The darker elements of the gaming industry have reared their ugly heads all too often over the course of the past few years. These have included the widespread culture of sexual harassment at Activision Blizzard, the physical and psychological impacts of ‘crunch’ on development staff, rampant toxicity in online communities (that was prevalent even before Gamergate but doesn’t seem to have dissipated in any way) and mindless actions by end consumers themselves, ranging from review bombing to the scalping of consoles that continues to deny people access to the latest generation even a year after their release.
Many gamers have either been oblivious, wilfully ignorant or begrudgingly accepting of these, preoccupied with a number of irksome trends within games that have a more direct impact on them instead. The industry has continued and continued to grow at an astronomical rate over the past decade, but with fewer and fewer companies dominating its direction and trends it has arguably become stifled from a creative standpoint, with innovative concepts struggling to gain a foothold against AAA behemoths focused more on financial returns at the expense of the gameplay experience.
Ten of the most infuriating practices that seem to be a permanent fixture of the gaming landscape, no matter how much collective dissatisfaction is aimed at them, are as follows.
10. Overpriced Digital Versions
In theory, digital copies of games should be much cheaper than their physical equivalents, as the production and distribution of discs and packaging, a sizable proportion of a publisher’s costs, is eliminated. Somehow, they are almost always priced more expensively, however, with no cost savings passed onto customers.
For what seemed like forever, the retail price of a new game was seemingly fixed at £39.99, gradually increasing to £49.99 during the last few years and jumping considerably to £69.99 for the latest console generation. Given that games cost tens or hundreds of millions to make, this is at least somewhat justifiable given inflation over time, but it represents a sizable financial outlay to customers, particularly in an era where rentals are non-existent and demos are rare, limiting the ability to ‘try before you buy’.
Savings can be made on physical copies by shopping around given that retailers seek to undercut one another, whilst some of the expense incurred through a purchase can eventually be recouped through the trade-in market. Digital-only distribution by comparison offers only one 'take it or leave it' price with no residual value. It is clearly the industry’s plan for the future, but one that its dominant players really need to reassess their approach to.