Sunday, March 11, 2012

Player’s Purchase Patience: Avoiding Release Dates (featuring Mass Effect 3)

Player’s Purchase Patience: Avoiding Release Dates


Player’s Purchase Patience: Avoiding Release Dates

Mass Effect 3 hit the shelves last week. Even though I’ve only played the first two, I do consider them to be among my absolute favorite games in this generation, right below the Elder Scrolls series and the original Bioshock. But I honestly do not care whatsoever for Mass Effect 3’s release. I didn’t care about Mass Effect 2’s release either and coincidentally never got around to buying the game until it was 20 bucks, which happened a lot faster than I thought it would. And you know what? The game was amazing. I still don’t regret waiting a long time to buy it. 

To one extent it is the price that makes me take forever to buy a game, but it’s also the very idea of immediate access to a game that doesn’t have an appeal to me. There are some rare cases where an almost religious devotion to the series makes me drool whenever a new one is released, particularly in Zelda, Elder Scrolls, and Smash Bros. I buy those upon release because the very idea of waiting a long time to play the newest one drives me insane. I get those near the release dates because I want to see the story for Zelda and Elder Scrolls, and the gameplay and roster changes for Smash Bros. But as far as games I love go, that’s the exception not the norm. 
And even then it might be wiser to wait.

For me, the majority of game franchises, even my favorite ones, don’t set off a kind of fiery immediate passion and need for a fix. As things are I could go on for years just replaying my favorite games and stuff already in my collection. Half my games I have never played or haven’t played in any recent memory and have not looked at it with a critical eye. Games like Bioshock 2, Assassin’s Creed 2, Tales of Symphonia 2, Final Fantasy 7, Lost Odyssey, Star Wars Force Unleashed, Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic, Metroid Prime Trilogy, Xenosaga trilogy, .hack G.U. Trilogy, .hack quadrilogy, Sonic Colors, Spore, and a presumably terrible Animorphs PS1 game. In addition, I can never get enough of some games that don’t really end like Minecraft, Skyrim, and multiplayer games. What’s that you say? Batman Arkham City is out at 60 bucks? By the time I get through half the games above it will be 20 bucks. Unless it focuses heavily on multiplayer, a good game will still be every bit just as good a year after the release at a much cheaper price.

While on the subject, yes I do buy used whenever I can, even though companies really only get money from new games (or so I’ve heard). On the other hand, I will buy new if it’s a company I think needs support and praise, like Bethesda, Team Ico, Mojang, Valve, and Rockstar. I certainly don’t want my money going to Lucasarts and Sqaureenix if it doesn’t have to. We need less Star Wars and Final Fantasy XIII and more Kingdom Hearts III.

I bring up the used versus new debate because as more people buy used and later, the less they buy at full price upon release. It’s bad enough for developers that they don’t see money out of used games, but they’re also stealing sales from the initial release dates. To combat this, they’re starting to spread bad ideas around and gamers are starting to have to deal with a lot of crap. 

It started innocently enough. Wiiware, Virtual Console, Xbox Live Arcade, Playstation Network, and so forth. Old games were given new life, indie developers were given wider markets, and regular games were given the option to conveniently be downloaded from the comfort of living rooms. Everybody happy.

Then the companies saw the potential to make a significant dent in the piracy that plagued them. If a game can only be downloaded onto a console and they control the process and file format, then it’s far more difficult, near impossible, to pirate it. The PSP Go was only the beginning and it didn’t work for a reason. That reason was mainly the price tag, but the second biggest reason was downloadable games only, no physical copies. Since it was such a huge success the first time, Sony decided to stay the course and do the same thing with the PS Vita. What did they get? Way too early to tell in North America, but there are reports sales have quickly fallen in Japan. Then there are unconfirmed rumors the next Xbox system will be similar, with no disk drive. That means no new discs, no DVD playback, and worst of all, no backwards compatibility for collections of Xbox 360 discs. Let us hope it is only a rumor and Microsoft is not as foolish as Sony was with the PS3’s backwards compatibility. 

But that’s thinking far ahead. More current annoyances have already emerged. Such as day one DLC, because giving you the entire polished and complete game when you buy it is the stupidest idea ever. Online passes included only in new games let people who buy them play multiplayer, whereas anyone buying those games used have to pay for multiplayer as DLC. I only found out about this recently, because as a critic I really don’t think multiplayer is an important factor in a good game. 

But it’s getting much worse because now it’s leaking over into singleplayer. I was looking up stuff for Mass Effect 2, and I saw a name I wasn’t familiar with: Zaeed Massani. Wait, he’s a squad member? I never saw him and I completed…..oh new copy DLC? Well no wonder. I’ve seen his cutscenes on YouTube and he is not interesting. Not worth it at all, really. Also, the ability to play as Catwoman in Arkham City is new copy DLC as well and people buying used have to pay extra for it. WHAT?! In all their trailers and promos playing her is the primary advertised feature of this game that makes it stand out from Arkham Asylum! I mean, yeah she appears in the game either way but you can't play her without paying up. They really prided themselves for including her but she’s actually DLC? I thought you were taking the Batman franchise seriously, Rocksteady.

Speaking of shamelessly milking a game’s release for everything it’s got without any class or dignity whatsoever, we now return to Mass Effect 3. So much so it sickens me to see it happen to a franchise I love. Advertising is everywhere and encompasses everything. A dozen hype-building trailers. Website ads everywhere you look. Media hype from news broadcasts to newspapers to newswires. Ongoing comic books. Articles dedicated entirely to the box art containing FemShep on the flip side. Check out the demo (which is actually very lengthy). Collector’s Edition. Digital Deluxe Edition. Digital Deluxe Collector’s Platinum Edition which includes a T-shirt, a book of concept art, a miniature Normandy model, behind the scenes making of DVD, multiplayer online pass, new copy DLC, and redeemable codes for Xbox Live Avatar costumes[1]. Pre-order now. Pre-order and get exclusive gun. Actually, there are so many retail bonus DLC items you need a f***ing table to keep track of them. Oh, and launching early copies INTO OUTER SPACE. Bioware just said "Suck it, Halo!"

They’re even marketing products outside the game itself, most significantly how much they are trying to shove the Kinect on us. Buying a Kinect just to play Mass Effect 3 is either a mega-luxury or a complete waste of money. My point is Mass Effect 3 became a gigantic, loathsome sellout.

                All that said, based on the pattern from Mass Effect 1 and 2, Mass Effect 3 will be genuinely undeniably awesome. But it will not be the Second Coming of Christ as they’re making it out to be. For me, it’ll be a game I pick up at GameStop a year from now at 20 or 30 bucks. I’ll play it for a month or two, beat it, make a highly complimentary review of it, probably replay all 3 again a few times over the years, move on, and continue playing the same Skyrim character I have right now. That will be what Mass Effect 3 will be to me, and it will probably be among my top 5 favorites of this console generation. But at the end of all of that, I will say the same tired annoying phrase: It’s just a game. 

What I'm saying paying the full 60 dollar price on most games is nothing more than a pure luxury for the truly devoted or rich. For games you absolutely can’t wait for. At 60 bucks it can be a gamble, like Duke Nukem Forever. It’s 15 bucks now. To everyone who bought it upon release, do you really think you couldn’t have waited till now? Well in my opinion, that process isn’t worth it, whether it be the Duke or the Commander. Send the companies a message by saving your money. They'll listen.

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