It seems like recently the video games industry has been on a tear. The news has continually been filled with examples of publishers doing questionable things to its consumers, its employees, or each other. One of the biggest stories of the year -- so far -- involves multiple governments around the world investigating the business practices of the industry, especially the loot boxes and microtransactions.
While the general public might not be entirely informed on the entire situation, those in the know are fully aware that the video games industry has been busy doing a lot of shady business practices. It can be said that while video games are a form of art and entertainment, like other forms of media, it is a business. It's an industry meant to make money. However, public relations are important as well and many triple-A publishers are blowing it right now. Now more than ever, it feels like the video games industry is not trying to sell you on a game, but trick you.
Change The Rules
Loot boxes and microtransactions aren't all that this is all about. Although loot boxes and microtransactions catch many ire looks from gamers, the problem is usually how they're implemented. Or not implemented at first in the case of Crash Team Racing Re-Fueled. This remake of the 1998 game was released with no loot boxes or microtransactions and the game was laced as a lot of content. An in-game currency in the form of Whumpa coins was introduced for players to buy the in-game upgrades for their kart, a new feature in the remake. Almost two months after the game's release, after the game got most of its sales, publisher Activision announced it was going to implement microtransactions into the game to give gamers "more options." The game's economy was thrown out of wack as the microtransactions were accompanied with higher prices for items in the in-game story. Gamers would have to play the game much more to earn what they wanted, destroying the game's pacing and making it feel less fulfilling.
However, this is only when publishers decide the games they release should have lots of content. Anthem was meant to have a long roadmap of content to be released after the game's launch, beginning the following month after it was released. The game itself didn't have very much to do after the main campaign. And after the game failed to find a long-lasting audience, the promised content was pushed in a desperate attempt to fix what was already there in the first place. Recently, developer BioWare announced it was going to scrap the roadmap entirely and stick to tiny updates over the season. This was so it could spend more time fixing what still hadn't wasn't right with the game at launch. Those wishing to be able to explore the world with their Javelins won't be able to find much else now.
Change The Deal
Some publishers have resorted to just lying about what their game entails. Bethesda Softworks promised the work with Fallout '76 at their E3 2018 press conference. The company promised a living, breathing world where numerous camps and settlements could be explored, along with plenty of missions to be found. Bethesda Softworks also promised a beautiful looking game, better than the previous entry in the series Fallout 4, and an expansion of the mechanics that game had. To top things off, the company also announced a beta so that the online infrastructure would be solid on launch. And then the game released. There were no NPC characters to talk to in the game, no towns or settlements of any consequence when compared to each other, and the online play was buggy as hell. The graphics looked terrible and worse than Fallout 4's and many of the features that had been previously touted were simply missing in action. It's been nearly a full year since the game's release and while some things have been fixed and/or changed, many issues still persist.
Change Their Worth
Of course, another route publishers can take is to offer less content than their previous releases but tout out gambling mechanics as new content. NBA 2k20 offers the same type of gameplay this year as in their previous title. Instead, the feature MyTeam each year becomes more and more randomized to make the included microtransactions and loot box more appealing. Less so is the thrill of playing basketball than it is the joy of gambling and the rush of endorphins shooting into your brain. This year, the game featured literal gambling mechanics in that the best way to get the players you want and the improvements you need is to buy card packs and hope for the best.
Change The Narrative
One of the most egregious ways a publisher can deceive its consumer base is by also deceiving the press. Borderlands 3 was on the new Epic Games Store for PC gamers. However, the game's publisher, 2k games, decided to only hand out codes for the PC version to select outlets. Reviewers soon discovered that the build of the game they were given was not the final release gamers would be playing but an earlier build with major bugs and problems. As such, many reviewers either had to write a review with a major caveat to it or wait until the retail release. 2k Games says it did this due to security concerns but with all the drama that has led up to the game's release, this could also be looked at as a way to delay the bad press the game might get, especially considering developer Gearbox Software's dodgy reaction to microtransactions.
Change The Consumer
Ultimately, though, if it feels like the industry is trying to trick players, it's because it is. This now infamous though not nearly seen as much as it needs to video details the psychological tactics that these publishers and marketers use to essentially dupe and manipulate consumers into buying their product. To turn this hobby into an addiction, morality be damned. Seriously, this video is a piece in of itself but it's worth stating that the video games industry keeps tricking us into buying into things -- business practices, less content, inaccurate information -- we don't want to and a lot of consumers are getting sick and tired of it.
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