Why does the public accept “broken” videogame releases?
Let’s say you go buy a car, and it drives like normal when you put it in gear. But neither the heat nor the AC work. And the windows won’t roll down. What do you do? Return it. If they can’t give you one that will work, you get your money back. It’s been a basic tenet of the consumer culture for generations. However, the videogame industry, at least certain publishers, seems to think that these basic rules of consumerism don’t apply to them.
More and more lately, we are seeing videogames released in an almost unfinished state, with elements that don’t work properly. Typically, developers create what’s called a “patch” to fix any underlying issues with gameplay or connectivity. When Activision released Test Drive Unlimited 2 in the spring, it was touted as a game that would allow for easy connection between friends, through car clubs and social media. They claimed it was going to take social gaming to a new level. Yet for weeks, gamers couldn’t even get online, let alone create these car clubs and share accomplishments through social media. By the time some of these problems were addressed, many people had simply given up on the game.
More recently, “Brink” was released with all sorts of hype over what a great new class-based shooter it was going to be. And although the game did have a fresh approach to the genre, and was oozing with potential, the game’s connectivity was an absolute train-wreck. “Lag” made the game virtually unplayable in public sessions. What’s worse is, the game’s campaign mode was basically just a series of levels that were meant to be played online with other people. Even now, months after release, it just sits on the shelf most nights, becoming worthless as the days pass. Promises of a patch to fix these problems continue to ring hollow.
If this trend continues, I really hope someone throws down the gauntlet and files a class action suit against one of these developers. Perhaps being forced to refund anyone who purchased a game with problems like this would be a wake-up call for the entire industry. I don’t mind paying $60 for a game, but if I do, it had better work flawlessly. If not, I’ll start picking them up in bargain bins, long AFTER the problems have been fixed.