Recently, I had the opportunity to watch a video showing comparison between what Ubisoft touts at E3 every year, versus what is actually delivered to the gamer. Dismay abounded, as nearly every title was released as a substandard version of what they’d promised during their press conference. This year, I’ve taken some time to watch a few of the press conferences at E3 and, just like always, games on the big screen look absolutely incredible. Therein, however, lies the problem.
Everything we’ve seen out of the industry looks amazing when its announced. We as gamers have grown accustomed to being wowed by what comes down the line from the kingpins. Bethesda, Blizzard, Ubisoft, Techland, Bungie, BioWare, they’ve all given us incredible vision of what to expect out of the fruits of their labor. And yet, it seems, that many times, across all the genres, it’s less and less about delivering the product, and more and more about taking us for a financial ride across months or years of content.
Years ago, when someone made a preorder at their local favorite gaming store, they knew that they were getting a game they could look forward to. Full content, sometimes multiplayer or co-op, a decent story, and generally, a full game. As time went on, we started seeing these charming little things called Season Passes, which promised months or years of additional content on top of the full game we’d already purchased. We had a game that would keep us entertained for months on end, and then the next “chapter,” as it were, would come out and give us even more months of entertainment.
Exceptions became the rule, it seems, and many titles now are being released incomplete, with only one or two chapters in the beginning, with promise of the rest if you buy the Season Pass.
What? I already bought the game. You’re making me pay more?!
A few models have done it right, I suppose. The Walking Dead by Telltale did a good job of price to promise, delivering episodic content for comparable prices. Other games have tried, and it just didn’t do the same thing, it didn’t have the same effect. Resident Evil Revelations, for example. A long-time beloved series by a great many people chopped and hacked into episodic content for what? Developers to have a less stringent timeline to deliver the product? It wasn’t even that good, Capcom. What happened to your efforts like Resident Evil 4, which to this day continues to have players, speedrunners, and high praise from the community?
Bungie delivered, largely on their name alone, with Destiny. I worked for a gaming store at the time, and most of what I heard was “From the makers of Halo?! I’LL PREORDER NOW!”
What we ended up getting was the core game, which really wasn’t all that much content, two expansions, then the Taken King content, which came out in its own re-release of the entire game, at full price. The Taken King expansion also locked players out of most of the content from previous iterations of the game, forcing people to buy the new content to play the things they’d been playing for months already. When this sparked controversy in the community, we were essentially told “Get over it.”
Really, Bungie? What kind of money-grabbing scheme are you playing at here? We paid for your intellectual property, and now you’re forcing us to pay for it again?
Ubisoft has its own bag of tricks that it’s been using for years to deliver us substandard games, only after we’ve emptied our wallets to them.
As before, having watched a video on Ubisoft’s comparison of what they show at E3, and what we actually get in the box, as it were, there’s a massive difference in what comes home with us. There were several video comparisons of games over the past few years, and rare was the occasion that pre-release didn’t look better than final.
Watch Dogs came with an incredible promise of open-world freedom, hacking, and player choice, combined with parkour elements, driving, shooting, the kinds of things that even Grand Theft Auto 5 would have been jealous of. I remember watching a video of Aiden, the main character, trying to sneak into a club, but being stonewalled by the bouncer. He turned, caused a massive traffic accident at the intersection nearby, and snuck in as the bouncer was moving to get a better view of the action. Sure, you can do things like that in the game, still, but with substandard graphics, poor lighting, and generally, a feeling of “last years” imagery and quality.
The Division was very similar. There were so many things promised to us in the initial videos, showing gorgeous firefights, endless opportunities to explore, a living, breathing, and ultimately, dying world where encounters were actually challenging and kind of scary from the real-world-gone-mad perspective. In the end, again, what we got was a shadow of that vision, with most of the impression gutted, and a dead world with so little content to engage, bland streets that promised so much more in the initial videos, and yet another game that would ultimately find itself on the trade-in list.
Another game that, during my tenure at a tech-store during the holiday, I sold to many a customer was Rainbow Six: Siege. Now, before anyone grabs a torch, pitchfork, and rope, I won’t say that Siege is a bad game. I’ve enjoyed many hours with friends in both multiplayer and Terrorist Hunt. Both modes are fun, challenging, and engaging. However, the early videos of Rainbow Six, showing dark shadows, unsettling battlescapes, and active AI were incredible. One element, specifically, that caught my eye was the reaction of a hostage to one of the remote drones the attackers could use to see inside a location. She fell to her hands and knees and pleaded into the camera for help, begging this tiny robot to save her. It seems asinine, but in a hostage situation, it’s fitting.
In the actual game, what did we get? A guy or girl, sitting on their knees, and never moving. They literally are almost content with their hands tied and mouth taped shut. There’s no emotion on their face, no feeling of fear. The game was stripped down and empty. The lighting and shadow is almost non-existent, and the game feels old and tired, as though so little effort was actually put into making the game feel like the bar it was originally designed to.
And yet we continue to pre-order, don’t we? We continue to blindly buy these games, taking the developers at their word that they’re delivering the “next big thing,” when in the end, all we’re getting is whatever they decided to kick out the door, forgetting the original promise of glory, and simply laughing their way to the bank with our hard-earned money, with no required effort on their end.
Shame on you, gaming industry. No more pre-orders until you deliver what you promise.