fine, yet the other is not?

But then things get interesting:

“Games are, far and away, on average, longer than any other medium on the planet. For example, during the 276 hours that this Tumblr user spent playing Call of Duty, I could watch every movie on the AFI 100, finish the works of Tolstoy, and listen to most of the major works of 20th century pop music.”

He goes on to explain that while video games are a wonderful way to spend our time, it’s hard for a responsible adult to squeeze in such drastic minimum completion times, as we still have to juggle family, friends, work, etc. As a result, at least according to him, this is why only 10 to 20 percent of people ever complete their games. I’d like to respect the correlation he’s making, because there’s undoubtedly a link between completion rate and the amount of time people have in their day-to-day lives, but I have to wonder how sincere his ‘games are fine’ asterisk is when he follows up his train of thought with:

“So I can’t help but notice when I feel like games are wasting my time.”

He immediately goes into some explanation about how other forms of entertainment don’t require your undivided attention. You can simultaneously listen to music and read a book, for example.

Subjective.

I’ll agree that music can be more liberating than other media, but it depends on the person. There are plenty of people who don’t just use music as background noise, but as something to become immersed by. As far as books go, some can deal with distractions, while others can’t. Also, the pace at which each individual reads should be taken into consideration. According to my Kindle, I still have 13 hours left on a Stephen King novel I’m reading, but I’m sure there’s people who could probably knock it out in half the time. Film and television are also ingested in a variety of ways. Point is, no one person is alike, so blanket statements need to be left out of the equation, here.

He then states that the medium is experiencing a ‘crisis of audience’. Games now appeal to most age groups, and naturally, they all carry a different set of expectations based on their lifestyle. They all want different things.

That’s a crisis? We’ve reached a point in time where games aren’t seen by most as children’s toys… and that’s a crisis?

Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.

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There has ALWAYS been a great deal of diversity amongst video games. You could seek what lurks in the dungeons of The Legend of Zelda, or collect fruit in the preciously adorable Bubble Bobble. Enter a castle dripping with atmosphere in Castlevania, or hop on a pogo stick as ‘Unca Scrooge’ in Ducktales. Get your face hacked off by Jason in Friday the 13th, or roam around in Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Regardless of what someone sees through their rose colored glasses, there was a variety of gameplay at the ready, and not a single game was beloved by everyone. But, because video games have only become more diversified over time, there is something for everyone.

But, you know, that’s apparently a BAD thing.

Mr. Willen even goes as far to suggest that games come equipped with a story slider – very much like the ones we use for graphics and difficulty – to reduce or extend a game’s narrative. This would allow for any given game to adapt to what WE require, and not the other way around. For example, those who are turned off by the beefy Dragon Age campaign would now have reason to play it.

Now THAT’S a slippery slope if I ever heard one.

Let’s say they did this. Let’s say Dragon Age: Inquisition offered a ‘story slider’. If you abridged the story, you’d have to alter the game mechanics too, wouldn’t you? I mean, how could that even be done? The entire game would have to be re-invented multiple times to suit multiple types of gamers. Keep in mind the devs spent at LEAST three years to bring this game, as is, to retail. To ask that they retool EVERYTHING to appeal to whatever YOUR schedule dictates, would seemingly add a lot of unnecessary time – not to mention cost – to the development cycle. That means MONEY, Mr. Willen. Where would the cost of extra time and resources get passed down to? You guessed it. The consumer. Do we really need to give publishers another reason to inflate the overall cost of games?

Now, as far as game length is concerned… well, that’s nothing new, either. Many classic platformers can be beaten within a couple of hours, and there wasn’t much accommodation. Many of these games had no saves, no passwords, nothing. Just you, the controller, and whatever the game had in store. But we also had Final Fantasy VI (Final Fantasy III on the SNES), in which the primary quest could take 35 hours. Including side quests, you could easily have a 40 to 50 hour game on your hands.

Superghouls

And besides, even the SHORT games could chew up lots of time. I mean, you can technically beat Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts in less than 2 hours, but personally, I’ve NEVER been able to beat that game legit. I still play it to this day though, and I’ve probably invested well over 100 hours of my life to it.

So, who cares if Dragon Age takes 40 or even 80 hours?

I understand that life doesn’t leave much time for gaming. Most nights I only play for an hour or two, and sometimes not at all. Does that mean developers should compromise their vision to appease me? Absolutely not. It’s no secret that Dragon Age, or many of the other lengthy games out there, require a substantial investment. If you don’t want to invest the time, then don’t. Don’t buy a game if you think it’s too demanding for your lifestyle. That’s the beauty of having so many diverse experiences available in the marketplace. If one game doesn’t meet your needs, there’s plenty that will.

As a side note, despite my lack of time, I still play really long games. If I want to play it, I see no reason to skip it. Sure, it’ll take an extremely long time to beat them, but I’m fine with that. I mean, what’s the rush anyway? To get it out of the way so I can move on to the next? Personally, if a game is fun enough, I’ll see it through to the end. Know when I will step away? When it stops being fun. Otherwise, I’ll be content knowing my $60 investment could last for MONTHS.

Anyway, Mr. Willen argues that even if you DO have a lot of time on your hands, it’s still a precious commodity that shouldn’t be wasted on side quests.

Again, subjective.

Who’s to say what should constitute a waste of time for ANY of us? Some people really like the side stuff, and for a variety of reasons, at that.

One person cannot judge how valuable a game’s content is, or isn’t, for anyone else. Same goes for our tastes in books, music, and film. Some think The Lord of the Rings – as written by JRR Tolkien – is a literary masterpiece. Others believe it’s needlessly padded with an overwhelming amount of detail. Some people prefer listening to single songs, while others prefer the experience of a complete album. You can’t please everyone, right? Right. So, let the artists bring their vision to the table, and let the consumer decide what’s right for them. There doesn’t need to be a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Choice is the spice of life, after all. But, hey, if that’s what you want, guess what? There’s plenty of games that already do that, and more are on the way.

Which reminds me that Mr. Willen conveniently ignores something else, though. If quick satisfaction is what you need, there’s already an entire market dedicated to you: Mobile gaming. If you own a tablet, phablet or cell phone, the options at your disposal are almost limitless. There are games that cater to those with only mere minutes to play. If you like the episodic style of Telltale Games, their titles are compatible with virtually every modern device. If you want truncated versions of major AAA console titles, mobile has that, too. Dead Space, Mass Effect, Battlefield, Hitman, Madden, Call of Duty, and Batman have all made the jump to smaller screens.

So, let’s address the elephant in the room: Is Mr. Willen even all that interested in gaming anymore?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying he needs his ‘gamer card’ revoked, or anything like that. But, what’s the most important part of any game? The gameplay… which is ironic, because this PBS Game Show host no longer seems to care about that aspect of the experience. No, he just wants to get in, get out, and walk away with a satisfying narrative… which is fine.

What’s NOT fine, however, is that he’s asking for a complete overhaul of the industry mold, and he’s doing so without considering the repercussions. I mean, let’s say developers around the world began catering to the ‘short and sweet’ crowd en masse. Polygon’s Ben Kuchera – who tends to agree with most of Mr. Willen’s argument – implies this could lead to consumer savings:

“A shorter game can be made for less money which leads to lower prices which means more people buy it… and so on.”

But does that even remotely echo reality? Mr. Willen’s specifically addressing AAA console games, but would publishers like Ubisoft, Activision and Electronic Arts REALLY reduce the price of their games if they cost less to produce? Of course not. One needs to look no further than Call of Duty, an annual franchise featuring 5 hour campaigns and a minimal multiplayer experience out of the box… unless you buy a season pass, of course. And yet, this game has the same MSRP as the time-consuming behemoth that is Dragon Age. If anything, I think these companies will stick with the $60 price tag regardless, and bank their savings from development to improve profit margins.

And since we’re talking about money, EA’s fiscal 2015 third quarter earnings call held some intriguing info about Dragon Age: Inquisition… You know, the game allegedly too daunting for the masses:

“Dragon Age: Inquisition captivated fans and critics worldwide as it launched in November, and it quickly became the most successful launch in BioWare history. More than 113 million hours have already been spent exploring the depth and detail of the single-player experience in Dragon Age: Inquisition, and more players are joining each day. Named “Game of the Year” by 32 media outlets around the world, including IGN, Game Informer and the Associated Press, Dragon Age: Inquisition is a true masterpiece from the team at BioWare and a game that is sure to be played for a long time to come.”

“In particular, Dragon Age: Inquisition had by far the most successful launch in BioWare’s history, exceeding our expectations. In addition, game sales for last-generation consoles were also much stronger than we had anticipated.”

“Outperformance versus our outlook was driven by the record-breaking Dragon Age: Inquisition performance.”

Not that there’s a strong correlation between game sales and game quality, as hype can go a long, long way… but Dragon Age is a well-established franchise. The devs themselves even more so, thanks to their success with the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Baldur’s Gate, and Mass Effect series. People knew what they were getting into.

More than anything, I think this shows that Mr. Willen doesn’t truly understand what gamers want… just what HE wants.

So, in retrospect, maybe the question isn’t why do YOU play video games – since we see the kind of a response that elicits – but why do WE play video games? As I’ve gone through painstaking detail to point out, there isn’t a simple answer for that. Never has been, never will be. We ALL have our preferences, and as we grow and mature, those preferences are likely to change. As a result, self-inventory should take a large role in our internal conversation, especially if you’re echoing the sentiment that games are too long, wasting your time, and find yourself rushing through them ‘just because’. Games should not be, as Mr. Willen puts it, a chore. Yes, some games are needlessly padded, but this happens across all mediums.

At the end of the day, it’s up to the INDIVIDUAL to decide what’s best for THEM.

Hatorade Sells

Hatorade Sells

As of late, the internet has made a huge a stink over the independent game Hatred, and for all the wrong reasons, at that. There’s seemingly little premise, other than the fact you play as a disgruntled man-hulk with anger issues, and he’s decided to ‘vent’ his frustrations by annihilating everyone who crosses his path, innocent civilians and officers alike. Predictably, both the media and public have brought their collective hand-to-mouth, gasping at the sheer audacity of Destructive Creations for coming up with such an idea in the first place.

The first natural question that comes to mind is, why DID the devs decide to embark on this project? I’m not flabbergasted, mind you. I’m just inquisitive by nature and want to know what the developers end-game was. Well, Polygon have already interviewed Destructive Creations in regards to this – who, on their very website, stated the game was a response to the trend of political correctness in video games – and upon reading it, I couldn’t help but let a bag full of chuckles out:

DESTRUCTIVE CREATIONS: “The answer is simple really. We wanted to create something contrary to prevailing standards of forcing games to be more polite or nice than they really are or even should be.

“Yes, putting things simply, we are developing a game about killing people. But what’s more important is the fact that we are honest in our approach. Our game doesn’t pretend to be anything else than what it is and we don’t add to it any fake philosophy.

“In fact, when you think deeper about it…”

Here we go…

DESTRUCTIVE CREATIONS: “…there are many other games out there, where you can do exactly the same things that the antagonist will do in our project. The only difference is that in Hatred gameplay will focus on those things. I also do believe that we’re pretty straight forward about this on our official website. Plus hey, you’ve got to remember that Postal was first and still is the king of the genre ;)”

Then, Polygon lobbed one of the dumbest questions I’ve ever seen in an interview:

POLYGON: “There has been a lot of negative reaction to your trailer, with people saying that it is unpleasant and gratuitous. Does this surprise you?”

No, Polygon. A new development team brands themselves ‘Destructive Creations’, creates a game about a man on a genocidal crusade, and had absolutely NO idea they’d generate this level of controversy…

DESTRUCTIVE CREATIONS: “Not at all in fact as this is exactly what we’ve expected from the very beginning.”

NO! You don’t say!

POLYGON: “Some people say it has a very “shock tastic” ‘90s vibe, and that it is derivative of Postal. What is your reaction to this?”

DESTRUCTIVE CREATIONS: “I’d say they have a lot of reasons to claim that. Especially that, as you can see, so called ‘shock tactic’ does its job very well and in fact we should thank all those haters out there for that. ;)”

You have to hand it to the sensationalist media, because when it comes to inserting foot-in-mouth, they are the undisputed kings. Gamers have been playing the likes of Doom, Night Trap, Postal, Carmageddon, Grand Theft Auto, God of War, Splatterhouse, Manhunt, and Mortal Kombat for eons, yet the stigma of violence in this particular industry remains.

Every time the media finds a new punching bag to blame the world’s problems on, I’m compelled to grab a lawn chair and a bag of popcorn. I mean, the irony on display is sort of unreal, isn’t it? The media – that is, the entities which decide how to best spin a story to their advantage – points their finger at violent video games, citing THEM as the tool that brainwashes the young and impressionable. They hate any form of entertainment which features skewed depictions of murder, rape and war, yet tune into the news on any given night, and what are you likely to see? Skewed depictions of murder, rape and war.

Pot calling the kettle black, much?

Furthermore, when media outlets seek the moral high ground to abolish tasteless entertainment, they prove to be their own worst enemy. Journalists climb atop their podiums to say, “This product is deplorable, so nobody pay attention to it!” Yet, doesn’t putting these ‘awful’ pieces of entertainment in the spotlight amount to free promotion? Aren’t they pretty much guaranteeing that games like Hatred will succeed? It’s counterproductive, to say the least. Then again, the media knows this… and they couldn’t care less. Their goal isn’t to save us from violent imagery and interaction, but to draw us in with click-baity headlines and attention grabbing quotes. The more exasperated they appear, the more attention they draw. Basically, they depend on the very things they rally against to get attention. This is partly why one must ALWAYS question everything they read or see in the media. If they REALLY believed in what they were reporting, they’d be far less sensationalistic, don’t you think? Instead, we get headlines like this (once again, from Polygon): ‘The Worst Trailer of the Year Revels In Slaughtering Innocents’.

As a side note, Polygon gave Grand Theft Auto 5 a score of 9.5, and God of War: Ascension received a 7… I guess violence is okay as long as you belong to one of the special AAA clubs.

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You would think I’d be infuriated, but I’m really not. As I said, I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw the media’s reaction to Hatred. Why? Because we’re being asked to believe that one side is a martyr while the other is outraged, and that’s clearly not the case. This is the first game the studio has made, and they know the only thing better than promotion is getting FREE promotion, so they endeavored to make a title that would make headlines. Of course, the media LOVES controversy, so they put on a show where they storm out of a gate with steam blowing out their ears… and then they cozy up to the source of the story and play ball. If you read the Polygon interview in its entirety, there’s a stark contrast between it, and the original ‘worst trailer of the year because bad stuff happens’ story. Things were quite friendly on both sides, and surprise, surprise, Polygon did everything to ensure controversy remained at the top of the bill, even if it meant deceiving their readers:

DESTRUCTIVE CREATIONS: “By the way, I consider ‘No Russian’ one of the best moments in the whole Call of Duty series!”

POLYGON: “Editor’s Note: This is a notorious scene in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 in which the player is asked to kill innocent people in an airport, in pursuit of enemies.”

Anyone who’s never played that game wouldn’t know any better, but that’s not entirely true. You’re forced to participate in a terroristic mission, yes, but you can avoid firing a single bullet until you reach your enemies. I think the studio brought this up for additional shock value, and Polygon, in typical media fashion, ‘clarified’ the reference with a sensationalist slant. Kind of seems like they’re scratching each other’s backs, here. Even if they’re not, these statements are meant to be inflammatory, and in a very self-serving way, at that.

But oh, if that was only the end of it…

Some days ago, Valve decided to pull Hatred off of Steam Greenlight, a program which allows (Valve’s) Steam users to decide which games get added to the service. Of course, the internet caught wind of this and spread the word rapidly. So much so, that it was only a day or two before Gabe Newell issued a complete reversal, issuing an apology to the Destructive Creations team in the process:

“Hi, Jaroslaw,

Yesterday I heard that we were taking Hatred down from Greenlight. Since I wasn’t up to speed, I asked around internally to find out why we had done that. It turns out that it wasn’t a good decision, and we’ll be putting Hatred back up. My apologies to you and your team. Steam is about creating tools for content creators and customers. Good luck with your game.

Gabe.”

In this case, I can actually believe Gabe Newell didn’t know about this. Valve is a decentralized organization, meaning there’s plenty of people who have the authority to make these kinds of decisions. While departments seemingly report to Newell on a regular basis, it’s not as if ideas are put on hold until they make their way to his office. As a matter of fact, people are welcome to switch projects at will. I guess this ensures employees will remain happy since they have a bit of freedom to do whatever they want (within reason), but when it comes to stuff like this, it’s also proven to be a major PR risk. It’s nice that Gabe reversed the decision and all, but Valve isn’t coming out of this smelling like roses. When they pulled Hatred from Steam Greenlight, they insulted their community. Again, the program is about allowing users to decide what’s what… and Valve denied them that. Now that Gabe issued this e-mail to Destructive Creations, it could make Valve look highly disorganized in the public eye.

But again, I can’t help but laugh. If the media didn’t already guarantee that Hatred would become a success, Valve sure as hell did. As a result of their actions, the potential day 1 install base for this game has grown. Not only will curious gamers buy this game to see how offensive it is, but I wouldn’t be surprised if free speech enthusiasts picked this up to support the developer’s right to artistic expression. Hell, even the most fire-eyed critics could buy it, just to give a complete rundown on the objectionable.

Personally, I don’t care if Hatred flies or flops. I don’t feel it’s the boogeyman, but I’m far from confident that it would be worth the money. The most intriguing aspect of this title is the blame circus that’s transpired over its existence. Otherwise, it looks like the bajillion other twin-stick shooter I’ve already played. Frankly, I’m surprised it’s taken this long for a studio to come along and say, “If the media is so hell bent on witch hunting for murder simulators, let’s give ‘em one. Because of their sensationalism, games often hide dastardly deeds with some sort of gimmick, and we’re tired of it.”

And you know what? That’s fine. Who cares?

If you don’t support what Destructive Creations is doing, then don’t support them. If you think the game looks like fun, then throw some money at it. Outside of that, there’s not much of a conversation to be had, is there? It’s 2014, and I think at this stage of the game, most reasonable people would agree that violence isn’t the byproduct of film, music or video games, but a weak mind. With that in mind, controversy is only utilized to further business interests all around, so instead of allowing them to influence your feelings, I’d recommend doing your own research and formulating your own opinion, as I’m sure many of you already do. The only person who can determine if a game is right or wrong, is you.

@bytesizeimp

Opinion-Bytes: Sony’s Driveflub

Driveflub

I remember the day that Sony announced the Playstation 4, and vividly, at that.  They came out with a consumer friendly machine, $100 less than the competition at that, and… say whaaaa?!  They slipped multiplayer behind a PSPlus pay wall?  Sighs.  I wasn’t happy about being bent over a barrel, so to speak, but I didn’t feel I had much choice but to sit there, hope Sony’s ‘entry’ would be gentle, and take it.  I wasn’t going into the next generation of gaming without multiplayer.  I just wasn’t… and they knew it.  Ah well.  At least they promised to use that additional revenue to improve the service.

In an interview with  Computerandvideogames.com:

Yoshida explained the move was necessary to maintain a high quality service and facilitate improvements and expansions.
 
“That’s (was) a big decision,” he said. “what we internally discussed and decided is that we will continue the free access to online play on PS3 and Vita, so that’s clear. But because on PS4 the online connectivity features such as second screen, auto downloads and share features – these are one big pillar of the PS4 experience and we will continue to invest in this area to expand and improve these online features and services.
 
“If we keep giving away online access for free, the natural pressure is that we have to cut down on the cost to provide this free service. But that’s conflicting with our goal of being able to provide very robust and great online services going forward. So we decided that on PS4, because we want to continue to invest and improve our new services, we’ve asked the most engaged consumers in the online activities to share the burden with us so that we can continue to invest.”

Unfortunately, PSN is still very much the quirky experience that was provided on the PS3.  It seems to work more often than not, but more and more, we’re seeing the service go down for one reason or another.  Of course, these minor interruptions were somewhat acceptable on the PS3.  After all, multiplayer was free, and in a way, something of a privilege.  People are PAYING for this service on the PS4 though, so it’s no longer a privilege.  No, customers pay for it, and when customers pay for something, they expect it to work.

And it’s not as if Sony can just say, “Well, that’s multiplayer for you!  Anything can go wrong at any time.  It’s the nature of the beast!”  They can’t say that because Microsoft’s service is, and always has been much more stable.  A lot of people like to say, “Well, yeah, because Microsoft is a software company.”  Does that really matter, though?  If you provide a paid service, it needs to work.  Constantly.  It doesn’t matter if said service comes from a staff of 3 or 3,000… people will settle for nothing less than consistency.

Anyway, even though Sony had everyone by the brass with their pay wall shenanigans, they wanted to ensure the masses saw this as ‘value’ instead of extortion.  So, they got out the ol’ stick, tied a carrot to the end of it, and dangled it where everyone could see:  Evolution Studios were going to provide their next AAA driver to PS+ subscribers free of cost… well, most of it.  ‘Rushy’, a developer with Evolution, had this to say on NeoGaf:

Rushy’s NeoGaf post

“You can earn the platinum trophy in the PS+ Edition, remember its the full game minus a few cars/tracks.”

Of course, the game was delayed, and it’s been a sore spot with the gaming community ever since.  Certain people went a little overboard with their ‘give me free stuff now’ attitude, but there’s no sense in blaming consumers for feeling duped.  I mean, Sony and Evolution worked together in SOME capacity to soften the blow of PS+ as a pay wall… and then the game wasn’t ready.  More than that, there were some pretty egregious PR blunders that followed.

One such example was the digital upgrade fiasco.  Via Twitter, Joshua Hood (@joshlhood) asked Shuhei Yoshida – President of Sony Computer Entertainment – “(would there) be a discounted package to upgrade to the full game?”  Yoshida confirmed this would be the case, and sure enough, news broke that a digital upgrade would cost $50 instead of the usual $60… but according to the official Playstation blog:

Playstation Blog:

“This will give you access to all five locations, 55 tracks, 50 cars and all 50 tour events, as long as your PlayStation Plus subscription remains active.”

That’s right.  If you were to opt for a slightly discounted version of Driveclub, it would only remain playable as long as your PS+ account was active.  Keep in mind that discounts via PS+ have NEVER worked this way.  Once you buy a game, you own it.  Period.  Fortunately, gamers told Sony and Evolution ‘no thanks’ and the issue was resolved.

But wait, there’s more:

2-panel-its-free-l “One of the recurring questions we keep seeing is about the scale of the Playstation Plus Edition.  The simple answer is that with an active Playstation Plus subscription, you can download Driveclub Playstation Plus Edition, which comes with one location (India), 11 tracks, 10 cars and access to all game modes.

11 tracks and 10 cars?  Does that even come close to Rushy’s promise of ‘the full game minus a few cars/tracks’?  44 tracks and 40 cars… that’s how much the PS+ edition is leaving off the table.  I know some of you are probably saying, “Look, regardless of how much content you’re getting, it’s free.  How can anyone complain about something they’re getting for ‘free’?”  Again – and I hate to sound like a broken record here – this goes back to the idea that ‘free Driveclub’ was used to soften the blow of Sony locking multiplayer behind subscriptions.  Regardless of intent, this whole thing turned out to be little more than a terrible case of bait-and-switch.  Let’s break it down:

Sony locks multiplayer behind a pay wall, but uses Driveclub as an added incentive for joining PS+.  Millions of people purchased the PS4 and a PS+ sub to go with it… and then Sony and Evolution said, “Sorry, did we say free game?  What we MEANT was you’d receive a glorified demo…”

But wait, there’s even more:

On October 7th, Driveclub finally saw its launch after a nearly year-long delay.  Unfortunately, the multiplayer component – the very crux of the game – just wasn’t working.  There were intermittent connection issues which only intensified as time went on.  As a result, the PS+ edition of Driveclub was canceled ‘indefinitely’.  A number of people tried to justify this as day 1 multiplayer woes – which shouldn’t be ‘a thing’, let alone an expectation – but something was clearly amiss when things didn’t get better on days 2, 3, 4, and so on.

Oh, and customers for a refund from Sony were flat-out denied.  “Hi, Sony.  I bought Driveclub the other day, but it’s defective and the devs have no clue how long it’s going to take before these issues are resolved.  I’d like a refund so I can purchase a different game that works.”  In what universe is it okay for Sony to say, “Nope, sorry.  No refunds.”?

On October 12th via Twitter, Rushy (@Rushy33) broke the silence to respond to some inquiries:

“We’ve got no limits to the amount of servers or the quality of hardware, it’s purely down to server code having bugs.”  In regards to some sort of compensation, his only response was, “We’re considering all of our options right now.”  It was later clarified that early adopters could receive (some) free DLC, but resolving their server bug(s) is, obviously, their current priority.

I think it’s safe to call this the worst next-gen game launch since Battlefield 4.  I also can’t help but wonder if people behind-the-scenes knew about these issues beforehand.  I mean, between the retail release and the free PS+ version, they should have anticipated MILLIONS of people raking their servers over the coals… and yet, they couldn’t even accommodate their paying customers?  As of this writing – October 15th – the game still isn’t 100%, and there’s no answer as to when the game will be fixed or when people can expect to play the (gimped) PS+ edition.

But in a way, I’m glad this happened.  Not because I hate Sony or anything nefarious like that.  I actually own both an Xbox One and PS4, and for obvious reasons, Sony’s black box is my primary gaming machine.  That said, I’ve been saying for MONTHS how Sony have done virtually nothing to keep getting, or even maintain the amount of good will they had before their console launched last November.  We’re still missing certain features that were promised at the time of its reveal, they haven’t done much in the way of optimizing their multiplayer service, and this ‘Driveflub’ is just another mark on a long list of promises that haven’t been met… and people are finally coming around.  THAT’S why I’m glad this happened.

And just to speculate a little, I wouldn’t put it past Sony to tell Evolution Studios, “Guys, you’re not going to delay this game again.  We’d, like, look totally bad if we did.  So, do whatever you have to.  What’s that?  The dynamic weather system won’t be done until November or December?  Well, take it out of the game for now, and when it’s ready, patch it in and call it ‘free DLC’.  People LOVE feeling like you’re giving them free stuff!”

Anyway, I was going to buy Driveclub, but this horrific launch chased me over to the other racing game which was released only a week prior:  Forza Horizon 2, and it’s fuuuuuun.  Not only is it fun, but it’s well polished and everything works the way it’s supposed to.  As far as blind buying Driveclub… well, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.  First and foremost, its issues need to be addressed, and even then, I’m going to wait until I can try the ‘demo’ before making a decision.  I know there are a lot of people that don’t have an Xbox One, so picking up Forza Horizon 2 isn’t a viable solution for them.  That said, don’t send the message to Sony or Evolution that everything that transpired is okay.  At the very least, this game shouldn’t receive consumer support until it’s working the way the developers intended.

Sony and Evolution Studios, here’s what it all boils down to:  If you promise something to consumers, they’re going to remember.  Don’t pull a bait-and-switch even if it’s unintentional.  Last but certainly not least, games need to work.  If you had to delay the game another few weeks or so, yes, you’d catch a lot of crap… but so what?  The backlash over this ordeal is likely going to cost Evolution some fans, and, well, I think people are finally coming to realize that while Sony makes great hardware, they’re not the most reliable company around.

Opinion-Bytes: More for Moore, Less for Us

EAMoneyGame

 

Recently, Peter Moore had a chat with computerandvideogames.com, and had some, uh, ‘interesting’ things to say. For those unfamiliar with the name, he’s the Chief Operating Officer of Electronic Arts. They’re one of the largest publishers in the industry, but they’re often criticized for placing more importance on money than a great final product, and rightfully so. As much as I hate to sound like a broken record, Battlefield 4’s botched launch is a perfect example of this. Hell, it STILL has kinks to be worked out, up to and including the single player campaign’s save file corruption issue.

Anyhoo, the article begins on a seemingly harmless note: EA’s COO believes that traditional gamers will take longer to convince that new innovations will be beneficial.

It’s a fair enough point on the surface, but this amounts to little more than PR speak. What Peter Moore is saying ever so delicately, is that the industry is fine and that the gaming community has something of a perception issue. The man genuinely believes our issues stem from mythical pairs of nostalgia goggles, enchanted with liberal amounts of anger and hatred (obviously). Of course, that’s the purpose of PR banter, isn’t it? To provide a sprinkle of truth and ignore the elephant in the room? To lull the less informed into an altered state of reality?

To be fair, there’s a pretty nasty vocal minority out there, but is this unique to the world of gaming? Of course not. Thanks to the anonymity of the internet, the meek finally have an outlet where they can puff their chests out and spew their negativity. Unfortunately, their words carry a bit more weight than most because they’re the loudest, but that doesn’t mean it’s fair to throw a blanket over the gaming community as a whole. Most of us are rational and – gasps, imagine this! – can actually think for ourselves!

I’m 31 years old, so I’ve used rotary dial phones, pagers, cameras that use actual film, and remember what life was like without the internet. I’ve always been one to embrace new technology, but over the last five years or so I’ve found myself actually resisting (some) new technological fads. Is this because I’m older and feeling a bit overwhelmed by all this newfangled technology? Perhaps, but after taking self-inventory, I came back to the realization that I have reasons for liking the things I like, and why I couldn’t care less for the things I don’t.

For example, I’m not big on tablets. I’m just not. When I’m out and about, I have no need to play games or movies, and if I need to connect to the internet, my iPhone is quite capable of the task. For me, there’s simply no value in a tablet. When I DO have time for such activities, I’m usually hovering around my PC or home entertainment center.

On the flip side of the coin, I do love me some black and white e-readers. Thanks to my Kindle Paperwhite, I don’t think I could ever go back to paper and ink. I mean, most books – be it paperback or hardcover – are a pain in the ass to hold, at least in bed. Not my Kindle, though. Also, the backlight is easy on my eyes in a dark room, and I no longer have to disturb my wife with the bedside lamp. Best of all, having all my books on a single device means there’s no clutter to worry about.

I also shied away from motion sensing technology such as the Kinect. It’s a fine concept, sure, but there was nothing about it that made me leap out of my chair to proclaim, “I must own this! I don’t know how I’ve lived without it!” No, not even the ability to shout “FUS RO DAH!” in Skryim made me so much as flinch. Even the Xbox One’s Kinect – while closer to the mark – failed to make itself relevant. The PS4 camera is even less useful, unless you have children at home that want to kick those little robots around.

MooreNoLikey

So, yes, I’ve been a little resistant to things that have come along in recent years, but there’s a single word I can use to explain why: Practicality. Hell, I’d imagine that’s why so many of you might have been resistant to this, that or the other thing. So, when Peter Moore tries to label us as keyboard trolls in the most diplomatic way possible, I’m not only going to call him out on it, but I’ll lay waste to his reasoning and expose the agenda he’s REALLY attempting to push.

So alright, let’s break this down:

“I think we’re going into almost a golden age of gaming, where it doesn’t matter where you are, at any time, any place, any price point, any amount of time, there’s a game available to you,” Moore said. “And our job as a company is to provide those game experiences. And then on our big franchises, tie them all together.”

Alright. So far, so good.

“I think the challenge sometimes is that the growth of gaming… there’s a core that doesn’t quite feel comfortable with that. Your readers, the industry in particular. I don’t get frustrated, but I scratch my head at times and say, ‘Look. These are different times.’”

Well, there it is… the beginning of Peter Moore’s Bullshit Stew. He makes it sound like there’s a faction of gamers out there that just want to sit in their caves, beat their chests and play Bubble Bobble from now until the end of time. Let’s be clear, though – Peter more isn’t talking about resistance to the technological advances in gaming:

“And different times usually evoke different business models.”

Aaaaand there it is. While he’s selling us a story about gamers being afraid of innovation, the reality is that gamers just really hate being screwed over. Apparently, we’re supposed to LOVE paying more money for less content, paying full price for games that don’t work at launch, and enjoy EA’s library of extortionate ‘free to play’ titles (I’m looking at you, Dungeon Keeper).

But wait, there’s more!!!

“Different consumers come in. They’ve got different expectations. And we can either ignore them or embrace them, and at EA, we’ve chosen to embrace them.”

Of COURSE he’s chosen to embrace them! They’ve allowed his company to make money hand over fist! And just so there’s no confusion – When he says ‘different consumers come in’, he’s referring to the younger crowd or people who are new to the gaming scene in general. ‘Different expectations’ is code for hoping the less informed have ZERO expectation. After all, that’s the demographic that has the highest probability of being taken for a ride… but what about the vast majority that speak out against the ‘less for more’ business model?
Well, Mr. Moore goes on to state that the game industry can’t go down the same troubled path as the music biz, and if they hope to survive, the industry should come together on these practices in a unified front.

And…

“I don’t think anybody has to like it,” Moore said. “I think that’s where it goes. It’s like me: I get grumpy about some things, but if the river of progress is flowing and I’m trying to paddle my canoe in the opposite direction, then eventually I’m just going to lose out. From the perspective of what needs to happen in this industry, we need to embrace the fact that billions of people are playing games now.”

I mean, it doesn’t get any more transparent than this, folks. Not that you need it, but allow me to indulge in a translation for that last doozy of a quote:

“There’s billions of people out there playing video games. What, are we not SUPPOSED to do everything in our power to separate them from their money? Yeah, our customers will complain about being nickel-and-dimed, but if the industry as a whole follows the same game plan, they’ll learn to deal with it… I mean, they’ll have to. They’ll have no other choice.”

And that’s why Mr. Moore’s comments have drawn so much negative feedback. We, the gaming community, aren’t stupid. We know when we’re being conditioned to accept the industry’s self-serving business models. And don’t get me wrong… I know the industry is, first and foremost, a business. The goal of any business is to make money, and I’m pretty sure nobody has a problem with that. No, the ‘core gamer’ has a problem with HOW they’ve chosen to acquire it. Companies like EA are forcing their abhorrent policies on us until we relent. They’re hearing the discontent that’s shouted today, sure, but they’re counting on our voice growing quieter by the day, until we’ve had enough and decide to accept things ‘because that’s the way they are’.

That’s not to say I’m against all DLC or micro transactions, because I’m not. There’s a lot of great DLC that’s been introduced over the years, such as Far Cry 3’s Blood Dragon or Outlast’s Whistleblower. Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare features micro transactions, but because in-game currency is earned quick enough through standard gameplay, I never felt like there was a paywall block.

What I AM saying, is that each and every one of you should scrutinize digital content before committing your hard earned money to it. Look at reviews, message boards, and talk to your friends. Think about what it means when you open your wallet and tell a publisher, “I guess I’m cool with paying more money to fill out game that didn’t feel complete at the $60 price point.” Then, and ONLY then, will the likes of Peter Moore get the hint.

Never underestimate the voice of the gaming community. If we were able to make Microsoft change virtually every anti-consumer policy the Xbox One was to originally offer, I’m positive there’s much more we could accomplish.

Never settle for complacency.

Opinion-Bytes: Gamestop, Just… Stop

Gamestop Stop

My first article focused on the disintegration of video game preservation, so you’re probably going to huck some tomatoes at me after making my confession:

I used to work at Gamestop.

It was a brief part-time stint to earn some extra cash, and boy, did it sound like a great idea at the time. Still, I was there long enough to get the ‘full picture’. That is to say, I understand what it’s like to have customers breathe fire because I pushed pre-orders and discount membership cards. There were also plenty of times I shattered the dreams of those who hoped their old games would net them a generous amount of credit. Was I trying to screw these people over? Of course not. The company WANTED me to greet the customer, have a conversation, and barrage them with a slew of questions. It was bananas. The script went a little something like this:

“Are there any upcoming games you’d like to pre-order? Do you have any games you’d like to trade in for credit towards that pre-order? Are you a Power-Up Rewards member? No? Would you like to sign up for it? It only costs (price)! You’ll get 10% more for trade-ins, and even save 10% on used games! Not only that, but you’ll get a subscription to GameInformer magazine! It’s quite a deal. Also, did you know that we now take trade-ins on mp3 players, tablets and e-readers?”

That’s the spiel you got no matter which Gamestop you’d visit, verbatim. Even over the phone they’d attempt to claim your first born in exchange for a Halo Reach pre-order.

Pricing

Okay, maybe that’s taking it too far. Call me crazy, but I don’t think Gamestop is evil. They’re a business first and foremost, and their goal is to make as much money as possible. That said, they’re still shady as fuck, and I’m going to tell you why. Focusing on their inclination to go above and beyond the call of obnoxiousness, here’s some personal perspective to kick things off:

Once upon a time, I was an assistant manager for KB Toys, and their business model consisted of the same sort of nonsense:

Draw customers into the store and greet them. Talk to them as they peruse your stock. Provide some suggestions and upsell a few toys that corporate wants you to push. Pester them at the register to see if they want gift cards, gift wrap and batteries.

Basically, never leave the customer alone. Keep the pressure on until they give you their money or walk away in disgust. This approach works more often than you’d like to think, but what’s the long term effect? The customer will avoid your store like the plague, of course. People don’t want to be shaken by the ankles to have their lunch money stolen, you know? When people feel pressured, their loyalty will dissipate and then whammo… the customer is gone.

Want to know where KB Toys is now? Bankrupt. Gone. Finished. Finito. And why? Because corporate goons were so busy scrambling for money, they forgot that the most essential part of customer service is… well, customer service. I mean, how hard is it to figure out? Be kind and courteous, and be accessible for when the customer needs you. It’s really that simple. The morale of employees will remain high, and customer loyalty will increase.

For a moment there, I almost forgot I wasn’t talking about Gamestop. It sounds an awful lot like them though, doesn’t it? Trust me, like KB Toys, they don’t care about you or what you need. Instead, they’re more like Wile E. Coyote with an oversized magnet (ACME, of course), attempting to suck the fillings from your teeth before you have a chance to escape. Unfortunately, the sad reality is that corporate leaves the store level employees little choice but to badger you, lest they be punished with less hours to run their shop efficiently. Yes, corporate is more than willing to let you wait in line, all because your local Gamestop didn’t make the pre-order quota last week. Who does that hurt in the end? That’s right: You, the consumer.

But this isn’t the stuff I’m calling out as shady. It’s a bad way to do business, sure, but not shady. So why did I ‘go there’ at the beginning of the article?

Well, because they intentionally mislead and overcharge their customers whenever the opportunity arises. Xenoblade Chronicles was an incredibly rare title for the Wii, but back in 2013, Gamestop had plenty to go around. Where did the boom in their stock come from? They had “sourced a limited number of copies” to carry in their stores and online. Translation? They cut a deal to have new copies printed exclusively for Gamestop, but here’s the rub: While this limited production made Xenoblade much easier to find, they still wanted you to think it was rare so you’d shell out $90 for a copy. Yep, they gutted brand new copies, slapped a ‘Used’ sticker on ‘em, and jacked the price so you’d think you were buying the genuine article. A similar thing happened with the Metroid Prime Trilogy, and additional titles are planned for the future. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with increasing supply to meet demand, but keeping your customers in the dark so you can extort them? Mental.

In more recent months, Gamestop took advantage of the PS4 Camera shortage by silently raising the price $10 above MSRP. You know… just because.

While I’m on the topic of ‘value’, how do you feel about pre-order bonuses? Nearly every AAA title has them nowadays: “Pre-order with us to get exclusive in-game content!” Of course, they neglect mentioning this content was meant to be yours all along. But because Gamestop cuts deals with publishers to carve content out, the final product is gimped so they can fill those precious pre-order quotas. Worse yet, various other companies have followed suit (Best Buy and Target the most notable in the US).

When they aren’t pushing pre-orders, they’re accepting trade-ins. Some people see this as a godsend, but trade-ins are a bad proposition for everyone… except Gamestop, of course. You can buy a game on day 1, trade it in on day 3, and only get $30 credit for it… and they’ll turn around and sell it for $55. And by the way, if you’re one of those people that are willing to buy a used game for $55, you’re saying that “Saving $5 is more important than paying the folks that made this game.” I know, I know – Sometimes you HAVE to buy used, but you should ALWAYS try to send your money where credit’s due.

9BB5653A-0C4D-E3E6-DDEFEDD879BB332A

There’s a reason why devs and publishers are pushing digital sales, DLC and microtransactions. Just sayin’.

And did you ever wonder why digital games – for consoles, at least – cost the same as their physical counterparts? I know this sounds like conspiracy level shit here, but yet again the answer is Gamestop. Basically, they know that digital games are going to cut into their bottom line, and substantially at that. After all, when all of your potential customers have the choice to spend $60 for a disc or $45 for a download, a bunch are going to choose the cheaper option (not me, but I touched on that in my previous article). Because Gamestop won’t see a cut from PSN or Xbox Live sales, they exercise the only leverage they have left – They refuse to carry the games that won’t have digital and physical price parity on day 1. When a gaming chain has enough power to bully the publishers, that’s a BIG problem.

Dare I even mention the fact that when there’s only two copies left/in-stock, they’ve already taken the liberty of opening the game for you? Hell, in some cases, they’ve even played it for you! How about the fact that sometimes their used pricing is – I shit you not – actually more than a new copy? The list goes on, but you get the point. When you get right down to it, Gamestop doesn’t know how to treat their customers, they’re responsible for microtransactions, and are a major reason for digital content remaining so high in price.

…And now they want to wade into the pools of game development.

Instead of merely paying the devs/publishers a chunk of coin to carve out a weapon skin in exchange for your pre-order, they want to be involved in the creation of ‘significant DLC’ that would be exclusive to the Gamestop brand. The retail giant has already gone on record to say they won’t affect the creative process in any way, shape or form… but how can they know that? When a game is being developed with a launch window in mind, and you give the publishers/devs a hefty payday to divert some of their resources to design content exclusively for you… how can that NOT affect the creative process? Granted, it’s a little too early to proclaim doom and gloom on the horizon, but can there really be any good that comes of this? At all?

Gamestop, just… stop.