It has not been a great year of publicity for publishers like Bethesda Softworks and Ubisoft. Major games publishers today are emboldened to engage in some of the most egregious anti-consumerist practices seen in the industry to date. This year alone, AAA titles have seen botched launches, undelivered promises, and unexpected pay-walls, and more.
Sometimes a company will walk back or attempt an apology for an issue as big as these, and sometimes publishers stay the course, testing their consumers' loyalties to the fullest. Publishers face the wrath of angry fans after blundering with some heinous corporate decisions. AAA publishers often produce some of the most sought-after titles. Their games carry the biggest budgets, and thus the biggest expectations for quality. Retail prices (often still $60) assume a finished product at launch. Unfortunately, those same AAA publishers are undermining and exploiting consumer expectations to make as much money as possible from their most beloved IPs.
After a tumultuous launch in Q4 last year, Bethesda Softworks has doubled down on their attempts to cash in on the highly-anticipated changes coming to Fallout 76. Bethesda recently announced a delay in their Wastelanders DLC and then announced their new premium subscription package, Fallout 1st. At a staggering $12.99 monthly or $99.99 annually, players were in an uproar over the decision to paywall features like private servers and further inventory space for crafting materials. Worse still, however, was that the service (much like the game a year ago) launched to backlash over its unfinished state. Bethesda has responded to some support tickets and said they are working to fix bugs related to the Fallout 1st service. No apology or statement has been made regarding the overall frustration players have with the current state of the game.
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Breakpoint, published by Ubisoft, saw similar outcry from its players after its launch included micro-transactions players felt were almost necessary. Players who had pre-ordered Ghost Recon Breakpoint received a number of 'time-saver' items to help quickly advance without the typical grind found in the open-world RPG style. Some players found this mechanic unfair, believing it to be advantageous for those willing to pay. Ubisoft has since responded by removing the mechanic ("for now"), and announced a few coming patches to re-balance the game and continue to reduce micro-transactions. That statement however, also fell short of an official apology to their players.
Games publishers jobs are to do whatever it takes for their products make money. It does feel particularly absurd, however, for publishers to be so obtuse about the treatment of their customers, and their willingness to assume gamers' blind faith. That faith has been fundamentally shaken - repeatedly. Players have better access to these publishers now to demand change. Some of these demands are heard and garner response from the publishers. Other demands are left unaddressed or altogether ignored. It is important that this global market continue to press games publishers to release what gamers expect to enjoy, not what shareholders expect to make future returns on investment.