One-Sided Interaction: Pick and choose

So, Medal of Honor: Warfighter is, according to Gamerankings.com, a very messy turd. As of this writing, it’s hovering at a 50.91%. Any time I see a game below that 60% threshold, I’m startled, especially when it’s such a high-profile release.

Honestly, I feel bad for EA, the game’s publisher, and Double Play, the developer. I wish every release was good, especially since no one wants to make a bad game. The development teams bust their butts, often under crazy build schedules, and it’s gotta feel like shit to know that you’re releasing something that isn’t representative of the hard work you’ve put in, nor the work you could’ve done under other circumstances.

At the same time, this kind of high-profile bed-shitting makes me wonder how it happens at all. I mean, given the current state of EA’s financials, one would think that they’d give a lot of attention to making a quality game that would bolster Medal of Honor as a legit rival to Call of Duty. Instead, the reviews seem to indicate that they delivered an undercooked product whose back-of-the-box bullet points rival the back-of-the-box bullet points on whatever Call of Duty is coming out this year.

It’s time for a change, and not just for EA. We’ve become intellectually lazy, both on the industry side, and on the consumer side. We download our purchase decisions from intensely focus-tested marketing campaigns and journalists that face incredible pressure from publishers to hock their wares. We bitch about day-one DLC and then preorder the $90 ‘Limited Edition.’ I just spent $50 on a fucking Forza Horizon ‘season pass’ after buying whatever the uber-edition was called, and while I like the game, I finally had a moment in which I realized I just spent $140 on something that I only ‘liked.’

Honestly, that was kinda it for me.

I’ve become incredibly selective about my purchases as I’ve gotten older, and I realized I need to become even more selective. Is your full game $140? It better be great, because if I’m not sure about it, it’s not that I’m not going to buy your season pass, it’s that I’m not going to buy your game at all.

The lack of that kind of attitude is what I think leads to releases like Warfighter. Activision and EA have both been pushing their consumers hard to shake every cent loose, and the consumers keep handing it over, gladly. The company outlines the features that are dictated by the other guy’s game, then adds one more, and then all the creative juices go into ingenius ways to make even more money. And why not? People are buying this shit, so fuck ‘em.

On the flipside, the market is clearly there, as is the price elasticity. Bobby Kotick is making money off both WoW and the Call of Duty franchise. He’s not about to fuck up his lifestyle for the sake of creativity. Why would he? The perceived demand for fresh, creative ideas is fewer dollars net profit than crapping out yet another iteration of a tried and true formula.

On the third side, I direct your attention to Obsidian’s Project Eternity. They closed their Kickstarter at just a hair shy of $4M. That’s people pre-purchasing an idea. It is the very definition of vaporware. Hell, even I bought in. This tells me that there is still hope, that there is a legitimate thirst for something that marries the new and the old, and caters to a very narrow market. Not everything needs to hit every demographic. It’s okay to make games that are for a specific subset of people.

I dunno. It just gives me hope.

And don’t get me wrong, I like making money. I like it a lot. However, it doesn’t dominate my decision-making process. At the same time, I’m not saying throw profit out the window for the sake of just making good art, but I wonder if a marriage of the two isn’t the better way to go (CD Projekt Red, anyone?)

I remember a time, a few years ago, when EA actually tried to innovate a bit, and they released Dead Space and the one with the chick that ran on rooftops a lot, and I was rather pleased. I liked Dead Space a lot, and I read a lot of good things about the rooftop-running gal. I think there was a really good Bioware release around this time, too. I was proud of EA. I felt like they really turned a corner. However, the numbers that came back weren’t good enough, and that was that. Maybe, when a publisher reaches a certain size, they can’t take those kinds of risks.

Why not do like film studios, and have a smaller division that focuses on riskier titles?

And, oh yeah, right.

My initial reaction to the sale of LucasFilm, LucasArts, ILM, Skywalker Sound, and the rights to Indiana Jones and Star wars to Disney was a rather predictable knee-jerk reaction. I was horrified. The announcement of episodes 7-9 and more only compounded that. Now, I’ve had some time to stew over it, and my horror has been somewhat mollified by curiosity. I’m genuinely curious to see what Disney does with this. I’m also curious to see what this means for SWTOR.

I’m writing this on one of my new Windows 8 machines, to which I’ve been installing several games. I plan to put this box through the paces this week, before I install Win8 to my Alienware laptop. So far, it’s an adjustment, but not an unpleasant one. The few games I’ve tested have run fine, and I may put a whole piece about it soon.

Thanks for reading!

-Blaine

Buy my book!

The Filthy Writer: Self-Indulgence Manifested (personal blog)

Untitled Gaming (gaming blog)

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