There’s a notion out there that gamers are spoilt. Despite the average age of the gamer now being 30, the perception that gaming is for children and teens remains a contributing factor to the illusion that we are spoilt (little brats). Whilst it’s hardly fair to judge a community by a few, the blowback from the Mass Effect 3, and our so-called “entitlements” did us no favours. Still, there is a fine line between being rightly entitled and then demanding too much.
If we go back a few weeks, Electronic Arts was back in the spotlight, following their debacle on the coupons they’d issued. For those, unfamiliar with the story; EA had sent out coupon codes for a discount of $20 to those who had completed a survey. However the coupon code was universal for everyone, rather being unique to that one user. Worse still, there was no server side check by Origin to see if the code had been previously entered by same account; thus people were able to download multiple games from Origin for free including Battlefield 3. EA closed the coupon code after they found out what had happened, but honoured the games that were given out. However in the process they shutout a multitude of users who had completed the survey but had not yet used the code.
I don’t think anyone felt sorry for EA, and to be fair the loss of sales didn’t represent a loss in revenue, given the unlikelihood they would have been purchased in the first place. Even so, a number of outraged users, voiced their disgust at being shutout. However, reading some of the posts from users who became disillusioned with EA due to this debacle; seem to be overly reactive of the situation, with one post threatening to take EA to court if he does not get the $20 discount as promised. It’s statements like these, that give the community a bad name and make it impossible to defend the integrity of gamers. EA, to their credit, solved the issue and released new codes to to those who had completed the survey.
The wider issue at hand though, stems from the fact that unless you put pressure on a company to act, they aren’t going to respond. With EA being named the worst company in America earlier in the year, the pressure to correct the situation; even as a public relations gesture would have been immense. Social media has become a dark knight in today’s society: used correctly and it does a world of good; abused however, and it turns ugly in a blink of an eye. So the question remains, where is the line on acceptable behaviour? There’s certainly no easy answer and from my experience usually comes down to how the company handles it to begin with.
Going back to last year, I was playing Heroes of Newerth. After all players started to experience connectivity issues such as game dropouts, unable to connect to matchmaking or failure to maintain a connection to the servers, the whole community was in an uproar and demanded answers. S2 responded by saying they were under significant DDoS attacks and thus were in the process of securing servers, which further contributed to the instability that the players were experiencing. Even after admitting its fault, S2 continued to take heat from its entire playerbase. There was some talk of legal action, although I remain relatively certain the statements were made in jest. Still, players were demanding compensation. The question is – were they entitled it?
At the time Heroes of Newerth was pay to play, so players had every right to ask why the game wasn’t working. Even so, I honestly felt that players were out of line in asking for compensation. S2 were very honest, admitting mistakes they had made and took ownership of things that were in and out of their control. Nonetheless S2 as a small company could ill afford to upset even a small amount of their playerbase and gave out 2000 coins to be used in the in-game shop (roughly $15 USD) and wiped negative stats accumulated such as game abandons, when connectivity issues were occurring. In my opinion the stat wipe was more than enough, but players knew that League of Legends was eating into HoN’s market share, coupled with Valve’s Dota 2 in development; they really did force S2’s hand.
Skipping back to 2010, Ubisoft had introduced their controversial always-on DRM for PC. When connectivity issues started, which effectively blocked gamers out of their own games including single player campaigns; Ubisoft stated that the issue was related to the amount of people trying to connect. However this was quickly withdrawn, with Ubisoft then complaining about DDoS attacks. Worse still, a few days after Assassin’s Creed II was released and with connectivity issues still surrounding players, Ubisoft claimed a vital victory in the war against piracy, given the game had not been cracked.
Looking back now, Ubisoft had already painted themselves into a corner by producing such an intrusive feature into their products and became public enemy number one. When the DRM didn’t function properly; gamers were up in arms about being treated poorly. Talks of class action lawsuits began, with people stating they were getting a refund and/or pulling out of preorders. Others wanted to organise boycotts as petitions began to swirl. To this day I still believe Ubisoft had made fundamental mistakes in the system and were trying to draw sympathy by claiming they were under attack. Then evitable, gamers wanted compensation. Free DLC, games, whatever; they just wanted something. Were they entitled to ask for it?
Ubisoft took a lot of abuse during this turbulent time. But gamers were right. This wasn’t about spoilt gamers. There was a legitimate reason why they deserved compensation. Ubisoft really went about it the wrong way. They incited gamers when they claimed a victory against piracy. In reality when the game was finally cracked, the pirates had a better product than the paying customer. Ubisoft reluctantly relented and those who has been affected were given a choice of a free game from a small selection of their library. Gamer’s would be vindicated when two months ago, Ubisoft abandoned their always-on DRM.
When things do go wrong, there shouldn’t be a reason why consumers cannot question why the product they bought, isn’t functioning. If there has been a massive inconvenience, compensation should be just. That’s the way it is, not just for games, but for all things we buy. It is our right as consumers to be protected. Yet we as gamers tend to push the limits. We don’t ask. We demand. We don’t sympathise. We berate. Whilst this may not be a representation of the whole community, there are those who give gamers the unwanted reputation of “entitled”.
Ultimately though, companies have to respond. They need to get ahead of the situation and do so quickly to prevent further damage to their reputation. Whether that involves compensation or not is immaterial. Companies are still learning how to handle things quickly and decisively given the relatively new nature of social media.
P.S. Some of you may have noticed that I did not use Mass Effect as an example despite citing it. I believe that it was a unique situation that did not fall within the same parameters of the article. Given this – it is best left for another day.
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This article was first posted on November 4, 2012