Dark Souls on PC Shows the Power of Gamer Communities
For the past month, several of us at Game Front have been consumed by the ideas revolving around the relationships of those who make games to those who play them. We covered the living crap out of the Mass Effect 3 ending situation and the resulting fallout on all sides — gamers petitioning BioWare, BioWare deflecting gamers, and writers and other developers claiming the whole thing was the result of some idea of “entitlement,” although I’m not sure even to this day that any of them really knew what they meant by that word.
But all those talking about petitions and entitlement seem to have missed another situation in which gamers have actively petitioned a developer to make a change — and they’ve found a victory. It’s a much less divisive situation, but that doesn’t make it any less important. I’m speaking, of course, of the 90,000-gamer-strong push to bring Dark Souls to PC, a request to which publisher Namco Bandai has responded in an overwhelmingly positive way.
In fact, Namco is bringing Dark Souls to PC with its own special edition, dubbed Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition. The game will be launching in August and bringing the Dark Souls experience to an entire new class of gamers who have asked loudly for it. Namco saw demand and has responded very well to gamers throughout the process, and here we are. It’s happening, because of a petition.
Does the fact that gamers asked for a version of the game on a different platform make them entitled? After all, they basically demanded Namco rework their title and put it on a different machine altogether, rather than just accept the versions they were given. Isn’t that what “entitled” means?
Dark Souls is one of those games that has engendered quite a powerful fan base, and that fan base has mobilized to affect some very real, very powerful change. There’s a whole new release of the game, complete with new content, coming to PC mostly because players just asked for it. That’s something that’s unique about video games: they create loyal followings of people who are, mostly, just excited to play stuff. When the people responsible for making games recognize that, great things are possible.
The situation concerning Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition is even evolving further as we speak. After announcing the game, it became apparent that Namco’s online support for Dark Souls would be provided by Games For Windows Live, a decision that immediately resonated with the Dark Souls community. It seems that many people, again, aren’t very happy about that situation — and they’ve started a petition to say so to Namco. It has already seen more than 19,000 signatures.
Gamers involved in asking Namco not to use GFWL have been pretty civil, at least on Namco’s official forums, and the petition against using the service is equally so. For its part, Namco seems willing to at least listen, and one Namco rep has responded to say that players’ concerns are being brought to the developers. That might not mean that Namco will abandon GFWL, as there are likely a lot more businessy concerns being voiced behind the scenes that make the issue a lot more complex than just what people might want to see most. But at the very least, Namco is civil and pays attention. And that’s a very good thing.
The Dark Souls situation ultimately demonstrates both the power of a passionate community and the kind of great things that can happen when game companies listen to and understand their fans. At least in this case, Namco isn’t cultivating an adversarial relationship with its players; it isn’t telling them, “Sorry, too bad,” or playing public relations games with them because they want something the company hasn’t delivered. Of course, the Dark Souls situation is vastly different from an organized backlash of fans, but at the same time, even with the GFWL development, the community surrounding the game feels respected.
And in the end, even if it does use GFWL, Dark Souls will be on PC, just as players had hoped. It might not be exactly what everyone will have wanted, but it’s a great victory for the community, and it shows that game makers who treat their fans well are rewarded. Lots of PC gamers are going to buy Dark Souls: Prepare to Die edition — many of whom would never have bought the game otherwise. And that’s because Namco knew to listen and react to the people who want to play its games. It’s a model of which other companies should take note.