While 2018 has been a tremendous year in gaming, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that publishers are out of touch with their consumers. While the actions of Activision and EA are well documented, its publishers like Valve, Blizzard, or Bethesda that are the most eye-opening. You would think that with all of the controversy surrounding with fraudulent marketing and microtransactions that there would be less of them.
Good luck with that wishful thinking.
Monetizing the consumer has become par for the course in the gaming industry. In theory, it should be deployed as a business strategy that requires subtlety, but apparently none of these publishers got that memo. Blizzard announced Diablo Immortal, which is a mobile title in an attempt to penetrate a growing market. Fans were visibly upset because of the tone-deaf response by the beloved publisher and has since been under fire because of their inability to understand why. Mobile gaming is a hotbed for microtransactions, it’s easy to see that this is a cash grab and has nothing to do with appeasing their base. It would have been easier for Blizzard to announce Diablo 4 as it would have eased concerns regarding immortal.
Bethesda, which has made some questionable decisions over the years with regards to mods and microtransactions, has been getting killed for the release of Fallout 76. An online-only title that clearly wasn’t ready for public consumption, Bethesda remained quiet for weeks as critics and fans tore apart the title for its various flaws. When Bethesda finally responded, it felt insincere and impersonal as their proposed actions of being transparent should have been prioritized in the first place.
These issues were only compounded when it was discovered that consumers that purchased the collectors edition would not receive a canvas bag as it was advertised. In an even more puzzling move, content creators and influencers were given the product and those consumers who paid 200 dollars for the Collectors edition would be given 5 dollars of in-game currency for their troubles, as long as they provided proof. How Bethesda thought that this wouldn’t be reported is beyond anyone, especially knowing how influential social media has become. Not only did they release Fallout 76 in an unfinished state, they remained dishonest with their marketing.
As costs of development continue to increase, publishers will look for ways to maximize profit. New strategies will be developed under the guise of being for the consumer, but will only be implemented to ease concerns. Activision released Call of Duty Black Ops 4 with no microtransactions, which was honestly for its benefit, but then shortly after integrated the microtransaction market, which quickly frustrated players. EA, which has been under constant scrutiny for their attitude toward their consumer base, limped in 2018 and has since dug itself a bigger hole.
Star Wars Battlefront 2 was a bad look for EA, it was pay to win, and was one of the most egregious examples of monetization in a full-priced release. All eyes were on how they would handle Battlefield V and surprise, surprise, it hasn’t been positive. EA revealed that the game would be missing content upon release, with its hyped Battle Royale mode arriving almost six months later. While all the content would be free, it doesn’t make any sense to release this as a full-priced title knowing that it was incomplete. It doesn’t help that there are a number of glitches and technical hiccups that are sure to keep EA on the bad side of consumers for quite some time.
Half-baked responses from once respectable publishers are going to be prevalent as long as gaming’s popularity continues to rise. Monetizing your consumers can be acceptable as long as its communicated from the start. Releasing any product that is unfinished is unacceptable in any industry. It shows a lack of respect for the consumer and should never occur under any circumstance. Delays are a part of the industry, if a studio is unable to meet a deadline, don’t punish the consumer, we are the ones that provide the external support to ensure a products success.
What’s vexing is that with so many examples of what not to do, its absurd that it still happens. Fallout 76 and Battlefield V both saw significant price drops during Black Friday and it’s almost guaranteed that these will occur again around Christmas. If that’s what publishers envisioned for their products when they first were first announced then they need to invest in a new business strategy. Nothing good comes from playing with the expectations of fans, it can completely kill any chance a product has upon release. This isn’t the 90’s where issues remained in-house, these divisive tactics simply won’t work with how easily information is acquired.
Respect is what the consumer deserves, not unsavory tactics that only benefit the publisher and their shareholders. Consumers put their faith and money expecting that what was advertised will be delivered. Its evident that monetization will drive the gaming industry moving forward and if that doesn’t concern you, then you’re a part of the problem.