Thursday, 28 August 2014

It's what's on the outside that counts

The past few years in gaming have pushed forth many different topics and principles. Those who play video games complain, more as consumers, than as gamers and yet both are intertwined together. But what part of us expresses ourselves as one over the over and has one element been a more prominent and louder voice, on social media, forums and general consensus?

We can all agree, I would at least presume, that one universal nitpicking we all have with gaming is the cost and that the cost has fluctuated up a steady slope for some time now. I am personally surprised that people can not only afford the latest consoles that have come out, the Xbox One and PS4, but  also have a collection of games already amassed. But we don't know peoples financial circumstances, nor is it our business too. But be that as it may, we know one thing - the video game industry is taking the piss when it comes to their marketing strategies and their pricing systems.

Though there are a variety of areas in which this is apparent - take for example Playstation's current set up where by you can digitally rent a game for a stupid price that increases the longer you hold it, but overall it would be a wiser, more profitable decision for a gamer to buy the game fully to own, not lease or just wait for the price to drop at some point in the near future. 

But as I don't purchase digital games, outside of Steam and they aren't really shafting anyone themselves (though the masses of crap games, that aren't even full games in any right, that flood via Greenlight right now, really needs controlling) I am not affected by such silly and anti-consumer benefit marketing plans, I complete agree they are doing a disservice as opposed to what the companies behind them thought, we'd think they were doing i.e the opposite.

For me my own gripe comes with regards to pre-orders. 

The first time a video game pre-order really rattled me was when Batman: Arkham City was announced. Not only would it have multiple versions for you to choose from, but there were ridiculous exclusive locations implemented. 

For example: The yellow lantern Batman costume (which doesn't look that great but still) was only available at the time when purchased in stores in Australia. There were quite a selection of skins, that were only available depending on the individual purchase you made, the store choice, the location of some stores ect. Then of course there was the downright unimpressive Catwoman DLC (not unimpressive because of the gameplay itself). That would not have been rubbed in our faces as much, if we didn't have to see Catwoman related trophies that unlocked achievements, littered throughout Arkham City when you played the game minus the DLC you needed to pay extra for. 

This goes on and on, we can mention the Day One DLC scandals that continue to occur and of course the kickstarter of them all, the one that got quite a lot of notoriety - the Mass Effect 3 Prothean Day One DLC ....but I will hone this piece in a little more, narrowing the crosshairs on what made me write this up.

Ubisoft....Ubisoft. I said this 
and I genuinely am starting to think it might be the case.

Assassins Creed games have been churned out at an alarmingly rapid pace ever since Brotherhood. Also funnily enough Brotherhood is one of the best in the series so far. But no sooner has one been announced, then the next has been given it's Amazon slot and image galleries across gaming sites have been filled. 

But before we even get a glimpse at the story elements that will crop up in the next full fledged game (white dude with some sort of Americanised version of an accent does stuff), we are exposed to the pre-order special collector editions. All of them. At once. Wham!

It's as if developers want us to care more about the cardboard box and piece of plastic (if you're lucky to get physical goodies) than we do the game. You know the thing that they've supposedly put a lot of hours, crafting, filling with virtual life, expanding on a fleshed out story that people talk about and wonder what will come next. What we see online or in store, that is attached to a hefty dollar/pound sign, is meant to entice and mean more to us than what is found within the game itself.

Though not exactly the strongest case for this notion - the Alan Wake special edition was one I looked forward to owning and am glad I have it. The game itself was unlike anything else I played and was very enjoyable and spooky to me. But within the contents of the special edition, the game itself, the thing that you will be spending most time with, you should be more focused on, was the most lazily, unlovingly packaged piece -

This is the Xbox 360 game case...yeah I thought I'd been given a standard PC version too at the time.

Now obviously Alan Wake didn't suffer from being part of a churned out franchise and the quality of it's overall collectors edition didn't negate the gaming quality. Assassin Creed games don't lack in technical quality either, but they do lack in using a massive bucket of options. They can steer their characters and stories in any direction, yet they overall stick to a very copy/paste formula. The same can be said of their marketing strategy. Yes the collector editions for each game is unique in style and gifts within, but as I said, we will see more information about what pulls of our wallets than we will of the game for certain periods. We are overloaded and while it is our decision to look up news of such things or how to spend our money, it doesn't mean that developers and stores don't have some responsibility. If not in shamelessly trying to overdo it, then try to at least do so in a way that doesn't make it feel like you neglect the product we all actually want, the one you got in to the industry to create to begin with.

These people work hard to create games that will stick with us forever, more than box covers.

Gamers are getting wise to these blatant tricks now, because so many companies have jumped on the overload "ooh look at all the shinies" bandwagon, that transparency has been obliterated completely. We know now that we have an option to wait it out and not only get all the DLC we want at a more affordable price but get it and the new full game at a cheaper price! 

When Fallout New Vegas Ultimate Edition came out, a new copy of that game, including all DLC was cheaper than buying just even the standalone copy when it first launched. If anything you;re doing yourself damage gaming companies. Ubisoft is trending quite a lot on social media for the wrong reasons. If it's not because they come across as lazy gits in the realms of diversification, it's their hyping and flooding of pricy collector editions for games.

Right now my dilemma comes with a much loved franchise of mine - Dragon AgeInquisition is coming out soon and I want to continue with getting the Collector Editions (something I only do if I really am in to the game). But what they are offering and the price for it, is a let down. I don't know if gamers as a whole, want crazy big expensive swag. For me personally, I prefer funky, enjoyable trinkets and something that adds value to the game, maybe to your desk and overall is something I am excited to wait for from the postman.

Hurry the feck up and drop it!

Anyway, I just find it a bit shallow and irking, that in general, there's so many areas of the video gaming industry from both sides of the fence, that are clouded with controversy. This may be lower on the list, especially when there's sexism, exploitation and other scandals floating around, like a lumpy bigoted elephant, but it is still an issue. Pre-ordering is something that some people, like say Totalbiscuit are against, as in the act of doing so, based on their take on the principles and execution of gaming marketing teams. I'm certainly not against pre-ordering, but I do advocate that we all try not to rush and give in to that urge to buy a game as soon as possible, if there's a high chance we're being shafted. Not to get a pre-order just for the sake of it, if the contents just seem to be last minute and were advertised in such a way, as to reel you in. I certainly know that I'm feeling that right now with Alien Isolation


I am taking a very long step back from that game, but open to the possibility that it may be a worthy homage to the film series I enjoy immensely, but they are wise in their plugging of the original Alien cast as DLC to reel us wary fans in. But I won't give in, until there is some proof in that pudding and I'd have more faith in this industry I spend a lot of money and time on, if they did not take us for fools and tried to add a sense of equilibrium to their marketing ethics.

I was gonna say something about this....but I won't. We can all have a little giggle in our own time. 
£5 quid now if you fancy a new collectors edition :P

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