A reader cautions against blaming publishers for problems in the gaming world and suggests they’re only doing what customers want.
The games industry is clearly at a crossroads. The pandemic has helped to speed up the changes but it’s now very clear that Microsoft’s way of looking at gaming is completely different from Nintendo and Sony, who, odd as it may seem, have basically the same approach. Microsoft’s business is focused on Game Pass subscriptions while the other two want to stick to the old way of paying top dollar for individual games.
Having such different approaches is schism enough, but then you’ve got the big publishers like EA and Ubisoft realising that microtransactions make much more money than the games they’re for. Only 26% of EA’s money comes from actually selling games, so it makes complete sense that they want to concentrate on making more free-to-play and game as a service titles – both of which depend entirely on microtransactions to make their money.
You might wonder what all this has to do with gamers. I should state quickly that the title of this feature is somewhat tongue-in-cheek and I’m not suggesting anyone is doing anything wrong. The point I would like to make though is that these changes, and other issues I’ll get to in a minute, are all directly a result of how we, the gamers, spend our time and money. If you don’t like any of these things, it’s not because of publishers being evil. It’s because of publishers being run by businessmen who are simply giving the public what they want.
The Microsoft/Sony schism is a matter of personal taste but personally I worry greatly about Microsoft becoming the dominant force in gaming. I don’t think I’ve ever liked any of their exclusives and generally prefer Japanese to Western games, which is the opposite of what Xbox offers.
But Microsoft has enough money to ensure that Game Pass is incredibly good value and, naturally, gamers are flocking to it. They could say no, because a company outspending its competition is not a healthy thing to encourage, but of course they don’t because why would they care about that sort of thing when there’s serious money to be saved by buying an Xbox?
The microtransaction issue I would take more issue with though. Not wanting to miss out on a great bargain with Game Pass is one thing but is it really too much to ask for people not to spend money on the sort of pointless in-game tat you used to get for free or, even worse, a random chance to get some pointless in-game tat. It’s not harmless fun, because companies change the design of their games so that they need microtransactions and lootboxes more, also adding them to single-player games or simply not making them anymore. And they do it because gamers encourage them to.
And you know what? It’s not their fault. I might not buy microtransactions myself, but only because I don’t play online multiplayer that much. If I did I’d probably be as addicted as anyone else to getting skins and items. And if I cared about football I’m sure I’d be buying lootboxes from FIFA 21 all the time, while trying to convince myself that they were ‘only cheap’ and refusing to admit that it all adds up.
There is one thing that I am willing to blame gamers, including myself, for though and that’s buying broken games at launch. We have got to stop doing this. We all know there’s very little chance of a game working properly day one and that it’ll be both more stable and cheaper if you just wait a few months, but we just can’t stop ourselves.
I couldn’t with Returnal. I read GC’s review and it sounded exactly my cup of tea, so I took in all the details about stuff I’d love and ignored the paragraph about the bugs. Then I’m deep into a two-hour run of the game and the whole thing crashed and I lost all my progress. Obviously, the game shouldn’t be like that, but also I shouldn’t have bought. I knew in general the odds were low it’d work properly, and I had specific advice that it was very buggy pre-launch. But I got it anyway.
The next big game out after that is Mass Effect Legendary Edition, and apparently that’s filled with bugs too which might – but probably won’t – be fixed by launch. Thankfully, I’m not a big Mass Effect fan but I can’t honestly say I wouldn’t have bought it day one if I was. We’ve got to stop this. We’ve got to realise, as gamers, that the choices we make have a direct effect on the games industry.
Some people thing publishers don’t listen to ordinary gamers but they absolutely do, just maybe not in the way you imagine. If you buy something they listen, if you don’t buy something they listen. And at the moment all we’re telling them is to carry on with the microtransactions and the broken games because we’ll buy it all anyway.
By reader Cranston
The reader’s feature does not necessary represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.
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