Friday, 6 October 2017

Danger signs: what does mega-patches and microtransaction tells us about the industry?

This conversation between me and Disqus user RhubarbForFingers started as a reflection on the state of microtransactions and day one patches in the upcoming Xbox One racing blockbuster Forza Motorsport 7, and steered rapidly towards an exchange of outlooks into the gaming industry as a whole and its state. Some recurring trends we're seeing as of late might be the sign of an industry in a state of hardship, possibly in need of some kind of reform in the interest of self sustainability. Disclaimer: lengthy dialogue.

Forza​ ​7​ ​is​ ​just​ ​the​ ​tip​ ​of​ ​an​ ​emerging​ ​trend​ ​in​ ​AAA​ ​products.​ ​It​ ​may​ ​have​ ​come​ ​from​ ​any
other​ ​manifacturer,​ ​so​ ​I​ ​won't​ ​condemn​ ​the​ ​game​ ​as​ ​much​ ​as​ ​the​ ​phenomenon: unfortunate as​ ​it​ ​is,​ ​it's​ ​up​ ​to​ ​the​ ​Xbox​ ​fans​ ​to​ ​make​ ​the​ ​company​ ​aware​ ​that​ ​this​ ​won't​ ​sit​ ​well​ ​with​ ​them -​ ​dammit,​ ​it​ ​shouldn't​ ​sit​ ​well​ ​with​ ​anyone​ ​forking​ ​out​ ​60~70$/€​ ​upfront​ ​for​ ​any​ ​game.​ ​But yesterday​ ​was​ ​Nintendo​ ​(in​ ​their​ ​own​ ​special​ ​ways),​ ​today​ ​it's​ ​Microsoft,​ ​tomorrow it's​ ​going​ ​to​ ​be​ ​Sony.​ ​I​ ​think​ ​microtransactions​ ​in​ ​high​ ​profile​ ​games​ ​are​ ​an​ ​industry-wide issue,​ ​not​ ​a​ ​banner​ ​related​ ​one,​ ​and​ ​something​ ​we​ ​all​ ​should​ ​be​ ​vocal​ ​about. 
"But​ ​yesterday​ ​was​ ​Nintendo​ ​(in​ ​their​ ​own​ ​special​ ​ways),​ ​today​ ​it's​ ​Microsoft,​ ​tomorrow​ ​it'sgoing​ ​to​ ​be​ ​Sony."
Yup.​ ​I​ ​will​ ​be​ ​amazed​ ​if​ ​the​ ​new​ ​Gran​ ​Turismo​ ​game​ ​doesn't​ ​have​ ​some​ ​monetisation
mechanisms​ ​in​ ​it.​ ​And​ ​Nintendo​ ​are​ ​already​ ​locking​ ​modes​ ​and​ ​other​ ​content​ ​away​ ​behind the​ ​purchase​ ​of​ ​plastic​ ​toys. I​ ​totally​ ​appreciate​ ​this​ ​is​ ​a​ ​business.​ ​I​ ​fully​ ​empathise​ ​with​ ​a​ ​publisher's​ ​need​ ​to​ ​generate revenue.​ ​I​ ​think​ ​it's​ ​100%​ ​fair.​ ​Games​ ​cost​ ​much​ ​more​ ​to​ ​make​ ​today​ ​than​ ​they​ ​did​ ​20​ ​years ago.​ ​People's​ ​expectations​ ​are​ ​higher.​ ​Yet​ ​the​ ​RRPs​ ​have​ ​stayed​ ​the​ ​same.​ ​You​ ​don't​ ​need a​ ​degree​ ​in​ ​economics​ ​to​ ​know​ ​that​ ​that's​ ​not​ ​sustainable.​ ​It's​ ​unreasonable​ ​to​ ​expect otherwise.
As​ ​a​ ​consumer,​ ​I'm​ ​not​ ​required​ ​to​ ​care​ ​about​ ​any​ ​of​ ​that.​ ​I'll​ ​vote​ ​with​ ​my​ ​wallet.
Talk,​ ​especially​ ​internet​ ​talk,​ ​is​ ​cheap.​ ​It's​ ​de​ ​rigeur​ ​to​ ​express​ ​your​ ​outrage.​ ​How​ ​we​ ​act
matters​ ​far​ ​more.​ ​And,​ ​historically,​ ​we're​ ​not​ ​very​ ​good​ ​at​ ​sticking​ ​to​ ​our​ ​guns​ ​or​ ​accepting the​ ​consequences​ ​of​ ​our​ ​actions.

As​ ​much​ ​as​ ​I​ ​understand​ ​where​ ​you're​ ​coming​ ​from​ ​-​ ​your​ ​points​ ​are​ ​all​ ​fair​ ​-​ ​it​ ​is​ ​hard​ ​not​ ​to see​ ​certain​ ​business​ ​practices​ ​as​ ​devoid​ ​of​ ​regard​ ​towards​ ​the​ ​main​ ​source​ ​of​ ​revenue,​ ​the consumers.
The​ ​practices​ ​I'm​ ​talking​ ​about​ ​concerns​ ​things​ ​like​ ​releasing​ ​gigantic​ ​day​ ​one​ ​patches​ ​to
include​ ​entire​ ​game​ ​modes,​ ​shipping​ ​with​ ​glaring​ ​bugs​ ​that​ ​even​ ​the​ ​laxest​ ​of​ ​QA
departments​ ​should​ ​have​ ​pointed​ ​out,​ ​or​ ​locking​ ​basic​ ​functions​ ​behind​ ​paywalls.
These​ ​are​ ​horror​ ​stories​ ​in​ ​the​ ​relationship​ ​between​ ​studios​ ​and​ ​publishers,​ ​not​ ​physiological realities​ ​of​ ​modern​ ​game​ ​development​ ​that​ ​we're​ ​graciously​ ​supposed​ ​to​ ​accept.​ ​I​ ​mean, why​ ​should​ ​I​ ​do​ ​that​ ​when​ ​publishers​ ​are​ ​not​ ​willing​ ​to​ ​extend​ ​their​ ​deadlines​ ​for​ ​the​ ​sake​ ​of shipping​ ​an​ ​acceptable​ ​product​ ​at​ ​launch?​ ​People​ ​who​ ​proceeds​ ​with​ ​their​ ​day​ ​one purchases​ ​oblivious​ ​of​ ​it​ ​all​ ​are​ ​part​ ​of​ ​the​ ​problem,​ ​as​ ​they​ ​actively​ ​push​ ​the​ ​spiral​ ​further down​ ​for​ ​everybody​ ​else.
As​ ​consumers,​ ​I​ ​guess​ ​we​ ​have​ ​every​ ​right​ ​to​ ​get​ ​full​ ​fledged​ ​products​ ​in​ ​exchange​ ​for​ ​early, upfront​ ​full​ ​price​ ​purchases.​ ​I​ ​refer​ ​to​ ​complete​ ​experiences​ ​that​ ​are​ ​not​ ​clearly​ ​and
arbitrarily​ ​mutilated​ ​or​ ​riddled​ ​with​ ​major​ ​bugs.​ ​Of​ ​course​ ​devs​ ​and​ ​publishers​ ​have​ ​every right​ ​to​ ​expand​ ​on​ ​the​ ​base​ ​material,​ ​provided​ ​that​ ​base​ ​material​ ​is...​ ​a​ ​full​ ​game.​ ​One​ ​that can​ ​stand​ ​on​ ​its​ ​own​ ​legs. While​ ​this​ ​is​ ​increasingly​ ​not​ ​the​ ​case​ ​for​ ​many​ ​high​ ​profile​ ​games,​ ​there​ ​are​ ​other​ ​products out​ ​there​ ​showing​ ​how​ ​what​ ​I'm​ ​talking​ ​about​ ​is​ ​not​ ​science​ ​fiction​ ​-​ ​it​ ​can​ ​be​ ​done,​ ​it​ ​is factually​ ​possible​ ​to​ ​ship​ ​AAA​ ​games​ ​in​ ​a​ ​complete​ ​state​ ​and​ ​sell​ ​them​ ​very​ ​well.​ ​It​ ​only requires​ ​better​ ​coordination,​ ​working​ ​pipelines​ ​and​ ​professionalism​ ​from​ ​everyone​ ​in​ ​the backend.
P.S.:​ ​I'm​ ​totally​ ​ready​ ​for​ ​that​ ​in​ ​GT​ ​Sport.​ ​Totally​ ​and​ ​sadly​ ​so.