Videogame publishers and developers have made me pretty angry lately. We’re reaching a point where videogame makers can lie, but gamers will still throw money at them. So, yes, gamers are making me angry, too (Of course, as a guy that used to work at a major videogame retailer, that doesn’t really surprise me.)
The recent Aliens: Colonial Marines “scandal” really got me thinking about dishonesty within the industry. If you don’t know, Gearbox Software released a game in the Alien universe.
It was not great.
It was unpolished, buggy, and the enemies contained the AI that the enemies from the original Doom would find laughable. However, it was often advertised with this killer-looking “gameplay” demo WHICH LOOKED AMAZING. Turns out, that was a fantasy. A fiction. A lie.
And why would they lie? Preorders. Videogame companies LOVE preorders. When I worked at [major game retailer], I was constantly told to be getting preorders. We had preorder goals. Preorder contests. On EVERY transaction, we were told to inquire about preorders. Preorders are the bread, butter, and jam of the games industry. Game retailers love them because they can gauge interest in a videogame. Publishers love them because they basically already have a sale.
So, Gearbox, for all intents and purposes, whether it meant to or not, lied to the gamers. It showed off a product that was shiny and beautiful, but when the game was bought, was ugly and tarnished. I’d go so far as to say broken.
Fights broke out among Internet message boards and social networks because people were complaining about the bad game. Some gamers took it as a personal affront that people would think that a broken game was broken. We’ve come to this weird place in space/time where we seem to have forgotten that screwing consumers over isn’t okay. People were willing to give Gearbox a pass because of Borderlands.
That’s ridiculous! Gearbox lied. And whether they made a great game is irrelevant to the fact that they basically swindled money from people.
I’m conflicted right now. I love videogames, but I don’t really feel a need to support the game retailers or publishers. You know, there’s a meme that flies around that states “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!” Maybe instead, we should do our best to ignore hype and be smart consumers. Wait until reviews come out; make publishers and developers prove to you that they deserve your money.
It is with this said that I’m done preordering games. I feel a little guilty about it, too. I have buddies that manage game stores, and I know that they depend on preorders. This isn’t their fault. However, it’s time to start ignoring hype, especially if we’re getting lied to.
Take Bungie’s Destiny that was officially announced this week. I love Bungie; I’m a Halo fan through and through. Bungie has done nothing but right by me.
But, guess what? I’m not preordering the game.
They showed no gameplay, and after so many were burned by Aliens: Colonial Marines, how could I straight up trust videogame companies so completely? I can’t. And I won’t. I’ll wait for Destiny reviews. I’ll wait for word-of-mouth to get around before I decide to buy. If I have preorders (I honestly can’t remember. How dumb a consumer am I?), I’m probably going to go cancel them.
So my advice? As Fox Mulder learned: Trust no one. This especially applies to people who are trying to sell you something. Don’t worry about preordering things like Call of Duty or Halo or Destiny. If you’re going to preorder a thing, make sure it’s something obscure that the game store isn’t going to get a bunch of. Hey! That way you can support smaller guys. (Just make sure you get a bunch of info before you pick up the preorder.)
Let’s be smart consumers. Let’s stop getting burned.