There was once a small village set in the stunningly beautiful Lake District that was idyllic if you wanted that small town vibe where everyone knows each other. There were a few family run B&B’s, a couple of local pubs and two modest but friendly restaurants. Over the last twenty years, it has grown from a sleepy little village where you could escape for a few days, to a commercial hotspot. Coaches of tourists now flood into the village daily, which is peppered with chain coffee shops and boutique hotels. Investors saw that this village was popular and sought to capitalise on its popularity, but in doing so they killed the very thing that made the village so special. My point is that in the scramble to make money, large corporations and investors often neither see nor care about the bigger picture, only the immediate gains.
There’s something quite satisfying when an organisation that sees itself as untouchable gets a swift kick to the proverbial bollocks. These last weeks EA has been taken to task by the gaming community over the controversial inclusion of lootboxes and microtransactions in their latest game. More specifically, a pay to win system that so far had only ever been found in free mobile games. Considering Battlefront two was already asking for a premium price, the additional monetisation was seen as EA stepping well over the line. This was always going to happen but nobody could have predicted it would unfold in such a spectacular fashion. Many websites and popular YouTubers have stepped up in their condemnation of EA’s wanton greed. Seeing their marquee IP being dragged through the news has even led to Disney contacting EA and having a word. Indeed, when you have a company that only does things for a profit, you better believe having three billion wiped off their stock value has gotten their attention.
You can analysis and conjugate until the cows come home but all this really comes down to is simple greed. Electronic Arts make tens of billions from publishing games and they use this river of money to further cement their power by buying up more developers and intellectual properties. I will fully concede that making revenue is what a company should be doing and investors wouldn’t expect anything less. However, like the village in the Lakes this kind of aggressive monetisation is going change the face of gaming forever and might I add this will be a change for the worst. All the major players in publishing and marketing games have realised that microtransactions are a big deal: last year 42% of Take Two’s profits were from microtransactions alone. Jim Sterling has exhaustively covered this topic and is fighting the good fight, so instead of me trawling through it all in my blog, I would far rather defer to his fine work. The bottom line is that if we let them, these publishers and developers will turn gaming into a very expensive proposition where you no longer purchase a game outright but pay for it continuously, ‘games as a service’. Well EA, I don’t want a fucking service thank you very much, I just want to pay a fair price for a game and play it.
Onto something more positive, I addended a rather fantastic gaming event last month: the PLAY Expo in sunny Manchester. Held at the EventCity Exhibition Centre I was able to attend as press for the Saturday but unfortunately had to miss the Sunday due to family commitments. While not on the same scale as Gamescom this show had a brilliant retro vibe. The arcade section, in particular, was great, with so many games I’d played in my younger days. The best part is that they are all free to play, you just have to prod the start button! Operation Wolf, The Simpsons and the original Battle Zone (yes with the twin sticks!) were standouts for me. I also had a chance to check out some interesting new indie games currently in the pot, one in particular that stood out was Hyper Sentinal. This old-school shooter is being developed by a chap whose father worked on many of the Sinclair Spectrum games of old. If you get a chance you can check out his game here with a cool backer bonus of getting the game on an actual cassette.
It’s been a few months since I published a blog post and this is mainly because the review work has gone through the roof. I will always try and post a blog every two weeks but of course, I cobble them together from interesting things I see and do. In the last two months, I have reviewed quite a few excellent games but the two I would most recommend are Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus and Assassin’s Creed Origins. In actual fact, I am still playing Origins well after I have finished the main campaign, which is a testament to how much more of an interesting this game world it is compared to many other open world games of late. You can check out these two reviews here and here respectively.
This week I shall be taking a look back at the games I have played this year and deciding on which will receive the much coveted (maybe) Rigged for Epic Game of the Year award. I can honestly never remember a year with so much controversy and drama, from the wonky faces in Mass Effect Andromeda to the removal of mod support from GTA Online. However, in between all these ripples of outrage, we have had some utterly astounding games. So many in fact that I know I have actually had to miss a few with the full intention of reviewing them at a later date. There are no notable PC releases that I will be covering now before Christmas so once my GOTY is topped and tailed it's on with my next big project. This holiday I will be setting out my goals for next year and there are some big changed coming to Rigged for Epic, so watch this space!
This is my last blog post before the Christmas holidays so please let me thank all you folks who take the time to read my reviews. In a world where video is increasingly becoming the defacto way to consume gaming media, it is heartening that I get so much positive feedback from gamers who love to read a good review. I hope your Christmas is everything you want it to be and I shall see you all in the new year.