Editorial: Where Did Gaming Go Wrong?

The state of gaming has been on a downward slope in recent years. If we are not being overcharged for useless extras bundled within special editions, companies extort us for extra money post-release with downloadable content (DLC). Today we will be looking at areas where games companies have been found to working against the interests of their customers.

The ability to skip the entire game was scrapped as DLC and was just added into the software instead.

Leaked DLC plans.

Downloadable Content

Long ago, developers released additional maps, extra characters or new units for games in free, easy to install patches. I personally remember bookmarking the Total Annihilation website to check for the regular units Cavedog Entertainment released in the months after shipping. Those days are long gone though, as often developers now choose to place paid DLC on the disc! In the case of the recently released Street Fighter X Tekken, Capcom explained this ‘as a matter of compatibility and file size’.

I have no problem paying for addition content, but I would expect said content to have been developed once the base game had gone gold. If I buy a game, I should be entitled to all content on the disc. Maybe I do not have the ability to unlock it, but the opportunity should be there.

Some companies go as far as offering players all future content packs in the form of a ‘season pass’; an early payment that offers a reduction against buying all the packs separately in the future. Personally, I will just wait for the inevitable game of the year edition with everything bundled in together.

Copy Protection

I have posted my thoughts on methods of authentication software on this website before, so I shall not go on at length. We used to own content on any discs we bought, with the ability to make backups if we chose. Now we are lucky if servers are up when we have time to play.

It's fine now.

How Origin works.

Digital Downloads

Now, I am all for buying my games digitally. I have draws and shelves full of games that I hardly play anymore. I look forward to the day when everything I want to play can be installed overnight, or even in the background while I play something else. What I do not approve of though, is being charged over and above what local games shops ask for new releases.

I could buy the latest SSX for PlayStation 3 from Amazon for twenty-four pounds. I could walk into game and purchase it for thirty-eight pounds. Charging me fifty-eight pounds for the pleasure of downloading it straight away from PSN? No thanks! Even buying Borderlands 2, released today in the U.K., we pay twelve pounds more through PSN than online retailers.

Valve is an example of how digital distribution should work. Anybody who has a Steam account likely has a game that they impulse bought during a sale, but never played. This is the power of Steam sales, we throw money at them even if we have no intention of playing games right away! Sadly, a greater number of publishers and traditional retailers are entering the digital market. Rather than creating competition online, this creates a situation where gamers require multiple accounts and passwords for different distribution networks for each game they want to play.

The Decline of Single-Player

Another topic already covered on the site, this time by Deimosion. Fewer games today offer a serious, in-depth, involved storyline. This could be the reason I find it hard to play a single game for long sessions as I did in the past.

Because I can't.

Spot the difference.

Casual Gaming

By casual, I do not mean portables like the 3DS or the Vita, instead I refer to the rise of Facebook games and free iOS apps. I do not wish to be sent annoying messages every few hours because my aunt needs help on her farm, nor do I want to pay money to do something now that I could do later for free if I wait an hour.

Developers in this space are often happy to rip off ideas from successful brands and reuse them in mediocre titles, sectioning off large amounts of content if one does not pay for premium items, often running into hundreds of pounds to collect everything.

The golden age of gaming is dead. We are not even in the silver age. What we have right now is a stone age where everyone is trying to reinvent the wheel. While some are happy to make apologies for the companies they choose to buy games from, the majority of gamers should stand up to these shoddy practices and vote with their wallets. When these methods are no longer profitable, we should see our industry become great once again.

13 comments on “Editorial: Where Did Gaming Go Wrong?”

  1. “Rather than creating competition online, this creates a situation where gamers require multiple accounts and passwords for different distribution networks for each game they want to play.”

    This would be truer for me if I gave a damn about EA or Ubisoft games, but I don’t. I do have accounts for some game services because they’re required, but I never buy another game from a company that does this because fuck DRM. Steam isn’t just popular because of its sales; Steam is well-loved because it isn’t a piece of shit.

  2. I would add “Idiotic part of the gamer population” to the list, as I know no other way to call a person who defends clearly anti-consumer practices besides idiot. How many times have I seen people defending shady DLC with brilliant arguments such as “everyone’s doing it, get used to it” or “it’s a company, they want to make money”.

    GOLD STAR AWARDED! -ed.

  3. Interesting. I didn’t know archival copies were allowed, even long ago. (Of course, “what’s allowed” and “what people did anyway” are two different things) I knew some developers condoned them, but I thought most games always stipulated that you owned a license to a single copy of the game at one time and not the game itself to copy as you pleased. Apparently this wasn’t always so?

  4. I would have to go searching for the specific act, but in the U.K. at least it was and still is legal make backups of games. I’ll post more when I find it.

  5. 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act Section 50(A)

    (1)It is not an infringement of copyright for a lawful user of a copy of a computer program to make any back up copy of it which it is necessary for him to have for the purposes of his lawful use.
    (2)For the purposes of this section and sections 50B [F3, 50BA] and 50C a person is a lawful user of a computer program if (whether under a licence to do any acts restricted by the copyright in the program or otherwise), he has a right to use the program.
    (3)Where an act is permitted under this section, it is irrelevant whether or not there exists any term or condition in an agreement which purports to prohibit or restrict the act (such terms being, by virtue of section 296A, void).

  6. Also interesting is this little bit of information I found:

    Under the new UK copyright laws, any software publisher which implements any form of copy-protection on its discs will be breaking the law. Because it’s an offence, obviously, to deprive the consumer of any right which is explicitly granted to him in law. And if you implement copy protection which there is no legal way to circumvent, then you are, obviously, depriving the consumer of the opportunity to exercise his legally-enshrined right to a backup.

    This is from an article written in a PC magazine from 2004.

  7. Too much money is involved: Games have become prohibitively expensive to make, while consumers represent more money than ever before to greedy CEOs.

    Amid this perfect storm online distribution has really come into its own this generation, and thus are we all fucked.

  8. Prices for full retail games on PSN are extortionate. I can’t fathom why anybody would purchase their PS3 games this way. Also, most of the time a game’s DLC prices don’t scale down along with the price of the game itself. I’m just not a fan of Sony’s digital pricing structure at all.

  9. Prices are not even consistent across PSN regions. I bought Lego Pirates Of the Caribbean from the U.S. Store for $19.99 when the U.K. store wanted £19.99.

  10. Having just purchased a 360 and a Gold subscription not long ago, I’ve really come to notice the differences between MS’s and Sony’s digital marketplaces. About the only thing I like more on the PS3 is the ability to buy a game straight-up. I don’t need to transfer a set amount of MS Points (which obfuscate the price of a game) to cover the cost of the game. So for a $16 game I had no choice but to pay $20. Aside from that, everything else is an improvement.

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