Critics and gamers alike are issuing sighs of disappointment in the wake of Destiny’s release. Once again, a game has failed to deliver the experience promised by its publisher, and customers are becoming disillusioned with the industry as a whole.
Destiny is just one of a few games released within the past couple years that hasn’t met its audience’s expectations. It’s hard to forget the differences between Watch Dogs’ graphical fidelity in its E3 demo and its console release, and the extreme case of Aliens: Colonial Marines, where the game’s demo completely misrepresented both the game’s visuals and gameplay. It seems like publishers are purposefully misleading consumers; making half-promises and drumming up hype for games that are supposed to be representative of the latest generation, but fall short of offering something truly great.
It’s easy to point fingers at publishers for selling a lie. It’s even easier to blame the developers for making it. What nobody wants to admit is that the real fault lies with the consumers. How can we expect publishers to not exploit us when we continue to throw money at them before we have an understanding of what we’re buying. Pre-order culture is killing gaming, and pre-orders are placed by gamers.
I’m not justifying the business practices of Activision, Ubisoft, or Sega. In the end they’re responsible for misleading their customers, but they wouldn’t do so if they didn’t think they could get away with it. We should have learned our lesson from Duke Nukem Forever: hype isn’t a good thing.
I won’t deny that I have fallen into this trap too. It took being let down a few times by games like APB and (as beloved as it is) Skyrim before I decided to remain skeptical of the games I was looking forward to. Cases like Watch Dogs and Colonial Marines only furthered my cynicism.
Publishers are concerned with making money. It’s important to remember that when they’re telling you about how amazing their new game is. They have a vested interest in you being excited for their product. Of course they’re going to tell you it’s worth buying, and the game very well might be, but you won’t know until it’s been released.
There are ways you can avoid being taken advantage of by publishers. If enough gamers were to adopt an attitude of skepticism, publishers would take notice and likely focus more on ensuring the quality of their games meets the standards they set during advertising. I have compiled a list below.
1) Don’t jump on bandwagons. Remain skeptical of the hype: As easy as it is to get caught up in the excitement of a new game, don’t let that excitement overpower your reasoning skills. A game may look great at E3, but that doesn’t mean the end product will be. A lot of changes take place over the course of a game’s development. Some may make the game a better experience. Others may do the opposite. You won’t know the quality of the finished product until it’s been released.
2) Be wary of buzzwords: Don’t take the creator’s word that the game will be “epic,” or “groundbreaking.” These are vague descriptions of the game used to get around providing any real information. Don’t ask what a game achieves, but how it achieves it. It’s easy to say a game is good when you don’t explain why.
3) Watch reviews. Lots of them: Don’t just get one opinion on the game. Different critics will have different opinions on what makes a game worthy of your money. Try to get a feel for whether the game is something YOU will enjoy. Remember: Review embargoes are often used by companies when they’re afraid something a reviewer says will hurt the sales of a game. If a review embargo lasts up until release you should probably rethink pre-ordering. And while we’re on the topic of pre-orders…
4) Don’t pre-order: As I’ve already stated, games change a lot over the course of development. You won’t know the quality of the finished product until it’s released, so it’s best to wait until then before you decide to purchase it.
5) Stay informed: If you’re excited about a game keep track of its development. Read press releases, watch interviews with the developers, and learn as much as you can about the game. The more you know about a game the more you’ll know whether or not it’s worth your money.
I’m not saying Watch Dogs or Destiny are bad games. I haven’t played either enough to come to that conclusion. What I can say with certainty is that many people feel as though they were lied to, and their disappointment is the product of buying a game that is different than what they were sold. They should have been more cautious. Games with large amounts of hype surrounding them often don’t live up to expectations. Even if the game is great it’s hard to be totally satisfied when you were expecting more. That being said, the publishers should have delivered what they promised.
Your money isn’t just a way of purchasing goods, it’s a tool. If you buy a game that was misrepresented, broken at launch, or lacks content you are telling publishers that you’re okay with them taking advantage of you. If you withhold your money and wait for the game’s release before you decide whether it’s a worthwhile investment you tell them you care about the quality of the game sold to you. It’s time for us to take responsibility for the state of the game’s industry, and put our money where our mouth is.