News: Industry Shills for Overpriced Kojima Demo

Metal Gear Solid Five Trailer Screenshot
Konami are seemingly blind as to the negative implications that this shameless ploy may have for the ‘Metal Gear’ franchise.

‘Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes’ Offers Gamers Ninety Minutes of Poor Value

This industry is getting bloody bold. Metal Gear Solid V:Ground Zeroes status as a prologue has long been known, as has its pricing structure [30-40 dollars at retail, depending on whether one buys it for a seventh or eighth generation console], yet until now its duration had been an unknown variable to this equation. This is no longer the case. This week ‘Game Informer’ was given four hours of unfettered hands-on time with the game, and was able to beat the main mission within ninety minutes. Moreover, they reported that Konami testers were able to breeze through the game within the span of five minutes, though of course the experience of a well-practiced professional game player is not a true indication of game volume. At any rate, to say that Konami has some bloody nerve to charge forty dollars for a ninety minute demo would be to put it lightly, as the company’s greed and opportunism in this instance are quite frankly sickening. The mediocre acting talent of Kiefer Sutherland obviously does not come cheaply, and Konami no doubt has investors to keep happy, yet at forty dollars Ground Zeroes is over four times the price of seeing a ninety-plus minute new release movie in the cinema.

Konami’s handling of Ground Zeroes has been galling enough, yet the truly sickening spectacle of the week arrived in the form of the industry mobilising in order to supply a shrill chora of defense for Konami’s outrageously priced demo. Obviously Kojima et al. came out in defense of their game which was to be expected – with Jordan Amaro drawing some particularly disingenuous parallels.

Are Journey and Dear Esther long? [Voltaire’s 18th-century writing Candide] is like a hundred pages at most,” Amaro said. “Yet they are masterpieces of video game and literature. This smearing will not stain and affect what we’re aiming to achieve with MGS, the game industry in Japan, or video games as a whole.

The Konami response was expected and understandable, but what was altogether far more dismaying was the relative glut of “game journalism” apologist opinion pieces from publications such as Now Gamer, Gamezone, and Videogamer.com, which exhorted their readers to purchase Kojima’s ninety minutes of poor value anyway because the game is far longer if one uses it [much like a hoop and stick] to make up alternate emergent games and/or goals.

Finally, the director of Shadows of the Damned, Massimo Guarini, posted a snivelingly ingratiating tweet stating:

When creators are forced to justify the length of a game, I think that’s one of the biggest failure of our industry.

Guarini is quite mistaken – the biggest failure of the industry is when a publisher cannot justify the asking price of their wares, which demonstrably Konami cannot, given all the false equivalencies drawn between Ground Zeroes and various short games that were priced accordingly. When a Twitter follower subsequently told Guarini that there can be no possible justification for the game being beatable in five minutes, he responded thusly:

it depends on how amazing those 5 mins are

That pretty much says it all really. Kojima apologists have massively lost touch with the reality of the common gamer if they think a scant five minute run-time is acceptable for a forty dollar piece of entertainment, even if the quality is of the highest standard. The defense of Konami’s disgusting greed has absolutely nothing given that the most common thread of argumentation is that a game’s length does not determine its quality, which is a counterpoint to an argument that literally no person on the internet is making. No one doubts that Ground Zeroes will be a very high quality product which features enjoyable gameplay – yet the game nonetheless represents a shockingly poor value proposition for its dismal run-time. Kojima et al. can point to any number of short games such as Dear Esther, Flower, and Journey – yet these games are complete and satisfying experiences in and of themselves, and all launched at a far lower price point of around fifteen dollars. Fifteen dollars was also the asking price of the delightfully campy Far Cry: Blood Dragon, which offered around five hours of quality content. At any rate, Konami have displayed shockingly poor judgement in potentially tarnishing their last solid franchise in exchange for a little short term profit. In presenting the game as a physical product under the Metal Gear Solid V label, Konami are obviously going to mislead many casual gamers into thinking that this fleeting prologue is the full release of the next canonical release in the Metal Gear series, which is likely no accident. It would be a richly deserved outcome if this highway banditry convinced the bulk of Ground Zeroes owners to refrain from purchasing Metal Gear Solid V proper when it is released in 2015.

Golden Poo SLIDER
It is difficult to perceive of a possible future wherein EA does not retain the Golden Poo!

EA Cannot Help But Be Evil

The month of February has seen EA make their strongest ploy of 2014 to defend their title of ‘worst company in America’ by garnering an unprecedented three consecutive golden poo awards. Leading the charge is their smartphone release of a new entry in the Dungeon Keeper series. Dungeon Keeper is a notionally free-to-play title [as is the flavour of the month], yet is free-to play in notion alone – as in practice the pacing is so slow as to be unplayable without making in-app purchases [which are all obnoxiously expensive].

The game has met with overwhelming criticism, achieving a 46 critic aggregate on Metacritic, along with a user score of just 0.3 out of 10! Metro GameCentral perhaps puts it best when their 0/10 review states:

Dungeon Keeper is not a video game, not any more. Instead it’s just a virtual beggar, constantly demanding your spare change and offering nothing in return.

Even the usually corporately diplomatic creator of the Dungeon Keeper franchise, Peter Molyneux, could only respond with incredulity upon playing it:

I felt myself turning round saying, ‘What? This is ridiculous. I just want to make a dungeon. I don’t want to schedule it on my alarm clock for six days to come back for a block to be chipped,’

Many have pointed to the irony of Peter Molyneux complaining about the time it takes for a block to be chipped away, but the criticism stands nonetheless. Dungeon Keeper is not a game that can be played for free – but that is not the primary cause for the game’s infamy, as EA have also created it in such a way as to make it impossible to give the game a negative user-rating from within the app.

EA have hit upon a novel way to ensure that their game only gets 5/5 user-rating. Shortly after beginning a game players will be invited to rate their experience out of five. Awarding Dungeon Keeper with five stars has the predicted effect, yet awarding the game with one to four stars will not award these values to the user-rating, but rather prompt the player to fill out a user-feedback form. From here players are once again invited to rate the game out of five, yet if the player attempts to rate the game anything lower than five stars, the game will once again prompt them to submit their feedback. it is impossible to award the game with less than five stars from within the app. This is literally the modern day equivalent of “But thou must“, only it is being used to commit some rather brazen anti-consumer fraud. The game’s makers even had the gall to then turn around and state that the game’s artificially high user rating was proof that players were enjoying the game:

We’re still figuring that out. One of the important data points we’re looking at is our store ratings and downloads. At the time of this interview, App Store ratings currently sit at 4 out of 5 stars and Google Play ratings sit at 4.5 out of 5 stars. We’re also seeing a lot of game downloads and in-game engagement so that tells us there is a large group of people who are playing and enjoying the game. Obviously, this is counter to some of the angry reactions we’ve seen around the internet, so we’re still trying to look at all of these data points.

This is EA, and EA are amazing!

Watch Dogs Screencap
It would have been delightful were Ubisoft forced to walk away from the marketing invested into the ‘Watch Dogs’ brand name.

Ubisoft Gets Trolled Hard

This week the trademark for Watch Dogs as it pertains to software was junked by the United States Patent and Trademark office. This action was taken after Ubisoft CEO, Yves Guillemot, seemingly requested the express abandonment of the trademark. This move led to much speculation as to what it could mean, with the two prevailing speculations being that Ubisoft had either cancelled the game [hugely unlikely], or that they were preparing to make Watch Dogs into an entry in the Assassin’s Creed series. As it turns out Yves Guillemot did not actually request the express abandonment of the trademark for the Watch Dogs IP, as it was an elaborate hoax, with the author going so far as to forge Guillemot’s signature.

On February 1, 2014, Ubisoft Entertainment received an email from TEAS@uspto.gov notifying Ubisoft Entertainment that a Request for Express Abandonment had been filed in connection with Application Serial No. 85642398. The Request for Express Abandonment purports to be signed by the Chief Executive Officer of Ubisoft Entertainment, Yves Guillemot. Mr. Guillemot, however, did not sign the Request for Express Abandonment, nor did Ubisoft Entertainment file the Request for Express Abandonment. The Request for Express Abandonment is fraudulent and was not filed by Ubisoft Entertainment or its representative.

As delightful as this turn of events is, it is something of a pity that no entity sought to trademark the name while the Ubisoft trademark had lapsed, as that would have opened the doors for some top-shelf patent trolling. More to the point however, this certainly demonstrates the ease with which individual tricksters are able to get existing trademarks to be declared null and void, meaning that we could potentially see such shenanigans being enacted again. Personally speaking, one would love to bring about the abandonment of Denis Dyack’s Shadow of the Eternals, and, to be frank, to do so would probably be something of a favour for Precursor Games, given the troubled nature of that particular project.

7 comments

  1. So Ground Zeroes has 5 minutes of running around, and the rest of it is filled up with cutscenes? People are out there right now (foolishly) paying $30-$40 for new Blu-Ray movies, so you can think of it that way.

    EA has released the gaming equivalent of Malware. But I’m sure he’s right, a whole rotten mess of little future dictators are out there right now engaging in and dumping cash into it. It bids me to ponder, while psychologist have studied the effects of violent game content on aggressiveness in children (with the common and woefully inaccurate experimental models used to extrapolate almost totally irrelevant conclusions), will we ever see studies on the psychological effects of free-to-play on innocent, tabula rasa minds? Or the sympathetic/parasympathetic reactions to the decision to pay for progress in a game like this? The latter interests me more, because, somewhat paradoxically, the decision to buckle down into the commitment you’ve started with such a game actually constitutes a flight from reality, so it would be worthy to note which synaptic pathways light up for that and compare it to theoretical evolutionary mechanisms for survival.

  2. I’m sorry, Matt, are you attempting to justify paying $40 for a demo?

  3. @SN: I think he is!

    Movies aren’t video games. The value comes from a different place. We do not have a reasonable expectation of hours and hours of interactivity with a movie when we buy it. The movie is a passive medium. The value proposition of a movie takes this into account. (Incidentally, I don’t know anyone spending $40 on 90min-long Blu-ray movies, anyway.) The pricing model of this industry has largely been commensurate with this structure.

    Video games are an active medium–there may be passive points (more now than in the past), but they are purchased with the expectation that there will be some considerable time investment in that interaction. In this case, too, the pricing model is largely solidifed. Exceptional, award-winning, industry-changing endeavours like Journey still priced themselves at $15-20 at most, if the playtime was not sufficient to charge more. People, with video games, expect that they are buying a work of some length.

    $40 for 5 minutes of gameplay or 90 minutes of experience is not a good value proposition within this industry. You can point to things happening outside the industry, but that isn’t a relevant manoeuvre. As an analogue, comparing what happens in academic book publishing cannot give me a guideline for how Game Publishing ought or oughtn’t be done. The expectations on the part of the buyer and seller in both industries are entirely different.

    In any case, even setting aside the false analogy, it is not sufficient to say, “People put up with this shit, therefore this shit is, in fact, OK, and not actually shit at all.”

  4. I’m always happy when you can concoct a justification to write more on a subject, but for those who might be reading without thinking, or missed the sarcastic/ironic slight, or whose eyes easily pass over the word “foolishly,” no, I am not. Maybe I made the analogy, but it would deem them both overpriced for their expectation and returns. The final summation should instead read more along the lines of “A fool and his money are soon parted.”

  5. Matt Dance: A man so subtle his sarcasm masquerades as sincere conviction!

  6. SN has hit the nail square on the head again! Sincerely, I mean.

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