Activision, Capcom, & EA: The Three-Headed Hydra
The video game industry is one of the most successful and prosperous entertainment industries around. Video games have achieved becoming a multi-billion dollar medium. It would not have achieved such status without the support of loyal consumers and hard work of developers and publishers. That being said, however, leads me to some of the bad. There are business practices that have come into question over the years. A few notable companies are just as well being criticized for those said business practices and beyond. The particular companies I'm looking at are Activision, Capcom, and Electronic Arts. It is these three companies that are leading many problems today.
It is also with these companies that I have dubbed them the Three-Headed Hydra. The reason for why I have chosen such a title is actually rather appropriate. In Greek mythology, the Lernaean Hydra was a terrifying serpent-like creature that had many heads. Should one head be cut off, two more grew in its place. The hydra was a dangerous creature due to its poisonous breath and blood. As such, the companies I listed match the moniker of the hydra in that from one sprang up two more to cause trouble and their seeping poison spreads far and wide.
Another reason why I'm looking at these companies is that they seem to generate the most negative press from critic and consumer alike. Collectively, they seem to be the worst of the worst. How I have come to this conclusion is simply the kind of complaints people have of them, their questionable business practices, and the lack of professionalism they display. I can understand that some of you may have other companies in mind as being the worst in the industry, but when I hear or think "worst" with video games these three always come around.
Let's start with Activision. One primary complaint people have of Activision is its contribution of terrible cash-in games. Video games themselves seem to be a core reason why Activision is a terrible company. Their infamous release of last year was the video game adaptation of the film adaptation of the board game Battleship. Battleship the video game was priced for sixty dollars.
Want to know how long it takes to beat the single player campaign? Four hours. Want to know about any other features like multiplayer? There are none. What type of game is it? First person shooter. How does that add up when you go from a strategy board game to a first person shooter? Now, there is a section where you control a ship out at sea while bombarding an alien ship, but it's very easy with no strategy to it. This is classic Activision taking advantage of a licensed product, barely putting in any effort, and selling it for AAA pricing. Just like with The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct, attention to detail is not on their agenda. In the end, the gullible consumer gets screwed by buying these blatant cash-in games.
Let's not forget of their milking of franchises. Guitar Hero, DJ Hero, and Band Hero ring any bells? Activision pulverized this franchise into the ground. They knew how popular Guitar Hero was, made a couple of spin off series, released them within months of each other, and barely saw any profit. They expected consumers to buy into each iteration because of the success of one. They only have themselves to blame for pushing the series too hard causing it to crash and burn within four years. It has been three years since the last release and Activision have made it clear they are not stepping into the music genre again.
How about Call of Duty? Yearly releases of this series yield millions in sales, but a cringe from many gamers. Many site that modern military shooters don't hold much appeal anymore, yet the sales tell differently. Activision shows no signs of slowing down the massive juggernaut Call of Duty has become and intend to keep it going into the next generation.
One major gripe many gamers (particularly from the 90s) have with Activision is their dissolution of Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon. I remember the golden days for both Crash and Spyro on the Playstation. Then the following generation saw a gradual decline in quality as their exclusivity to Sony ended and the ever ambitious developers wanted the characters to go multiplatform. Activision ended up with the properties. From then on, games like Crash of the Titans garnered mixed to low scores, while The Legend of Spyro series was shunned by fans of the original and Spyro was shoved into the Skylanders franchise.
Activision is also known for their lack of professionalism toward their own staff. Activision once brought up a case against Brutal Legend creators Double Fine for taking their (and take note) cancelled game from Activision and took it to another publisher (ironically EA). Keep in mind that Activision had pulled the plug on a game that was practically done. What did they think was going to happen from Double Fine? Allow the game they worked so hard on to fade into obscurity just because Activision dropped a lot of Sierra's lineup? If I was in Double Fine's shoes, I'd do the same thing.
Another instance of abuse of staff revolve around some original Infinity Ward members. A core group from Infinity Ward had issued a lawsuit against Activision for withholding their compensation after their work on Modern Warfare 2 and used that to force them to stay with the company and develop Modern Warfare 3. Needless to say, this eventually led to an agreement in which Activision paid a small portion of what the legal team and employees were looking for, but this did little to ease tensions. Hence, I declare that because of Activision's low-brow licensed video games that are unreasonably priced, lazy attempts with said licenses, continued milking of franchises, destruction of beloved characters, and lack of professionalism with their own employees that they earn a spot on the Three-Headed Hydra.
Next is Capcom. Let's begin with arguably the hottest item in their list of crimes: downloadable content. Or should I say disk-locked content? You know, the stuff that's on the disc when you make your purchase only to be accessible at a later date and with you shelving out more cash?
Personally, I find that Capcom is the worst of the three heads when it comes to DLC. Frankly, Capcom do not know how to do downloadable content. There is a major reason why people only consider DLC made by Capcom disc-locked content. Take Street Fighter X Tekken for instance in the case of DLC. Hackers discovered that there were extra characters that are inaccessible in the initial purchase. Capcom admits that these characters were meant to be sold at a later time, but did so for our "convenience".
Capcom, it is not difficult for your average gamer to go online to a console's home store, buy something extra for a game, and download it from there. Putting content on the disc and locking it away only pisses us off. We don't want to pay more when we already dumped sixty dollars on the game and find out that content is locked on the disc! When I buy a DVD or Blu-Ray movie, none of the deleted scenes or bloopers or interviews are locked away. If I want to support a game, I will pre-order what interests me and buy some extra stuff post release. That's how I show my support. I don't want to buy Blanka or patch Mega Man in later when they are already on the disc now!
Speaking of Mega Man, what do you Mega Man fans think about being blamed for a supposed "lack of interest" in Mega Man Legends 3? Not too happy I bet, but that's Capcom's reason for cancelling the game. Capcom has practically abandoned their prodigal son following Keiji Inafune's departure from the company. Since then, Capcom has made it clear that Mega Man will not be a staple character anymore. Mega Man Legends 3 and Mega Man Universe cancelled? Check. Exclusion from Marvel vs Capcom 3? Check. Insulting model used in Street Fighter X Tekken? Check. I guess some fans might find solace if Mega Man is featured in the next Super Smash Bros, but even that's a stretch when Ryu seems to be the king of crossovers for Capcom.
Going back to DLC for a minute, anyone remember how Asura's Wrath ended? It had a good conclusion right? Asura saved his daughter, dealt with Deus, and the world was saved from the Gohma. Then Capcom releases a video depicting what they described as the "true conclusion" to Asura's Wrath. I don't know about you guys, but I think that Asura's Wrath (for as over the top as it was) had a good ending. It seemed finished. Of course, Capcom turns around and says, "We have a twist for you". Unfortunately, it's not the kind of twist we want!
The "true conclusion"? It's bad enough when Resident Evil has gone from a dark and horrific game to a Gears of War ripoff, but to go and literally sell us the actual ending of a game many thought was complete is a bigger insult. It's ridiculous that Capcom rips out the end of a game and tries to sell it for more money. Those chapters were blatantly ripped out. It's a slap to the face.
It's pretty clear to me that Capcom don't care anymore. They just tell us to sit down, shut up, and deal with it. They have lost a lot of respect in the video game community. What's funny is that they never had so much as a bad reputation before Inafune left. Is there a connection? Possibly, but maybe not given the many problems a lot of Capcom veterans had with them, thus leading some of them to form Platinum Games or leave. Poor Yoshinori Ono, though. He has the strength and enthusiasm to get him through the projects, but he is clearly over worked.
No one could complain about Capcom prior to the milking of Street Fighter and Resident Evil, the abandonment of Mega Man, the questionable DLC practices, bad workplace environments, and the change in direction for a few core games. Their finger pointing at fans ruining games isn't good either. Capcom, you have become a terrible company and you will either have to shape up your business or get bought out for a clean slate. For all of these reasons, you have earned a spot on the Three-Headed Hydra.
Finally, we have Electronic Arts. What can be said about a company who wins Worst Company in America for two years in a row? I know many of you don't agree with those results. Trust me, I see Bank of America as a bad company deserving of the title more so given that they destroy lives. Seeing that Electronic Arts actually won again just proves that if gamers want to be vocal enough then they will.
If we really look at how Electronic Arts handles itself, then we can peel away the layers and see why people hate them so much. The reasons listed at the Consumerist website pretty much sum those up. EA is notorious for rushing out games so they can make the cash quick either to make a forced deadline or beat a rival's game to store shelves. Medal of Honor: Warfighter and Dragon Age 2 are prime examples. Both were clearly rushed and lacked the appeal and detail their predecessors did.
Then there are microtransactions and forced DRM being enacted in many of their recent games. Dead Space 3 and Mass Effect 3 had microtransactions. Furthermore, recent games show EA's want to change a game's genre. Dead Space 3 took a more action oriented outlook as opposed to the horror genre it was supposed to be based in. Sim City has to be played online constantly and EA neglected to mention this fact leading up to the game's release, but reinforce that they did so in order to capture "the dynamism of the world we live in...". Also, they don't want to take the blame for certain ideas, so they have their developers do the apologizing. Classy, EA.
Another good example is how EA pretty much has the sports world cornered in video games, yet does not sell the games at a reasonable price. One, they are not competing with any other company with NHL, NFL, NCAA, and FIFA. Sure, there's Pro Evolution Soccer, but after crunching the numbers, FIFA beats Pro Evolution Soccer by a milestone. Two, there's barely any work to be done with these yearly releases. I ask, why have these games at full price when all they really are to begin with are roster updates, slight gameplay changes, and minimal graphical differences?
All of this is compounded with confirmation from Peter Moore of EA's ambition to add microtransactions to every game they release. Like I said earlier, I have no problem supporting a game post-release. The way EA intends to go about it makes it unbearable as we have to pay for things that should either be in the game or actually be cosmetic and not essential.
That was the problem with Dead Space 3. I played through nine chapters with two weapons. I just barely got a shotgun by chapter eight, but that gun was about as effective against enemies as throwing water balloons at an elephant to get it to move. Then I learned about the microtransactions with buying weapons or materials to make items and weapons. Well, I refuse to pay more money just so I can have items I should already get in the game naturally.
EA's approach to business is littered with dollar signs. Everything they do has this sense of earnest of being number one in sales or some misguided notion of supremacy. For all of their ambitious titles that are poorly structured to microtransactions to practically ripping off consumers and their own employees, EA has earned a place on the Three-Headed Hydra.
As such, I think we should cut this beast down and send it back from whence it came. Okay, I know that's not realistic, but at the end of the day these companies are driving video games downhill. What can be done? Most likely nothing. They will continue to do what they do regardless of what consumers say because they still make money. The only recourse we really have as gamers is to vote with our wallet and do our research into a game before making a purchase. If we want these companies to learn from their mistakes and stop their unpopular business tactics, then we must be vocal and speak with our wallets.