For this week’s blog post I’m going to quickly talk about what I see as the issues with the video game industry as it is today. Despite an increase in the number of gamers, or perhaps because of it, many companies have taken to practicing business methods which are inherently problematic and could easily be considered anti-consumer. This includes; misleading advertising, sectioning off content which in previous years would have been part of the game in order to sell it as post-launch downloadable content, incorporating pay-to-win mechanics, and other similar behavior.
Everyone knows that the way a corporation survives is by making money, so no one should fault gaming companies for doing just that. However, one of the biggest rules of business is that you do not sacrifice the long term viability of your company to make a quick short term profit. This is something that many in the industry seem to be fine with ignoring, and unfortunately they know that even if they sell consumers a “base game”, which is just another way of saying it’s incomplete, a huge number of people will still buy it anyways. Video game consumers seem to be on the precipice that many industries eventually come to see, which is a result of anti-consumer practices pushing them to stand up and say “enough is enough”.
Downloadable content is, in itself, not a bad thing. It became an issue when someone realized that they could raise the price of a game past the accepted and agreed upon price of US $60 (which, by the way, seems like it should be raising a few flags in the way of potential price fixing practices) by gating off major pieces of content behind a paywall that they referred to as “downloadable content”. In no way do I think that we are “entitled” to content that’s created simply because it’s made before the release of the game. At the same time: when there is a significant amount of content which is sectioned off for DLC from a game to the point that what’s left is no longer representative of what the consumer has been told to expect, that’s a real issue. This is especially so when this is done by executives simply to milk more money out of the consumer.
Video game consumers have put up with a lot of anti-consumer practices over the last few years, and there are signs that many are tired of it. If video game companies believe that they can continue to mistreat the consumer, if they continue to fail to innovate in significant ways, they will be very upset when people stop buying their games and their DLC. Too much money is wasted in game budgets, and large amounts of it go towards outdated forms of advertisement. Meanwhile, Indie games have learned how to market themselves just as successfully, sometimes even more so, without spending anywhere near as much money. Big game companies are confounded at how this is possible, when it’s usually as simple as the game spreading through word of mouth because it’s great. It’s also common for a Youtuber to pick up a small game and help to grow its popularity. Large companies try to mimic this by paying Youtubers and forcing them to sign contracts removing the one thing that is most integral in their ability to help sell games: their independence and integrity. Even Youtubers who are considered trustworthy get more negative comments than normal for sponsored videos because people know how game companies tend to be when it comes to this type of advertising.
Ultimately, it would be beneficial for everyone involved if the focus was on making high quality games. Nothing sells a game better, and sustains a game company longer, than making good products and not wasting money unnecessarily. People won’t accept anti-consumer practices forever, and when the trend is spending enormous sums on each game, it doesn’t take many flops to put a company into major financial difficulty.