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Thinking Thursday: Beware the Bandwagon and Lessons To Be Learned

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By: Stephen Crane (Photo: Flickr user Crystl)

It's no real secret that gamers are a passionate group of people. If you try to discuss the industry with a hardcore gamer, you had better know your facts or be prepared to learn as you are corrected on minute details. Gamers care a lot about facts, figures, and making sure the industry gets fair representation in the media. Just look at this point by point rebuttal to articles on Kotaku. That's dedication.

It's unfortunate, then, that gamers cannot give the same respect when looking internally to the industry. These past few months have been racked with a few scandals that in the end are miscommunications between the gamers and the developers. First, we saw the EA/DICE pre-order DLC controversy with Battlefield 3. Next, we saw a uprising with the sudden removal of Crysis 2 and other EA properties from Steam. Most recently, a crisis rocked EVE Online with its most recent update and confusion over the future of the micro transaction system. Let's go over these point by point.

Battlefield 3 Pre-Order Protests

First let's look at what happened with Battlefield 3. It was announced early last month that gamers who pre-ordered the game would be able to obtain free DLC the day of the game's release. This DLC would include guns, ammo, attachments, and maps that are not available to those who do not pre-order the game. The internet immediately took this story and ran with it, proclaiming a Battlefield 3 boycott until this DLC was removed or amended. The fear was the added items would imbalance the games in favor of those who pre-ordered in a brick-and-mortar establishment.

The truth of the matter was that the DLC would only remain exclusive for a limited time. DICE later explained that the Physical Warfare Pack was planned to be made available to all gamers for free later this year and that the pre-order DLC items were chosen specifically because they would not imbalance the game. Sure, the items may provide a temporary advantage to certain gamers, but developers really do need to offer something more awesome than horse armor if they want to attract pre-orders.

EA Games Crysis 2 and Alice: Madness Returns Evaporate from Steam

Later on in the month, we also saw allegations that EA had removed Crysis 2 from the Steam game library. Alice: Madness Returns was also absent from the store. The coincidence of these events matched with an already unhappy attitude towards EA and its Origin gaming service Gamers immediately started blaming EA for aggressively pushing the new game distribution platform. It certainly seemed on the surface like EA intended to only allow downloads of EA games through its own platforms.

Once again, the truth turned out to not be nearly as nefarious. EA's statement to IGN was very telling of the confusion on the part of the developer as well as the internal workings between EA and Steam. The games were removed because "Steam has imposed a set of business terms for developers hoping to sell content on that service… [u]nfortunately, Crytek has an agreement with another download service which violates the new rules from Steam and resulted in its expulsion of Crysis 2 from Steam."

CCP Isn't The Best At Keeping Gamers In The Loop

Finally, and most recently, we come to the crisis that nearly caused EVE Online to implode upon itself. The most recent updates to the game in the form of the patch, Incarna introduced many changes to the game. Players were finally able to move the avatar around inside a station, and vanity items were introduced for the character design including a $68 USD monocle. Yeah, that's pretty expensive for an item that has no effect in the game.

A leaked internal newsletter seemed to hint at the possibility of the micro transaction system expanding to include 'gold ammo' which would most likely have added stat bonuses. A dev blog entry was posted which only served to make the players angrier as the tone seemed condescending. Amazingly, an internal email was also leaked which was very angry in its tone and condescending towards the gamers and their attitudes.

The players took to space and protested CCP's decisions. Eve Online lost more than 5,000 subscribers in one week, and its economy was quickly forced to a screeching halt. The CSM (EVE Online's virtual student government) was called by CCP to an emergency meeting in Iceland to discuss the events that unfolded. The summit took place July 30 and June 1, and on June 2 CCP Navigator published a new dev blog that discussed the events and what conclusions had been drawn on both sides.


 

Once again, the truth was wildly different than what gamers had appeared to believe. While players were even willing to as far as to investigate financial statements to prove their point, they didn't try to reach out to the developer to hear their side of the story.

Conclusion

It's true, in all of these instances the developers were fare from innocent. However, before we can place all the blame on the miscommunication from developers and distributors, we must first implicate ourselves.

It's hard to look at these sorts of stories and consider that the people on the other side of the monitor are also as human and therefore prone to fault as we are, ourselves. We immediately assume fault and malicious intentions to any organization making a profit, especially if the apparent offending party is larger than the apparent offended party. Often, this is not the case.

We, as players, need to consider that these developers make something we all love and therefore need to be given the time to explain themselves before we start declaring a complete lack of all future trust for the companies. We need to take the time to hear their explanations and decide objectively where fault or mal-intent actually exists. Most developers and studios love video games just as much if not more than we do. It's very likely that the gamers making the games wouldn't want to see the implosion of something we all know and love as well.

I know, I was caught up in the fervor as well. If you look at past coverage of the first two events, I was very willing to blame EA for everything. After reading the full stories, however, I came to the conclusion that I was quite wrong and have decided to wait until all the information is released before I will write an objective story on it.

That isn't to say that developers are completely innocent, either. All of these problems that have caused such high emotions were due to extremely poor communication to the players about very sensitive topics. The developers MUST, with every one of these decisions make it clear how new features will affect gameplay, and to whom and when they will be available, including exclusive DLC.

Developers should also make it very clear to gamers that pay-to-win game mechanics will not be included in future games, if that is their stance. No player really wants to play a game where the only way to win or be competitive is to pay a lot of real life money to obtain exclusive items from a developer owned store. Everything needed to be competitive must be accessible to all gamers with natural game mechanics. If game creators and developers are not vocal about the denouncement of P2W mechanics, then gamers will constantly have an eye out and not trust developers as seen in the last few examples.

The take-away is that players need to be patient and wait for the full story before protesting. Developers need to have clearer communication with the gamers about where they see future games heading and what mechanics are on the table or off the table. So let's take a moment and allow ourselves to breathe a little before the next big scandal rocks the gaming community.

Also, can we stop adding the suffix -gate to every scandal? Watergate was a -very- specific instance in American politics and the suffix has long since lost its power. Thank you.

About Stephen Crane

Stephen was hooked by the NES at a very young age and never looked back. He games on a daily basis and is currently trying to climb his way up the ranked ladder on League of Legends! Outside of the video game world he actually likes running and owns a rapidly growing collection of toed shoes. Stephen Crane is the owner of Armed Gamer.

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