The nature of the profit motive is killing the gaming industry and creating worse experiences for everyone. Some games are being pushed out too early, because it is profitable to do so. The workers are being underpaid and overworked, because it is profitable to do so. The gaming industry is one of artistic and creative excellence. It prides itself on the technical and artistic merit of the games it produces. However, at the heart of the problem are the cold and hard tendrils of late-stage capitalism ready to infect and destroy anything it can.
What this looks like is an industry where games are treated as products rather than experiences. The consequences of this turn video game development companies into any other kind of company. The difference is that they were dedicated to making good games before making a profit. Many of the developers are notorious for having this flipped, instead of prioritizing artistic excellence and the experience of the players they prioritize the shareholders and the profit motive. This is a big problem for an industry whose entire purpose is to make something from an artistic medium. Let’s take a look at a few of these issues one by one.
There is also another very big problem in the gaming industry right now. Splintering is the act of splintering off content from the game before it releases and selling it off as downloadable content after release. For those that don’t play video games often, in the modern age people can buy more content for a video game after the video game is already bought. This content is then downloaded into the game. This is called downloadable content, or DLCs.
Modern gaming companies abuse this system and put things that should have already been in the base game. An example of this is a first-person shooter game that releases with a laughably small roster but then puts all the characters that were free in the last game as DLC so that people buy them. This practice is despicable, it allows video game companies like EA or Activision Blizzard to release unfinished games easier. The reason why is that the content is still “there” people just have to pay for it. The live service model of modern gaming makes this worse as well. Games can never just be a complete game on launch; they have to be splintered up into DLC packs and updates to fix all the bugs and glitches that shouldn’t have been there. The gaming industry doesn’t have to be like this.
Microtransactions have been the main topic of discourse in the gamer community for almost a decade. They are monetary transactions that can be performed in-game. Microtransactions include DLCs, the purchase of in-game currency, skins, and much more. The reason why this has become a problem in the gaming industry is because of how it is being absolutely abused by some of the worst offenders in the industry. Microtransactions have been severely abused ever since their introduction. This offers video game companies a direct means of profit. This is usually the way people splinter content outside of normal DLCs and updates. Video game companies can be extremely predatory with microtransactions. They make games purposefully tedious and annoying without certain items and then lock those items behind a paywall.
Their excuse is that it can all be unlocked through free means. However, when fully calculating those numbers of how many hours it takes to fully and freely unlock everything, it ends up ballooning into the tens of thousands. This is a problem. Children play video games, older people play video games, and mentally impaired people play video games. When video game companies allow for things like aggressive microtransactions they are manipulating the mentally vulnerable to cave into the microtransaction schemes they place in games. If releasing a 60-dollar game and getting millions of sales is enough, there is always the economic exploitation of the mentally vulnerable to make even higher profits.
Over-promising and Under-delivering
Last but not least, there is the fact that so many companies promise grandiose experiences but underdeliver so hard it ruins all the credibility they ever had. The best example of this is “Cyberpunk 2077”. CD Projekt Red, the creator of Cyberpunk 2077 and “The Witcher 3”, promised that Cyberpunk 2077 would be just as deep as the Witcher 3. They promised that it was a truly free game where you could live your life and the story would wrap around what you are doing instead of a linear path. They ultimately fell very short on this promise.
Cyberpunk 2077 was released with massive amounts of bugs and glitches. It made good on very few things it promised. It lied to a community it was hyping up for almost 2 years. The gaming community suffered a massive blow with this one. The profit motive will make good developers do bad things like this. Over-promising means that more people will buy the game. Under-delivering but patching with updates and DLCs means profit over time and a lower production cost.
A Work in Progress
Ultimately, the gaming industry has a lot to work on. The profit motive and the machinations of capitalism are chewing through every fiber of artistic integrity in this industry. Not every game needs to be a battle royale live service with a battle pass that has microtransactions and DLCs. The gaming industry has been churning out mediocre games for a really long time now. This has been happening so much that when a video game developer puts out a great game like “Elden Ring” or “God of War: Ragnarok”, then the whole world is set on fire because the quality in video games is so scarce these days. The profit motive is killing the creative passion in the gaming industry.
Written by Kenneth Mazerat.
Gamerant: Cyberpunk 2077’s Bugs and Glitches Still Hold it Back by JON RICHTER
Entrepreneur: The Dangers of Overpromising and Under-Delivering By Jonathan Herrick
NPR: Microtransactions Are Great For Game Companies, Less So For Players
Featured and Top Image by Klapi, Courtesy of Wikimedia – Creative Commons License
First Inset Image Courtesy of Marco Verch’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License