The year 2014 was a tainted one for the AAA industry, with dozens of examples that could be used to illustrate how far from players’ interests the whole process of producing and publishing a game has gone in favor of a more monetary oriented approach. This year is off to a similar start with the recent release of the latest Assassin’s Creed Unity DLC: Dead Kings.
Although the DLC is downloadable for free as a patch to anyone who has bought the game, with Ubisoft offering a free product to anyone who holds a season-pass, what comes through as content is more receiving a consolation prize than an expansion to a well fleshed out game.
Assassin’s Creed Unity came forward as one of the most criticized games of 2014 and shows how publishers, especially big ones, prefer to cut on quality control and focus on marketing and squeezing as much money as possible out of the fans of their franchises with the use of game-breaking or unbalancing mechanics such as micro-transactions.
Four patches in, the game is barely in a playable state, with serious performance issues on most systems, especially those that are not up to scratch. Instead of focusing all of their assets and resources on fixing these problems, Ubisoft has kept pushing out expansions and DLCs, as well as continuing to use their micro-transaction system, in order to maximize their gain from this particular title.
Unity, however, is only one of the products of a slacking gaming industry. A general lack of interest in providing the player with an enjoyable product can be seen in many other games that have infested electronic and physical game stores’ shelves alike and still do to this day.
While browsing Steam or visiting one of the many gaming related events, we are bombarded with shiny eye candy and promotional material which presents unrealistic gameplay footage and showcases performances and playability that are, most times, not a part of the final product. The now forgotten Watch Dogs, out less than 8 months ago, is a clear example of this trend. It created a scandal when it was announced that better graphics quality was indeed part of the final product but had been rendered inaccessible to players for no apparent reason.
Another trending behavior is rebooting old franchises into poorly made products that still bear the franchise’s name in order to lure fans into blindly buying the game, convinced that its creators and publishers will have maintained the standards they had seen in previous episodes. A famous example of this is Dungeon Keeper Mobile, published by EA.
While this behavior could be acceptable from a small publisher or an indie developer, as it could be the result of lack of experience or resources, it becomes unacceptable when associated with large companies which have been publishing games for the last two decades and that would normally charge full price (an average of 40 to 60 USD) for a copy of their latest product.
Considering the average gamer lives a normal life consisting of an average salary and a number of duties that only gives him a few hours a day to dedicate to his hobby, charging him full price for a release that is not up to standards or simply does not deliver the enjoyment they are expecting from it directly pushes him away from buying other games and encourages piracy and a general sense of mistrust toward the industry.
This problem weakens the industry itself, as people would prefer illegally downloading games instead of buying them on the market, thus giving producers and publishers less money to be used for further development. This may cause thinning of the gaming community as more people are simply drawn away from gaming as a result of their unpleasant experiences, directly making gaming less enjoyable for every gamer. Only time will tell if gaming developers prevent this from happening.