The recent release of Gears of War: Judgment got me thinking about just how quickly Epic Games has gone from a company who released free DLC to keep playerís engaged, into a company who releases games with disc locked content and microtransactions.
Since I was never much of a PC gamer, my experience with Epic Games started with the release of the original Gears of War. I was blown away when I played my first online round of Gears. No other game hooked me the way Gears did, I was playing the game 10 hours a day for weeks, enjoying every moment just as much as I did when I played that fateful first match. I actually enjoyed the game too much, playing became an obsession that had me ditching school and blowing off my friends. The only thing that got me away was the intervention of my parents after my Spanish teacher called home to say I had missed school for 2 weeks. My parents went straight for the jugular and took my games away for 3 months, leaving me only the Gameboy Advance I had stashed with a copy of Final Fantasy Tactics. When I got my games back, I of course went straight back into Gears, but luckily this time around I didnít feel the obsession I had felt only 3 months prior. When I got back in the game, I quickly noticed that a map pack had been released for the low price of free. At this point I wasnít very deep into the game industry, so I had no clue these maps were going to come out. In this map pack was the fan favorite Raven Down map, which became my temporary favorite. It wasnít too long after that the next pack came out, this time with a price of 10 bucks. I was a poor teenager with no credit card, so I was forced to skip this pack when it came out. Then after a few months Epic made the DLC free, and I was ecstatic. At this point I was playing different games, but I would still come back to Gears every few days. I was essentially in love with the franchise at this point, and was eagerly awaiting Gears 2.
Gears of War 2 arguably has the best campaign in the whole franchise. Unfortunately the same canít be said for the multiplayer. It was and still is a borderline broken mess. A lot of people abandoned ship and went back to Gears 1, but I stuck it out and came to enjoy the multiplayer immensely. The game came with a code for a map pack in the box as long as you bought it new, which I thought was a great idea. It gave incentive for people to buy new but it didnít punish used players. Looking back though I see the seeds of the problems with the Gears franchise today, which is Epic following the market trends to milk consumers out of every dollar they can get. Gears 2 eventually had 4 map packs that all cost money. It seemed that at this point Epic was done giving away free DLC to Gears fans. I was totally cool with this though, because I was a fan and the maps were reasonably priced. Towards the end of the games life, Epic earned back a little good will by releasing a super map pack that had every map ever released at a discount price. It was a great move that brought new and old players into the fray.
Gears of War 3 is a great game, it was packed with content that could keep players bust for 100ís of hours. This time around though, Epic made sure to throw some microtransactions in to make some extra dough. The game launched with 3 times as many skins to buy as there was to unlock. It was outrageous to me that Epic would do this. Then it came out that there were maps locked on the disc. Cliff Bleszinski then came out with a statement where he said ďIt's an ugly truth of the gaming industry. I'm not the biggest fan of having to do it, but it is one of the unfortunate realities." I read that as him basically saying that Epic is going to charge for this locked content and it will keep doing so in the future. Then on top of everything Epic put out a season pass for 30 bucks, and the first DLC it included was the on disc DLC. I felt completely ripped off at this point but the game itself was good enough to keep me playing. The next 3 DLCs promised in the season pass delivered, so I felt a little better about the game overall by the time the content stopped coming out, but I was still bitter about the whole thing. It turned out this was just a test run for the ďEpicĒ rip off that is Gears Judgment.
Gears of War: Judgment is a prime example of whatís wrong with the game industry today. After Gears 3 I was cautious about Judgment, and Iím glad I was. I rented the game and was appalled by the games lack of content. I was already on my toes thanks to the various pre-order bonuses and promotional items. If I wanted to get all the content I would have to pre-order from 5 places, buy some beef jerky and Brisk, and buy the season pass. In the vanilla game, there are only 8 character models. How the fuck did they make a game with 8 character models when there's 10 players in a match. Itís unbelievable how bare bones the game is without all the promotional items. Not only that, but the game has only 4 maps for deathmatch. 4 FUCKING MAPS! I was bored of the maps before my rental period was up. The Season pass is also a joke, it cost 20 dollars and you only get 6 maps and 2 game modes. Of course they attached permanent double XP to the pass to make fans buy it despite the lack of actual content. They also sell double XP as microtransactions, so you can pay a dollar for 10 matches worth. Itís disgusting what they've done to this game. The only thing they were missing was disc locked content, but it turns out that they have some of that too. Just today itís come out that the popular warzone game mode from the previous games in the franchise is locked on the disc, and is most likely one of the two modes included in the season pass. This game is the straw that broke the camelís back. Iím officially done with Epic and Iím done paying full price for games that are stripped of content so they can sell us it down the line. From now on Iíll stick with the companies I trust, but keep my eye open in case they shift downhill the way Epic has.