Originally published @GonnaGeek
Dont get me wrong, a loyal fanbase drives companies like DC Comics or Blizzard. It’s what every entertainment driven company shoots for. Casual fans are amazing and they fork over the big bucks but the loyal fanbase keeps your company afloat when the college students graduate and get jobs working 83 hours a week or just simply grow tired of your characters. The danger comes when companies graduate to the stock market, shareholders, and board of director stages, forcing creators to forget about replay value and easter eggs and instead focus on quarterly dividends and revenue matrices.
Once EA realizes that their $500 Trillion in sales of Battlefield 4 will fall short of the previous $499.9 Trillion put up by BF3, heads need to roll. Either that or options need to be discussed. Enter the DLC. Once a thing only PC gamers were familiar with in the form of expansion packs, Downloadable Content has become a staple cashcow for gaming companies. They realize, hey, our loyal fanbase will buy it if it says Modern Warfare or World of Warcraft on the package. Let’s reskin some maps and add in a different soundtrack. Let’s get one of our interns to do a quick voiceover. Just a few lines of dialogue from a different voice so it sounds new. We can reskin a character or two as well. No new animations or anything, just new shiny skins. Bam! New DLC content priced at $12.99 a pop. Now, if we do that 5 more times in the next few months, well, cha-ching is all I can say. Even better, how bout, in order to get the numbers up in Q3, we can allow players to subscribe to our game. They get nothing up front of course but we get their money before the game even comes out. We’ll give it a catchy name like Season Pass. They get a discount of about $2.78 per DLC pack over the next YEAR and their friends will be so envious, that they too will give us money for absolutely no service or product. Genius! Give that man a raise.
I understand the basic principles of business. Make money is one. I know these companies get bought out by EA and the employees who survive turn into drones who crunch numbers instead of creating new intellectual properties. I also know that stockholders and boards determine whether games are viable anymore. My point is though, the loyal fanbase can only be drained for so long. You have the diehards and then you have the dedicated ones. The single people who prepay in January for Call of Duty Ghosts which doesn’t arrive until November. They spent $200 on the Hardened Edition and all they got was an art booklet and some random plastic toy and the CoD logo that coincides somehow with the game. These people will continue to throw their checks at EA, Activision, etc regardless of quality. The normal fanboys though, they have lives and children and wives. They just want to play the game. They don’t want DLC the day it comes out. It’s really a very transparent cash grab to have a plethora of apps, Season Passes, DLCs, and other goodies available the same week a game releases. Where is the integrity? Why wasn’t this material released with the game, on-disc? This obvious milking of the fandom will eventually hit a brick wall when the current generation moves up in life and gets a job and/or family. They won’t have as much expendable income to throw at cheap plastic novelty items with a picture of Nathan Drake on it.
I believe this also stems from the demands of the rabid gamers who spend 24 hours or more back to back with the game the day it comes out. Beating the game before websites even have time to review it doesn’t serve much of a purpose in my opinion. I like to enjoy my games and let the storyline do what it’s supposed to do. That’s me though. There are people who beat Grand Theft Auto 5 that same night. As expansive and massive as that game is, it’s astonishing that some gamers can accomplish that. Then those hardest of hardcore geeks are left with no content and nothing to do in-game. What happens then? They buy the competitors’ game. Nevermind that they already paid for Battlefield 4. We need them to pay for DLCs tomorrow and keep them hooked on this game instead of Call of Duty.
The gaming industry is set for an implosion. It will be harsh and difficult for a lot of companies, developers, and programmers to survive because the industry is not set up to deal with a collapse. It’s happened before. The whole point of this article was to chastise companies for forcing gamers, who are largely chronic completionists, to purchase content with no actual product in-hand. Give the fans a little dignity and treat them with some form of respect. I guess it’s the American dream to throw steaks at starving dogs and cross your arms in superiority as they fight to the death for a nibble. Eventually though, fans need to look in the mirror as well. At least get a taste of the steak before you go handing over all of your dignity and cash for it.