EA Goes Indie, Consoles are Dead, and Black Ops 2 is (Not) the Worst Game Ever Made
(This is another edition of RANT Bites, a weekly opinion piece column on GameFront. Check back every week for more. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not reflect those of GameFront.)
It’s time for another selection of Rant Bites, the unhealthy way to start your day … especially since it’s not even very early. We have three big stories of the week flavored with pointless punditry that will probably annoy some people because of opinions, and those people will claim I am just looking for attention while giving the article lots of attention. That’s how the Internet works, right? Anyway, on with the stupid opinions.
Electronic Arts releases an indie bundle, gamers release their anger:
So my Twitter feed has been full of folk angrily defending Electronic Arts for its exploitation of indie street cred to make some cash. For those not in the know, EA released an “indie bundle” on Steam, which raised the hackles of those gamers determined to label EA the worst company in America. It even caught the attention of Minecraft’s Markus “Notch” Persson, who said, ”EA releases an ‘indie bundle’? That’s not how that works, EA. Stop attempting to ruin everything, you bunch of cynical bastards.”
On the flipside, you have people criticizing the backlash, stating that the games included in EA’s bundle are indie, due to the fact that the studios aren’t owned by anybody, which is quite true. The enraged masses (or minorities) have been condemned for hating on a sale that’s promoting some solid games, regardless of whether or not you like the company publishing them.
Ultimately, it’s not worth getting mad over, but I think folk are well within their rights to look up from their newspapers, raise an eyebrow at EA, and say, “Really?” While it is true that the games are from indie studios, it’s still shamelessly tacky of EA to make some coin off the back of indie street cred while being one of the most cynical and consumer-unfriendly corporations in the industry. It reminds me of an old man wearing his baseball cap backwards in an attempt to show the kids he’s “down with it.” While I agree that one shouldn’t discount the bundle just because of semantics, I don’t think it’s wrong to mock EA for trying to latch onto the concept of the indie bundle and bask in the positive connotations of the concept. It’s pretty funny.
Because, y’know. Fuck EA.
Everything Mark Kern thinks about the industry is righteous:
The Hero of the Week award goes to Mark Kern, boss of Firefall Studios and former World of Warcraft designer. He recently criticized the ridiculous and broken business models of the console market, explaining that something is seriously wrong and unhealthy with studios having to suffer layoffs every time they create a major game. The money associated with big budget development, and the resulting fear of risk, leads him to believe that the console model is dead, and is leading developers to migrate away from the traditional studio/publisher dynamic.
“The model is transitioning away from these big boxed games where you’re pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into a title, to these sorts of games that don’t count on the distributor,” he told Eurogamer. ”They don’t need the distributor to succeed, so a lot more money goes into the game rather than to marketing and you get to grow organically with your players. And as there’s no barrier to entry for players you can start to compete on fun instead of marketing, which is really the area that we as developers should be in.”
Yesterday on this site, I wrote about how free-to-play games are set to expose retail games for the sham they are, and it’s great the the maker of one of those games seems to think the exact same thing. He’s right, as well. This industry is seriously damaged. When Eat Sleep Play has to downscale and focus on iPhone games after making Twisted Metal, and when the makers of L.A. Noire don’t even exist anymore, it’s hard to suggest that the current world of bloated budgets and sell-a-million-or-die ultimatums is working. If anything, I’m shocked the industry has kept that model going for as long as it has. The rise of indie, mobile, social, and freemium games are working together to change that, and the big publishers are going to have to stop sitting on their laurels and expecting the world to change for them. It’s not going to. They’re going to have to change for the world.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II:
Well, Call of Duty: Black Ops II was finally announced, and with shocking inevitability, gamers were on hand to criticize it before anything had even been seen. After hating on Modern Warfare 3 for not changing enough, Black Ops II is being mocked for changing too much … and also for not changing enough … and also for zombies … and videogames … and stuff.
While it seems like I am about to make fun of people for hating on Black Ops II, it’s actually quite interesting. Between this and the backlash for Mass Effect 3, it really does seem like gamers are becoming less easy to please with big franchise names and sequels. It’s looking more and more like the third game in a series is starting to rub gamers up the wrong way, and the resulting attacks might make publishers think twice about exploiting one series for an entire decade. I hate shitting on a game before we’ve even seen more than a few minutes of trailer, but I do love it when gamers reveal themselves less willing to buy a product just because they were told to.
Or rather … I would if gamers actually stuck to their words. Black Ops II is currently on track to become the biggest game of the year, like every Call of Duty for the past few years. This could be down to the vocal detractors being little more than a screaming minority, but I’m not so sure. After all, gamers had planned to boycott Modern Warfare 2 when it came to PC, but the Steam profiles of the listed boycotters revealed that most of them were playing … wait for it … Modern Warfare 2. The thing about a consumer protest is that it only works if you plan to stick to it. Now, I am not yet sick of Call of Duty. I like it, and I find the witch hunt against people who do enjoy it to be rather pathetic and stupid. But I can respect gamers that have had enough of a series and decide to stop supporting it. If they actually stick to their guns on that decision.
Whining in Metacritic user reviews or leaving cynical comments about how little you care is all well and good, but that achieves nothing. It failed to stop Black Ops II tripling its pre-orders on Amazon, after all. I won’t agree with your decision not to support COD, but I’ll damn well support it if you plan to do more than make some witty allegory describing the series on the Internet. I want gamers to be more active about consumer issues, but “active” is the operative word. Don’t buy games you don’t morally or philosophically agree with. It seems like such an obvious statement, but I’m wondering how many people actually stick to that concept.
Obviously, Call of Duty reaches more consumers than the hardcore gamer, just like Michael Bay’s Transformers movies reach more than the kids who grew up in the 80s. There’s no stopping that. But hardcore gamers are helping, and they’re simultaneously wishing death on the series. So yeah … maybe stop that if you hate it so much.
As for me, I think Black Ops II could be good. Treyarch had an amazing campaign with the first Black Ops, and the game was only let down by shitty network problems on any system that wasn’t an Xbox 360. I am looking forward to seeing what the studio drums up this year.