Is Gaming Just A Money-Grab?


Most gamers have their money in their hands more than their controllers #nowadays.

Brandon Carpenter '15, Video Crew

When you ask any videogame player what really grinds their gears, they will usually give you one of two answers in general: either the gameplay is underwhelming for whatever reason, or the game’s business model is putting some serious hurt on their wallets.

With all the resources available to them, you’d think that game developers and publishers would work to deliver their best product when the game is released to the public.  But over time, the games have been getting shorter, less robust, and have been quietly demanding more and more money from their players, sometimes even before the games are playable.  It’s a worrying trend that won’t be coming to an end as long as the fan base remains oblivious.

The glaring problem with throwing money at a game before the release is that once the developers and publishers have your money, they’re often not incentivized to continue working to produce the highest quality product come launch day.  They’ll just throw the money into their bank accounts and let it collect interest.  Even if a fraction of the players do demand a refund, the companies still make a profit off of interest.

Many games now also come with preorder exclusives that cannot be returned once used, voiding any possible refund.  The end result is an embarrassing, slipshod release for a multi-million dollar “blockbuster.”  A few major releases to disappoint in recent months include Assassin’s Creed UnityDestiny, and Halo: The Master Chief Collection.

A lot of the pre-release hype also comes from advertisements and conventions which show off all of the best features of a game — features which may not even make it into the final product.  “I don’t play games myself, but I have to say Call of Duty really got my attention because of the commercials,” says our librarian Ms. Collins.  Others like senior Orlando Rivera believe that, “[they] divert funds from actually developing the game when you could technically advertise for free by letting popular YouTube celebrities review beta builds for you.”

Fast forward to the proper release of the game.  The community has set the forums aflame with all their objections, and the developers are hopefully scrambling to meet everyone’s demands, while the publishers continue to rest on their laurels, counting our cash.  Fans are going to perform an about-face in a hurry and go spend their money elsewhere, unless they are encouraged to come back.  Enter a variety of purchasable add ons and exclusive content.  This is a fairly broad area, but the gist of it is that you can pay extra for additional content.  This is often used in conjunction with promotional content to give the player base a drip-feed of new content to play.  In its most outlandish form, this is used to sell back “exclusive content” that has been locked away inside the game.  Meanwhile, in “free to play” games a common ailment known as “pay to win” occurs when an element purchasable with real cash can ensure you have the best game experience possible, while everyone else suffers.

“This hasn’t been a good year for gaming.  Developers and publishers need to stop cutting things from the game for DLC (Down-Loadable Content).  If you want my money, make new content.  The industry should be ashamed,” says senior Moses Washington, who plays (and pays for) Xbox and PC games.

A broad mix of gamers and non-gamers are in almost universal agreement regarding the rehashing and resale of content already within a game. Almost.

“I think preordering is a great concept; it shows how popular a product will be, but I’ve always had a problem with additional paid content.  It feels as if they have all the content ready for release, but they cut out specific elements to sell back to you at a later date,” advocates Mr. Harris, the school’s science department head.

2014 came to an end with a slew of disappointing releases, with many more on the horizon.  Action needs to be taken against ulterior motives such as these, but this is a two-man operation.  The consumers need to come to grips with the fact that throwing money at a game before they truly understand what they’re paying for will not give them the power they want over the developers and publishers.

Likewise, the creators need to understand that the community is all too willing to throw exorbitant amounts of cash at a game that it loves, but having them do so and then under delivering  will make it much harder to do so in the future, until the community becomes too spiteful to trust anything that comes from a certain developer/publisher.

Gaming has the unique potential to become the foremost media industry in the world, as long as the two factions can find a middle ground.  If not, the gaming bubble may burst.