Atari Controller

Why are Video Game Companies hostile to gamers?

Inspiration of Gamers

captain power toysWhen I was a child, they had these toys which were combined with interactive VHS tapes. You would hold this space ship like a gun, and you’d watch a VHS tape of enemy space ships, and you’d shoot at the screen. The controller would record hits and misses. It was a pretty novel idea, and for many people this was the first real “video game”. My imagination was sparked.

Birth of the industry

People like me grew up and in the 1980s, began experimenting with writing video games on the IBM PC platform. Video games back then were very rough, very simple, very linear. There were lots of really terrible games, but every now and then something remarkable and fun would emerge. Most of these games were created entirely by a single individual.

Goldrush of venture capitalists

Sierra Online logoVideo Games started making money, and businessmen showed up like sharks smelling blood. They would find these especially talented programmers and hire them to make games exclusively for their labels. This was the begining of the modern video game industry. Sure there were console video games and Japan was doing it’s thing, but the real explosion happened when PC games appeared on the scene with ground-breaking titles such as DOOM.

Billion Dollar Industry

Today, Video Games are a multi-billion dollar industry. They make more money than Hollywood. That is a huge leap to have occured in only 20 years. It is partly due to the incredible talent of game creators, but it is mostly due to the giant hole in interactive entertainment which video games have filled. Businessmen are not necessarily gamers, in fact many of them don’t play any games at all. And many who claim otherwise would be found to only dabble in click-games on their cellphones, which is not really the same thing as being a “Gamer”.

Transformation – Ripping off the customers

Blizzard entertainment logoThe widespread availability of High Speed Internet has had a huge impact on the video game industry, both positive and negative. I am going to focus on the negative for the purpose of this rant. We now have Massive Multiplayer Online Games, which are by themselves a great concept, but are being completely abused to rip all of us off. We also have downloadable content, again a great concept, but again it is being abused to rip people off instead of to improve the gaming experience.

In MMOs there are two business models, I will discuss both:

Subscription Models

First is the subscription model, which is the original MMO model. The idea is that operating a persistent world requires a lot of infrastructure and manpower, and when sales slow down the money to support that has to come from somewhere. Why not ask the customers to pay for it? This seems reasonable at first, but why does every single MMO publisher charge the same $15 per month fee? If you know about server and datacenter costs, you know that that is way more money than they need to maintain their infrastructure, especially for a game like WoW that has many millions of subscribers. They are following the rule of supply and demand, setting their price to the highest possible amount that the largest number of their customers are willing to pay. This has created a hostile environment for competition, which means fewer successful MMOs, which is bad for gamers!

Microtransactions

The other model is microtransactions. At first this might seem like a great idea, spending a few dollars here and there rather than $15 per month, but when you look at the sort of things you’re expected to pay for, most of it is stuff that you used to get with the game when you buy it. Nowadays it seems you are buying a preview or a trailer, with a neat packaging, and access to purchase the actual game brick by brick. And if you do the math on all the microtransactions required to purchase the whole game, it is usually several hundred dollars.

Downloadable Content

The other big way we are being ripped off is downloadable content. Video game publishers have their $10 and $20 DLCs planned out well before release. They are charging you top dollar for the game, at this time that is $60, with the intention of squeezing you for another $20-$40 in DLCs bringing the actual game’s price to $100 or more. But the amount of total content hasn’t changed! To use a grocery store analogy, they have reduced the number of chips in the bag, and are offering to sell you the chips which used to be in the bag, at 200% or more mark-up.

Why do we tolerate this?

Why do we tolerate being ripped off by the industry which we created, which we supplied with funds, and which would die if it were not for our loyal support? I suggest there is no reason to tolerate it. Stop paying companies for games which are ripping us off. If the game has Day-1 DLC which is not free, do not buy the game. If the game has overpriced subscription models, do not buy the game. Is a few hours of “fun” really worth the price of your dignity? Are we all really suckers?

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