If you make a movie and re-release it with additional content, should it get a reevaluation by movie critics?
As dumb as this question is to ask, it is one that likely did cross the mind of some moviegoers when Avengers: Endgame was going to have one more “Theater Run” with additional scenes. While you can say it was done to push the film over Avatar as “Highest Grossing Film of All Time”, I don’t recall hearing much about what those scenes and if it really did add to the film itself. Perhaps it was to not spoiling the film for those who still didn’t watch it. It does make one wonder though if those scenes did anything to change their overall opinion on the film.
With video games, we see things like this too. Whether if it is an expansion or a season pass, we can see how some games do get content to help extend what the original game had to offer. But there is one growing trend in video games that lately has really begun to trigger me to no end and does seem like it is almost as predatory and scheming as loot boxes and other gambling-like mechanics in-games: post-launch microtransactions.
The Importance of Day One Launches
It seems hilarious to look at some of the high-end games nowadays and how it can feel like some companies have conflicting values about how a game launches. Lately, we have seen games like Anthem and Fallout 76 take an approach to where (as Todd Howard puts it) “it isn’t how a game launches, but what the game becomes.” It is a fair statement to a certain point, but a game’s launch is still very important.
For those who are on the fence on a game they aren’t so sure of, they tend to look towards reviews and see if they are indeed worth the full cost or if they should wait. If we were to take Todd’s words to heart, that would mean that gamers should not get the game until perhaps a year or so later and when the game is better and selling for $20-40 instead of $60.
Now consider a game that some would say are highly-anticipated. If you are someone who wants to ensure your game has a high score to win players over, you would likely focus on what the game provides the player alongside with what rewards they will get. Whether if it is something substantial or something as simple as an experience, you likely will deter yourself from certain elements that some reviewers might also have issues with.
Think about how some fans raising valid concerns about Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and the “XP Boosters.” Shadows of War deciding to have loot box mechanics for the game to get an army fast. It almost seems like a death sentence to outright say there will be additional costs to your game upfront.
So how does one “workaround” that supposed “Minor Inconvenience”? Add it later!
Ruining Your Games With Transactions at a Later Time
As of late, companies like Activision have done a small “workaround” for how to avoid the same scrutiny as Ubisoft or WB. The thing about reviews is how reviews cover the game “Day One.” Reviewers play the game in its current state, write the review and after you post up the review, you move onto the next game. At no time are we do any “follow-ups” since it feels silly to talk about something that likely would have little to no changes to them. In fact, if we were to talk about how developers go and patch their games, it could actually be to help address previous issues with a game and thus could help their overall score.
But Activision takes a much simpler approach to their post-launch patches. By waiting a month or two after a game launches, it is THEN! At that time! You add in those microtransactions!
Activision knows the best time to start charging players for the additional fees is long after the reviews came out. We saw this done with Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 when one month after launching, they threw in those additional costs, and we have seen it happen again with Crash Team Racing. Even in their blog, they try and use phrases like “if you like,” or “will have the option” as if to say it is optional when really, it was their plan from the start.
In our review of Crash Team Racing, we did point out how progression feels slow, and now we know why. You could increase the amount of coins players earn, or you can just have players pull out their wallets and “speed up the process.”
When Publishers Takes Consumers For Fools
Lately, it does feel like companies like Activision, EA and even Bethesda no longer care about the creation of video games nowadays. One can easily make an argument that if we were to look at their mantra, it would likely read, “Turn a profit by any means necessary!” before making an actual coherent game. There might be exceptions to the rule, but there is a reason why trust has been lost with these companies.
With each passing year, it feels like some companies don’t care about actual innovation and focus more on how to grab as much money as possible before repeating the process with next year’s title. The problem as of late though is how some of these companies have grown way to comfy with how they conduct themselves and have seen the patterns to where they know what they can get away with this, and this needs to stop.
While the idea of putting some legislation on shady business practices seem like the only way to resolve this issue since it isn’t like the companies are going to stop themselves. If companies think their games are made better with microtransactions after they launch their game, then we need to back and reevaluate that game with their “newest addition.”
It isn’t like game reviewers will update their scores and knock a point or two off, but we as a community need to call out these companies that decide to do this “surprise” maneuver as think they can get away with it. If they think their game didn’t need microtransactions at launch, they should not be adding them later on. And if they do plan on adding them in, later on, they need to man up and say out loud what they are going to do.
We all have those companies that are on our list of “publishers we don’t very much care for.” You likely can name off a few other companies that decided to go down a path that chose to sacrifice gameplay for profit and how the game became immediately dated and suffered because of it. While it might have been fine and good at the start of this generation, lately, this upward trend some companies have had over the last couple of years is not only slow down but is starting to decline.
It may not happen soon enough, but more and more players around the world are catching on to the tactics and how no matter times these companies may try and provide us “reassurance” that they are on our side, they honestly aren’t. We are at a point where some gamers actually do think that Fallen Order will slip in “Surprise Mechanics” after launch, or how Modern Warfare will just throw in the microtransactions after launch because that’s what Activision does now. And worst of all: some people really do think that the next Elder Scrolls and even Starfield will be just as filled with “additional costs” as Fallout 76, including mechanics that one can easily say are “pay to win.”
Will players be able to trust these companies again? Maybe, but in an age where microtransactions are seen are higher importance than the game itself, we can only spread the word of the game companies that no longer care about the players.
Thank You For Reading
If you are someone who would read this and say, “Well if you don’t want to buy it, then don’t buy it! No one is forcing you!” then congratulations Sir or Madam: you are not the target. In this end, this is to target those who might not follow games as closely as you or I and may just read the reviews without realizing the additional costs since it was never in there at launch. It is because of the way some companies misinform the consumers that we see stories of how entire bank accounts can go down to zero due to how it targets the unaware or those who can’t help themselves.
If you want more details on this, be sure to check out Jim Sterling as he did make a whole video covering this topic. Thank you.
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How’s it going everyone, I’m Mike Sol and I am one of many contributing writers to Culture of Gaming. You can usually find me playing some of the latest games to come out, although I tend to avoid anything related to sports or strategy. I enjoy the big three and all the games on them but my main console is the Xbox One. I don’t have a specific preference in gaming, but any game that has fun action and beating up waves of enemies is usually my cup tea. If you ever want me to game with me or want me to write about something of interest, feel free to hit me up. I hope to have a personal blog set up soon, but my loyalties shall remain with CoG.