Gamers are a funny bunch. One day, they are foaming at the mouth (rightfully so) at EA’s destruction of Dungeon Keeper, and the next day they spend hours defending Konami and Hideo Kojima for charging thirty dollars for a demo of Metal Gear Solid V. The industry’s focus on squeezing every penny out of its consumers has had the interesting, but sad, effect of changing vast amount of gamers into apologists. While a company like EA sees no support for their blatant money grabs (again, rightfully so), companies like Konami and Double Fine also look to exploit their fans, yet receive heaps of support from the very group that they are exploiting in the process.
Often times, the chain of apology begins with gaming journalists, and things are no different with the current Metal Gear Solid Ground Zeroes controversy. The storm of apology began to stir after news broke that the main mission in Ground Zeroes could be completed in a brisk ninety minutes. Gaming journalists across the web were quick to defend the length of Ground Zeroes by stating that the content in the main mission would be amazing, which, in their minds, rendered complaints about the game’s length meritless.
This line of thinking ignores the fact Ground Zeroes is essentially a demo for Metal Gear Solid V, a demo that has the high probability of being included in the full release. Charging for Ground Zeroes looks even more like blatant exploitation when one looks at the demo for Bravely Default. Bravely Default‘s demo lets players experience around six hours of content that is not found in the main game and gives players bonuses for when they start the full game, all for the amazing cost of zero dollars. Square Enix was highly praised for how they handled the Bravely Default demo not because people felt the need to defend them, but because people genuinely loved what Square Enix did.
Whenever I see a mass of gamers springing to the defense of a company like Konami or an asshat like Tim Schafer, I quickly become confused about their motivations to do so. It seems that there is a mindset that any person or company that is responsible for a few good games suddenly is allowed at least three strikes before people turn on them. The three strikes rule would be understandable if it was only applied when a developer made a bad game or something similar, but defending the actions Tim Schafer because Psychonauts was a good game is asinine.
In the case of Konami, I can understand why many of the larger gaming websites would be disinclined to call Ground Zeroes what it is. Konami blacklisted Kotaku from Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker events because Kotaku suggested that Famitsu’s perfect review for the game may have been biased due to Peace Walker ads prominently featuring the president of Famitsu’s publishers. Peace Walker was a pretty big release, but MGS V will dwarf it, and no video game publication wants to miss out on their chance to cover the title because they disagreed with Konami’s practices leading up to its release. Unfortunately, the opinions on the larger websites give strength to the rest of the apologists, and soon the apologists opinion becomes the dominant opinion.
The practice of defending these companies harms the industry in the long run. Before patches were prevalent on consoles, EA was defended for releasing a yearly version of each of their sports franchises. After the apologists decided to stop defending them, EA decided they did not give a rat’s ass anyways and went on exploiting their customers, and, despite being universally hated, they remain in business. The industry continues to push different things on us to see what we give an inch on, and then they look for ways to turn that inch into a mile.
The release of Metal Gear Solid V is still a long ways off and Konami is looking to generate interest in the game early on by releasing Ground Zeroes next month. Or at least that is what they want people to believe. I think the more likely story is that Konami and Kojima are looking to squeeze even more money out of one of their most popular series. This is the same series that has already had multiple releases of nearly every game in the series, but re-releases only sell to people that did not buy the game the first time around. Ground Zeroes could very well be an amazing experience, and the side content could push the game closer to Bravely Default territory, but I still have a hard time accepting Ground Zeroes as anything but an extremely early demo. Call me old fashioned, but I think demos should be free and designed to entice gamers to buy the full game, not a way to get some early profits.
As hyped as I am for Metal Gear Solid V, I will not buy Ground Zeroes unless it is confirmed that it is not contained in MGS V and it drastically falls in price. I worry that hardcore fans of the series and less informed gamers will purchase the title in droves because it could lead to other companies following Konami’s example. Does Ground Zeroes potential success worry you that other companies may follow Konami’s lead? Is there any way that Ground Zeroes could be worth the price of admission? Lastly, how much of an asshat is Tim Schafer?