The video game industry is undergoing a major evolution. As gamers approach the end of the current generation’s cycle, there is much talk about what is to come. Gamers, developers, and analysts are all looking forward with optimism. I would like to take this opportunity to point out some of the worst trends gamers have been subject to during the last six years. Listed below are five trends that we can only hope will not carry over to the next generation of gaming.
Online Passes have been discussed in a previous article, but that doesn’t make them any less despicable. For those of you who are completely unaware of the trend, game publishers are punishing those who have purchased their games used by including an “online pass.” These passes can only be used once. Therefore, used game owners will need to purchase (for an additional $10) a pass in order to access online content.
There are two general problems with online passes. First of all, the consumer has done nothing wrong. As consumers, the gamer is responsible for purchasing the game, rather than pirating it. Publishers should be taking out their frustrations with the retailer. When retailers sell used games, they keep 100% of the income. Furthermore, used game sales have continued to rise over the past few years. It is simply wrong to place the blame on the consumer, as they have already taken the moral route of purchasing the game in the first place.
The second problem with these passes is the idea behind locking away purchased content. The content is already on the disk, and has been paid for. When somebody pays for a game, they are knowingly paying for everything that is contained within the disk. Instead, publishers have locked away paid content, only granting access to your purchased item to those who are willing to pay for it again. This raises a few questions; How much of the game did you pay for? How much of the game do you truly own?
Time Saving DLC
To most gamers, time saving DLC sounds like the punchline to a joke. Unfortunately, the laughable reality is that people are willing to pay for this kind of thing. Time saving DLC is a downloadable pass that unlocks all characters/maps/features of a game. The best example would be the Time is Money Pack in Skate 3. For 560 Microsoft Points, “Time is Money will unlock all locations, skaters and gear, and Skate.Park objects that can be earned by playing through Skate 3’s career and online modes.”
Think about what they are proposing. For almost $7, Time is Money will play Skate 3’s single player and multiplayer component for you. If you have ever paid for any DLC of this nature, ask yourself why you have even bothered purchasing the game. Clearly, you have no interest in playing it. Time saving DLC will subtract from the game’s replay-value. You paid $60 for a game, only to pay an extra $7 to not play it.
Perhaps the nastiest of all trends, on-disk DLC is when publishers offer “downloadable content” that has actually been included on the game’s disk. Once again, publishers are locking away content that has already been paid for. This offence ranks above the rest because, unlike online passes, publishers aren’t spiting a group of people. This is not an act of anger or frustration. Publishers, like Capcom, claim that there is simply no difference between on-disk DLC and regular DLC. As a result, groups of gamers have started to protest Capcom, along with other main offenders. Cliffy Bleszinski, design director at Epic Games, sheds some light on the morality behind on-disk DLC, labelling it as an “ugly truth” in our beloved industry. In my opinion, if publishers want to lock away on-disk content, the price of the game should be lowered.
As mentioned countless times on the blog, society is currently fascinated with shooters. Call of Duty, Halo, Battlefield, Uncharted, Medal of Honor, Gears of War, Splinter Cell, SOCOM, Killzone, and Resistance only scratch the surface of the mass popularity of the genre. Unfortunately, while most of these games are fairly decent, they have gradually casted aside the single-player experience. In 2012, it is not uncommon for a blockbuster to clock in at six-to-eight hours. While I am a firm believer of “quality over quantity”, a six hour single-player experience hardly justifies a $60 purchase.
This is a concern because of previous industry standards. In 1996, the Nintendo 64 launched with one of gaming’s finest creations; Super Mario 64. SM64’s average playthrough is north of nineteen hours. Today, only sandbox/large-scale RPGs surpass this mark. Sadly enough, this is the noteworthy aspect of those games. The only explanation for this would be that our expectations have dropped. For example, my first playthrough of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (on the Nintendo 3DS) went well over fifty hours. Truthfully, a modern action/adventure game would hardly survive that length, with the Zelda franchise as a traditional exception.
As aforementioned, there is too much of a focus on multiplayer gaming. Call of Duty Elite subsciption sales solidify this statement. If the industry is going to focus on this aspect, multiplayer experiences should at least attempt to be somewhat innovative. Truthfully, they are all too similar. Most shooters share similar game types, leaving a truly copy-pasted experience. Take Halo: Reach, for example. While Reach is undoubtedly the definitive Halo multiplayer experience, it fails to innovate the way its predecessor did. As a result, players have a quality yet familiar spectacle.
Thankfully, not all games follow this pattern. Few exceptions include Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and Mass Effect 3. Brotherhood introduces the most creative and unique mutliplayer of its time. It’s unfortunate that Ubisoft couldn’t continue to innovate with Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. Mass Effect 3 is also a noteworthy example. While wave-based co-operative gameplay is anything but new, Mass Effect 3 includes a multiplayer narrative that directly affects the single-player campaign. This satisfies the masses while placing a strong emphasis on the single-player experience. This form of innovation is what can truly change the industry in the coming generation.