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How Publishers’ Anti-Consumer Practices Are Ruining Gaming

Pre-order bonus schemes, paid downloadable content, and the ever-irritating rise of season passes have been thwarting gamers' best interests for years now, and the practice is becoming ever more ingrained in the business of selling video games. Obviously, publishers exist to generate revenue through their investments, but the extent to which that has started to affect the consumer experience has become an especially palpable issue over the past five years. Under the instruction of greedy publishers, timed exclusives, invasive micro-transactions and repacked cut content is spoiling the hard work of the creative minds that produce video games and the experience for the consumers that invest their hard earned money into purchasing them.


As shocking as this trend of cutting and repackaging content to sell at a higher price is for the consumer, it’s also a blight for developers, and not the first time that Square Enix’s corporate plans have had this effect. Crystal Dynamics, a studio that echo Eidos Montreal in their skillful handling of a rebooted series with Tomb Raider, have had to endure the collective groans of consumers after the timed exclusivity deal with Microsoft.

While the financial imperative might have been a boon for all parties initially, the reality for Crystal Dynamics is that by not having Tomb Raider available on PS4 at launch, the interest and excitement in the game diminished significantly; a somewhat unfair and unfitting outcome for such a superb game. This year’s definitive edition might go some way in making up for that, but there’s no doubt Rise of the Tomb Raider’s legacy has suffered at the hands of corporate interests.

Square Enix’s business practices in recent years have certainly left a sour taste in the mouth, and while they find themselves in the firing line thanks to a string of rather blatant offences, there are plenty of other publishers that are no less culpable.

Konami have become notorious for the publicity surrounding Kojima’s exit from the company, but their reputation had been heading down the plug hole long before that now infamous event. After the rinse and repeat approach to several of their most beloved franchise, it is obvious that for Konami, popular IPs are cows to be milked, and a series that isn’t capable of producing commercial results is ended without delay, and those that prefer innovating new ideas are to be shown the door. The result? Where 20 years ago we had Castlevania, Silent Hill, and Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid, today we have pachinko machines, micro-transactions and Metal Gear Survive.


Similar issues are no less of a problem in the west either. Indeed, so bullish were EA with Star Wars Battlefront and Warner Bros. with Batman: Arkham Knight, that the DLC season pass structure and price was floated before they even been able to confirm what comprises the content. Seriously, you know there’s a problem when you are being asked to pay for something without actually being told what it is, and the worst part is that it’s probably paid dividends.

If a product is popular enough, fans don’t need much encouragement to buy things they don’t fully understand or perhaps don’t even need at all. We’re even seeing the very design of video game genres being exploited to take advantage of micro-transaction opportunities. The grind-y quest structure of MMO games such as Ubisoft’s The Division or Bungie’s Destiny seemingly designed entirely around the premise of seducing gamers with in-game transactions for better loot and faster levelling.

The sad reality of all of this is that publishers have the raw data, they know what generates revenue, they know what gamers are buying and they know this is working. The answer of whether publishers’ greed will ever stop impeding our enjoyment of video games is largely down to consumer resilience. The power lies collectively with the people that buy games; if publishers have enough evidence to suggest money can be made, they won’t stare profit in the face out of respect.

Ultimately, there is a reason Konami throws IPs under the bus, that Square Enix gets away with chopping up video games into tiny pieces to sell for profit, and Ubisoft designs a video game around micro-transactions; it’s an effective way to make money. The gaming community might be complaining, but they are still buying. Any sort of return to the “good old days” where most AAA games were complete experiences, or at the very least weren’t trying to sting you for money at every turn, won’t occur until people start to vote with their wallets.

About the author

Alex Gibson