Anyone can look at the landscape of video games and see that it has become a big business. Movie stars and celebrities have shown up in Call of Duty live action commercials, and even the mobile app Game of War has numerous big budget commercials during prime time television with Kate Upton as their center stage actress. These marketing efforts come from deep pockets and big budgets that aim to pull in bigger and better sales. Unfortunately many of the well-known franchises are releasing games littered with problems and they seem less and less distinguishable from their predecessors. It also seems that many mobile games are completely focused on motivating micro-transactions with a similar focus on DLC in the console world. So, what’s wrong with all of this?
Let’s start with the regular release intervals and pre-set deadlines. First and foremost, there is nothing inherently wrong with companies capitalizing on past success by continuing to repackage and release their product (especially if consumers are buying these products in massive quantities). The subject of this post, however, is about killing creativity. To put it simply, regular release intervals and pre-set deadlines have a direct impact on creativity. Talk to any veteran gamer and they will almost assuredly have creative ideas about how to improve their favorite title. Don’t believe me? Just browse the forums of games like Destiny and Borderlands and you will see a host of creative gamers offering up countless great ideas. This shows, pretty clearly, that creativity and ideas are not in short supply. As a graphic designer I can tell you that unrealistic deadlines have a direct impact on creativity and will limit the scope of what can be done. So you can imagine the creative team meetings at gaming companies where innovative and creative ideas are sidelined or completely cut out due to the complexity of development combined with the limited amount of time to launch the game. And considering established franchises like Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty continue to launch new titles plagued with problems, creativity isn’t the only thing that is hurt by these deadlines. It’s somewhat anecdotal, but I think the buggy launches of big budget titles is proof that deadlines push creativity to the side since basic features and functions often don’t work properly in many games. In fact, a recent article about the Spider-Man musical disaster perfectly captures how the creative process can be gutted and often killed by corporate demands and horrible vision transfer between those with the money and those with the means to execute.
How should we respond?
All of this is why gamer response is vitally important to the industry changing its habits. If a game launches with lots of bugs and problems, get on Metacritic and Amazon, and let your voice be heard. If games continue to have rocky launches and get poor response and outcry from the community, investors will start to feel the loss monetarily when stocks and subsequent valuations of their companies go down. And seriously, STOP buying a Season Pass before playing a game. I have yet to see a Season Pass jump in price after the game launches, so take your time, see if the game is worth it, and then get your Season Pass. Is it really worth saving $10 to risk buying content for a game you may end up hating? The more gamers commit to waiting for or writing their own reviews as well as refusing to pre-order DLC, the more gaming companies will re-focus efforts on quality. They will have to. If we keep helping them hit sales records they have literally no reason to stop cranking out sub-par-glitch-riddled games. We have to protect our experience because we are the ones investing our time and energy into playing these games.
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