Out of Control: Patience is a virtue—even in the digital world

January 22, 2015

I’ve never pre-ordered a game.

I would like to say that is because I’m patient when it comes to snagging the newest releases, but it usually comes down to the fact that I have a habit of looking for the cheapest source of gaming possible—thank you, college budget.

I know plenty of people who do decide to invest their hard earned money in the reservation of a brand-spanking-new game they’ve been waiting on for months, if not years, to be released. It’s a gaming institution that’s been around since I became aware of the greater gaming community. But if the online portions of gamers have their way, the practice of pre-ordering games could disappear from gaming, or at least undergo drastic change.

Recently, companies like Ubisoft and EA have come under fire for releasing largely buggy and unfinished games like Assassin’s Creed Unity and Dragon Age: Inquisition. They’re accused of neglecting to put out a finished product for the sake of speed. Gamers are concerned that publishers are half-assing titles that could be absolute masterpieces simply because they know they’ll get a huge amount of revenue from pre-ordering. To show their disdain for companies cutting corners to gain revenue, users of online forum sites like Reddit, Steam, Imgur, and Kotaku have banded together  to boycott against this cost cutting.

But to be honest, those participating in the boycott are almost as much to blame as the publishers themselves. For some reason or another, gamers seem to think that the problems associated with pre-ordering are isolated to this particular act. Unfortunately, issues like rudimentary game mechanics and expensive downloadable content are symptoms of a bigger issue in the gaming industry today: accountability.

Pre-ordering in and of itself is actually a pretty sweet concept. The problem is when publishers take the easy way out when dealing with high demand and low levels of transparency. If we want to see a change in gaming occur, it can’t simply be in the form of a boycott of an otherwise fine service, but instead in how we hold companies responsible for the quality of their product.

That being said, if accountability is what gamers want, they’ll also have to turn a critical eye on themselves in order to understand why publishers and developers have resorted to such underhanded tactics. At the forefront of any self-criticism that should be levelled against gamers is the fact that we, as a group, are impatient. Sure, Duke Nukem Forever spent 15 years in development, and the world is still waiting on any word of Half Life 3 from Lord Gaben, but we’re not usually made to wait that long for new installments of our favorite games.

For instance, Assassin’s Creed fans only had to wait 2 years between the releases of the original game and the series’ critically acclaimed second installment. However, as the series picked up in popularity, and people wanted more and more historical goodness, Ubisoft began pumping AC games out on a yearly basis, leading innovations in the series feeling contrived and gimmicky.

Ubisoft probably would have loved to have given its developers more time to fine-tune the games released in ACII’s wake, especially with the advent of its multi-player. But demand was insanely high. People loved Ezio, loved the vast open world gameplay, and wanted more. Sure, Ubisoft has pumped out some less than impressive titles in the past three years, but they wouldn’t be doing this if the demand from consumers didn’t push them to do so.

Not only are fans impatient, but a lot of the time, gaming connoisseurs forget just how difficult making a truly spectacular next-generation title can be. Considering the staggering number of staffers working on a project at any given time, the multifaceted nature of such an undertaking, and just how much content is jam-packed into a single disk these days, it’s a wonder more games don’t come out looking more like Frankenstein’s monster.

Pulling off a well-made, innovative game is by no means simple. That’s not to say that sloppy work is to be excused, but when the demand for a game has pushed the company into producing multiple titles in the span of three to five years, know what you’re getting yourself into when you decide to pre-order/purchase a title. 

If gamers are willing to be patient and understand the complexity of the today’s gaming medium, and developers are more transparent about their intentions and practices, the hordes of the internet will have one less thing to complain about in the coming years.

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