In what has to be one of the most interesting, and perhaps important, video game related stories of the year, pro video game action group, Gamers’ Voice, has filled a complaint to the office of fair trading, concerning the PC and PS3 versions of Call Of Duty: Black Ops.
If you bought the game at launch you will be aware of the severe problems found while trying to play online. The main issues being sudden disconnections during online play, the inability to join servers hosting online multiplayer games, freezing of the console and the main menu freezing on the PC version. And as far as Gamers’ Voice (and the many people that contacted them concerning this issue) is concerned, Activision (the publisher) and Treyarch (the developer) have released a product that is not fit for the purpose of which it’s described. Basically, a video game that doesn’t play like it’s supposed to. You can read the open letter to the office of fair trading here.
We decided to ask Paul Gibson, of Gamers’ Voice about the matter. Check out the interview below.
We Got This Covered: How did GV become aware of the bugs in Black Ops?
Paul Gibson: Because we’re all gamers, we are aware of what people are discussing on forums and such. We did a bit of digging and it seemed that the problem was widespread. Even the BBC had done a small piece on it. When our name became well known we started getting emails from people asking for help, so we realized we had to take action.
WGTC: Just how bad are the bugs?
PG: Very bad. Remember, that for many people the only reason why they bought the game was to play the multiplayer side, but many people can’t even log into a game. Given the hype behind that game, we think that’s disgraceful.
WGTC: Are you confident you have a case against Activision?
PG: Even if the office of fair trading decide that this is not within their remit, gamers all over the world have united in saying that they are not happy with what has been released. That can’t have been ignored. If this sort of thing never happens again then we have been successful.
WGTC: If successful, will GV be taking on other consumer issues in gaming?
PG: Absolutely, even if we’re not successful. We’re looking at a variety of things, from the way in which Steam works, to the treatment of games by the mainstream media, to DRM.
WGTC: Do you hope this action will encourage gamers to speak up, if they feel ripped off, and publishers to take stock of the needs of their customers?
PG: Absolutely. The games industry seems to have been getting away with it for a while now. If you went to see a film, but you could still see a green screen behind the actors, you’d be annoyed right? You expect the finished product. For gamers, it’s time we demanded the finished version for when we receive a product!
WGTC: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us Paul.
Soon after this story broke, industry analyst; Michael Pachter branded Gamers’ Voice as sounding like a “crybaby”. He said that seasoned gamers expect there to be errors and that patches soon fix the errors. He continued to say that gamers should return the game to the shop. And even went as far as to suggest that such an action could make Activision shut down their UK offices! So even if you disregard the fact that your average high street retailer is unlikely to give you a full refund for bad net code, and that the PS3 update (1.06) had a a on screen reference to XBOX LIVE, that a industry analyst (whatever that entails) likens a video game support group bringing light to huge problems in a game, to pointless whining and that such an act could force a major publisher to shut down their UK operations and up sticks is -at best- ill informed elitism. Or -at worst- shameless sucking up for one of the big publishers.
It’s things like this that make me feel proud and ashamed, in equal measure, to be involved (albeit, in a tiny capacity) in the games business. Gamers got together and organized a proper way of venting their dissatisfaction with a product they paid good money for. The fact that this is thought of by an industry analyst (who I assume it’s his job to look at things objectively) in such a way, just reconfirms all the negative experiences that I and many gamers have complained about over the years. That game publishers want to squeeze every penny out of us and beta testing be dammed, because they can release an incomplete, poorly tested game. Why? Because a patch can fix that. And if it takes months for that patch to come out, so what? We’ve already paid our money for the game. Too late now suckers!
It’s something I shouldn’t be saying (as a professional journalist) but quite frankly, I’m surprised such a thing hasn’t happened before. In my 20-plus years of playing video games, there’s been many bug bears that I simply accepted, because I didn’t know any better. Be they reduced frame rates (and the then trademark black borders that went along with them), long waits for game releases, games that don’t even get released over here at all. And, of course, bugs in games. All of these things, (thanks to the advent of downloadable content and patches) publishers can get away with.
In fact, I bet, some of you thought there wasn’t any proper way you could complain about such things. Well now you can. And knowing is half the battle (to steal a line from G.I. Joe). So if you want to find out more about Gamers’ Voice, then check out the website. Because you’re the person buying the games, and your voice counts! Make sure you share this story on Facebook, Twitter etc, to ensure that people are aware of this and so game publishers are held accountable for these things.