One benefit of not being on the cutting edge of current game releases is that I can play my backlog at my pleasure, and pick out the games I want to play them, regardless of how “fresh” the game is. The more I play games, and get involved in the community, the harder it is to avoid the itch to play the current hotness, but luckily, 2014 was a pretty downer year in games, so I don’t feel too bad about missing out. Next year might be a different story, but hey, we’re here for 2014!

I played a sprinkling of games that came out in 2014, but the majority of my playtime was spent either in MMO’s or games that I’ve longed to play for some time. Once I get through my lengthy backlog, maybe I’ll have enough time to devote to what’s current (not likely), but for now, here’s my top 10 games that I played in 2014.

  1. Destiny

Destiny is an odd story. Perhaps what became hurt by the amount of marketing and hype behind the game, it became a polarizing experience. While I can’t argue the shooting mechanicsDestiny and art style, the game was a disappointment for me in regards to the story and mission design.
I felt the game wanted to cater to both the shooter audience, and pull in the MMO crowd, but failed to satisfy either. However, I did enjoy the 20 some hours I played of the shell of the game, and felt it deserves a spot on this list.

  1. FEZ

I literally had no idea what to expect from this game coming in, which is surprising considering its been a popular game for years. Also, I didn’t expect my girlfriend to become so attached to the little marshmallow man, and the simple mechanics and plot line. While a relatively short game, FEZ does a great job of creating a warm, welcoming atmosphere and simple yet complex world to explore. Without the help of online guides, I never would have figured out a lot of the puzzles, but I really enjoyed gathering all the cubes and filling out my map.

  1. Infamous: Second Son

This game marked the kickoff of next gen for me. I purchased a couple of games at launch, but Infamous felt like the first game to bring a next gen experience. The visuals were spectacular. Sucker Punch did an incredible job of making a fun game to play, with multiple special abilities that really added depth and a sense of accomplishment to the game. I got a little burned out towards the end, but it definitely scratched my “superpower” itch that I never realized I had.

7:  Halo 4

I don’t ever want to know how many hours I’ve sunk in Halo 3, specifically the multiplayer, which is why Halo 4 is perhaps a bit disappointing for me. Halo players are famously against change, which I am definitely in crowd with, but I felt the changes the new developers made were not Halo 4that great. People who like Halo like it for being Halo, and for not being Call of Duty, but for some reason 343 wants to merge the two. I wouldn’t be against speeding up the combat, but Halo was special, and it has to keep that feeling to keep me hooked. Unfortunately, Halo 4 didn’t keep me hooked, but I really enjoyed the campaign and will continue to hope Halo 5 will bring back the glory.

6:  Final Fantasy XIV: ARR

Final Fantasy will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s the game that made me fall in love with video games, and I’ve played most of them since VII. I purchased ARR at launch (luckily I avoided the hot mess that was XIV), but never got my character past the starting zone. It just didn’t hook me like other MMO’s have. Plus, I think I was getting busy with work, so I let my sub lapse. This winter, I decided to hop back in, and am really enjoying my Gladiator. I’m impressed with the world design and how it feels to just play the game. Hopefully I’ll be able to get my character to max soon. Definitely a great game.

  1.  Red Dead Redemption

Again, late the table with this one, but man I enjoyed it. I think I would have enjoyed the experience a bit more if I hadn’t sunk dozens of hours into GTA 4, but I really felt like a bad-ass cowboy in the west. Rockstar nailed the atmosphere, along with quirky characters and compelling story. Also, that ending, man. I don’t think I’ll go back and do “everything” like I usually do with Rockstar games, but hoping there will be a next gen Red Dead 2. Yes Please.

  1. SWTOR

Star Wars. MMO. Lightsabers.

  1. Metal Gear Solid

I remember playing through the first maybe quarter of the game back Metal Gearwhen it released on Playstation. I loved the characters, story, and setting, but for some reason I never finished it. Luckily, I found a collection online, but was shocked when it included pretty much every game but MGS 1. After downloading it, I hopped in and made my way through the story, one codec call, cardboard box, and creepy boss at a time. Loved it. I can’t wait to see where the story leads.

  1. Dragon Age: Inquisition

I was so excited for my first RPG on the new consoles. I’ve been a huge Bioware fan over the years, and absolutely adored the first Dragon Age. I think I played through it about 4 times, which was less than what I had originally planned. The Inquisition had spectacular visuals, compelling storyline and character backstories, fun side quests, incredible writing, and overall fun gameplay. Combat got a little frustrating, and a “recommended level” guide would have been nice for quests or zones, but overall, best “new” game I played this year.

  1. KOTOR

I’m not sure how I missed out on this gem, but I did. Wow, what an experience. What’s weird is I think it was strengthened by the timing of when I played it. Being a big fan of SWTOR, this game
was essentially what lead to the MMO, so it was fascinating to go back and play through the SWTOR-Revanstoryline, and see what lead to the game I am so dedicated to today. Unfortunately I knew
ahead of time the big twist at the end, but it didn’t make it any less epic. Not to mention SWTORs recent expansion, which dealt with the protagonist of this incredible game that no doubt paved the path for many great games. Definitely my most memorable gaming experience in 2014, and therefore my top game of the year.

The beginning of the Fantasy

My favorite game of all time, Final Fantasy VII, also happens to be the game that ignited my love of video games. I was just a young kid when it released, but immediately found myself wanting to get my hands on it anytime I could. My older brother was gifted a Playstation for Christmas, and he purchased FFVII shortly after. Being a “Rated T for Teen” game, I wasn’t allowed to play it, but of course I would try to sneak in game time when my parents were away. I remember how blown away I was at the scope and expansive world it created. The idea of a linear story, with so many side quests and optional content such as Chocobo breeding and Master Materia was something that instilled in me a love of RPG’s. The theme was probably a bit mature for me at the time, which eventually led me to buy a Nintendo 64, but FFVII was the game that started it all for me.

Since then, I’ve played every Final Fantasy game released from VII to today, minus the MMO of Final Fantasy XI. However, I realized that, as big of a fan of the Final Fantasy IP that I am, I’ve sadly never played the games that lead to what the series is today. Therefore, I set out to complete my adventure through all the Final Fantasy’s, and began with where the legend started: Final Fantasy.

Final Fantasy logo

I purchased Final Fantasy: Origins on PS3, since it’s the most convenient platform for me right now, in addition to being on sale. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect; I knew the early FF games had come out on the NES and SNES, but they are rarely discussed or showcased these days. My initial reaction of the game brought me back to the early Pokémon titles on the Game Boy, which was revisited by the recent sensation of “Twitch Plays Pokémon”. The classic sprites of Nintendo were a little jarring, as I am so used to a full sized, human form running through amazingly detailed cities and worlds in the more recent FF’s. However, I enjoy revisiting the old school designs on occasion, so I was able to adjust pretty quickly.

After picking my names (I’m glad the series stopped with this requirement), I set out on my adventure to save the world from evil by collecting the four crystals (now I get where that comes from lol). Unfortunately, I decided to play the game on “Normal” difficulty (which I regretted immediately), thinking, “Hey, I’m a RPG and video game veteran; it shouldn’t be a problem to play the game on the originally intended difficulty.” Hooo did I get my clock cleaned by the very first boss. And no way to save directly from the menu?! Oh boy, this may be an interesting experience. Onto the wondrous world of online strategy guides we go! After grinding out a few levels (wait, seriously?!?), I managed to take down the first boss and keep the story moving along. Maybe I should have taken these events as a sign of things to come, but I wanted to give the game the benefit of doubt.

I was surprised at how a lot of themes that are now mainstays in the series started in the very first game, and haven’t changed much over the years. The battle system was pretty darn close to what you experience in VII, which they’ve unfortunately changed quite a few times since. However, it felt like the Final Fantasy games I’m used to, and I was happy about that. I really enjoyed the different bosses for each dungeon, and it felt epic taking one down, which is always a great feeling.

What didn’t I like about the game? The grind. Hooo, the god damned grind. Again, I realize that if I had decided to play on the Easy setting, and I’ve heard subsequent remakes have alleviated some of this issue, I probably wouldn’t have endured this problem, but I was committed by the time I realized that I probably should have gone with Easy. To me, if you have to grind in a game just to move the story along, it’s probably not a good game. And sadly, grinding through levels just so you could “attempt” a dungeon was the quickest and most time efficient route through the game. Because of the magic system in which you are limited to a certain number a skill uses until you visit an inn, you end up having to save your precious magic in a dungeon for the end boss, or to just survive to get to the boss. Which means running away for every encounter in a dungeon, hoping you get hit as little as possible to preserve potions or heaven forbid, using a Cure skill to HEAL YOURSELF??!? Thankfully, towards the end of the game I had enough Gil to comfortably afford 99 potions at any time, but man was that tedious. Plus, the dungeons towards the end of the game are so difficult, that enemies (which sometimes spawn 9 of them) can either knock you out with a few hits (and no revive skill until the end, come on!), or they give you status affects that are super annoying. Also, I really wish I would have discovered the blessing that it the temporary save, but it turned the game into a sad “move 10 steps, save, hope you don’t get into combat, reset if you do and take too much damage” game, which is not my definition of fun.

I feel that without a strategy guide, I never would have completed the game on Normal difficulty because it just wasn’t worth exploring on your own when you could waste an hour or two, and find nothing to advance your story. Many times, a certain NPC or gate requires you to find an item, which is sometimes placed randomly in a chest in a far corner of the dungeon, and unless you either talk to every NPC in every town you would have no idea what you are even looking for. To me, this is poor game design, but it could be the fact that I am so used to quest trackers, interactive maps, and journals to lead me through a game today. I actually love the exploration aspect of games, and often find it my favorite part, but if it is near impossible for me to find the item I’m looking for, and becomes so potentially time wasting (taking into account the little time I do get for games, and the backlog of games I’m currently on), that I’d rather not partake in the exploration, I’ll defer to someone else trail blaze me a path and I’ll gladly follow in their footsteps.

While I’m glad I took the time and endured the frustration of getting through this game, I don’t think I enjoyed it as much as I had hoped I would. When you find yourself just wanting to get through a game to say you’ve beaten it, it’s probably not or was not a good experience for you. From what I’ve read about the next game, it sounds like an even more broken leveling system, but I’m going to put that one on hold until I’ve gotten through some of the more current games I’ve yet to complete, namely Final Fantasy XII on PS2 and Final Fantasy XIV, an MMO on the PC. Because of my disappointing experience with the first game, I’m putting my epic Final Fantasy playthrough adventure on hold for now, but I’m looking forward to what’s to come!

Quite frankly, I’m not sure why I missed so many great games over the past few years. Perhaps it was my dedication to school work in college, lack of disposable income, or the fact that nothing pulled in me in as a “must play”, except my favorite series’. Or it could have been the fact that Lotro soaked up any free time I had to spend on gaming. Regardless, one of those titles I regrettably missed was Red Dead Redemption. This game kept recurring in discussions via podcast or other forms of media by industry folks I highly respect, so I added it to my list of backlogged games to play. The fact that I love GTA didn’t hurt. What’s nice about playing games a year (or even multiple years) old is that you often find them for quite inexpensive amounts, and sometimes in collections or bundles. That is, if you can find them at all. Luckily for me, this one was so well regarded that it was made into a Greatest Hits version for $20. Let’s ride!

Red Dead Redemption

 

 

 

 

 

Red Dead Redemption features a “former” outlaw, John Marston, and his somewhat admirable quest to free his kidnapped family from corrupt government officials. Set during the old “Western” period of America, John must hunt down his former colleagues (i.e. gang members) to heed the demands of his family’s captors. First off, I must say I loved the atmosphere that Rockstar was able to create. It’s a setting I’ve never been able to experience in a game, which is what really intrigued me to play it. Rockstar nailed the attention to detail, such as the old bartender playing the piano in the saloon, while renegades partake in a little poker, booze, and other “reprehensible” actions. I was a little disappointed there wasn’t a quest that let me initiate or be involved in a saloon fight, but oh well.

Some quick ramblings regarding my playtime experience:

  • Does Rockstar need a decent example of someone with good teeth to use on character models? Good lord were they bad, and not just one character, but everyone had horrible looking teeth!
  • Really impressed with the outfits, although some of them required a bit much to unlock unless you sought after it, which at this point I didn’t have a desire to.
  • Beautiful visuals, even for a game on the PS3 system. Really impressed with how it looked.
  • I liked the different missions throughout, but towards the end it became pretty predictable, with them being essentially escort missions and midway through conversation, whoop here come a few waves of robber/bandits on horseback coming to fight us!
  • I loved the ending, but man, the few quests prior were paced so incredibly slow, compared to the entire games’ pace prior. Seemed to fizzle out and lose momentum.
  • Wish they would have created a bit of different user interface system, rather than just slap on the Western skin on the GTA systems. Oh well, at least it was familiar.

Overall, I enjoyed my time with Red Dead Redemption. Gorgeous visuals, entertaining and memorable characters, and great ending/transition. I would definitely recommend for anyone who enjoys the open world/adventure style game. And if you want to play as a cowboy. An outlaw cowboy. Or something.

SWTOR: The Tharalion Legacy

Hi folks,

With another tax deadline behind me, hopefully my free time (and thus gaming time) will be a bit more generous to me. Gaming is my primary method of de-stressing, so I was able to fit in some adventures during these crazy times to help keep me sane, but not nearly as much as I would have liked to. Hopefully I’ll be able to sink my teeth into my go-to MMO’s, and maybe even knock a few games off my backlog list (which, full disclosure: I have a spreadsheet tracking these, which is probably my organization habits I need for my day job work coming out, but it really does help me organize my playlist).

Right now, pretty much all of my time spent in MMO’s has been in the incredible universe of Star Wars. I’ve had a weird relationship with SWTOR over the lifespan of the game, from the development cycle to launch, and now the “post launch/settling into its groove” period. I never played Star Wars Galaxies. To be honest, I had no idea what an MMO was at the time (I mainly played console games). That, along with the fact that I didn’t have a decent PC for gaming and I felt the requirement to pay a monthly fee to play a video game was preposterous to me. However, my roommate in college introduced me to MMO’s via Lotro, and although I loved the questing and gameplay, I kept telling myself, “you know, I enjoy this, but I would absolutely love it if it was in the Star Wars universe.”

SWTOR

My brief history with SWTOR

I was made aware of Star Wars: The Old Republic about six months or so prior to launch. I was mainly playing Lotro at the time, so I really didn’t have a desire, or the time to be interested in TOR. My initial thoughts of game were those of disappointment: the art style really didn’t click with me. It seemed a bit too cartoony and the gameplay felt really repetitive. It was odd because I absolutely loved the concept art and the screenshots, along with those breathtaking CG trailers that still give me chills, but I honestly didn’t plan on playing the game until one day out of the blue (probably boredom), I decided to give it a shot and purchased the game a few weeks before launch. Yep, the hype train got me. It’s funny, now that I think of it, this story seems awfully similar to my experiences with Guild Wars 2, and Wildstar. But this was Star Wars, and man was I pumped.

When the game launched under the “Early Access” stages, I remember constantly checking my email for my early access code, and being so jealous of the people able to play the game on the first day. Gah, why didn’t I preorder earlier! Once I (finally) got the email, I ran home after work and logged on, only to be met with a lovely queue. I vividly remember the anticipation and massive hype surrounding the game those first few weeks, with incredible amounts of hours played. I really enjoyed the game, but again, I was a bit disappointed by the art style and the gameplay. Perhaps the biggest thing I didn’t like about the game was the fact that you have to wade through multiple groups of three to four mobs just to get to the quest objective, fight the same groups to get out, and rinse and repeat. Coming from Lotro, where each mob group is usually just one, maybe two enemies, it was a tough transition. It seemed like such a waste of time, and I (still) don’t understand why, in every zone, enemy NPC’s are just standing around, waiting for something to happen. I get that MMO’s have to have a static enemy population to keep players engaged, but it would add so much immersion if certain areas had very few mobs, or the amount changed depending on a day/night cycle.

I stopped playing after a few weeks and went back to Lotro, partly because my laptop couldn’t handle the game without crashing, and that my subscription ran out. A few months later, I purchased components to build a decent gaming desktop, and since I never hit level cap I decided to resub. I finally hit level cap (50 at the time), and man did that feel good. My first toon was a Jedi Knight, and I loved the ending, but looking back on it now, I probably didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have had I played KOTOR I&II. I took another break, resubbed again, leveled an Imperial Agent, took another break, and here I am, back again.

Auranir - Jedi Sentinel

Currently in SWTOR

Last time around, I had joined a guild but found out upon logging in that my prolonged absence warranted a boot. So unfortunately, I was guildless. I’ve really wanted to gear out my Jedi Sentinel and see the story/zones I’d missed while away, but I realized that A) I completely forgot how to play my toon B) my gear was too poor to warrant going into group finder or pugging Flashpoints for fear of embarrassment C) I had no money. So I decided my best option was to attempt to find a guild to help me gear up a bit, not to mention I’ve been longer for a community to enjoy the game with. Luckily I was able to join a guild, but not a week later the new expansion was announced, Shadow of Revan. With the announcement, Bioware offered a preorder bonus to subscribers that provide a 12x experience boost to class story missions. Back to my alts we go!

I’m not sure if others do the same, but I wanted to plan out the path/order of leveling my toons for a couple reasons. The first: I didn’t want the combat to be repetitive. SWTOR has a unique class system in that each advanced class has a mirror advanced class on the opposite faction. Therefore, with 8 classes and 16 advanced classes, 8 of the advanced classes have the same playstyle feel/abilities; they are just on the opposite side. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t doubling things up, but I also hoped to get a feel for all styles, since I knew I would be favoring the lightsaber classes.

Also, I hoped to coordinate my crew skills with leveling as well, since I love being able to craft my own gear and if possible, be entirely self efficient. I know it’s an MMO, and it’s a part of interacting with others, but I don’t enjoy begging others in guild to make me something if I can coordinate to do so myself. Another thing to consider was the stories – I wanted to witness the so-called (incredibly subjective) “best” storylines first. Therefore, I decided to level my Imperial Agent after my Jedi Knight. This gave me a bit of a different playstyle, which was refreshing being able to stealth and shoot rather than melee the entire time, along with an incredible story.

Goldens - Jedi Sage

During my first two leveling experiences, I noticed that I was able to clear through standard or elite mobs with some ease, but if bosses or champions got the jump on me, or had multiple adds to take out first, my companion and I would get overwhelmed pretty easily. Therefore, for my next toon, I wanted a Heavy armor-wearer, and chose to level my Bounty Hunter (who I tried to resemble a combination of Fem Shep from Mass Effect and Shae Vizla, the Female Bounty Hunter in the CG videos). With the 12x experience boost, I was able pick up where I left off (23 or so) to level her in an amazing time. Now, my leveling focus has shifted to my Jedi Sage, since I’ve seen three of the four playstyles and wanted to round it out. So far I’m really enjoying the ranged combat style, and I’m surprisingly enjoying the story, after just finishing Chapter 1. Now it’s onto Chapter 2, to keep pushing to max out another toon at 55 before Shadow of Revan launches!

Ben

Extra Life marathon schedule

Hello heros!

In response to my previous post, I wanted to put up a general schedule for my Extra Life gaming marathon coming up on Saturday. My lovely girlfriend, who is by no means a hardcore gamer, graciously agreed to join me for a few hours during the marathon, to provide some additional dialogue, as well as give me a bit of mental break throughout. She will be joining me for a few hours, and hopefully flying solo on her jams, Fez and Zelda in addition. I’ll be kicking off the stream at 8AM CST, with a few hours of streaming of the MMO, Guild Wars 2. The crew over at MMO Reporter is planning to all make Chua’s (hamster like characters, if you’re not familiar with GW2), and I thought it would be a neat experience to roll around with them for a bit. After that, I’ll be playing (and streaming, if possible) some Diablo 3, SWTOR, Metal Gear Solid II, Zelda Twilight Princess, FEZ, with a few board games and card games intermixed. I’ll be rounding out the evening/morning (with plenty of caffeine at hand) with some good old fashion Lotro, Red Dead Redemption, KOTOR II, Civ 5, and finally the last hour will be dedicated to SWTOR. These are subject to change, but should give you a good idea of what to expect should you happen upon my stream.

You can find my Twitch channel on the left hand side of my blog, as well as my PSN and XBox Live info. Please add me as a friend if you wish! Also, if you can, please donate to my Extra Life page in support of a great cause.

Thanks for following, and I hope to see you in-game!

Ben

Extra Life Marathon 2014

Hi all,

The term “gamer” has seemed to have devolve into someone who society looks down on – a recluse, anti-social individual who does nothing but harm to others. When there are mass shootings, or individuals with mental disorders who wish to hurt others, the news media and other critics seem to zero in on the fact that the individual was a “gamer”, who liked playing endless hours of violent video games, rather than other factors or similarities that may have led to their actions. While the purpose of this post isn’t about the misguided focus of who or what is to blame for these issues, I bring it up because of what society and the outside media fails to shed light on, and thats all the wonderful things that the gaming community does for others. One of the shining examples of this is the Extra Life charity drive, held once a year on a Fall Saturday. This event not only creates a unique and vibrant community around gaming, with friends joining together for amazing memories, but brings in millions of dollars for Children’s Hospitals around the country to help sick kids.

If you’re unfamiliar with what Extra Life is, please view this link, and take 15 minutes out of your day to understand the history and meaning behind the event. In short, the Extra Life Marathon is a 24-hour marathon where participants play games to raise money for charity. Whether it be video games, board games, card games, whatever, the event is similar to a running marathon where participants hope for sponsors to donate $1 every mile (or in our case, every hour) and all donations go to charity. Each participant can choose which Children’s Hospital network will received the donations. While sitting on the sidelines for a few years, watching others partake in the event, I’ve decided to join this year and run my own “gaming” marathon on the official date, October 25th, 2014, from 8AM Saturday to 8AM Sunday.  I’ve chosen to support the Children’s Hospital at Sanford in Fargo, ND, which is close to where I grew up and went to college.

ExtraLife

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sure some of you are asking the question – isn’t this just an excuse to play video games for 24 hours? Well yeah,it is! We all love to play games, and why not have it go for a good cause, like raising money to help sick kids. From what I’ve heard from past participants, the first 8, 10 hours are a great time, playing the games we love with friends and having a blast, but the last half is tough, which is what these events are all about. If seeing someone go through a 24 hour game marathon will persuade a family member or friend to donate to the cause, then mission accomplished.

While some people do fall into the stereotypical image of a “gamer”, its important to understand that most people today are gamers – we’ve all played video games, board games, card games, at some point, and most enjoy them a great deal! Most people in the gaming community are the nicest, most sincere people I’ve met, and this event is just one example of the good that many people who play games do. Unfortunately, gamers will continue to be looked at as a negative thing in society, but hopefully over time, people outside of the gaming community will see us in a more positive light, which is definitely deserved.

I hope I’ve given you a bit more knowledge about Extra Life, and why I’m doing this marathon in a few weeks. If you can, please help donate to my fundraiser page, and/or come check out my stream on Oct 25th! I won’t be streaming the entire 24 hours, but I’ve put my gamertag’s and Twitch channel info in the “Connect” section of my blog.

Thanks for reading! Take care, and I hope to see you in my stream!

Ben

Just Business – Part 1: Preorders & Early Access

Hey all-

I wanted to delve into a very controversial and complex topic: the business side of video games. Because it’s such a large topic with an immense amount to discuss, I’ve decided to break this into multiple topics, which I will hope to get out within a reasonable time period following the first post. This first post will touch on preorders and early access. The second will focus on the growing trend of Kickstarter, and the final piece will touch on the gaming industry’s trends (Free to Play, DLC, etc.), along with where I perceive the future to be in gaming.

As a business professional in my day job, I have some experience in the business principles and strategies that affect the decisions made by not only game developers and publishers, but the owners of companies as well. Hopefully I can shed a little light on the industry, from both a consumer stand point, as well as a business perspective, and give my opinions on the topic as well. While gaming may be simply a hobby for most us (the end user), it is much more than just a hobby for an incredible large and group set that continually endure immense amounts of effort to keep us entertained. Remember, while you may not agree with my ideas or opinions, I hope we can have a meaningful and thoughtful dialogue regarding the industry of something we all love, games.

 

Preorders

Against much of the norm in the entertainment industry, the gaming industry has become a rare breed in terms of the option to pre-purchase games, often times well in advance, for a variety of benefits. For example, when a blockbuster such as Grand Theft Auto 5 is announced, millions of people rush to preorder the game in anticipation of the huge hit being released. This ensured when the game launched, you would have the option to complete your purchase and bring home the game day one, along with some bonus goodies thrown in for good measure. However, the goal of “preordering” games has changed over the years, both for the gamer, and the game developer.

When I was growing up (in the late 90’s, early 00’s), preorders were primarily used for one thing: to ensure that when the game launched, you were guaranteed a copy of the game. Preorders were usually reserved by developers for only the most popular games, because these games had a very likely chance of selling out on launch. Not much can be more disappointing than driving to your local game store to purchase the new, hot title only to be met with a sold out rack. Often times, demand is greater supply for the new AAA games like Mario, Zelda, Metal Gear, etc., which is what lead developers to seek a solution to the problem; the ending result became the option to preorder.

However, the preordering a game has changed over the years. Nowadays, preorders are used for many different, often business-focused decisions. Developers love to announce their game months before the actual release, along with the option to preorder, to drive up the hype for the game. This moment fires up the old “hype train”, which continues to build up steam until launch, and hopefully has the momentum to sustain itself post launch. What gamers fail to realize is preorders can actually tip the scales against the gamer, leading to poor practices by developers and publishers. Publishers have become so efficient at supply chains and the production of the mass quantities of games in anticipation of the release date, rarely do games have the chance of selling out at launch (actual consoles are a different story). Therefore, the industry needed to find a new way to get people to preorder. Developers and publishers decided to tie in-game, (and sometimes out of game) bonuses by preordering, often depending on which retailer you plunk down your money with. Gamers obviously responded very positively, as “Premium” or “Collectors” editions have become very popular with the large, well established franchise releases.

All aboard!

All aboard!

Bonuses/Early Access

The additions of the bonuses are undoubtedly great for the gamer. We all love extra fluff items to go along with our purchase. However, the constant pressure for developers and publishers to release games on a much stricter, and publicly known, timeline (especially if the preorder has been open for so long), often times has negative effects for the consumer. For one, the company is holding onto your money, with no benefit for you, until launch. Secondly, what has become an industry norm is to announce a game/preorder options, realize it needs much more work than initially thought, and the game ends up being delayed 6 months, a year, sometimes even multiple years. Understandable, studios suffer from delays, as revenue streams are often foregone to future financial years and reputation can suffer, but when it becomes an industry norm to delay games, gamers suffer greatly.

The same goes for early access. Games like Day-Z, Rust, etc have decided to forgo crucial testing alpha and beta phases instead for an Early Access launch, where people can buy the game and begin playing immediately. The only stipulation the developers ask is that the consumer understands the game isn’t finished, and most likely will change as the development process continues. This inevitable leads to people getting shoddy quality gaming experiences, and often times serious burnout before a game ever reaches its peak. Again, great for the company, with the improved revenue timing and potential hype, but bad for the gamer.

I understand the argument that if gamers want to fork out the money to preorder or for early access, then why not, it’s their choice! However, while it may seem like an isolated incident with little impact on the industry, the individual often doesn’t see the larger impact of his or her decision. When everyone is promoting these practices by voting with their wallet, the studios and publishers undoubtedly notice and take advantage of it. Let’s remember this – most companies are not in the video games business to provide a societal benefit by creating entertaining games – most are in it to make money. And when you show that you are willing to give your hard-earned money to game companies for delayed, lower quality experiences, you are only furthering the issue. If you perceive value for a preorder or early access game, whether you absolutely cannot wait for the newest iteration in your favorite series, or are receiving bonuses that you must have, then go for it! However, please keep in mind the impact that you have on the industry as a whole, and that you are using your wallet to vote, hopefully for positive experiences and practices.

The topic for next time will focus on a new type of preordering altogether, which is still in its infancy: Kickstarter.

Until next time, thanks for reading, and I hope to see you in-game!