My father once told me, if I have nothing to say, I should not bother saying anything at all. However, this is also the same person who told me to go play in traffic, so I’ve since decided that his wisdom is as practical as shoving a fork into an electrical outlet. However I suppose I will make a disclaimer in saying the following words are composed of not-nice things, to which some may call, “mean”.
You see dear reader, both you and I are online gamers. As such, we have the inherent good nature of being connected to each other via this online community. This is something that MMOs especially have as one of their major positives. By being part of an MMO, you become inexplicably connected to your community. You connect with the people on the forums, you connect with the people in your guild, the guilds have their coalitions, and you’ve developed a
connection tolerance to the people who never shut up in global or zone chat. It’s really quite charming, don’t you think?
It seems only natural that other game companies have been green with envy as they wished they had such a heavily layered community that tries to get so intimately involved with them. Tell me, when was the last time you heard of the players who all partied together as they hopped on with EA and asked about their next MADDEN game? If you can tell me, I’d actually rather you didn’t, and I would encourage you to realize you are the minority, and to note that I hate you. I also request you take your keyboard, place it on the floor, and step on it until the keys stop working.
Obviously game journalists try to talk to developers, it’s part of their job and its something they are very passionate about. But for the most part MMOs and a few exceptions rarely have such strong bonds. This is especially the case where the games are single player. Honestly, how much interaction do you expect to milk out of people playing Assassin’s Creed? And the developers are catching onto the answer: Not much.We are seeing this evidenced primarily by Bioware (And their infamous DLC fueled by Bioware Points , Bungie with their Halo Waypoint, and most recenty Ubisoft pushing forward U Play. With the exception of Bungie, I would say this, “You’re doing it wrong.”
Now am I not against progress (Or whatever you want to call it), fostering brand awareness/loyalty is not a crime, and I could not stop it anymore than I could stop the sun from setting or the wind from blowing, or from Cold Play making the same album over, and over (Yes. That’s my one music joke for the year).
But that doesn’t mean I can’t point out the flaws in their methodology. The first obvious problem, would be the flawed attempts at advertising, which essentially equates to the fact that there aren’t enough. Never while playing Assassins Creed 2 did I learn of “U Play”, instead I was only perplexed by the occasional “U” that popped up on my screen. I then shrugged, assuming it had something to do with one of my achievements, and moved along. Meanwhile, BioWare took a step in the right direction by essentially handing you a free piece of content, to whet (Yes, there is an “H’ in this case) but ultimately falls short in the actual page execution where they insist on letting you buy more than you can actually use. From a design perspective it makes sense to have there ahead of time as a placeholder; someone might even buy more than they need ahead of time! To this, I present an image to illustrate their understanding of PR:
To all, with the exception of the extremely thick, letting you buy more than you can do anything with makes you look bad. Even if you are money grubbing, you’re not supposed to tell me up front. Most importantly, it makes you look like you’re not sure what you’re doing. Both Bioware and Ubisoft try to push out these new ideas with only one game to back it up; it’s agonizingly obvious their testing it out instead of taking a confident move forwards. Perhaps I sympathize too much with typically Asian business ideologies, but implementing an idea with only one thing backing it is horribly uninspiring. Like the 3D Vision technology Nvidia is trying to ram down our throats. Sure, some people want to be on top, but who wants to buy into a technology no one is really using right now? I don’t care how you want to approach it, but I would recommend a stronger show of confidence in a project. One method would be to spearhead it with one new game while seeding in retro-active content for earlier games, though this may be a bit of work logistically speaking. On the other hand, designing games with this in mind sounds far more plausible; Assassins Creed 2 has it, and the latest Splinter Cell will no doubt have it as well, couldn’t you wait for both to come out first to make a better impression?
Come on guys, let’s shape up.