I don’t want to sound hyperbolic here, but it’s safe to say 2017 has been one of the greatest years for gaming in terms of games themselves. Every major brand saw big releases, with Sony’s stellar lineup of Horizon Zero Dawn, Nioh, NieR: Automata, Persona 5, Yakuza 0, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, and the forgotten yet still great Gravity Rush 2, among many more. Nintendo came back from the dead with the gargantuan launch of the Switch and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, one of the greatest games we have seen in decades. Nintendo wasn’t finished, though, Splatoon 2 hit the shelves along with the surprise Ubisoft partnership title Mario+Rabbids: Kingdom Battle. Not to mention the game that stole our nerdy hearts 1, 2, Switch I mean, Super Mario Odyssey! (It’s so easy to mix those two up.) With this strong barrage of amazing titles, in addition to the titles we’ve been waiting for for so long (Metroid Prime 4 and the upcoming Pokemon Switch game), we can finally exclaim “Nintendo is BACK, BABY!”
Microsoft has been rather hush-hush in terms of releases this year, but Cuphead and Forza Motorsport 7 are nothing to sneeze at. Let’s also not forget those awesome AAA releases : Injustice 2, Wolfenstein 2, The Evil Within 2, Project Cars 2, Destiny 2, (It’s the year of the twos, alright.) Sonic Mania, and South Park: The Fractured but Whole. Indies have been sweet, too (last list, I promise): Hollow Knight, Strafe, A Hat in Time, Pyre, and Divinity: Original Sin 2.
As you can see, ladies and gentlemen, we’re flooded with spectacular releases, but all this has been said before. What hasn’t been commonly said perturbs me. As we enjoy the plethora of excellent titles, third-party publishers are sneakily sucking more dollars out of our wallets. This didn’t start with Star Wars: Battlefront II or Middle-Earth: Shadow of War’s infamous microtransactions.
Gravity Rush 2 and Gran Turismo Sport feature online capabilities, which is okay until they incorporated it into either completing the game or the single-player modes. Bethesda launches their paid mod service, much to the community’s dismay. Nintendo expanded their draconian content creation rules, banning members of their Creator’s Program from monetizing livestreams.
Even the smaller issues like Sony’s refusal to allow cross-play and their unnecessary AAA timed exclusives join the corporate dumpster. EA closed down Visceral and announced a dramatic shift from Amy Hennig’s untitled Star Wars game. While that was more detrimental to the folks who lost their jobs and Hennig for losing another game, it stings for gamers because they used us as an excuse, claiming that we don’t like single-player games anymore. Consumers always resented the big name companies, but never to this extreme before.
You can buy thousands of microtransactions if you want to or if you’re an eight-year-old who got ahold of mommy’s credit card. When we see pay-to-win or pay-to-progress microtransactions in triple-A games that we spent full price for, we’ve already set on the slippery slope. We all are too aware of this talking point. Microtransactions suck, but do they have to? Sometimes microtransactions can be done right, and a perfect example that comes to mind is Rocket League.
Rocket League’s loot crate system is often overlooked by journalists when finding reasonable implementation of microtransactions. In Rocket League, loot crates are earned from matches, but not very often. In fact, they don’t appear until you’ve unlocked pretty much every “common” item, and they appear only on occasion. Only thing you have to buy is a $1.49 key (You can buy up to twenty for $20, if you wish to stock up ahead of time). Additionally, the crates aren’t shoved down the players’ throat; instead, they are automatically stored in the Garage, so the player can decide what to do with them. This way, getting crates feels like an event and seeing all the cool things inside the crate entices the player even more to pay the miniscule fee. Players can find themselves in a multitude of trading communities on Discord, PlayStation, or Xbox to exchange less desirable skins or boost flames or whatever for more keys. If more publishers follow this practice, we wouldn’t complain about gambling or penny pinching.
Sony’s latest entry in the Gran Turismo franchise has been met with fairly positive reactions, but it left some fans confused as you need internet connection to save your game in Arcade Mode. When those servers shut down, then the game shuts down altogether. Sony has done this earlier with Gravity Rush 2. There is leaderboard functionality in some segments of the game and some collectibles can only be acquirable with an internet connection. To all those completionists out there, you have until January to get those collectibles as the servers will be shut down, primarily due to the game’s abysmal sales. Less than a quarter of a million copies were sold after nine months on shelves. Leaderboards understandably rely on servers and servers cost money to maintain, so shutting down servers for a financially miserable title makes sense. However, reason disappears when the single-player experience is treated like a multiplayer experience.
Sony hasn’t stopped there, with their unwillingness to allow cross-play and add backwards compatibility like their competitors. Backwards compatibility is mainly a nicety and, as a business, it would make sense for consumers to share the same network with each other to maximize profits. However, they go even further with their extreme AAA timed exclusives. On September 20th of this year, Xbox One just received the Rise of Iron expansion, right after Destiny 2 released. Timed exclusives don’t help PS4 units fly off the shelves, Sony. So, why inconvenience other people for not buying a Ps4?
In case you forgot, Nintendo’s Creator Program still exists and recently expanded to streaming, further proving that Nintendo doesn’t understand the concept of free advertising. Super Mario Maker could have been the saving grace for the Wii U, but it was rarely shared as it wasn’t part of their contract. While this might seem to be a minor issue, it stills highlights a less admirable image of the company. Taking a portion of the profits from the little guy when you already have a massive success on your hands is just plain scummy. It gets worse when that content creator is also facing serious demonetization issues with YouTube and content creating is their livelihood. Leave YouTubers and streamers alone, Nintendo. Same with mods, Bethesda. They were already free and should stay that way. Now, go work on a Skyrim remaster for the TI nSpire CX! We do want single-player, story-based games, EA. Don’t use the community as your excuse for firing hundreds of people.
It’s important to focus on the good, though, and in some cases, our voices have been heard. DICE recently announced a change in Battlefront II’s loot-crate system to stifle pay-to-win fears. Unfortunately, pay-to-progress remains an issue. Regardless, we sing like a gospel choir at the news. With the additional issues arising in the industry this year, we just need our voices to go further.
What do you think? Is the industry getting better or worse for consumers? If so, what can we do about it? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, or on mine or the site’s Twitter page: @peter_j_finaldi and @sickcritic