I imagine I’m the sort of gamer that the gaming media, companies, and retailers hate. I’m never drawn in by the hype, I rarely make first day purchases, I never pre-order anything, I buy nearly all of my games used, I stake no value in gaming critics, I never trade-in my games, I buy little to no DLC, and I game by a code. My code? I give my support and loyalty where it is deserved- opposition where it is not. I vote with my wallet- I am a gamer with standards. This is precisely what the industry as a whole does not want.
They prefer gamers too dumb to speak out, too blind to see the lies, and too paralyzed by hype and hate to form their own opinions. This is why I have become a gaming opportunist over the course of the last five years. I buy most games at their very cheapest, ignore the gaming press almost entirely, and only support that which I deem deserving. In this way I can effectively cheat the system by watching the folly of others drag down the prices until I snatch up what I want. Put simply, once the hype machine starts up again and the flavor of the week has changed, I make my move. Months, years, a decade- doesn’t matter to me, I can wait for it to be $12. This is where we encounter the paradox.
The developers, the media, and the retailers all want to convince you that every release is ‘game of the year’ material and is worth your money. Then, when a sequel or similar title is released, suddenly that previous game was garbage anyway and this is the one you should (or should have) spent your money on. This disposable game market insures the shelves will be saturated and the industry, dying. Every release is perfect until the sequel, every original IP deserving of a series.
It seems to me that every venue of the game industry is just bluffing and blowing smoke- fueling the hype only to tear it to pieces weeks after release to build up the next in line. And gamers are just supposed to take it- never notice the pattern. There was a time when sequels were treated like standalone titles- games worth buying and potentially remaking someday. The hype machine and its penchant for numbered sequels has killed off this prior standard. This is the gaming paradox- the so-called original, AAA games that receive annual sequels, initial praise, and eventual repulsion.
Just what other modern game trends have made being a gaming opportunist so rewarding? With gaming becoming more and more expensive and game developers becoming lazier, it should be no surprise that I am this way. As I look around I see features and genres that I grew up with and loved dying away. Where have all the RPGs gone? Where’s the split-screen? What happened to good fighting games? When the heck did everything become a shooter? The times, they are a-changing.
I’ve never been one to pre-order games and I highly doubt I will ever be. Why? There is far too little incentive. A DLC code for an extra costume is not worth a $60 purchase. Though the mediocre pre-order bonuses aren’t the only issue. The fact is, with the rise of console patching, developers have all but given up on testing their games before release. They utilize their first day buyers as test subjects instead of paying someone to look for bugs. No thank you- I’d prefer to wait three months until it’s in the bargain bin for $12. Thanks anyway.
As I said, it is rare for me to purchase on the first day. Those gems that do receive my money upon launch generally meet one or more select qualifications. The first and most important? I adore the series and believe it deserves my support- these select games bring me months if not years of joy and I repay them with my commerce. Nintendo comes to mind here. Consistently they release high-quality, creative, addictive video games that I tend to invest a lot of time in.
Some first-day purchases I’ve made over the last few years out of loyalty to the series or developer? Super Smash Brothers Brawl, Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, Pokemon Platinum, Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 2, Dragon Ball Z Tenkaichi 3, Mario Kart Wii, Harvest Moon: Animal Parade, Animal Crossing: City Folk, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Wii Party, and Samurai Warriors 3. You know what else? I’ve enjoyed every second of those games.
I’ve clocked over a thousand hours into SSBB, hundreds in DW: Gundam 2, and almost a hundred in ToS: Dawn of the New World and Samurai Warriors 3. I’ve gained great memories- great experiences from these titles. With near endless replay value, expertly designed single player, and masterfully implemented multiplayer- these games have cemented themselves at the top of my gaming shelf.
Too many developers these days feel they can get away with giving you enough content to last you until next year and expecting you to buy the next annual entry. Guitar Hero, Call of Duty, Tony Hawk, Halo, and countless racing games have all become guilty of this. Developers are free to release annual sequels- as I’m free to purchase them a year later for $12. You know why Nintendo games sell so well and for so long? They give us one near perfect entry in most of their franchises per generation. Then again, sometimes we get lucky with fantastic sequels like Super Mario Galaxy 2 and the Metroid Prime series.
The next reason I might award a game a first-day purchase is originality. If a game does something different- takes a chance and tries to do something innovative that appears to be right up my alley, I give it the same support. Some games that fit the bill in recent years? Little King’s Story, Dokapon Kingdom, Phantom Brave: We Meet Again, Madworld, and Scribblenauts. All were highly originally, very polished video games and they earned my money. Here we have where most developers lose me- here is something they just don’t get. They have to earn my money.
Too many game developers have reached the point where they expect the ‘title’ to sell their games instead of content, replay value, and originality. There’s a reason you don’t see the likes of Halo, Call of Duty, Street Fighter, or Resident Evil on the list above. You know why? Their developers put out lazy spin-offs and sequels and expect their fan-base to buy them anyway. Capcom and Square Enix have been especially guilty of this- putting out mediocre spin-offs alongside terrible mothership titles. Then, after not getting the sales they want, they blame the gamers- perpetuating the gaming paradox. Suddenly the audience is to blame for the poor performance.
No, no- that’s not how it works, game industry. You give me something worthwhile and earn my money- you don’t just slap a familiar name on an on-rails shooter or a side-story and call it a day. This is the key element to my willingness to be loyal to a series or company- they deliver consistent high quality games, not a sea of cash-ins and the occasional hit. Hey, I’ll still buy your games now and then. I’ll just wait until they’re $12 on eBay. This same downward spiral was discussed in Entertainment Evolution .
This actually brings me to my third reason for buying a game on the first-day. Despite being a gaming opportunist, I am willing to break down and pay full price if the local co-op is good enough. If I can tell that my family and I can have a good time just gaming on the couch together as a team, I’m willing to drop $50-$60 on it. It’s a sound investment. Honestly though, these cases are growing more and more scarce as lazy developers implement only online modes.
You know why they do it? Because it forces gamers to purchase more copies of the game to play with friends. There are a number of games that would have won my first-day support had they given us local co-op- Crackdown, White Knight Chronicles, and Saint’s Row 2 all come to mind. Some games I have bought in the last few years for their split-screen or local co-op options? Marvel Ultimate Alliance, Metal Slug Anthology, Fable III, Trauma Center: New Blood, and Dynasty Warriors 6: Empires.
Next up for examination are game critics. It’s thanks mostly to “You can’t Spell Ignorant Without” IGN and Game MisInformer that I can’t stand the general gaming media. Be it print or digital, most professional reviews are completely useless when it comes to giving an impartial perspective. They’re always either consumed by hype and dropping perfect scores for undeserving games (Grand Theft Auto 4, Call of Duty: Black Ops, any Halo game) or giving pitifully low scores just to attract flame wars to boost site traffic. When it isn’t a review, it’s a heavily biased editorial blasting the Nintendo Wii or inciting further flame wars between users. I already examined this trend in Gamers Are Ruining Gaming , but it really needs to be addressed again.
Game Informer is quite possibly the worst example of how to run a gaming magazine. After several years of watching the magazine get worse and worse, I finally canceled my subscription is disgust earlier this year. Just what’s so bad about Game Informer? The reviews, the reviewers, the previews, and the editorials. What does that leave? The ads and the fan letters section. You know what? I hate those too. Game Informer is so wrapped up in their Xbox 360 devotion that anything on the Nintendo Wii or any PS3 exclusives are always written about with an underlying contempt.
Any time a major 3rd party game releases on the Wii, Game Informer either ignores it entirely or gives it a maliciously low score- usually blaming the graphics. Some of their most blatant displays of Nintendo hatred? The terrible reviews given for Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, Elite Beat Agents, No More Heroes, Wii Party, Wii Music, Goldeneye 007, any Mario sports game, Mario & Sonic Olympics, Metroid Prime Trilogy, and numerous others. It’s pitiful. Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, arguably the greatest of the Paper Mario series, got a low score for having too much reading? How old are these people? Four? Metroid Prime Trilogy, the enhanced collection of the three MP games, was criticized because you have to hold up your arm? What? What!? Stupid and lazy. Let’s just pray they’re sterile too…
Nintendo Wii games are rarely previewed in Game Informer, much less covered or reviewed at all. If there’s a popular game with a Wii version, you can bet there’s no mention of it. The messed up part? If it’s a bad game with a Wii version, it’s practically the only one they talk about. They endlessly criticize motion controls and any notion of families gaming with each other- unless it happens to be Kinect for the Xbox 360 which they seemingly adore. Your best shot at getting a perfect score from Game Informer? Either be a 360 exclusive or a shooter. It never fails.
Flipping to any page in a Game Informer magazine is sure to find some poorly written, biased garbage. The fan letter section exists only to print anti-Wii, pro-360 letters while making sarcastic remarks to anyone that defends the games GI despises. Here you have exactly why people are rapidly canceling their subscriptions now that GameStop is offering a free customer loyalty program- no longer is the Edge Card a good enough reason to subscribe to this awful magazine.
IGN is guilty of the same practices- intense negativity towards anything without HD graphics and a suspiciously pro-360 agenda. Constantly IGN and the rest of the gaming media does little more than fuel the flames of the imaginary ‘Casual Vs Hardcore’ war. They utilize the ‘Us Vs Them’ mentality as a means of controlling your opinions and keeping you coming back to their site to insure traffic. Even worse, they slap a label on gaming and water it down- ruthlessly dividing an already detached audience in the process. I refuse to trust or listen to the ignorant, frat-boy tools that write for Game Informer and IGN- as do many others.
More and more the direction that gaming is going in is becoming unappealing. The loss of split-screen in favor of online play. The girth of biased, ignorant reviewers with an axe to grind. The prevalence of shooters and the decline of other genres. The sheer laziness and greed of game developers. The perpetual hype machine- forever insuring that the advertisement dollar always dictates review scores and sales. Around every corner- behind every word, they’re out to squeeze you for every cent you have. They want you programmed to accept whatever they force-feed you and not utter a complaint. This is the reality of it- this is the gaming paradox.
To fight the machine, you have to think for yourself, determine a buying strategy, and be a gaming opportunist. If you want to make a difference, vote with your wallet.