Publishers happy to exploit + impulsive gamers = unhealthy codependency
I try to buy and do business conscientiously, but must confess I fall short a lot on my own principles. I'm doing my best to put the breaks on buying Made-in-China, for instance, not because I'm a nationalist, but because when I think about the human rights and environmental condition shortcuts made to give made-in-China immoral and unethical economical advantages, I realize I should exercise some responsibility. Its proving very difficult, though, as some things are very hard to find and others outright impossible that aren't imported from China or other third world nations whose human rights and/or environmental standards are not exactly models of responsible business.
Going with the flow -- doing what everyone else is -- is unfortunately regarded as wisdom instead of logical fallacy in business and, unfortunately, increasingly in daily life. I must admit I have been an impulsive gamer, buying games in the past without really thinking about it because an ad appealed to me, and I want something fresh to enjoy. I have steered away from the mainstream a bit after reading professional game reviewers' lambast the Assassin's Creed always-on DRM fiasco. It jived with Stardock's Gamer's Bill of Rights, particularly the part about legitimate customers of computer games shouldn't pay for obtrusive DRM that negatively impacts their own experience whilst not really stopping piracy -- some portion of the money we pay for games goes to hurt our own gameplay experience, and doesn't accomplish the stated goal at all of halting piracy. Or in other words, we're paying extra money to get a reduced gaming experience. And yet ... the only reason this continues to persist is because so many gamers keep plopping money down for always-on DRM despite is abysmal track record of always-on DRM titles being completely unplayable at launch.
Not only that, but some publishers have gone a step farther, actively embedding 'features' whose primary intention is to reduce or eliminate customers from reselling what they've bought after they've tired of it and want to buy something else. I think it was an EA exec who claimed it was because they got no money from these resells and therefore should seek to stop it. Ummm, what? First off, they already got the money for the game when it was new, why spend more money to stop their paying customers from doing something that didn't hurt them? And secondarily, its actually not true -- publishers get hard-to-measure but nonetheless-real boons from their customers being able to resell their products in much the same reason car manufacturers do -- their customers who buy up their new release games will have a little extra money by selling old games to buy more new games, making it more likely they'll buy more new games at full price (did that EA exec truly research this out and find out that money somehow disappears? I think not -- he just lied) and secondarily, increases a publisher's customer base. There are always new gamers to the market, some a bit more cautious or reserved -- they won't just plop $60 for a new title they aren't sure about, but might spend some money for an older title, and when they play enough, might be more inclined to buy a new title more directly.
There's a small but growing number of gamers I think that are dodging out of the aforementioned paragraphs, but even as I have incorporated those into my game purchasing decisions, I must admit there's more I fall into and its started to bother me. I must give full credit to noteworthy game reviewer TotalBiscuit to calling this out ... I don't agree with everything TB says or does, but I have to acknowledge on the topic of buying games pre-release, I've been guilty of that, especially with Stardock games. I'm not going to entirely kibash pre-purchasing, but I think from here on out, I will only do so with small indie developers ... and I think Stardock has gotten to the point, honestly, its no longer small/Indie. Its hard to say though, Stardock is one of the few publishers to make up a flub as it did with Elemental: War of Magic. Stardock may not be huge, but its not fledgeling anymore. Games like Rimworld or Factorio I will probably continue to buy pre-release, but even for series I really like, I think I'm going to wait until release from here on out -- and maybe at least a few days afterward so I can read the at-release reviews in case a game that promised the sun proves too buggy or otherwise falls short on those promises.
And that leads to the last bit ... bugs. Its one thing to encounter them in alpha or beta when testing a game -- duh, that's the purpose of beta. However, at release ... I think now we've (as gamers) become far too complacent with blatant bugs. Not only that, but ... when we take the time to fill out a bug report, we're doing a step worse than donating what should be paid work to the publisher, we're actually paying the customer with our dollars in buying the title to identify a bug they and their paid game testers should have caught. It isn't that their paid testers are necessarily bad, but we're the customers ... we shouldn't just get paid for our work for a for-profit company with a "thank you" -- I doubt we can buy many products paying in "thank yous" ... but consider not only were we inconvenienced by the bug to begin with, not only did it diminish our enjoyment of a new game experience, but we voluntarily inconvenienced ourselves even further by completing a bug report. I think publishers, as business, are just unable to resist the freebies that we gamers give them, and we paying customers I think are too lackadasial about letting businesses we are paying for something inconvenience us by falling short on delivery what they promised. Its a one thing for your buddy or a family member not do a stellar job when they promise to do a chore for you such as fix your car or mow your lawn, I think when a business does it, they should make it standard practice to give some recompense for your extra time and inconvenience spent fussing over and reporting a bug -- whether its outright cash or credit, or in the case of a game publisher maybe free DLC here or there, shouldn't something be offered so they aren't taking someone's time without some sort of compensation? I'd really like to see Stardock or other publishers start offering something -- maybe just store credit -- for every bug report. Maybe $5 or so. For the thousands of bugs that will likely inevitably get reported, that's quite a bit extra for Stardock to hand out, but remember every bug is a slight that diminished a player's experience and the time filling out a report is time the player should have to enjoy the game or do something else, and its time they will never really get back. Is that really worth nothing? It should have some amount ascribed to it ... plus I think it'll add extra conscious incentive and serve as reminder to a publisher to hopefully more smartly and/or robustly allocate resources to catching such bugs before its next title's 1.0 release.
I'll probably continue submitting bug reports for now, but ... I hope Stardock and other publishers (and other business owners) consider sharpening up a bit, stop relying on paying customers' time the business doesn't pay for and at least offer something in return for their time or convenience beyond a 'thank you.'