My enthusiasm for E3 and faith in the game industry has been steadily dropping over the last few years. I'm so tired of tacked on multiplayer to justify online passes in singlepalayer games, on disk DLC, game breaking DRM and the "Everything has to be CoD" mentality that I've given up on supporting new treble A titles. I refuse to buy a new game at launch or at full price if even one of the above F-yous to customers is present. Now I know how much my opinion means to everyone, especially to the game industry, I'm going to lay out what the game industry has to do at this year's E3 to win back my favor.
What the publishers have to do
I'm not going to go through all the major publishers one by one. We'd be here forever and I've got a lot to do today, single handily saving the game industry, is just first on the list. So this is a message to the industry as a whole. Stop your crusade against your customers. I know things have changed; you publishers don't have all the power anymore and that scares you. But you're going to have to accept it and change to compete in a changing and expanding market, not force the markets to stay still or change to meet your needs. Crazy thought, but it'll work I promise. So at this E3 I want to see an industry wide shift away from this destructive, anti-consumer model, to one that works for everyone. Here's how to do it.
Games that aren't CoD and no onlinepasses
I'm not a fan of Call of Duty. The series is the incarnation of everything I dislike in entertainment: glorification of violence, macho gun worshiping "stoic" male characters as the only characters, weak thoughtless emotionless story (at least after the first MW,) dull brown and gray visuals, and the hate filled 12 year olds that seem to be the majority of the community. None of that is really what I want in my entertainment.
I understand and respect that a lot of people do find something to enjoy in the series and have no problem with that. But, publishers, they aren't the only people to whom you can sell games. Remember the people that were buying games before consoles had a competent online component? They're still here! and they're waiting for something to throw money at. Even a lot of people who do like CoD would like something else given the chance.
Which makes this probably the most important announcement I want to see all publishers make at this E3, some new singleplayer IPs. And I mean truly singleplayer. Don't try cramming multiplayer into their virgin holes to justify onlinepasses in a failing attempt to fight used sales. There's a better way to do that. Announce you're going to sell the games for a lower price, let's say $40. This way the customer isn't taking as big as of a risk on new IPs, and you get $30 on a sale of new games rather than zero from the sale of used.
These new games at the new asking price of $40 can be a new tier of games (double A?) This new tier comes with a smaller budget but more room for experimentation, and as long as none of their time or money is going to making some half hearted multiplayer elements, the good developers can come up with something memorable without having a treble A budget.
The budget price was the reason I took a chance on Deadly Premonition, and I was rewarded with a memorable engaging game to add to my collection. If this approach where applied as an industry standard I would have more then a handful of games to hold onto this generation.
If you publishers put the appropriate amount of marketing behind these games, this new tier might even stop the disturbing new trend of developers shutting down right after a games release.
DLC the right way
DLC could be something really good for everyone if done right. Supporting your games for longer gives the player more in that world to experience once they're done with what's originally there, without having to buy a yearly sequel at $60, It also gives the developers the chance to have a small team working on DLC bringing in steadier income while the majority of them start work on a new game, or a sequel that wasn't rushed out. But you publishers have to change the way DLC works now, to make it something good for the industry and not a reason to wait a year for the GotY edition.
So the next announce I want all you publishers to make is that all new games will no longer have day one or on disk DLC, DLC will be cheaper then before (not exceeding five dollars), because, the idea is to keep a completed game going longer with completely extra experiences, not to sell parts of the game over an extended period, or to make you're customers pay twice the retail price for single game. Also I want publishers to say that there won't be any work started on DLC until three months after the game has shipped.
I got a whole years worth of entertainment out of Fallout 3 due, in large part, to the DLC. I love the core game as it is without any additional content, but the reason I kept coming back to it, even over buying a other games I wanted that year,was because the developers kept my interest with well thought out (and well timed) DLC. My only criticism is that they could have been cheaper.
DRM free is the way to be
This section ties into the first one because onlinepasses are a form of DRM but there's more problems with DRM then just onlinepasses. Chiefly among them. the fact that always on DRM even for boxed copies of a single player games, means that there's no guarantee that the game you spent $60 on will be playable for the life of the disk. DRM has turned bought and paid for physical copies of a singleplayer games into nothing more then a rented piece of plastic that you can only play for as long as the publishers feel like keeping the severs up.
DRM is also just plain inconvenient and ineffective. It doesn't keep people from pirating your games. If someone doesn't want to pay for it badly enough they'll find away around whatever you do to try to stop them from getting the game without paying. And what you've been doing so far has done nothing but make it harder for the people who did buy your games to actually play them.
Server errors and crashes due to high volumes of traffic on singleplayer games, a dozen accounts to log into, only being able to install games a certain number of times, or on a certain number of machines, brings down your customers desire to actually pay for your games, and drives up the possibility that they'll turn to piracy to avoid the hassle.
With this in mind it's no surprise that I want every publisher at E3 to stand on your respective stages and proudly declare the death of DRM! I want you publishers to make it clear that instead of focusing your efforts on a group of people that, no matter what you do, will most likely never pay for your games, you'll be dedicated to getting rich, entertaining, experiences in as many of the hands of the people who want to pay for them as you possible can.
Reasonably priced digital versions
This is getting long winded and I my assumeness is needed elsewhere. So I'm going to rap this up with something simple that doesn't need much explaining.
Publishers, sell digital versions of your games CHEAPER then the retail copies. Even if you're selling the worlds greatest game, something so masterfully crafted that it annihilates the universe for something so perfect may only exist in the kingdom of heaven, it still needs to be cheaper for the downloadable version then for a boxed copy.
Your customers aren't stupid; they know that if all you have to pay for is server maintenance and the developers who made the game, it didn't cost you as much to make it and there for, shouldn't cost them as much to buy it. Especially considering that digital copies bought from certain online distributors (Steam, Orgin) will only be playable as long as the distributors exist.
I want Iwata, Riccitiello, every person in charge of running a publishing company who has tried to justify digital versions of their games being priced the same as a boxed copy, to apologize for being stupid and to never do it again. Then all publisher must immediately change your prices to reflect the actual the amount invested in the games digital distribution and creation.
So that was a long rant. I'm not actually expecting any publisher to say anything as bluntly as I've laid it out here, but I really do hope to see at least some sign that these things are changing at this years E3, I really want to love the industry again. Please join me next time and leave your thoughts about anything related to the article in the comments, I really love feedback and hearing other peoples' opinions about things