Video games have been a constant source of entertainment, fun, relief, learning and problem solving in my life. I started gaming at a very young age, my first console being the original PlayStation, though it wasn’t until I got the PlayStation 2 that I really became an avid gamer.
Since then, the gaming industry has gone through an amount of growth that is remarkable and, quite frankly, absurd when you look at where it started compared to where it is currently.
We’ve gone from playing games like Pac-Man on an arcade machine at the local corner store to playing virtual reality games like Beat Saber at home. The technical advances are incredible, that much is for certain. However, with gaming becoming such a major source of entertainment for people, companies have taken advantage of it in order to make money.
This isn’t a bad thing; if a profit can be made off something, companies will naturally make an attempt to do so, but I’m starting to get tired of the negative impacts of certain business practices by certain publishers.
I am a huge fan of the Battlefield franchise, which is a series of first-person shooter video games developed by DICE studio and first started back in 2002 with Battlefield 1942. What led to my enjoyment of the game was the amount of team play and strategy that the game required in order for people to have success. I love it so much that I helped found a platoon of players, which is a common thing to do for those who take the game seriously.
I first got serious about the franchise with the second most recent title, Battlefield 1, which was released in 2016. The game was well crafted with fast and fun gameplay, a solid amount of content at release and a clear release timeline of future expansion packs for the game. This was the last game in the series to include the premium pass business model, which was essentially a pass people could purchase in advance in order to have early access to all of the upcoming expansion packs, along with some other bonuses.
If I remember correctly, the cost of the passes for Battlefield 3, 4 and 1 were all $50, essentially the price of an entirely new game. The main problem with these passes, aside from how expensive they were, was the fact that they often split the player base because not everyone could afford to pay for the expansion packs.
DICE’s most recent Battlefield, Battlefield V, did away with the premium pass in favor of a live service model. For those that aren’t familiar with the term, a game as a service is a game that has a continuous stream of content that is mostly free, and this typically lasts for either a lengthy or indefinite amount of time. What’s good about this type of model is that it doesn’t separate the player base because new content like maps, game modes, weapons and other things are all free for everyone.
However, this type of model is also difficult because it requires constant attention. Battlefield 1 had four expansions release between the games release in October of 2016 and the final expansion, which was released in February of 2018. These were spaced several months from each other, so there were long droughts of no new content being added because the teams were busy working on the expansions. Battlefield V was released with less content than Battlefield 1, but unlike Battlefield 1, there was no premium pass in place, and as a result, there were also no concrete timelines for future content.
There were some road maps provided to show players what was in the pipeline, but as Battlefield V’s lifetime continued, the road maps were reworked and content that was promised in some of them has still yet to be delivered. So while the premium pass was pricey, it did guarantee the future content of a game. The first few months of Battlefield V were extremely dry as content was being delayed to the point where I got bored of the game and stopped playing, and that was never the case with previous Battlefield games.
Clearly, Battlefield V was pushed out of the door way too early, as the game had little content, a ton of bugs and glitches and a ton of missing or broken features that made it extremely frustrating for many players. Add the drip-fed content to those problems, and you have a game that is basically on life support from the first day.
Battlefield is just one example of a much greater problem, which is how games are being released without being fully complete. I used Battlefield as an example because I have a lot of personal experience with the game and have seen how both the premium system and the live service model have affected the franchise.
If you’ve been playing games for as long as I have, you probably remember the days when you could just go to GameStop, Walmart, Target or any other store that sold games, buy the game and then take it home, put it in your console and just play it.
There was a time when there were no required internet connections for online play, no signing digital agreements, no loot boxes, pay to win mechanics, seasons and premium passes, live service models or any of that other stuff that we have to worry about now. You didn’t shudder inside when you saw that a game was published by Electronic Arts, knowing that there was a strong — if not almost guaranteed — chance that it would have loot boxes, or some kind of mechanic to get you to spend more money on it.
In the past, companies had to release finished and complete games. Otherwise, the games would fail. Nowadays, they’re able to release half-baked games like Battlefield V that are a broken mess, and slowly fix the game through patches and add content overtime. It might sound nice, but it’s not. I don’t think it is at all fair to release a game and have people pay $60 for what is essentially going to be a beta test for the first few months.
If the game becomes amazing a year or two into the live service, then that is great, and I’’ll commend the people who put in the hard work and dedication to get the game to the place it needs to be, but at the same time, that doesn’t change the fact that I paid full price for the game and then had to wait a year or two for it to be the game it should’ve been when launched.
I’m not trying to say that all of these mechanics are objectively bad. What I am saying is that they’ve greatly complicated things, and gaming used to have a simplicity to it that I think we need to try to get back to. When you start seeing loot boxes and micro-transactions from mobile games appearing in your $60 single-player game, it raises some serious red flags.
I understand gaming is a business and that companies need to find new ways to make money, but there are other ways to go about doing that, and I think they should start looking for new ways to do so, especially when a large majority of gamers are very vocal about our hate and disdain of micro-transactions and some of the other new practices that have crept their way into the gaming industry.