Distributors and retailers refer to games as products. Publishers on the other hand, like to believe games are services, supported by a torrent of content to ensure that you’re hooked for as long as possible. They’re both wrong. To me, games are moments. They’re those events that make you wet your pants in fear, cry like a little girl or just simply smile. Be it the obtuse humour of Fable, the wide-eyed whimsy of Kirby’s adventures or the sheer adrenaline rush of Vanquish, there’s a lot that make games worth playing. And now, access to newer experiences and feelings that games can elicit are dependent on:
1. How fat your internet pipe is.
2. How often you’re willing to stretch your electric bill in the name of grabbing those levels that should have shipped with the game in the first place.
3. Your willingness to spend $10 for a scrap of paper over and above your used game purchase.
There’s been a lot of drama around publishers and their online policies to curb used games. Be it locking out campaign levels, multiplayer modes or just modern day horse armour, it’s become a bit of a nuisance we’ve grown to tolerate. Gone is the time when you could just boot up a game and play it, there’s an install, patches, and of course, some varying chunks of megabytes of content that you’d to download before you can even think of playing your game. Add the obligatory driver downloads, config file edits and swearing if you’re a PC gamer. You’re spending less time experiencing the thrills of Arkham City and wasting more time waiting for the damn content that should have been on the disc to be downloaded.
I’m worried about is how this would affect single-player only experiences. Now, not all of us (read: me) are big multiplayer gamers. I like my solo fun be it mining for minerals in Mass Effect 2 (I actually liked that, true story) or flirting with fellow classmates in Persona 3, single-player games, particularly RPGS, are, for the lack of a better term, my jam.
Which is why this entire debacle of locking out single-player content in the name of protecting first hand purchases is preposterous. Even more so when a triple-A title like Arkham City does it simply because it sets precedent. But if we’re to be historically accurate, I do believe precedent was set with Dragon Age: Origins’ Shale DLC which punished gamers who didn’t pre-order or buy day one by missing out on the coolest character and her side-quest in the game. To be honest, I don’t think the game would be quite the same without having a big hulking stone golem with a psychotic dislike for pigeons and a disdain for humanity by my side. But I digress…
My major issue with this wholesale adoption of online passes is that it corrupts the design process. It dilutes the impact that a title would have. Imagine how FFVII would have been if you were asked to pay to access the death of Aeris? Or if Modern Warfare’s All Ghillied Up mission was an optional download? Would these have the same effect as they did when you saw them for the first time? I highly doubt it. You’d end up with thinking a little lesser of the game than you should. And you can’t be blamed either.
After all, it’s not like the developers and business folk have the best idea of what should be listed as an online pass what shouldn’t. There are some moments in a game that everyone should be able to access regardless of their type of purchase be it day one or two years hence, new or used.
Hell, it was quite tragic that the Naked City case in LA Noire was a download-only affair in certain territories. Reason being it was, in my opinion one of the cases that the game should have shipped with. It did a good job of fleshing out the details of 1940s Los Angeles’, it deserved more than being bunged in with the rest of Rockstar’s dismal online pass offerings.
Another caveat of restricting content to a digital code is the actual gameplay duration you get out of a single-player game. Fundamentally it means that you’re never going to get all the hours the game promises you unless you connect to the Internet and download the data as soon as you purchase it.
I wonder if any of the executives at publishers have ever thought how stupid it is to keep content out from a paying customer just because of his or her Internet reliability (Warner Bros and Rocksteady, I’m looking at you). It’s not like everyone has access to a blistering fast broadband connection or is comfortable with downloading a ton of data. Mass Effect 2 comes to mind where the collective wisdom of EA and Bioware thought it was a good idea to let us download close to a gig worth of content (Normandy crash mission, Zaeed Massani’s quests) after purchasing the game instead of dumping it on the disc.
Though the US figures show a different picture, it’s not exactly true for the rest of the world. Especially when some countries have ISPs that think it’s cool to have a fair usage policy restricted to 25GB. Sometimes I feel that the publishers are in bed with Internet providers and electric companies in order to make us spend more than we should on electricity and Internet to get something we’ve already paid $60 for.
To sum it up, online passes would, in my opinion result developers create half-assed single-player campaigns that make a mockery of your hard-earned money. After all, it’s not like you make it a habit buy a used car without wheels, or a used book without half its pages. Some might argue that games are not products, they’re services. I believe that games are neither. Games are moments.
And for this reason alone that this entire online pass hoopla is a complete clusterfuck in the making.We’re not far from the time when what could be classic moments that make video games special get sliced and diced as pre-order or day one add-ons. So go ahead, do your bit and don’t support titles that are making a making a mockery of the very core of gaming because as gamers, we deserve better treatment.