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The Gaming Industry and why some people should put up or shut up.

Unless you don't have internet, you'd have heard by now that EA has stated that they will be instituting microtransactions in all their future games from now on. Needless to say, this has sparked an outrage from gamers all over the world. No one likes to be nickel and dimed. No one enjoys the thought of games moving from a form of art entertainment, to a spreadsheet of numbers and statistics on buying habits with focus groups and the industry being driven by random casual gamers who have no desire for gaming to maintain a certain form of integrity.

Enter Cliffy B., the former design director for Epic Games and who played a major role in the development of the Unreal series and the Gears of War series. In October of 2012, he left Epic Games and began a "semi-retirement" from game development, but neglected to retire his mouth in the same fashion.

Follow this link to Cliffy B's blog about microtransactions. Be warned, you will likely suffer from severe cranial trauma from repeated facepalms after reading his blog.


Right off the bat I'm completely disregarding the first 7 paragraphs as they are an attempt to diffuse the issue by citing the correct, but irrelevant, fact that the video game industry is an industry and profits come first. Why is this irrelevant? Because I can cite many, many examples of companies who are most definitely in it for the money, and yet don't try to fleece their consumers with shady business practices that are all about completely transparent and wanton greed. He also mentions the location of these development studios, as if that holds any relevance. If it's expensive for you to live in San Francisco, guess what? Frickin' move. Problems solved.

We move on to where he starts his bleeding heart routine for EA. Cliffy B. doesn't like that EA has been seen as "the bad guy" of the industry and comes close to tears wishing gamers would stop attacking them for it. Well guess what Cliffy B. THEY EARNED THAT ALL BY THEMSELVES! You know very well the kind of B.S. that EA has been guilty of this gen, and just like any publisher (Capcom, Activision) that has tried to pull the kind of shady business that EA has pulled, EA have rightly been slammed for it. Day one DLC, on-disc DLC, microtransactions, online passes, these are just some of the offenses EA is guilty of. Yes, OFFENSES! It is offensive to remove content from a game to sell it off later and still charge full price for an incomplete game. It is offensive to use the myth that used games hinder profit and force gamers who are looking for some kind of break in their gaming expenses to pay $10 to access half of a game they paid more than half for. These are offenses Mr. Blezinksi. They are insulting.

Cliffy B. also mentions the respect consumers have for Valve and almost seems to imply that it's undeserved because Valve are allegedly guilty of the same offenses as EA. He cites the $100 engagement ring in Team Fortress 2 as some kind of indictment against Valve. Cliffy, Cliffy, Cliffy. Do you not understand what cosmetic content is? You included it in Gears of War as weapon skins remember? Let me give you another example that isn't at all a microstransaction. In Capcom's Dragon's Dogma, there is an accessory called a Premium Ring. It costs 1.5 million Rift Crystals, a form of currency used to buy unique items and "rent" pawns in Dragon's Dogma. Its description states that it's "The brightest , most brilliant ring in the world . It boasts no unique benefits , save as a showpiece for one of ample means." A completely useless accessory costing an insane amount of in-game currency. That's exactly what the engagement ring in TF2 is, with the difference being it costs real life money.

What EA is proposing is NOTHING of the sort. Using Dead Space 3 as an example, EA is proposing to charge gamers to use what used to be free in the form of cheat codes or skill based unlockable items. Sure, in a single player game, microtransactions are CURRENTLY a non-issue. What a person does in their own single player experience is up to them. If they don't want to improve in skill and rob themselves of the full experience of the game, all the power to them. The problem is in the potential for microtransactions to affect multiplayer gaming. Giving players who care nothing of spending money an advantage over players who are trying to enjoy a game for the fact that it's A GAME!

Disregarding your pointless "this country was built on capitalism" paragraph and moving on to the next, you talk about games as a service. Guess what, NO ONE WANTS GAMES AS A SERVICE! That's a term used by developers and publishers to justify shady business practices and fleecing. Games are not supposed to be services. They are supposed to be GAMES! You know, entertainment? Something you do to unwind, escape reality? Calling games a service is the same as saying you want games to be like a utility bill. We already have some misguided companies charging monthly fees for gaming and that's flat out wrong. You want to know the difference between Origin and Steam? Steam is for pretty much all PC games. It has worthwhile sales and good customer support. Origin is NOTHING like that. Origin is just another venue for EA to express their greed.

I've already discussed your next paragraph earlier, so moving on. Disregarding your unnecessary shout outs and pandering to EA (are you trying to get something out of this blog from EA?), you use the cliched argument of "if you don't like it, don't buy it" argument, proving how narrow minded you are, then move on to talk about how analysts have crunched numbers and have seen that MTs work. Guess what Cliffy, your attitude is incorrect. If this gen has proven anything, it's that not only will publisher do anything to MAKE money, they will do anything to make a continuous stream of money off of one game. They have proven they aren't above removing content from a game to sell it off later, which means selling an incomplete game to gamers and lying about its completion. Are you naive enough to believe that EA won't start a trend of "pay to win" games on consoles, granting unfair advantages to players who do not wish to actually play the game how it was intended to be played and are instead only interested in trolling and winning? That WILL happen. History has shown that to be the case. And guess what analysts see in those numbers? They see casual gamers who don't know anything about the issue of why MTs are wrong. Those same kind of gamers that are just in it to win or to troll and don't care about the actual game. You spoke about the hard work developers put into making these games, well do you not understand that MTs can potentially ruin that work? Let me give you an example.

Borderlands is a series that relies heavily on its loot system. It is a system designed to give players hours of enjoyment trying to find the best possible weapon combinations for their character and can easily be seen as a central focus for Gearbox in developing the series. A lot of work, a lot of people went into developing and refining that system to create a unique experience for gamers. Now imagine that EA had published Borderlands after the announcement of MTs being in EVERY ONE of their published games going forward. That would completely undermine the loot system entirely. What would be the point in playing Borderlands, circumventing probably the core aspect of what the developers intended for the game, if you could just buy the best possible weapon? Gearbox issues Shift Codes for Borderlands 2 to offer players ONE "uber" weapon based on their level, but those are free and meant to be a thank you for playing Borderlands 2. That system would be abolished with MTs becoming prevalent.

The next paragraph is you dismissing people's right to be upset about the attempted fleecing of the consumers and pointing out the ignorance of the casual audience. THOSE ARE NOT GOOD THINGS! If we remain silent, and allow the ignorant casual audience to dictate policy, gaming will continue to devolve from the greatness of its Past and that has been a problem for a long time now.

The next paragraph is you reiterating yourself from a previous tidbit where you mentioned that the market is in a state of turmoil.

tur-moil: a state of great disturbance, confusion, or uncertainty.

Bullsh*t Cliffy, bullsh*t. The market is in no such state. And if it were, it's due to 3 things. 1. This gen has gone on longer than any before it causing gamer fatigue and a desire for a move forward. 2. The mobile phone market has destroyed the I.Q. points of so-called gaming journalists and made them believe that the mobile phone market could ever overtake dedicated gaming hardware, which moves into my third point. 3. The casual audience is a huge problem. You're talking about a chaotic audience constantly looking for the next big thing. And as I've learned in working for sites who are owned by suits that have no knowledge about the core gaming audience, the suits are too stupid to realize that a dedicated and steady revenue stream is always preferable to a massive, yet unsustainable, revenue spike. Core gamers have always been the backbone of the industry. Our passion spreads to others who decide to give gaming a chance, our constant money flow funds the projects that keep the industry alive. If it weren't for us, the very people tired of being fleeced and the ones you tell to stop complaining about those practices, you sir would have never had a job in the industry.

Your next paragraph starts off with an hilarious mistake. It is impossible for everyone to buy their games used. A used game is always at some point a NEW game. I should stop right there because that statement is so ridiculously hilarious, but I won't. I once again reiterate, because I've said this many times, that used games are not a hindrance to profit. Publishers do not sell games directly to the consumer. They sell them to the retailer. That means that publisher make money regardless. If you want a retailer to place multiple orders, THEN MAKE A GAME WORTHY OF BEING BOUGHT! How many gamers here can make lists of mediocre or terrible games selling for full price and then hearing the developers whine about used games? People wouldn't trade in your games if they were good or not so damned expensive. If you're losing profit, IT'S YOUR FAULT!

Your next paragraph is equally ridiculous as you try to blur the definition of what a microtransaction is. Funnily enough you mention "can I spend a buck to go to the top of the leaderboard?" Do you think that such a thing can't or won't happen? As you said, the industry is all about money right? Do you think EA cares that a person wants to circumvent the skill system put in place if they are willing to spend money to get to the top with no effort? You praise MTs as money makers, yet you ignore the potential ramifications that that business model can cause. Everything has a price right? Want people to think you're the best at a game? Pay EA $10 and they'll put your name at the top of the leaderboard even if you only played 2 minutes of the actual game. Can you say that that definitely can't or won't happen?

"If you truly love a product, you’ll throw money at it."

We'll also throw money at a product if it's worth the money. Meaning if it's a good game. If you trust your passion and development skill to make a great game people will want, you don't need MTs do you? If you use MTs, you're showing a profound lack of trust in selling your product as both a complete one, and for what it is.

"No one seemed too upset at Blizzard when you could buy a pet in World of Warcraft – a game that you had to buy that was charging a monthly fee. (How dare console games have steady cycles of buyable DLC!"

MMOs are an entirely different subject altogether. You're talking about a game that requires constant support to stay around, an entire business developed around one game needs continuous content to stay relevant and keep the company afloat. Plus, pets? Really? You're once again talking about inconsequential stuff? Dead Space 3 sold you weapons. WEAPONS! Integral components to the game were being sold under the guise of that system being for people who don't have the time to play the game properly. Putting aside the fact that if you don't have the time to play a console game properly, you shouldn't be playing them at all; selling integral parts of a game as MTs is flat out wrong. There is no justification for it.

Your second last paragraph talks about Arcade machines but you gloss over some important facts. People knew arcade machines were designed to eat your money. They didn't care. Why? Many reasons. 1. Many times arcades would offer games you couldn't buy for home consoles, or the games had features that weren't present on home consoles. For a present day example, Arcades could be considered the modded versions of console games (if you disregard that the arcade versions usually came first). You were paying for something you couldn't get at home. 2. People loved the social aspect of going to an arcade or hovering around a particularly skilled player and seeing how high of a score they could get, or if they could overcome the design of the machine to beat you. 3. Arcades often held small, mock tournaments when that wasn't possible on consoles. Your example is very flawed and not a good argument in favour of MTs.

And finally, your final paragraph is completely irrelevant so I'm not going to touch on it.

Cliffy, I would like to make a suggestion. You don't make games anymore, you haven't moved into gaming journalism, so you should really refrain from opening your mouth as though you currently matter to the industry. You made games for 20 years, cool. You deserve respect. But clearly you've lost touch with what gamers like and what we want. In what way can you supporting EA do any good for anyone but EA? So unless you're willing to put up by making games that people WANT to buy, please shut up and stop trying to ruin gaming for the rest of us.

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PopRocks3591941d ago

I don't agree with Cliffy B on a lot of the stuff he says, but I think it's fair to say that he's as entitled to his opinion as gamers are entitled to ignore it. The only really good game I know he made was Gears of War 3. The first one was bland as hell and the second one was a glitchy mess.

Anyway, you made some pretty damn solid points. Good post.

DragonKnight1941d ago

Of course he's entitled to his opinion. The problem is he hands out his opinion very frequently and as though it's any more important than yours or mine. But that's not even the worst part. He's supporting terrible practices to the benefit of none of us.

But thanks, I know the blog was long so I'm glad you stuck through it. lol.

Godmars2901941d ago

The only way to truly respond to EA is not buy their games. Drive them out of business. Second best send a message by not buying ONE game the day it comes out. Put some fear into them.

Never happen though.

DragonKnight1941d ago

Yeah, but we're definitely outnumbered by the casuals, and EA loves to cater to them with games like The Sims, SimCity, etc. As long as there are millions of people who don't have the same passion for gaming that those of us here do, things will never change. Companies love the drone mentality of impulse buyers.

FriedGoat1941d ago (Edited 1941d ago )

Just wanted to say, I feel entirely the same on the matter. I hate Cliffy B with a passion and he seems to know nothing about what people want.
If you make a game good enough, people wont sell it ,therefore there will be no used games to buy.
If you make a bad game, expect it to be traded in frequently.

This blogpost was a fantastic read, well done.

dedicatedtogamers1941d ago

Wow, this was a really, really good blog post! Well said. I believe that DLC and microtransactions are a symptom, not the core problem. The core problem is skyrocketing development costs. And no, I'm not justifying the DLC abuse. My gripe is that devs - especially the big ones - insist on keeping bloated dev teams on staff, wasting millions (yes, millions, believe it or not) on Hollywood voice actors, CGI animators, and licensed music in a game. Oh, sure, it's hella neat that every single line in Bioware's SW Old Republic is voiced...and yet the game floundered. You know how much that game cost? Or what about when Microsoft announced their half-billion dollar ad campaign for Kinect? Did anyone of you stand up and cheer? I sure didnt. I thought "how many games could that have paid for?" When I see the utter waste amongst devs and publishers, I have absolutely no tolerance for DLC and no sympathy for the devs who insist it is necessary.

DragonKnight1941d ago

Thank you, glad you liked it. And I agree with you that the spending has grown to ridiculous proportions. It doesn't help that Sony and MS charge developers 10K just for game updates and that many developers outsource tasks, which costs more money. I watched a TotalBiscuit Content Patch today that discussed how the developer of Skullgirls wanted approx. $150,000 to add a character to the game, and they broke down the costs to show why it costs that much, and it's just ridiculous how much outsourcing and certification costs. Not to mention unnecessary marketing expenditures.

Times are now that most people don't watch ads on television and the best way to market your game is online, that's definitely not as expensive as tv ads.

Publishers really need to look at their spending first and fleecing costumers second.

s45gr321941d ago

True a game doesn't need to be fancy to be good.

Ducky1941d ago (Edited 1941d ago )

"You want to know the difference between Origin and Steam? Steam is for pretty much all PC games. It has worthwhile sales and good customer support. Origin is NOTHING like that. Origin is just another venue for EA to express their greed."

To EA's credit, they have improved upon origin and made it more than just a cash-in. They now have some features not found on steam (such as built-in twitch streaming) and a 3rd party lineup with respectable prices at sales as well. Customer service is still a hit or miss though.

Now, you didn't mention this so I'm not sure if you're aware or just chose to not mention it (or I missed it), but EA allows you to buy/unlock BF3 weapons/skills for multiplayer as "shortcut kits".
At least those things can still be earned by regular players. The DLC packs on the other hand, really mess things up if you don't intend to pay, because now other players have access to DLC-exclusive weapons, and they can use them on you.
So they've already tested the waters on the multiplayer front.

I suppose Valve could be accused of doing the same with TF2 (not all the items are just cosmetics, some have special bonuses or are weapons) and even ND with Uncharted3 since they now sell weapons... but both of those games are Free2Play, while BF3 isn't.

Anyways, this was a well written piece. Good read.

DragonKnight1941d ago

I actually I wasn't aware of that happening with BF3, that's just further proof that microtransactions are already a huge problem. For the record, I'm on the fence when it comes to F2P games. Yeah, money has to be made SOMEWHERE, but pay to win models are sleazy and an insult to us gamers that remember the days when you had to work for your unlockables. But, like you said, they are free to play so you have to be flexible in that regard.

Glad you liked the blog.

HonestDragon1941d ago

It has been rather crazy with all of Cliffy B's recent quotes and ramblings. I totally agree with you, DragonKnight. There are vital differences between EA and Valve. All of which I think you nailed on the head.

It is also very true that if your company is seen as one of the worst companies around, then it's your own fault, not the consumers. Consumers don't get mad at companies for no reason (although granted sometimes those reasons might be stupid). Whatever EA has done to deserve our resentment is the result of the things EA has done by themselves.

Medal of Honor: Warfighter was rushed out the door without so much as taxi money to get to the race in time to beat Black Ops 2 to which Warfighter was already exhausted and broken when it made it to the starting line. Origin is also a forced service in many regards. Want this cool armor? Download Origin please! Want access to free demos? Sign up on Origin! Want the greatest gear and weapons for your game? Pay us on Origin, suckers!

I admit that I've paid for cosmetic stuff on Team Fortress 2, but the reason why is because I love that game. I got it for a present from a friend and I've been hooked ever since. It's a great competitive game. I want to support that and I do so by getting some cool things for my characters. Nothing in Team Fortress 2 gives you a blatant edge or unfair advantage over other players (which EA is basically offering overpowered stuff for pay which could lead to unfair balancing and a diminishing experience).

Items you can buy are like you said...cosmetic. They are totally optional and if players want a hat for the Heavy or a shotgun for the Soldier, then so be it. They are supporting a game they love. This is what we gamers like to do: support good games.

EA tries to mask their work by saying it's all good, but it's not. It's not okay to get the best stuff around and become strong by just paying for the best armor or weapons or upgrades whereas other gamers work for it. It's not okay to have a service that includes questionable DLC or disc-locked content whereas gamers can unlock items after legally purchasing the game. It's not okay to defend this practice because that is a ripoff and cheapens the experience. Cliffy B needs to pick his battles, but I think you have shown that rather well in this blog.

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