We are one year into the new generation of gaming. There are exciting new franchises, the graphics are amazing and the Playstation 4 and Xbox One have been selling like hotcakes. Everything seems to be going fairly smoothly and according to plan. But there is one thing that has defined this first year of new gen gaming more than any other storyline. Broken games. Games that ship to retailers with glitches and server issues that make enjoying them difficult in some cases and nearly impossible in others. But the story isn’t just about the games themselves being broken, it’s also about game publishers tricking you into buying them.
Halo, Assassins Creed, Far Cry, Grand Theft Auto, Destiny, Driveclub, Little Big Planet, Battlefield. These are some of the biggest games to be released in the past year and every single one of them suffered from issues at launch. Some of these issues are resolved fairly quickly while others take months to sort out. As we approach the end of the year, games like Driveclub and Halo still haven’t sorted out their problems. They’ve already collected your $60 but you don’t have a finished game to play. How do they get away with this time after time? It’s partly due to some deceptive tactics to get you to purchase a game but it’s also because we let them. When it comes down to it consumers really have no one to blame but themselves.
Pre-orders are the engine that drives this machine. Publishers and retailers want you to commit to buying their game well before anyone knows if it’s going to be any good or not. Sometimes it’s well before you even know when a game is coming out! Right now on PSN you can spend $60 to pre-order Uncharted 4 even though that game isn’t coming out until sometime in late 2015 (assuming there are no delays). Why in the world would anyone do that? And there are virtually no incentives for the consumer to pre-order a game. Sure they might throw in some exclusive paint job on a gun or even a multiplayer map, but I’d argue that none of these perks are worth the risk of wasting your money on a broken or just downright bad game. Why commit your hard earned money to a game when there are so many unknowns? The number one way to hold these companies accountable is to not give them your money. At least not until it becomes clear that they have provided a complete and quality product.
And that raises another concern about when it becomes clear if a game is a stud or a dud. It is common for publishers to place a review embargo on their games. That way all reviews show up at once and no one website has an advantage over another. Often times though a publisher will have the embargo go up until the actual release of the game. This happens when they don’t want advance word of the game getting out before people purchase it and is usually a good sign that a game is going to be a turd. The worst example of this is what Ubisoft did with Assassins Creed: Unity. The embargo for that game lasted until noon on the day of release. That means that even though the game was available for sale, the games press was not allowed to publish their reviews for 12 hours. This can only be attributed to the fact that they knew the game was a buggy, glitchy train wreck but didn’t want that to hurt sales. One of the biggest publishers in gaming hid the fact that their game was broken so that people would quickly go purchase it before word spread. That is inexcusable.
So what can we the gamers do to try and stop this from happening to more games? It’s really simple. Don’t buy them. Do not pre-order games. Make them earn both your money and your trust. If games like Assassins Creed and Driveclub sell millions of copies than they have no incentive to change how they do things. We have the power to hold them accountable and if we don’t then things may only get worse.