The Gamer Rebellion


(This is another edition of </RANT>, 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.)

Capcom hasn’t endeared itself to savvy consumers this generation. Its policy on downloadable content is nothing short of ridiculous, with games like Asura’s Wrath selling the full story incrementally, on top of the original purchase, and Street Fighter x Tekken shipping with a bunch of characters locked behind a pay wall on the disc. While some folks don’t care, and believe they still get their money’s worth, others feel cheated and they’ve not been shy about expressing it. Usually, however, the rage is impotent as gamers complain about something while still happily putting their money in the publisher’s pocket. That’s why I’m so encouraged by what happened to Capcom lately, and why I hope against hope that we’re finally seeing a push back from the consumer.

See, while Street Fighter x Tekken did okay at retail, it sold below Capcom’s expectations, and certainly below what a crossover between two immensely popular fighting games should have sold. Having shipped 1.4 million discs, the game has performed behind the critically demolished Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City. Meanwhile, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 hadn’t even broken a million by the time Capcom shared its first quarter financial report earlier this month.

While we can’t completely credit Capcom’s falling profits and underperforming games to the ire of gamers, there’s certainly a strong clue that consumer rebellion has had an effect. That effect is a rare show of humility from Capcom, with the announcement that the publisher is reconsidering its DLC policy and may not ship content on discs anymore. Part of this announcement seems to be damage control, with Capcom preemptively admitting that Dragon’s Dogma would ship with on-disc paid content (and there’s going to be a LOT of DLC for that game), but the fact that Capcom felt the need to preempt that outrage seems to be a pretty strong indicator that the company is a little less confident these days that gamers will happily swallow whatever shitty business tactics a publisher feels like pulling.

For most of this generation, the business behind games has gotten worse in spite of the software getting better. As I discussed last week, I love games as art but hate them as corporate products. It took me a long time to draw the distinction, however, and I think many gamers took just as long. For years now, we’ve all tagged along and allowed companies to take liberties with DLC. Our willingness to forgive and forget has sent the message that, no matter how angry gamers become, they will ultimately let publishers get away with murder. Electronic Arts started this generation a little humbled, losing industry first place to Activision, with a CEO who seemed to genuinely care about games. We had new IP, bold ideas, and a company that just tried its best. But it poked, and it prodded, and we let some bad ideas slide, and now EA is universally reviled again, forcing all its games to boast the same dull features, cramming online passes into everything, and attempting to scam users with sleazy takes on the free-to-play model. In months past, we’ve let this shit slide, forgetting our grievances as soon as the game is in our hands. Lately, however, there is dissension in the ranks, and I love it.

The Mass Effect 3 outrage demonstrated that gamers aren’t willing to get bored before their concerns are addressed anymore. That controversy lasted weeks and weeks, far beyond what our short attention spans are used to. Where usually, EA and BioWare would ignore the problems until people got distracted (as they did with Dragon Age 2), this time around their hand was forced and they announced the new “contextual” DLC for the Summer. It’s a small step, not an outright revolution, but the growing rebellious attitudes among the gamer populace are starting to show that folks aren’t so willing to lie down and take this bullshit anymore. These are only baby steps. Too much shit has been allowed to slide for far too long for there to be any major changes in the industry. But gamers are getting more vocal, and their vocality is starting to be matched with a bit more action. From organized groups to consumers actually voting with their wallets, small dents are starting to be made. That can only be a good thing.

Meanwhile, pro-consumer c0mpanies are getting rewarded. Good Old Games, Valve, and other companies that make their services convenient to use and provide benefit to the customers are doing very well, as gamers recognize and patronize those corporations that demonstrate they actually give a shit about their users.

Naturally, there’s still a lot that hasn’t changed. Electronic Arts, despite the hatred, is still making money hand over fist. There are a lot of gamers who don’t follow the business, and just purchase games regardless of what’s on the disc. That’s cool, and their prerogative, and their absolute right. Not judging them at all, and I don’t think it’s anyone’s abject responsibility to not buy games. But those that are sending messages, those are are starting to be more selective about who they do business with, those who are organizing a collective voice that speaks out against the treatment of consumers as dumb cattle … those people are awesome.

As a supporter of games as art, the idea of boycotting certain titles is a cause of real conflict for me. But I will always support consumers making a stand, and in certain cases, the refusal to play ball with the publisher is a long-term great idea. At the very least, continuing to put pressure on a company to make changes, as Capcom is looking to do with DLC, benefits us all, and ultimately benefits videogames as an art form, as the creative side takes precedence over the corporate side.

Some small changes are being made, but the fact that any change can be made in an industry riddled with hubris and self-confidence, is absolutely monumental. Slowly, everso slowly, publishers are being made to shed their attitude that they can charge what they like, do as they please, and make a guaranteed million. It’s not universal, and it’s going to take ages, but gamers have started chipping away at the mountain.

Fucking good for them. Damn fucking good.

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7 Comments on The Gamer Rebellion

jazzbrownie

On May 16, 2012 at 9:23 am

So I just basically posted the same thing on another article on this website, but I’m so glad I found you guys. Journalists who actually stand up for gamers have become a rare thing. I’d resigned myself to only trusting youtubers for honest opinions and have since stopped visiting most gaming news websites. (I’d hate for them to get the idea that I support them based on my visiting their pages almost as much as I’d hate for them to get ad revenue from my curiosity.)

This editorial has earned you guys a new fan. I’ll be sure to spread the word to my also jaded gamer friends.

TR the DR

On May 16, 2012 at 9:32 am

I am the hugest street fighter fan. Its my favorite video game series. I was pumped at this mashup of the two series and the idea of tag team in a street fighter IV style game. However, I refuse to buy it because of the disk-locked DLC. Capcom thought disk-locked DLC was the same as DLC from the internet. However, what they failed to realize and what really pissed us off was the pre-meditation that you talked about by having the characters already on the damn disc and we still gotta pay more for it. Its unethical. Im glad capcom is taking notice. Great rant Jim.

MPSewell

On May 16, 2012 at 1:06 pm

I’m with TR the DR. I was immensely excited for Street Fighter X Tekken, but there’s no way I’m paying for some DLC grab-up. I’m actually pretty happy with the decisions I’ve made in my gaming, lately. I have not bought Diablo 3, Mass Effect 3, Dragon Age 2, Street Fighter x Tekken, and many other games based on these kinds of tactics.

Meanwhile, I’m happily dumping money on Good Old Games, I buy all indie and older games from them that I desire (including some I still have the disc for, simply because it’s nice to have a digital backup and I’m happy to throw my money at them and encourage good business practices). Games like Amnesia, Legend of Grimrock, Witcher 2, and many many many others that don’t punish the consumers are where my dollars end up now.

When companies feel like going back to treating us as consumers like they did in the days of the Genesis, SNES, and PC games like System Shock 2, Fallout, King’s Quest, and Planescape, then I’ll start sending money their way. If that day doesn’t come, then I hope they go bankrupt. Their sleazy business practices and subpar game standards won’t be missed.

AaronH17

On May 16, 2012 at 1:10 pm

It is truly refreshing to find at least one game review site that shares my frustration. Although I love gaming I do not follow the developer/publisher side too closely. Is there a possibility of you doing an article on who the most consumer friendly companies are? Apart from Valve and Good Old Games, I really don’t know.

Critique

On May 16, 2012 at 5:42 pm

Meanwhile at Activision Blizzard….
“CoD Rehash 10″ and “Always on drm” is cool !

MeldarthX

On May 17, 2012 at 6:00 am

You made one mistake in the article…….well two; second is nitpicking really. One the issue with ME3 isn’t over and only reason it seems it is; all we can do right now is wait until EC comes out.

If it what I think it is; then yes BW will have saved themselves; and EA; if not – it will get very interesting.

Second; while its cool to pick on EA right now – they still haven’t quite regained the title as most evil publishing company compaired to truely blood sucking of Activition. I mean we can look at the CEOs of each company.

EA’s yea wants to make more money off gamers – they run a business – and some of his latest ideas have been stupid – but EA also has taken a lot more risks than Activition has in the last 5 years. Activition wouldn’t touch Brutal Legend; they turned it down – EA didn’t. EA brought out Dead Space.

List of games I could go on – of course EA has also done stupid things like close down the studio that made Dead Space – stupid move.

Activition’s CEO has stated he hates gamers – doesn’t like them; doesn’t wany anything to do with them. This is why they stick to straight formulated gaming that saidly drains the life from you. Latest MW3 – I haven’t seen really a damn difference between the two other than; you can sub for more money to get more items……

Activitions lean on Blizzard – stripping out of lan in Starcraft II – splitting it from 1 game – into 3 games. That was not about making more content; it was purely about making more money. Why give people everything in one game – when we can split it into 3 games and make 3 times the amount of money. Stripping of lan wasn’t about piracy – it was about controlling used game market.

We got to see just how well always on drm worked with D3 – again Activition leaning on Blizzard – Bnet folded under everyone wanting to play – pissing off a lot of players – a lot of new players to Diablo world; and they are paying the price on metacritic.

Activition still holds crown – was EA trying to take it back? I think we need more time to see – if EA continues to do what it was – then yes it is. If it bounces back to what it was a couple years ago; then no……

Tim Fads

On May 20, 2012 at 8:43 pm

GameFront has become my gaming site now. I ditched IGN once they showed they care more about corp dollars than the fans. Articles like this are great!