As part of our ongoing Theme Week for January of 2016, we are looking back at some of the good and bad things about 2015. This time we wanted to look at some of the bigger controversies of 2015. Not just look at whether or not it made huge news, got a lot of people angry, etc., but why should we care? What made it a controversy and what significance does it hold? What can we learn from it?
Here are the responses from some of our writers.
The Konami Kerfuffle by Robert Grosso
What happened with Konami?
It is such a strange, such an unusual turn of events that reads like a petulant temper tantrum—a bridge burned purposely by a company that wishes to stay in isolation. Their past year has systematically dismantled any goodwill they had with not only their consumer base, but even their own employees.
Of course, I am referring to the Hideo Kojima saga and his still controversial departure from the company. We may never know the details regarding what happened to Kojima in the end, but in truth, does it really matter? For Konami the damage is done, and I get a sinking feeling they also don’t really care either about the consumer-base in this regard.
I honestly can’t fault them from a corporate point of view. If all reports are correct, Konami’s abandonment of the gaming market is purposeful because it makes them no money. I can, however, fault them from a practical point of view; you simply don’t dismiss and dilute your fanbase in the way Konami did. It is a PR nightmare down to its core, with rumor and scandal about that slowly becomes truth and fact.
Konami may be gone, but it doesn’t tarnish their legacy in video games. Perhaps the deal Konami made with Nintendo for a Japanese-only title is a flicker of hope that they will rent out some of their I.P in the future. It is doubtful that such a gesture will salvage the reputation of Konami after their massive kerfuffle, but at least the consolation is that their games will live on. Of course, that really depends on Konami now, and confidence in them doing the right thing is at an all-time low at this point.
Deus Ex Augment Your Preorder by Don Parsons
There may have been bigger, or harder to explain controversies in 2015, but I doubt many will have the lasting, if quiet impact of the Augment Your Preorder fiasco. While Pre-Order campaigns have been pushing more and more things in attempts to get people to give companies their money at an earlier point, the Deus Ex: Augment Your Preorder managed to finally reach the tipping point of affairs.
Each of the elements within it have been seen before to some extent or another. Pick your preorder bonus is similar to retailer exclusive ones, tier-based preorder bonuses have been gaining in popularity, as has granting early access to the game for preordering in different ways. Branded attempts are far from new as well, but no campaign managed to ever before combine all of them in a single offensive package like Square Enix did.
However, while Augment Your Pre-order managed to reach the height of insane pre-order shenanigans, in and of itself it would not be able to beat out other nor have a lasting impact really. What gives The Augment Your PreOrder controversy that life is the reactions that it caused. Gamers and media alike pounded on Square Enix, and the flaws were blatantly obvious in that it was one of the easiest batting balls around. Even that Internet backdraft alone though might not be enough.
No, what makes me pick this out of the lot is that it pushed Square Enix to back off a highly marketed event that they had set up. As the backlash continued, Square Enix decided to cancel the Augment your Preorder program, cut the early access bit, and make the rest just a standard preorder package. What makes it so significant is that is basically the first time a preorder program has gotten cancelled due to the big backdraft on it. It marks really the first line there for limits on what publishers can do without expecting a big revolt and shows an increasing consumer awareness of the issues in general.
Steam Paid Mods by Alex Santa Maria
Maybe I just have unusual tastes, but I was very excited when Bethesda and Valve initially announced that paid mods would be coming to Skyrim. I’ve delved deep into Skyrim’s modding scene in the past, and I’ve seen a lot of half finished projects that could be amazing if not for a little incentive. Money is a great way to provide that incentive, but I admit now that I was both naive and unable to see the bigger picture.
For the brief window of time that you could buy a fishing rod or a fancy sword straight from the Steam store, the Skyrim community was thrown into absolute chaos. Mod authors who had gone dark months ago had been revealed as secretly working with Valve on the project, earning them distrust in place of the admiration they expected. Other authors saw mods using their work being sold without their permission due to the unique way that mod functionality stacks in Bethesda games. Some of the most widely used mods in the community considered putting in pop-up ads for a paid version. It seemed that it just got worse and worse as time went on.
Then, it was over almost as quickly as it began, but the scars are still there if you wish to look. Paid mods are a concept that should work, a formula that could keep people from wasting their creative juices answering tech support calls or serving up orders of fries. It is always difficult to graft on monetization to something that has traditionally been cheap or free. One only has to look at the growing pains of the mobile market and the fight for relevance that indie games on Steam have to endure in the age of bundles. For Skyrim, the audience sent a clear message that paid mods are not what they want, and the viability of any game using those is all the worse for it.