Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Line Between Entitlement and Outrage

Oftentimes, we gamers can confuse the line between our expectations and perceived justice. A perfect example can be found with Battlefield 3. EA decided that instead of distributing the game through one of the more popular distribution methods (such as Steam, Direct2Drive, and Games for Windows Live) they would use their own software, Origin. Nowhere had EA stated that they would release the game for any of the other platforms, and yet gamers seemed outraged that twenty minutes and a small amount of hard drive space would be taken up downloading a new service. Gamers assumed that such a popular series would be coming to the most popular PC game service, but when it was announced as an Origin exclusive, fans were outraged, citing EA’s greed and Origin’s inferiority when compared to Steam. Whether or not the service is good is not the point, but rather that EA never said the game was coming to Steam, and then lied. Rather, gamers gave themselves this expectation and were angry when it was not met. Oftentimes, members of the game community base their anger on expectations that they set up for themselves, and not what a company promised and did not deliver on.

However, a growing trend in gaming has more and more of the community taking a stance and I think the issue has become graver than ever. That issue is downloadable content and the toll it is taking on gaming.

Remember when DLC first came around? Not many developers made it, and the most silly of all was the Horse Armor in Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Why would anyone pay two dollars for horse armor? It’s a nonsensical add-on that most would find interesting, but few would find necessary.

Fast forward to 2012. Prototype 2 is being released and preordering at Gamestop will net you a special move. Mass Effect 3 is released with Day 1 DLC much to the anger of their fans and almost as much controversy as the ending. Some games have content coming out for them over a year after the initial release.

DLC is now not only abundant; it is almost expected of games. From extra multiplayer maps to new skins or hats, special moves to in-game items, the Age of DLC is upon us and up until recently, it was a time I was content with. Amidst the sea of angry screaming and protests shouting “I paid for the game, I deserve the add-ons!” I stood, as many gamers have, in the camp of “if you don’t like it, don’t buy it.” I don’t need the Bio-Bomb Butt Kicker in Prototype 2 to have a good time. Robin’s levels in Arkham City aren’t necessary for me to feel good about my purchase. The extra guns in Battlefield 3 may give me an advantage, but make the game no less fun for me. I was happy to see the extra content and not partake. I would neither chastise people for buying them, nor lecture people on protesting them. Live and let live is a good motto, I believe.

And then I played Asura’s Wrath.

I enjoyed the game. It was quite fun all the way up until the True Ending, a merit-based achievement that untied the neat ending into a huge cliffhanger to tease what I expected to be a sequel. I felt cheated as the three hours I sunk into the game to achieve this ending resulted in me being less happy with the ending than before, but I gave the developers the benefit of the doubt. Game companies aren’t large, faceless corporations trying to rake money out of us, they’re comprised of people with feelings, problems, and ideas, just like the rest of us. Perhaps CyberConnect2 liked Asura’s Wrath so much that they wanted a reason for a sequel and a rowdy fanbase that could yell at Capcom until funding was granted. Okay, I thought, I’m mad, but I can see what they’re doing.

That was until this video came out:

My heart sank and my anger rose. A DLC pack? Ten dollars to see part 4 of Asura’s story? I took a second to sort my thoughts. I tried to think positively. Perhaps it is better this way. Maybe I’m getting a deal by being able to buy what amounts to a small sequel for such a low price. It could be that my anger is misplaced and this is actually a blessing.

But then I started to think about it from the developer’s perspective. What possible reason could they have for holding back the last quarter of the game? What excuse could the people I’ve entrusted a portion of my money to have to withhold the ending from me? I pondered for a few minutes and could come up with no legitimate answers. If anyone who reads this has a suggestion, please enlighten me. That day, I finally understood and believed that there were games that did things like this:

I used to see images like this and roll my eyes. Here the whiny people go again, throwing their sense of entitlement about like they were wronged. But that’s exactly what I feel now—wronged. CyberConnect2 and Capcom took my money and gave me an unfinished product for full price. I purchased four-course meal and dessert was not delivered to me. I love dessert, and I am furious.

I’ve gotten through my gamer life with minimal anger at publishers, developers, hardware manufacturers, and the rest of the gaming industry by thinking about things from their perspective and reevaluating whether my reasons were valid. Usually, it was trumped-up entitlement that got swept up in message boards, impassioned text speeches, and perceived-insightful graphics like the one above. Taking a step back and looking at the situation from a different angle reveals a community that feels it should be able to eat the McRib all year, or that McDonalds must reintroduce it every season without fail or lateness. They do not see that it’s ultimately a business decision that needs to be made and that their status as a customer does not entitle them to run the business. If you do not like it, do not buy it. And that is precisely what I plan to do.

I am not purchasing the Asura’s Wrath DLC. I will not purchase any more Asura’s Wrath games, and I refuse to vote with my dollars for this kind of treatment again. I paid for a product, the whole product. Not part one of an episodic game or a subscription to the beta, the game advertised as a finished product. Up until now, I have viewed purchasing DLC like buying upgrades in a car—leather seats, rear backup camera, and satellite radio are all wonderful to have, but they are not necessary to the car’s essential functions. A stock vehicle still serves its purpose and is just as good at doing its job as an upgraded car. What Capcom and CyberConnect2 are doing by releasing the ending of the game as a DLC is like selling me the car without a steering wheel, then trying to shake me down with extra fees to actually be able to enjoy my car.

I usually side with the industry on the subject of add-ons and frills. “Live and let live” is a good motto to have, and I still believe that. This may be an isolated incident, and I hope it is not an omen for things to come. Unfortunately, that is exactly what it will be if gamers continue to buy incomplete products and the add-ons to finish it off. I, for one, will not tolerate this anymore, and my $60 investment can be better placed elsewhere. Who is with me?
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