Occupy your console

It’s still the gaming industry, but with a big-bank attitude

By Chris O'Neal 11/23/2011

 Game

I know I could have bought a bag of potatoes for the same price, but isn't this horse armor freaking awesome?

 

Protesting is all well and good until grandma gets maced; then it’s time to pack it in. The past week or so has seen the Occupy Wall Street movement shrink from tent city to Sim City, as in it only exists in an alternate reality where the 9-9-9 plan really works. So there must be a lot of angry protesters looking for something new to occupy, right? Great! The video game industry has taken quite a few liberties over the past decade, from issuing invasive contracts with their customers to selling incomplete games requiring separate purchases. It’s time to take up your joystick and occupy your console.


A decade ago when a game was released, one would expect all of the content to be on the disc (or cartridge, grandpa). This is no longer the case, and Call of Duty, published by Activision, isn’t the first or the last to offer up content for a premium, with extra map packs and an “elite” subscription service for $49.99 a year — a requirement to access ranked tournaments and exclusive map packs.


One of the most infamous items to be sold as downloadable content (DLC) was for The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. Much like its new, sleek brother Skyrim, Oblivion allowed a user to keep a horse for fast travel, but said horse is rather squishy. To fix that problem, developer Bethesda added armor. For your horse, for $2.50. This was one of the first instances of a global guffaw.


Dead Space publisher EA noticed that in the original Super Mario Bros., power-ups were free. This didn’t sit well with the executives. For a premium of $2.25, players could upgrade their weapons, giving them twice the speed and power. That’s like paying individually for every sprinkle on a sundae. If every mushroom in the original Mario Bros. had a price tag, there would be quite a few more Dickensian children out begging for quarters.


Good luck buying used. Batman: Arkham City boasts the option for users to play as Catwoman, but only if they buy the game new. Buying used means Catwoman is DLC, even though her quests and trophies are already in game.


Now you say, “But you don’t have to buy the DLC, you can enjoy the game for what it is!” Why should banks charge customers $5 for using a debit card? Because they can, not because they have to.


Let’s look at the bright side: At least they aren’t stepping over your freedom and circumventing the law by forcing a strangely vague and powerful end-user licensing agreement (EULA) down your throat.


Queue ironic segue.


With the release of Battlefield 3 came EA’s Origin. Origin promised quick downloads as well as a streamlined way to collect all of your PC games under one umbrella, and by agreeing to the EULA, which is all of the text you don’t read before installing anything, you’ve given EA and its third-party partners permission to scan your entire computer and report back on what they find, whether or not it has anything to do with Origin.


Due to outrage on the Internet — which seems to happen quite often — EA updated its EULA to make it sound slightly less invasive, but not by much.


Is this right? Is it fair to say that, as a gamer, you can be treated as a commodity rather than a player? The Occupy Wall Street movement asked people to reevaluate their business choices. Now’s a good time to ask who really deserves your hard-earned gaming tokens.


By purchasing a game, you’re inadvertently giving a developer approval for all of its shenanigans. Would you like armor for your horse or an independently developed romp through some fantastical land for the same price — as with Bastion or Orcs Must Die!,  two fantastic indie games.


Choose wisely, the future of the gaming industry truly depends on it.


Chris O’Neal is fighting evil by moonlight, winning love by daylight. Follow him on Twitter @AgentONeal.

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