For those gamers who were waiting on Bungie’s Destiny 2, it’s been a good day. The game itself has been warmly received by critics and given the thumbs up across the board. But there’s one thing that really sours the experience – and it’s something that really shouldn’t be in a 2017 AAA-game. The over indulged inclusion of pointless micro transactions and DLC that really shouldn’t have made it into one of the biggest games of the year.
DLC has become an unavoidable sidearm to mainstream gaming. That awkward presence that’s tolerated by gamers because it represents additional content. To be fair when it’s done right, DLC (in whichever form it comes) can be good. The number of people that wish id Software had pushed out additional DOOM single player content remains high – while drip feeding post-release DLC has kept games like Rocket League, Shovel Knight and many more feeling fresh and new. This isn’t a slam against quality DLC – content that adds to the overall experience or genuinely extends lifespan.
The problem in recent times though is the emergence of rip-off DLC. AAA publishers carving up content and dishing it out in laughably poor fashion. Shadow of Mordor came under fire for its flimsily transparent attempt to monetize a predominantly single player experience. Elsewhere, what AAA game in 2017 doesn’t come with some form of loot box, effectively offering gamers gambling within the product they paid full price for. Meanwhile, Bethesda has committed to the tragically poor idea of getting gamers to pay for mods – something that it’s failed miserably at in the past. Why encourage something to be given for free when you can create a marketplace you control, establish a currency (Which you control the rates of) and effectively hand yourself free money for other peoples work. It’s genius really.
Even Activision can’t help itself. Destiny 2 arrived into eager gamers arms yesterday – only for many to discover that the game is loaded with DLC out the box. Worse than this, it seems Activision has twisted some of the original games more endearing features in such a way that gamers will have no option but to dip into their wallets. Most notably, the way that gamers are now no longer able to change the color of their armor as many times as they like. Now it’s an expendable item that must be replenished for each and every part of a gamers armor. You couldn’t make it up, that’s how tragic the situation has become.
You couldn’t make it up, that’s how tragic the situation has become.
But the worst part is that gamers will take the plunge to get that content. Even though they know it’s completely ridiculous and even though it’s transparent in its awfulness, there’s a certainty that some gamers will, at least once, invest in money to get that content. Publishers know they’ve got gamers over a barrel when it comes to the franchises they love. Any money is good money – and if they can turn even the smallest section of gamers into paying customers – it’s a win for them.
This is the problem with the situation. As publishers continue to explore and exploit customers – they don’t need to justify their awful decisions. If people buy into the idea with money – that’s all the justification that’s needed. Even if the morals of the situation are bankrupt as heck. Even if it encourages frivolous spending (and in the case of loot boxes, outright places the temptation of gambling right in front of gamers). This cannot be acceptable on any level – but it’s up to gamers to say no.
That’s the problem, gamers aren’t saying no. There’s a sense of passive acceptance. The attitude of “if you don’t like it, don’t buy it” has risen to astonishing levels among those who play games. But that’s not the point – and publishers know this. The fact is that when you pay for a product, you should get that product. You don’t buy a car then pay extra to get the tyres inflated as an optional extra. You don’t watch a movie, only to have a character scene taken out because “it’s not essential”. Games as a medium are built on making the experience your own. What separates games from movies is the fact that you can experience a game how you choose. By saying that these customisable options aren’t essential, you’re effectively undermining the point of video games.
Of course, the current trend for these is on “optional extras”. Mods are optional, so you don’t have to pay for them. Armor color is an optional extra, so that’s fair game. But is it really fair to cut out the non-essentials just because it’s not part of the core experience? Are publishers that desperate for returns that they’ll risk looking desperate in the hunt for an extra few thousand dollars? Apparently so, and it’s only going to get worse.
At some point, the onus falls on gamers to root out these negative practices. Much like Online Passes. Much like the original paid mods system on Steam – only by saying no and refusing to indulge these negative practices can gamers get rid of them. This microtransaction culture is great for publishers but not for gamers – who are ultimately left paying way more to get the experience they should be getting by default.
Until gamers turn around and stop paying for these tricks, gamers are only going to end being ripped off more. Publishers need to learn the hard way that they can’t keep cutting more and more off. Likewise, gamers need to stop indulging such ridiculous propositions – lest the situation get worse for everyone.
The only way companies like Bethesda, Activision and Warner Bros will learn is by hitting them in the pocket. That means not giving them more excuses to cut out content. Gamers have to stop indulging these trashy techniques.
Goodness only knows what’s next on the chopping board if they don’t.