I don’t think it would be unfair to say that over the last 10 years or so, the quality of a released game has nosedived quite notably. You only have to look at the state of titles such as Cyberpunk 2077 to see that, quite clearly, when this was finally placed on retail shelves last December it still wasn’t really finished. In fact, it felt to me like it still required at least another 6 months and particularly so to make the PS4/Xbox One experience at least competent.
This isn’t a new problem, though. Other pretty notable AAA-gaming titles have also seen similar (if not worse) problems. To name just a few: WWE 2K20, Fallout 76, Assassin’s Creed: Unity, Battlefield 5, Sim City, No Man’s Sky, and some might even consider adding Sea of Thieves to that list. Albeit, at least in regards to the latter two, they both had similar problems (lack of content) and, fortunately, the difference between the games now and when they originally came out is like comparing night and day.
We should make it abundantly clear that there has, and always will be bad games. To use a popular saying, you can’t polish a turd. In recent years, however, I think the gaming community as a whole would agree that QA (quality assurance) standards have dropped and worse, there isn’t really anything to regulate them either. Developers are, quite frankly, consistently allowed to regularly release bad, broken, or unfinished work in the guise of a boxed game.
What are the biggest and most consistent problems we generally tend to have with these developers, though? Well, based on our experience over the last 10 years, let’s take a look at what could be considered the 5 sins of modern AAA-gaming developers!
There are more than a few gaming franchises (and I’m not just talking about sports titles, but they’re certainly included) where a new release is made on an annual or biannual basis. This happens because not only are they popular but they nearly always reside somewhere in the top 10 sales charts for a pretty solid period of time.
Let me ask you a question, though? Specifically regarding those kinds of games, what was the last one you played that truly blew your mind and expectations?… Ok, let’s throw everything into the mix now. Apply that rule to every game released in the last 10 years and tell me, which ones truly stood out as new, innovative, and most importantly, actually worked as a playable design and not just as a concept? If you could pick more than 5, I’d be very impressed because I’m struggling to even come up with one in all honestly. Maybe Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order just because EA had the courage to actually release it as a single-player title. Albeit, while the concept of such a thing is undoubtedly rare these days, it’s not exactly groundbreaking is it?…
Again, remember that I’m very specifically talking about AAA-developers here so, while the indie community has thrown up more than a few pleasant results, it just feels that mainstream developers have become too corporate. Why bother taking a risk when people will just buy the same rehashed content in a different skin for $60?
I could rephrase this to them simply being unable or unwilling to take a risk, but overall, it all boils down to the same thing. AAA-developers are rarely willing to take the gamble in trying something truly new!
One of the few truly innovative ideas the gaming industry has had over the last 10 years has been the ability to discover that, even by giving a game away for free, they can still make an absolute pile of money from it simply by exploiting its players. I’m not so much talking about DLC’s here as, generally speaking, you generally tend to get something tangible for your money. You know what I’m really getting at here—microtransactions, loot boxes, card packs, skins etc.
You can’t help but feel that whenever a gaming concept is pitched at a AAA-publisher, one of the main subjects of conversation is how it can be monetized beyond the initial purchase price. And I suspect that there are more than a few coders or designers out there that have become increasingly disillusioned with the industry as a whole because this must surely see their initially brilliant idea slowly get broken down into hideous packages and paywalls.
Fortunately, while this may have taken a while, people are starting to pay attention to this and, of course, the knock-on problems it can cause when your kids have access to your bank details. Belgium has even gone as far as outright banning loot boxes/microtransactions with many other countries apparently looking to follow suit.
It’s hard to deny though that while seemingly offering us less, game developers/publishers still want even more money from us!
Although it’s not something I personally pay much attention to, I don’t think I can remember the last time (at least on console) that I purchased a game on release day and found that upon insertion of the disk, there wasn’t some kind of update or patch to download. Day One patches, however, are often no more than an admission that when the game was sent to print, work on it still wasn’t quite finished.
Although it’s not one particular game I want to beat up on too much over this, it’s hard to ignore Cyberpunk 2077 given that it’s one of the most recent high-profile titles. So, what about it? Well, on the same day people took it home or had it arrive on their doorstep, they found that a circa 40-50GB ‘day one’ patch was waiting for them.
All such a download says is that the game was declared ‘gold’ long before work or testing on it had truly been completed. But don’t worry, ‘patches are on the way’ to make your $60 purchase actually playable within the next 3 months… Maybe…
Generally speaking, most games these days are primarily designed to run on consoles with the PC version usually receiving the least attention and resources. Even when time is taken to actually put out a PC port though, the experience is often pretty terrible. Remember Red Dead Redemption 2? The PC version was completely inoperable for nearly 2 weeks after it ‘officially’ came out (I know this because I was kept trying to get it to work during that time). Horizon Zero Dawn was another example of a truly poor piece of PC optimization.
It doesn’t just end there though in terms of PC gaming. On all platforms, game file sizes have undoubtedly become significantly larger over the last 5 years. In many instances, it has been found that this is simply because the developer didn’t bother to try and compress some of the assets. Yes, compression adds to load times, but I think I’d rather have a couple of seconds more of waiting than a 130GB+ file squatting on my SSD.
Again though, you only have to look at the amazingly shoddy state of Cyberpunk 2077 on the Xbox One and PS4 to see that, overall, in attempting to release games for everything, it usually isn’t too difficult to tell which version/s had the least amount of time, money, and attention thrown at them.
Ultimately, the biggest problem with the gaming industry rests with us consumers. Why? Well, year in, year out, while we might complain about it, we generally tend to put up with all this crap. We buy the next Call of Duty or Fifa like cows being led to the slaughter and only once we have it do we realize that, like all the years we’ve bought it before, we’ve ultimately been conned into getting (pretty much) the exact same game all over again. We declare to the universe that we’ll never do it again, and in 12 months’ time, we repeat the whole process again!
I do like to think though that consumers have perhaps, overall, become either a bit savvier about the industry or perhaps just a little more careful with their gaming money these days. I myself am nowhere near as much of the compulsive gaming purchaser I was 10 years ago, and a significant factor in that decision is largely having had my fingers burnt one time too many. Red Dead Redemption 2 on the PC was, perhaps, the straw that broke the camel’s back.
The bottom line is that these problems will continue for many years to come unless we unite as consumers and start demanding more. And, of course, hitting them where it hurts (namely, their wallets). If we can do this, better things will simply have to come our way. I mean, let’s face it, at the moment we’re being treated like fools and, quite frankly, it’s well deserved!
Will it happen though? Well, I keep my fingers crossed, but on the same note, I fully expect to see all of EA’s regurgitated sports titles once again dominating the sales charts this September.
What do you think though? Let us know in the comments!
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