E3 and voting with your wallet

E3 is over but the dust isn’t going to settle for a while. Huge surprising announcements, an overall thread of game developers and platform holders making more and more effort to listen to consumers and a few disappointments.

Microsoft had an overall vibe of “games, games, games!” like a slightly faded carnival barker who has noticed that nobody is an interested in them as they once were. It’s the right move to make and hopefully for them it won’t be too little too late. The Rare game collection shows an understanding of what fans want. Although the Yooka Laylee Kickstarter total suggests that that particular ship may have already sailed.

There’s no doubt that Sony have knocked it out of the park. They’re back on top and a long way from the company that were trailing behind the 360 at the start of the last generation. It feels like PS2, take two, and they know it. PlayStation Plus continues to bring great indie games to a broad audience, month after month and represents a superb and rich ecosystem of creative experiences. Finally bringing news of The Last Guardian, delivering the hugely sought after Final Fantasy VII Remake and being the ones to reveal the Shenmue 3 Kickstarter placed their presentation in the realms of “pinch me, I must be dreaming” moments. Don’t get me wrong. All three of those games will almost certainly not live up to the expectations but, for the moment they were revealed, it was the most glorious thing that has ever happened to the human race. Fact.

And that’s what E3 is all about. In the run up to the event, every year, Google must be bursting at the seams with the numbers of searches for “greatest/more memorable e3 moments”. It’s no mistake that the event is in Los Angles. Understand that this is the Hollywood movie of gaming events. It’s all about promise and excitement. Delivering on the promise can and usually does wait for another day, or not happen at all.

Nintendo don’t seem to quite get that. Their presentation was charismatic and solid but failed to deliver a single jaw dropping moment. Which is odd. Particularly when you consider the amazing things that have been revealed during their adhoc Nintendo Directs. The moment when they revealed Bayonetta 2, during a Direct in September, remains one of the most amazing and unpredictable pieces of video game marketing I have ever seen. It was sublime. And in September. A month that everyone hates. Fact.

So it’s clear that they can bring the big guns when they want to and they’re a savvy operation. Their E3 Direct just felt like they were holding back. It’s like they know how big the other companies are going to bring it, so rather than compete they just phone it in. It feels like a contractual obligation being grudgingly fulfilled when they’d be better of not bothering at all.

In the wake of Nintendo’s lack luster (yeah, I said it) E3 Direct there’s been some real hatred and anger floating around Twitter. Unusual, I know.

But this anger seemed centered around one particular game, Metroid Prime: Hasn’t Got Samus In It Edition or whatever it’s called. It seemed remarkable enough of a situation that I felt the urge to put finger to keyboard and dust of the blog. As ever there are two camps, ones shouting for the cancellation of the game and the other shouting at that group for being “entitled” and saying they should “vote with their wallets” by simply not buying the game.

Now then.

Let’s talk about this like grown ups, eh?

Voting with your wallet works both ways. The general vibe from the “Stop Being Entitled” camp is that consumers should simply ignore games that they don’t like. In the hope of what? That the game will fail? That the company will fail? That by a process of elimination the developer should figure out what games you like by a series of failures? I think that’s what happened to the Dreamcast and I’m not sure it’s been working out for SEGA ever since.

So what about voting with your wallet in a positive way. Buying games to support a game developer in a way that signifies your interest in a certain type of game in the hope that they will make more of that. Do we really think that negative reinforcement is better than positive? The relationship between a consumer/video game fan and their beloved developer is complex and deep. In essence, we don’t want to see them fail, we want them to succeed while making games that provide life changing joy.

For those who deeply care about video games this is not a hobby, it’s not a passion, it is their life. We need to appreciate the emotions that are attached to video games are just as deep as those that run within sports fans. Let us also not forget that it is that passion that moves the wheels of the video games industry. From the creation process and the long hours involved to the kind of motivation that drives someone to commit hard earned cash on Kickstarter for a game that, if history teaches us anything, my never see the light of day at all.

But for some reason “entitlement” is the new insult to sling at gaming fans while side by side, game companies try to build communities. Trust me, when Ubisoft is trying to build a “community” for their latest game, they want your feedback and your money. They’re not going to come round and redo your bathroom if you’ve had a leak. If gamers feel entitled to games that they want it’s just as reasonable as development houses feeling entitled to have an audience and a paycheck for the games they create. You can’t have one without the other.

So let’s talk about some examples of positive voting with your wallet.

I love Beyond Good and Evil. I want Beyond Good and Evil 2 to happen. Beyond Good and Evil was not a financial success so I know this is less likely to happen.

So what do I do?

I buy absolutely everything that Michel Ancel has anything to do with. I bought the original Beyond Good and Evil on multiple platforms. I bought the HD remake on day one at full price. I’ve bought Rayman Origins and Legends multiple times. I really really really want to make even a minute difference to the decision making for that sequel to get greenlit. Gimme more Jade doggamit!

And it’s silly. It’s almost certainly not going to make any impact with me doing it by myself. But I feel like I’m doing my bit. So, if after all that, Ubisoft announced a Beyond Good and Evil MOBA, I think I might be tempted to rage quit life itself.

Second example. I adored Sleeping Dogs. It came out of the blue for me and became one of my favourite games of all time. I bought a copy day one, bought my brother a copy to show him how amazing it was and a few years later he returned the favour by getting me the PS4 special, redone, prettified, HD version, whatever it was called. And that game sold well. So…more please?

No. Have a free to play, no story, online only, PC game.

Thanks for buying three copies on Sony platforms. We’ve heard you loud and clear. Here’s what we’re going to make!

Miserable.

Is it unreasonable for me to feel disappointed?

I’d vote with my wallet by not paying for it but it’s free to play anyway. Also, having Triad Wars fail doesn’t benefit me at all. I don’t want United Front Games to fail. I want them to succeed in making more story driven, open world games, like the one I feel in love with them for making.

It feels like there’s a disconnect. Between the message that was clearly sent by collective enthusiasm and buying patterns to the actions that a development team take. That’s why you start to see that phrase “Nobody asked for this” banded around at times like these. Now, sure enough, the creative process is much more complex than that. Hell, nobody asked for Sleeping Dogs in the first place, which is why it took so long to get finished and went through about three different lives before releasing.

Sometimes we just have to trust that the game makers are doing the right thing.

But when they don’t and there is a clear direction a large number of fans want a company to go in. And they don’t. It feels like that company is “out of touch.” And it’s frustrating.

So when I bought the Metroid Prime Trilogy, rereleased on Wii U, day one, I was hoping to send a clear message. The message didn’t quite seem to get through.

To a large amount of people on the outside, it is clear that there is a desire for a new Metroid Prime game. This is not, apparently clear to Nintendo. It seems that if it were clear to Nintendo they would either:

  1. Start creating said game
  2. Not create a game that feels like nothing to do with the previous games and slap the brand on it

Speaking personally I would be happier with neither happening, rather than what did. Which almost certainly makes me “entitled.” In my mind, I just happen to think that brands matter.

On the day Nintendo announce a version of Mario Kart with no multiplayer and you’ll be able to see where I’m coming from.

So what’s the answer?

Coming back to Sony, it’s probably best to ask Gio Corsi. The man who made The List. The man who brought Yakuza 5 to the west, based on the votes that he was given. The company that is bringing the long requested Final Fantasy VII Remake and is highlighting the already hugely successful Shenmue 3 Kickstarter.

Voting matters. Having a voice matters. “Voting with your wallet” by not buying a game is bullshit and doesn’t get anyone anywhere.

So with nothing to vote for in a positive way, folks will vote in anger.

Game developers need to give their fans a channel to share that voice positively or they will use it negatively.

That energy, that passion, that love, has to go somewhere.

Nintendo has already proven that they can use feedback from the fans well. The Smash Bros roster campaign lead to the hugely well received addition of Ryu and has built excitement for more.

Maybe it’s time to do that for their other franchises.

Maybe we should just trust them.

Maybe we don’t trust them enough anymore.

Maybe we should all stop wasting our energy on this, bang more of our time into indie game development and spend the next few years making the best 3D, metroidvania, Prime-a-like game in our own universe and then bang it up on Kickstarter.

There’s clearly a gap in the market…

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About almostgames

Searching for the perfect game since 1986 View all posts by almostgames

One response to “E3 and voting with your wallet

  • G-Dawg

    I was thinking about Sleeping Dogs – I’m playing Triad Wars at the moment. It’s not the same, but it’s almost like eating a supermarket-brand Mars Bar, hoping that they’re field-testing different ingredients that’ll eventually be Mars Bar 2.0. At the moment it’s still got the caramel, chocolate and such, but it’s not that same satisfaction. There’s too much work gone into it to be scrapped and become Sleeping Dogs 2, but like you said, you’re not wishing for them to lose – only to learn that’s not the path your fans want to go down to enjoy their IP.

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