This console generation has seen brought us a lot of great things. HD graphics, wireless controllers, new heights for online gaming, as well as features like Netflix and downloadable games have all been greatly beneficial. Some of this generation's developments, however, have been of a far less savory nature. I'm here to talk about those things that cost us extra money or dumb down the overall gaming experience. I'm not an especially nostalgic-minded gamer, so I don't intend for this to come off as sound like the bitter rantings of a man yearning for the "good old days". There are simply some things happening in the industry today that I do not approve of and neither should you. Read on for what I consider to be this generation's 5 worst trends.
5. Retailer Specific Pre-Order Bonuses
In today's industry, pre-orders play a large role. They help publishers gauge public interest in their product which, in turn, can help them plan for future installments or add-ons. It's only natural that publishers would want to offer gamers some sort of incentive for them to pay in advance for a game that may still be months away. They're asking gamers to take a chance on a product that they're not even sure will be any good in the end. Things like new clothing items, weapons, game modes, etc., have become standard pre-order offerings. That's fine until the retailers become involved. It's no longer enough for a publisher to offer one set of pre-order bonuses. Now they must pander to a handful of individual retail chains such as Wal-Mart, Gamestop and Best Buy, who could outright refuse to offer the game for sale without a pre-order bonus attached to their stores. It's asking developers to put in even more work to create items that only small portions of their intended audience will be able to utilize, just so that retailers can try to make a few extra bucks for themselves while stepping on everyone else. If you buy a game, should you not be entitled to all that it contains? At least allow us unlock those bonuses in-game somehow, or make them available post-launch if you must, but this retailer specific nonsense is getting way out of hand.
4. Nickel And Dime DLC
There was a time when gamers used to have access to everything on the disc. Every feature, costume, character or level could be unlocked through skill, sheer time investment, or cheat codes. Now, these features simply cost money, even if they're already on the disc that you already paid for. Many companies began this generation using this business model for DLC, but have since come to realize how to offer actual value with extra content. EA started by offering all manner of ridiculous in-game objects for sale, even down to paying real money for in-game currency in games like The Godfather. They have since taken a more sensible approach to DLC, but Capcom was right there to pick up their slack, seeing fit to charge us for a Versus mode in Resident Evil 5 and extra characters in the upcoming Marvel vs Capcom 3 (that are already on the disc) just to name a few. EA and Capcom are not alone in this practice, of course, they're just 2 of the more high-profile offenders. Along similar lines, publishers simply overcharge for DLC much of the time, especially if it was not on the disc to begin with. Map packs for games like the Call of Duty series began at $10 for 4-5 new maps (still a bit pricey) and now cost $15 for even less new content. How soon before these packs cost $20? $25? Honestly, publishers aren't the only ones to blame for this, since people paid the higher price by the millions. If you vote with your wallets, changes will be made to suit us better. I know it's extremely important to have the latest maps for Generic Shooter #14,903, but shouldn't they be available at a reasonable price?
3. Lack Of Creativity Within The FPS Genre
First person shooters have been around for a long, long, LONG time. The genre can be characterized by a single game coming about every 3-5 years that sets new genre conventions, and every shooter that follows does its best to mimic that one game. Beginning with Doom and passing the torch on to games like Quake, Half-Life, Halo and Call of Duty, this trend isn't necessarily new, it's just that in recent years, it has become so much worse. The 3 games pictured above are Modern Warfare 2, Killzone 3 and Medal of Honor, but you'd be hard pressed to discern the difference at a glance, or even after closer inspection. Apparently, the world world is bland and colorless, because to make a game more realistic and gritty, it has to be brown or gray and feature some sort of military theme and terrorists who are planning to attack America. There is a bit of relief on the horizon, however, with games like Bulletstorm and Brink bringing some much needed color and originality to the genre.
2. The Downfall Of Single Player Campaigns
The advent of online console gaming has been a huge factor in this generation. Competitive gaming is more important than ever as it can increase a game's replayability to near infinite proportions. Unfortunately, much of this competitive focus comes at the expense of a good, old-fashioned, story-driven single player campaign with actual substance. There was a time when a game would have been destroyed by critics for having a 4 hour campaign, but these days, even 4 hours is asking too much in some cases. Games like Kane & Lynch and the Call of Duty series last only a few hours and then quickly usher you into multiplayer as though their single player campaigns were just an afterthought. No portion of a game should be an afterthough. Anything worth putting into a game is worth taking the time to do it right and to make it worth your while. This problem is only likely to get worse, however. Even EA believes single player games are "finished", but I really don't buy that. They're only "finished" because so little emphasis is put on them by developers lately. Games like Red Dead Redemption, Mass Effect, and Fallout: New Vegas have all garnered critical praise and commercial success for their single player campaigns. Red Dead is a particularly good example because it shows it isn't necessary to sacrifice a lengthy single player campaign in favor of extra multiplayer features.
1. Motion Controls
Motion controls. Likely to be the most controversial of my selections, they are the bane of my existence as a "hardcore" gamer. Nintendo jumped into the fray first with the Wii, proving that motion controls are commercially viable, and managed to create a whole new audience out of soccer moms and the elderly. To call Nintendo's success unprecedented is the understatement of the century, and it was only a matter of time before Microsoft and Sony decided they wanted a piece of that action as well. Enter Move and Kinect, Sony and Microsoft's respective answers to the Wii. Sony's approach is a shameless, blatant rip off of the Wii masquerading as something that will be appealing to hardcore gamers with games like "The Shoot" and "The Fight" (very creative names, by the way). Microsoft, on the other hand, thinks controllers are no good at all and would rather we use our entire bodies to control the game. The fact of the matter is that neither the Wii, Playstation Move or Microsoft Kinect offer much in the way of "hardcore" experiences. No matter how much they might claim, these motion controllers do not give the gamer MORE control. As the great Ben "Yahtzee" Crenshaw once put it, "Gaming should be about games, not controllers...Actual gamer gaming technology should be working toward controls that use SMALLER movements, not LARGER ones, to enhance immersion by minimizing the separation between thought and onscreen action." I couldn't have said it better myself.