Editorial: The High Price of an Apology

Chris Privitere Logic: Psychonauts was good, therefore Tim Schafer can do no wrong.
Tim Schafer was defended tirelessly by his fans while he pissed away their money.

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.

Bravely Default Screen Shot 02
Bravely Default’s demo is nearly four times the length of Ground Zeroes but does not cost gamers a penny to play.

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?

38 comments

  1. The response to the industry these days seems to come in two forms:

    – Journalistic shills who cheerlead for their favourite companies and social-justice causes.
    – Readers who cheerlead for their favourite companies and social-justice causes.

    I hope untold misery upon the whole hellish lot of them.

  2. I am so fucking sick of hearing about social justice in the gaming industry. Seriously, when did gaming become the primary outlet for liberal arts college grads and their supporters?

  3. It isn’t just gaming that is an outlet for social-justice bullshit. It seems people scour every type of media to find some kind of perceived social injustice that they can attack. The recent controversy about guests on Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is just another example of this.

    Great White Guilt and Male Guilt are just extensions of racism and sexism, yet people are conned into believing that people that suffer from said guilt are really fighting for equality.

  4. When will Ground Zeroes be worth it? When it’s bundled in with Phantom Pain as it inevitably will be.

    I am curious to see, however, how much “quality” time is really capable of being had in Ground Zeroes despite its short campaign length, considering that it’s an open world game. But I think the battle lines have already been drawn on the matter. Either you’ll want to see this as horrible and any accounts to the contrary will be seen as fanboyism or you’ll want to see this as an unfair attack on the game and glom on to any positive feedback as confirmation.

    And at the risk of sound like a defender of the series (I’ve only really played Twin Snakes and MGS4, but I do like watching LPs of the series), I’ll add that the MGS games have always had generally short campaigns. I think Twin Snakes could be beaten within 4 or less hours, but even in that linear game that would mean skipping a lot of optional stuff.

  5. @Mel: The efficient playthroughs of people who are very familiar with a game do not represent first run playtime, whereas the ninety minutes on offer here absolutely does.

  6. Yeah, GZ will be short even for an MGS game if it indeed clocks in a 90 minutes even when skipping optional stuff. (I think Konami also said QA testers could proficiently complete the story missions within 15 minutes which is CRAZY fast considering the speedrunning public is always faster) And in that case I’d say, again, that one should wait for the likely re-release that includes everything and probably more. But I’m still curious to see how much time could reasonably be spent with the game, despite this very short campaign. Until it actually releases and more than a few people play it (and until more than *zero* people outside Konami play the all the side content) I’ll withhold a final judgement on this potential ripoff.

  7. @Julian: What’s funny is that it usually is white males that kick off the complaining.

    @Mel: Actually, Konami said its playtesters could beat the game in 5 minuets. Yes, there will be side content (Konami has confirmed that GZ will include base building like PW), but my problem with GZ is that they are charging for a demo. Most open-world games have short campaigns but the other content makes up for that. MGS V, and to a much lesser extent, GZ, will likely be in the same mold as a Skyrim or GTA, short campaigns but tons of other things to do. Still, even if the content in GZ touches 40 hours, its price will not be justified because it is a demo.

  8. You don’t seem much different from the other side, boys. Seeing the bad, focusing on it, then defining everything by one side – no matter how clearly you see that one side – of a many-sided issue. Take your legitimate frustrations with the other side, thoughtfully study the frustrations that the well-spoken and thoughtful of the other side have about you, have a more well-rounded but still incomplete view of the subject, grow as a human being. We’re all very intelligent and well-learned people around here, and it can confuse us into thinking we have something figured out. As evidenced by the way I’ve argued here in the past, I have been one of the worst culprits, and I’m sure I will again.

    In any case, back to the article at hand, I thought it was very well-done, Gyme, you’ve been improving as a writer. And to agree with you boys (as I often do, I just think most of you need to grow up a little), I do feel like the defense of suspicious-to-say-the-least practices in the gaming media is a reflection of an eagerness to please everybody which is incredibly damaging.

    Diversity is an opportunity for growth, an ability to learn about ourselves in ways we never could otherwise. But it is also an opportunity to become lukewarm, and to dilute what makes us, us. So if in this metaphor, types of people are like different colours of paint, all beautiful in their own right, we shouldn’t take either of the easy roads and either stick to our paint cans nor should we all get poured into a giant tub, but rather we should study the value of each and create something wholly unique on a canvas, still being ourselves and letting others be themselves and creating something beautiful in the process that none of us could create on our own.

    Understanding and love takes incredible strength and vulnerability, and weakness and fear is easier and in some cases more powerful and so we tend to hear those voices the loudest, both externally and internally. The internet and gaming did not create this pattern.

    We do not learn by going in circles in our own head, or getting confirmation from people who feel similarly, but rather through facing something entirely different and taking the time to actually study it and see its value. I’ve definitely gained a lot through finally looking at the points you boys often make and realizing that beyond my emotional reactions, you often had legitimate things to say.

    It’s in the same boat as the difference I always like to make between “best” and “favourite”. Not liking something can work the same way. Do we not like it, or do we not understand it? And, once again, as people with above-average intelligence, we far too often wave off the possibility of not understanding something.

  9. “What’s funny is that it usually is white males that kick off the complaining.”

    “You don’t seem much different from the other side, boys. Seeing the bad, focusing on it, then defining everything by one side – no matter how clearly you see that one side – of a many-sided issue. Take your legitimate frustrations with the other side, thoughtfully study the frustrations that the well-spoken and thoughtful of the other side have about you, have a more well-rounded but still incomplete view of the subject, grow as a human being. We’re all very intelligent and well-learned people around here, and it can confuse us into thinking we have something figured out. As evidenced by the way I’ve argued here in the past, I have been one of the worst culprits, and I’m sure I will again.”

    I don’t even need to say anything. ^_^

  10. @Gyme: So if the story missions and side content were to make up a 40 hour game in Ground Zeroes how is it then not worth the price? What’s a demo about it at that point? Because the story isn’t complete? I suppose I understand that, but if GZ took an honest 40 hours to complete everything I’d not have a problem with it at all from what I can see.

  11. Even I would think twice if a demo was forty hours long…. That’s not a very good point to make, Gyme.

  12. @Mel and Julian: Yeah, I realized how ridiculous that was right after I posted it. I was hoping Ethos’ post would have hidden the insanity but no luck there.

  13. Diversity is a buzzword I cannot be more sick of. There is a fine line between understanding and appreciating cultures of another, and being encouraged to abandon your own. Which is a more honest representation of it’s current use in political lingo.

    As for social justice in gaming, I’ve quite had my fill of it. I don’t play games to embrace the world at world and all it’s many facets, or whatever. I play them to appreciate the refined the gameplay, the visual aesthetics, even the soundtracks. And when I turn to the media that’s supposed to also be appreciating that, what I get are early 30s men and women who seem hellbent on preaching their social ethics and political sciences to me through their ‘observations’ on whatever the hell they just played. There is nothing childish, or unreasonable for that matter, about this frustration.

  14. There is nothing childish, or unreasonable for that matter, about this frustration.

    Of course there isn’t, that was just the only riposte that Ethan could make in his losing argument.

  15. @Ethos: While I agree with your sentiments on the benefits of diversity, I have to side with Wolfe in that it has become more of a buzzword than anything else. Going back to Comedians in Cars, the person questioning the diversity of the guests was a white male, and he came off as only trying stir up a controversy. And if he isn’t trying to stir up controversy, he is either suffering from White Guilt or he is terrified that the predominantly white guest line up will be the impetus for black people to start a race war.

    For the most part, whenever a white person stirs up something like this, one of the three previously mentioned reasons are the true intentions. If diversity really was the true goal for these crusades, why haven’t we seen black people similarly question the diversity of Tyler Perry’s movies?

  16. You all seem to be reacting to what other people choose to do with the set of choices I depicted and are avoiding answering what YOU choose to do. We are all different and we are all the same, and it is enormously liberating to recognize this. You all respond as paint shaking in your cans, rightfully afraid to be poured into the pot, but acting like it isn’t your decision to make, and that the other cans are taking your choice away from you.

    Other people can change the landscape around you and it can be frustrating as fuck as a good person who values himself and those he cares about, but if we let our anger at other people motivate us to mimic their attitudes, then we have only chosen to join them and become who we hate.

    So man up, boys. Listen to other human beings.

  17. I wonder, Julian, what it is that causes you to – after an earnest appeal – defer to flippant sarcasm? My choice of metaphor is worth mocking, but much of me is worth mocking. I know this about myself and after this many years I would expect that you know I know this about myself too.

    I’ve said all I need to in the matter anyway, so I will return to my room full of Japanese businessmen where I belong.

  18. Love the implication that you’re the only mature one here somehow, Ethan. Dismissive and reactionary at the same time. Might want to stop tossing around the whole ‘boy’ term while you’re at it. I hear that’s one of those potentially offensive slurs that are harmful to others today.

  19. 🙂

    Meaning: I am not trying to fight you, Wolfe. I know in the past I have sounded like – and indeed believed that – I was better than other people commenting. That is thankfully something I have learned to let go of.

  20. And I’m saying “boys” like in brothers. Don’t they do that in sports? Cut me some slack, I’m new to just hanging out with you guys. Usually I have layers of guarding on. This is a rough group sometimes. Worth it, obviously. It’s not like I’ve been sticking around for masochistic reasons like I used to.

    Although, to be clear, I do feel as though you are all acting immaturely about this, but it is important to mention that that does not mean I believe I am more mature than any of you or that I couldn’t be wrong about everything I’m saying. I’m wrong all the time. Nothing is off-limits as to what I could be wrong about. But now I will, for realsies, return to my delicious Japanese penises.

  21. I wonder, Julian, what it is that causes you to – after an earnest appeal – defer to flippant sarcasm?

    What else would you expect from paint?

  22. As much as I like MGS because Kojima is a crazy man, I find myself disappointed to hear this news.

  23. @Julian – I don’t know what I was expecting, but I was hoping we could start being friends.

    @Iliya – I was excited to play a prelude to MGSV, but this pricing is obviously insane. I’ve never really been big into the series, but I also think I haven’t given it a proper chance and I keep looking for my entry point (that’s what he said?)

  24. @Ethos: I haven’t given the series a proper chance either. For $40, I’ll pick up the Legacy Collection as a way to dive in.

  25. @Gyme – True. Now does anybody have a free fortnight laying around that they could lend me? I miss Mel’s Golden Age.

  26. @Ethos: I’m sorry but I am going be selfish and keep any free fortnights I find. Sorry bro.

  27. @Gyme – Nah, I totally get it. They’re super rare these days

  28. I think any MGS game is a fine starting point, but the problem I have with them is how much crap there is to do in each one, and how much stuff you’ll miss if you don’t know what to look for. So either you’ll have to spend a ton of time looking or go online for help. This is why I’ve taken to watching LPs of the series (I recommend Chip and Ironicus, love those guys) instead of playing some of the more involved games. After only watching MGS3 I almost feel like it counts as one of my favorite games despite having never played a minute of it.

    However, I think MGS5 (MGSV?) will be one of ones I play only because it threatens to be too damn tempting, and I don’t feel like waiting a year after release for Chip to make his LP.

  29. IMO MGS3 would be the best game to start with, followed by MGS1. MGS4 would be an increadibly poor choice of starting point.

  30. I haven’t played an MGS since the PS1 debut. I’ll probably give V a go, but I’m not so much as glancing at this demo.

  31. I imagine that the content of this demo will be included with the full game.

  32. If the start of the game is not included with the game then I am prepared to wait. I was already pretty pissed off about Queefer Sutherland replacing David Hayter, so I am in no hurry to jump through any of Konami’s hoops.

  33. @SN – 3 and 1 are the two places I was looking to to start, actually, so I’ll go with that order when I decide to dedicate the proper time to it.

  34. Yeah, Hayter getting the shaft after defining Snake’s voice for several generations was a damn slap in the face to the man, and evidence of how uncaring and fickle the business (and Kojima) are. I am not a fan of Hollywood actors in the first place, and I loath how the industry touts their latest b-list injection into this market as if we should all give a shit.

Comments are closed.