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The Gaming Civil War


The world of gaming is currently heading towards what – in political terms – would be considered a civil war.

Armies of publishers are tooling-up and looking to move games away from being well-designed products into being poorly-designed money-grabbing machines that fool the less experienced gamer into thinking that this is how all games work. On the other side of the fence, you have the vast majority of experienced gamers who see straight through this immoral technique as the soulless, fun-free, game-destroying business tactic that it is.

I read a quote today from EA, which reflected upon the travesty that is Real Racing 3, saying “that’s just the way the market is moving.” Bullshit: that is the way EA are moving. Using their size and big-name titles to try and popularise it. Why designed a well-balanced game when you can just ask people to pay to progress?

Real Racing 3

Real Racing 3 IS admittedly very much like real racing: it regularly costs you a lot of money if you want to get anywhere.

What EA and others fail to see is that this kind of ripping-off of the customer cannot and will not last forever. People will eventually see through these charges for what they are: a form of extortion that will end up driving a lot of people away from gaming altogether. If my home-machines gave me the kind of money-led gaming ‘experience’ that I get from most games on my phone, I sure as hell wouldn’t ever buy another console.

To quote Forbes writer Paul Tassi: “I’d much rather have just paid a regular amount of money for a game in order to avoid being purposefully frustrated by it.”

Just like most wars, this one started with ignorant individuals: those sat at the top of the major publishing pyramid who have absolutely no interest in gaming whatsoever other than the bottom line; those who don’t care in the slightest whether you enjoy your game as long as you spend as much money on it as possible; the same people who push piracy-protection that spoils the game for those who buy it honestly without deterring pirates; the same people who want to stop you trading-in games and buying used because they can’t grab any more money from it. We have to show publishers that the kind of shoddy gamesmanship they have employed on mobile platforms will simply not stand on others. We have to speak by not buying these games, not buying these add-ons and by reminding people who put up with them that there is another, better way.

BMX XXX

BMX-XXX: possibly the lowest point of human culture.

If major publishers are going to insist on blockading natural game-progression simply to extract more money from us, then there are plenty of indie developers waiting to take their place at the top table of gaming. Or perhaps the real problem is that publishers don’t want to take the risk of making good games and working hard to make them sell? Perhaps they’d rather just get a quick income from poor games? The kind of short term thinking that leads to cheap movie tie-ins, BMX-XXX, and, ultimately, closure?

They should learn from Nintendo, who by repeatedly making quality games have not only managed to sell huge numbers of titles, but have even shifted large numbers of often iffy pieces of hardware to boot. It’s why they, Sony and Microsoft can sell sub-PC spec hardware in tens-of-millions of units. People want great games and most are highly, highly profitable. Why not try making a few more of those, EA?!

A focus on gaming quality versus a focus on money extraction: the battle for the heart and soul of gaming is upon us.

Which side will you be on?

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Rob is an advertising strategist and author of 'The Ad Pit' blog. Rob has been playing games for 25 years - which makes him feel very old. He used to have a victory ratio of 40:1 in Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, but that was a long time ago! #dogyears

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3 Comments

  1. Couldn’t agree more my friend

  2. It is worrying, but as I believe that even super casual facebook gamers are becoming wise to this, I am not too worried that it will seep into our hobby too much. Fingers crossed.

    • Simon Burns I hope you’re right. It’s clear that they’re testing our boundaries. It just depends on how many of us are willing to tell them to f**k off.

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