Words by Greywolfe
Last week, we talked about how publishers sometimes give their customers rather short shrift. I wanted to talk a little bit more about the idea, because I think it’s worth looking into the current state of how games are sold – it will illuminate a handful of what I think are terrible practices and hopefully, it will make you think about how you purchase games in the future.
All the money! ALL THE MONEY!
The Monetization Trap
One of the worst words to come out of gaming in the last ten or so years is “free-to-play.”
In principle, free-to-play allows the customer to download the game – bypassing that original $60 purchase cost up-front. You are then set free in whatever world this is – usually, it’s a massively multiplayer online game – particularly of the role playing variety – but then, somewhere along the way – usually level twenty or so, the game starts demanding to be fed.
There are numerous problems with free-to-play, but most notably:
- It is a gross misnomer.
- Probably the most important thing about free-to-play is its name. Somehow, publishers adopted this particular set of words for what is – at its heart – not at all “free.” Good free-to-play systems give the player access to [very nearly] everything as long as they have time. Hearthstone is this model done absolutely right, but it doesn’t take looking very far to see how terribly it is abused.
- The game is always built around the monetization method.
- As a result of no box sale, the publisher has to recoup money somewhere along the line. At very least, they want their $60. At most, they want the sun, moon and stars. This is walking-walletry at its worst. Particularly when items are time locked and the timer keeps ticking regardless of whether or not you’re logged in. One need merely look at “time cards” that are sold for various massively multiplayer role playing games. These time cards should only tick down as long as you are logged in, but that, of course, is not how they work.
- Content that should be part of the base game [like specific races and particular classes, in the case of a role playing game] are behind a pay wall. Items need to be “unlocked” in order for you to use them. The laundry list of sins here is pretty long, but the net result is simple: there end up being “haves” and “have nots.”
- Games sometimes sell “power.”
- In order to attract players, the game might sell enchanted swords that you cannot get anywhere other than in the store. These enchanted swords might be strictly better than anything else you could get in the world of the game.
- Games always sell cosmetic items.
- Whenever I look at a list of sins committed in the free-to-play space, this one always seems to get a massive free pass, somehow. The idea is that “cosmetic items” are not content, and so these are fair game to the publisher. What this generally means is that the nicest looking suits of armour, or the neatest ride able dragons are only to be found in the store. “It’s just a cosmetic item” is usually the defence issued in a case like this, but the trouble is: cosmetic items are content to someone. Perhaps not you, but they do matter to certain players. Why should they be forced to shell out for what they like when your raids are free?
No selling your bought games. Bad customer!
The War On Used Games
Another onerous practise that has slowly begun to crop up in gaming is the stance that second-hand sales are a bad idea. They should be avoided and we should move to a world where the only sale that matters is the first one.
Publishers are, of course, driving this particular practise because they don’t see any money from the game once it becomes second hand. You see, games – or nearly any entertainment product – exists on a store shelf [or virtual shelf] at a retailer’s to be sold with the express understanding that some portion of the sale will trickle back to the publisher.
In any other entertainment industry – books, music or movies, once that first sale has occurred – NO more money can trickle backward to the publisher for a second-hand sale. That’s a transaction between two individuals and in that case, the original owner gets the money and the new owner gets the product.
In gaming, however, publishers hate the second sale. So they have built in systems that force at least a portion of the second sale to go back to them. Perhaps you need to buy a [again, rather mis-named] “season pass” to access content that you should have had as a result of the sale. Or the publisher outright stops you from selling if it’s on a digital platform. None of this is consumer friendly – and none of it works this way in other industries. [though, to be fair, those industries are slowly trying to “catch on.”]
On To The Future
Next week, I will wrap up this series – we will talk a little about a handful of other bad practises, but I do want to point out that there is some good in all of this silliness. Gaming isn’t a “lost cause” when it comes to this particular issue, but it is in a place where we need to start seriously thinking about who we support and how we support them. That way, we get our “reasonable monetization models” back, because, really, publishers seem to only listen to sales data, anymore.
GTA V's 1.09 patch significantly improves the frame rate on the PlayStation 4 version, but removes parallax occlusion mapping from both the PS4 and Xbox One versions. This is the technique that makes flat textures appear to pop out. More after the jump.
Eurogamer breaks down Digital Foundry's findings with a frame rate comparison that shows a steadier frame rate in GTA V's busier downtown sections. Collision physics and deformation also have been improved with the patch. They highlight that the missing parallax occlusion mapping will mainly affect those who play in first person mode, as they view the textures at a much closer proximity. Digital Foundry also question the graphical technique's removal from the Xbox One version, where frame rate has not seen an improvement.
In a tweet, Bungie's Josh Hamrick says he is leaving after serving as senior gameplay designer on Destiny, and has now joined up with Bethesda. More after the jump!
His new position will be the Zenimax subsidiary's Senior Systems Designer. After a long stint at Bungie, Josh states he would like to tackle new challenges, and seems very excited about this new step in his career.
Jin, Devil Jin, and Josie are the three new fighters in Tekken 7 that will show up one by one starting on March 31st. Hit the jump for character trailers and more information.
Jin is the fighter slated for the March 31 slot, with Devil Jin arraving April 7th. Josie's date is not specified, but coming "soon." For now, you check out each character's trailer right here.
While sporting support for features like 4k rendering and anti-aliasing compatibility, Dead or Alive 5's PC version is lacking in other areas, such as the Soft Engine, used on current generation consoles to enhance character skin appearance. Other important modes and stages are missing as well, read on for what you won't find in this version.
The big one is no online multiplayer. Fortunately, this will be rectified with a patch in three months' time. The Danger Zone and Crimson stages are missing, there's no support for custom keyboard controls, and no Steam Cloud or Steam Achievement support.
Meanwhile, Eurogamer has a statement from producer Yosuke Hayashi and director Yohei Shimbori addressing modders, asking them to play "in a good moral and manner," referring to character costumes and artistic vision.
To those who have been having the internal struggle about getting a new console this now may be the best time to do it. A couple retailers have both created bundles that cater to different types of gamers; casual and social. Not only that but there are a few new offers on the Xbox One as well. With that in mind I decided to search around to see who else was having any special deals that may pique your interest.
Playstation 4 Deals:
Amazon: Playstation 4 Last of Us remastered, Bloodborne, $20 Dollar Amazon Gift card - $399 USD.
Best Buy: Includes a Playstation 4 Last Of Us remastered bundle with a PlayStation Camera. - $399 USD.
Walmart: Has two different bundles -
(1) Playstation 4 Last of Us remastered bundle with extra controller and your choice of Watchdogs, or Need for Speed - $399 USD.
(2) Playstation 4 Last of Us remastered bundle with your choice of two extra games (Limitations do apply) - $399 USD.
Xbox One Deals:
Microsoft: Xbox One Master Chief Collection with bonus copy of Titanfall - $349 USD.
Walmart: Has two different bundles -
(1) Xbox One Master Chief Collection with extra controller - $349 USD.
(2) Xbox One Master Chief Collection with extra game - $349 USD.
Gamestop: Offer up to $175 Trade on select PS3 or Xbox 360 consoles towards a new PS4 or Xbox One.
Hurry because these deals won't last forever!
(Sounds like a commercial)
Head teachers in Cheshire, a country in north west England, may be sending letters to parents of children they believe are playing mature games. These letters warn parents that they will be reported if their children continue to be allowed to play such games, fearing resultant behavior and potential safety concerns. For more, hit the jump.
The head teachers believe that exposure to such games can "increase early sexualized behavior in youngsters and leave them vulnerable to grooming for sexual exploitation" according to a report by the BBC. Also of note is that "Prime Minister David Cameron announced this month that adults in positions of responsibility could face prison sentences of up to five years if they failed to report allegations of the neglect or abuse of children."