It’s Not A Pipe Dream

The gaming industry is so bizarre. I’m looking at news articles this morning and chuckling to myself at everything I see. Peter Molyneux has lied about Godus (to the utter shock of no one) and already moved on to his next game about social media and emotions. Valve apparently forgot that in a voting system people tend to do whatever it takes to get those votes. All around us are Kickstarters, early-access titles, and paid alpha/beta tests.

We’re inundated with false promises, half-baked ideas, and incomplete projects. Every day a new ploy to manipulate how people pay for games is being concocted. What happened to saying you’re going to make a game, making it, then selling it? The industry went from selling complete games to giving them away for free, and now they sell ideas for games that might be in the future. Seriously, what the flippin flyin friar tuck is going on?

I’ve said it a dozen times, but I’ll say it again: I’m willing to pay money for video games. I like my video games to be what was promised, finished, and playable. Why is this exchange of value — such an elementary and fundamental concept — so lost to us?

I can afford to pay more than 99 cents for a game. I’m willing to pay $59.99 + tax.  I don’t want to buy experience boosts or items in a cash shop. I’m willing to spend time killing monsters, exploring the world, and actually playing the game. I don’t need extravagant never-been-done-before ideas to get excited about a MMO. I’ll happily take what was done 15 years ago in a simple game like Ultima Online, or EverQuest, Dark Age of Camelot, or Star Wars Galaxies. I’m even willing to pay $15/month for continued support and development of the game. I’ll even buy bigger expansions and pay full-retail.

Again, I know I’ve said all of that before. Yet every day we slide a little more. Every month there’s a new early-access or F2P debacle. I’m trying hard to vote with my wallet here. I can’t think of a single time I spent money in a F2P cash shop. I’ve resisted buying early-access games I really want because I don’t want to support that model. I just hope we can somehow see a return to the days when people want good games and developers make good games and both sides are happy. Pipe dream? I really, really don’t think it is.

  • I agree with everything you just said.

    Hell, I would pay $100 / month for an MMO that delivered just $50/month of value.

  • The next big thing will have to come from an indie studio with passionate gamers on board. The problem is that they will need money. Kickstarter is already so full of those false promises and cash grabs that the real gems will probably sink to the bottom.

    I keep reading the Camelot Unchained newsletters with hope but it still seems like a long way off since they are still in alpha testing.

  • You bought Landmark. So thanks for that!

    Snark aside, I agree of course. The problem isn’t people like us, it’s the dummies who keep buying crap like H1Z1 and other games; there are enough of them that you no longer need to make a real game, just create enough to sell a dream, and plenty of fools with just enough money will follow you off a cliff.

  • @John: I’d probably go as high as $20/month. After that, I’d have to see a game that was phenomenal.

    @Gringar: Man I’m trying to stay onboard with the idea of an indie dev being the one to make the next game but all I see are small studios getting halfway there and giving up or falling flat. You can’t half-ass an MMO. That doesn’t mean you need voice actors and Unreal 10. It means you need solid mechanics and have to execute flawlessly on design.

    @SynCaine: Landmark was the last early-access I bought. Do I regret it? Yeah, I regret the early-access implications. I think the game had potential (may still yet) but it was too early for me to have bought in. It really is the idea of selling a dream that kills me. Sell me a damn game.

    @Werit: But why? Why does it have to be that people give up and accept crap when we could easily have something good? I haven’t heard a good explanation yet.

  • The explanation comes from SynCaine’s comment. Enough people buy dreams and promises that companies don’t need to make real games anymore. It would be cool if companies made games just to make good games but they are businesses. Unless something breaks the mold, like the company actually being owned and operated by gamers, it will inevitably follow the common business practice of maximizing profit while minimizing expense, and effort.

    For us to have nice things people need to stop buying dreams and early access. The effect will be seen as a crash of sorts but it’s necessary. In economic terms. Demand for unfinished games needs to go down while finished games needs to go up. When you buy into an Early Access game you boost the demand for unfinished games.

  • And they wonder why we wait for big sales. I personally refuse to buy any game in early access and I also turn down early access gifts nowadays too. I never pre-order and unless the company has an amazing track record they do not get my money per 50 percent sale. That’s how you vote with your wallet.

    There’s some irony in paying 100 a month for something worth 50. That seems to be how f2p is viewed around here

  • The problem is that a lot of people support the pay for unfinished expletive model. Since it is lucrative (and comparatively easier to deliver “alphas” than a finished product) more devs are headed that way.

    Aaaaand as I read upwards through the comments I see people have already said that. Oh well. Echo echo echo echo? 😛

  • The only games I pre-order in any fashion are things I help kickstart or very rarely an early release by an indie dev that is just cheap as hell. I rarely buy AAA games at full price because the full price is frequently ridiculous in my opinion. I think the last game I bought at release for full price from a big name studio was Skyrim and I still play a good bit of that.

    I’ll continue to fund kickstarters so long as the AAA studios continue to push the same crap that I’m not interested in. I find it much more fulfilling to help fund someone’s dream and possibly get an innovative or just well done game out of it.

  • Toe be fair their are many kickstarter games that continue to push forward and its a little early to judge. While the situations has turned rather ugly it has provided access to funding for new ideas. Sure we might have to watch idiot consumers run around like headless chickens shitting money on half baked ideas, but everything has its up and downs.

  • I said it before, I’m done playing any new MMO. I’m only going to play UO:Second Age or P99, if I’m lucky someone will make an old school Asheron’s Call server. Yotor and I are enjoying Diablo III still and thanks to Heroes of the Storm making me want to play LoL again, I occasionally play that.

    Other than that though, not much is of interest to me in the near future. I find myself watching more videos/youtube online than playing games these days.

  • I wonder how STEAM has impacted the gaming industry monetization methods in general. I virtually never buy a game at full price anymore, there isn’t any need to if one has impulse control.

    Then there is the DLC barrier. I get turned off if I feel a game’s “DLC” was withheld from launch as opposed to being released 6 months later as actual extra content. Selling DLC at release is an absolutely guaranteed no sale for me.

    Related to DLC is the early access gifts, which are basically DLC prior to launch.

    Monetization schemes have become so heavy handed that I get turned off and instead just wait for the Ultra Platinum All DLC Season Pass Enhanced Edition for 66% off of the release price.

  • “Monetization schemes have become so heavy handed that I get turned off and instead just wait for the Ultra Platinum All DLC Season Pass Enhanced Edition for 66% off of the release price.”

    ^ This. Unless the game is multiplayer-centric and I have a strong nucleus of friends picking it up for the interest of playing together, then I just don’t buy games when they’re first released any more. They’ve tried all these “pre order and get this exclusive bit of DLC” and as Gankatron states, it’s now so aggressively done, I’m completely put off of any chance of them swaying my habits. Aside from the fact that games are so often released with a magnitude of glitches and bugs still present, I don’t see the need or the point of buy a game when it initially comes out. I suppose I’m a wily old bird nowadays and happy to wait, the power of the hype machine doesn’t grab me the way it maybe does the younger generation.

    Early access is a mixed bag. I thoroughly enjoyed purchasing Divinity Original Sin, once it was released and I’d heard it was a good game. I was happy to pay full price as all the research I did, suggested it was my kind of game and I would get many many hours of enjoyment from it. However, if I’m to understand it, the game was a kickstarter game, so without early access, it perhaps wouldn’t have existed. I also suppose crowd funding is enabling certain games and genres that publishers are otherwise not keen to fund. I imagine someone could point out how Original Sin is against the trend in terms of the success/fail rate of crowd-funded projects.

    Who knows where the industry will steer. I’ve not particularly enjoyed the approach it’s been taking in recent years, but also, it hasn’t overly affected me directly as I choose to buy “finished” games as and when I choose.

  • I think it is important to note that not all Early Access and pre-orders are automatically bad. There must be a handful of them being put out by people truly passionate about their craft. The problem is they are being drowned out by the staggering amount of garbage.

  • @Gringar: I haven’t seen a real “early access” game that I can say justified the “early access.” Then again, what’s “early access” and what’s “alpha” these days? Pre-orders are fine. I’ve never had a problem with them.

  • @Keen: Honestly to me, a lot of indie games seem to be using early access as more of a “the game is playable and could be released but we are going to continue updating regularly so we will call it early access” type thing than actual early access. Space Engineers was like this (not sure if it’s still early access or was ‘released’ can’t remember) but either way, even when it was considered “early access” it could still have been considered a full game with continual support and I wouldn’t have seen it any different. Same with starbound, it is what I would consider a full game, but is still considered early access because the developers are still working heavily on it and have a bunch of stuff they want to add.

    Then there is the opposite, where the game needs more and probably should still be called early access but is released… like Elite Dangerous. When it was released, it was less of a game than either of the 2 above, but they are planning on consistent updates to better it, yet it was considered release and is not called early access anymore.

    Personally I fail to see the difference in the two.

  • @Drathmar: If “early access” means a game that is pretty much finished but will continue to grow — cool. Unfortunately, VERY few of those exist. It’s mostly the “hey we have a tech demo up and running and you can move around the world and experience 2 of our 100 features.” Results: Burn out before the game launches, a lack of experiencing the game how it was meant to be played, and developers ceasing to actually finish the product.

  • @Keen: That could very well be true, I just know in my experience that I have not really had any of those. Then again I rarely get early access games as soon as they are released. I know when I get Space Engineers it had been out for awhile but was still early access, yet I would have paid for it and had fun with it even if it had not continued being developed when I bought it. Same for starbound.

    My experience has been that it’s fairly easy to tell with some research/reading reviews which ones are the ‘tech demo’s’ and which are actually pretty decent. Of course that is just my experience.

  • I am with Werit on this one. That time has passed. I think that we are in the minority of what we are willing to pay. Most customers/gamers out there have come to expect the free to play idea. The game would have to be phenomenal to stick with a subscription in today’s market.

    The only F2P game I play is Marvel Heroes. I have spent some money in the cash shop only because I was playing so much I wanted to support them in some way.

    With non-MMO games, I usually buy off a Steam discount or buy used games for the console. It’s been awhile since I payed full price for a game. I think this is the big reason you are seeing a push for new schemes for ways to make money. There are too many ways to buy games at a discount that developers need to come up with other ways to make some $.

  • Your commentary hits the nail on the head, it is indeed a sea of Early Access/FTP bullcrap. However I do take exception to your assertion that I’m flipping and flying. I do neither as I am to rotund for either. 😉

  • Hey look at that… only took less than one week for Daybreak Games to lay off a portion of their staff! Sorry for those folks but did anyone actually believe there was not going to be a blood bath in those offices.

  • Eventually someone with the power to will a game worth playing into existence will realize that there is a significant demographic of people who would pay $60 for the game and its expansion, with a $15/month fee on top. The gaming industry is being dragged down the mountain in the ‘Appalanche’, but similar to the .com boom things will normalize again before long.