Guest Writer: Profits Over Quality

This week solidsteven talks to us about whether or not developers and publishers are putting money before quality games.

The gaming industry has grown from a small hobby to a multimillion industry. We have seen some games that rival and even surpass blockbuster film franchisesc, such as Metal Gear Solid, the Legend of Zelda etc. Those games brought a load of profits to their developers and publishers. Quality was placed above profits during those days but has that changed now?

During the last few years, we have seen an increase of publishers trying to make as much profit as possible by spending as little as necessary on development; to the extent that it seems they are willing to release a half complete game. For example, Resistance 3 seems to have been released before it was ready, judging by the amount of patches; it seems that Insomniac wanted to get it out as soon as it was playable.

[drop]The odd patch is acceptable, as not every game engine is easy to code for. However, when patches appear on release day or even in review copies it does make it look like the game was rushed.

Fallout 3 is infamous for its bugs, but the Gamebryo engine had a reputation for being full of issues before Fallout 3 came to table. Could Bethesda have created a new engine from scratch at the time? Probably, but the Gamebryo engine had proven to be capable of producing a wonderful setting in Oblivion. Why spend money on building a new engine when you already have one that works?

It seems that their attempt at saving some money didn’t work, as Fallout 3 was very prone to crashes and bugs were everywhere. They could have put more resources into improving the engine, and potentially have improved sales. It is a bit annoying when you go to boot up a game that you have been waiting for only to be met with the patch. It’s even more annoying when that happens on release. But I’m not just going to focus on half completed games.

We have seen the rise of DLC (Downloadable Content) in the last few years, which has proven to be quite popular with both gamers and publishers. It extends the replayability of the game and brings in long term revenue, but is it worth splashing out on?

DLC seems like easy money for the publishers, but not all DLC is of good quality and some are items that have been cut from the game to sell as new DLC. The most infamous example of a publisher cutting something out of a game was Capcom locking the Versus mode of Resident Evil 5 and then selling the key to unlock the mode which was already on the disc.

The Gears of War Weapons pack is £30 and offers some cosmetic changes to the game. Hardly a bargain is it? By way of comparisson, Dragon Age Awakening offers a new story that takes place after Origins, new skills, new locations, new quests for just £2 more. Which is worth its pricetag?

[drop2]In my opinion, and I believe a lot of fellow TSAers will agree with me, Dragon Age Awakening. Who would honestly pay for the GoW3 DLC? I think I will have trouble trying to find a person who would buy it. There is making a profit and satisfying your fans, and then there is showing them the middle finger by putting out some very overpriced and underwhelming DLC; it makes the Call of Duty Map packs seem a bargain at those prices.

I could talk forever about which companies have sacrificed quality for profits but I’m going to round this up by asking who is to blame for this? Is it the gamers or the publishers and developers? I believe the blame lies with both. We have bought their rushed games and DLC, but it’s also clear that the publishers and developers must share some blame for putting out the rushed games in the first place. A game that isn’t fully developed will struggle to make as much money as a game that was carefully developed and fully tested to make sure that there are little to no problems.

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13 Comments

  1. Before anyone says, i know that DAA is now £15 but i couldn’t think of something that was £30 and had the same amount of content. Any contructive critism will be welcome as i plan on doing more. :)

    • You say that DAA is good by comparison in terms of quality and quantity compared to the GOW3 weapons which is true but at the time many were raving about how overpriced that DLC seemed.

      If you look at DA2 it seems that publishers can, and are trying to get away with releasing as much rubbish and easy DLC such as they can. Bioware’s two sets of weapon packs which don’t take as much time to code as an expension surely show that people are willing to pay a lot for not much content in the franchises that they know and love.

      It feels to me that developers are taking advantage of consumers affection for their products and releasing sub-standard stuff simply because they can. Not all developers are to blame such as Valve’s commendable DLC packs and customer love they regularly show. I believe it’s time that we as consumers take a stand and show our support to developers who are truly worthy of our cash and not just those out to make a cheap buck and diminish the quality of the video game industry.

  2. “It seems that their attempt at saving some money didn’t work, as Fallout 3 was very prone to crashes and bugs were everywhere”
    But it was a great game, and that was what was recognised.
    Profit over quality, the CoD games are an obvious one with no change to the engine in the last four(ish?) games. Another one, is Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, and quite possibly Revalations by the looks of it.

    I think it is a case of rushing when a game becomes profit over quality. Games that are based on movies are a pretty good example of this. Also yearly games, with the before mentioned CoD and now Assassin’s Creed.
    On the other side of the spectrum is Uncharted. Their games are released every two years, which I think places their emphasis more on quality than profit.

  3. I don’t think that there is necessarily a lack of quality with some games, such as Fallout 3 which is clearly an excellent game, but that the investment and time wasn’t taken to make the game less buggy as a way to reduce costs, which is bad.

    The current efforts by publishers to milk the market as much as possible is whats really irritating me, the surprising Uncharted 3 tie-in with Subway being the latest example. I’d just like some fun games without this marketing and corporate BS, the reason why I am (quite surprisingly) liking Nintendo a little more than i used to. Just a little more, :P

  4. I find it hard to believe how you have not mentioned COD’s £5 increase in it’s RRP and it’s £4 increase in DLC price in the last 4 years. This is a prime example of publishers and developers scamming money off consumers. As for Fallout 3, on top of the bugs the world is huge, the depth of the game surely accounts for the bugs present. It would take years and it could even be branded impossible to patch every single little bug in fallout 3. Another DLC example could be Skate 3, the previous two instalments came with party play, however, you have to buy it off the store for skate 3.
    It’s games/series like Dead Space and Uncharted which developers should be taking note of, as they are well designed, well executed and the quality that the game offers is worth the price. Also the DLC for both games are exceptional.

    • forgot to say, well written article, really gave me something to think about.

      • Thanks Origami Killer. :) I didn’t mention the increase of COD’s RRP as i felt that i wouldn’t be able to put it in and the COD map packs are known to be costly. I really wanted to minimise the amount of times i mention COD to avoid a potential backlash.

        I enjoyed Fallout 3 despite it’s bug but i would have enjoyed it more if i didn’t have to depend on fast travel to get from place to place to avoid crashes. But as i said in the article, Bethesade wanted to save a pound or two at the time and the Gamebryo engine had been proven that it was still suitable to use. If they had patch a large majority of the bugs and all game breaking bugs, then i would go easy on them.

        I hadn’t noticed the increase of DLC pricing. I may follow that up with another article at some point. :)

      • That’s fair enough on the call of duty angle. I agree with you on the game engine. I too had to fast travel to avoid the whole wasteland sinking leaving objects hanging in mid air when I walked around.

  5. Interesting article Steven and well written – did you swallow the little book of calm or something? ;)
    I need to nurse this mother of a migraine that’s throbbing incessantly atm so apologies for not discussing more.

    • Don’t worry, i’ll be back to my normal crazy self tommorrow actaully tuesday as i plan on killing Monday tommorrow. ;)

  6. Oblivion had its own considerable amount of bugs before Fallout 3, mainly due to GameByro.

  7. My biggest gaming gripe is the way AVP was handled. Rebellion decided to ignore the massive failings in the online matchmaking, in order to produce DLC map-packs for the broken multiplayer. Sacrificing quality for the quick buck may work once, but hopefully people remember for next time not to trust that developer. I know at least I will.

  8. Great article :)

    I would have to agree with you in the way games are regularly patched (MAG and GT5 are the update heavy titles) and DLC that could have so easily been included in the game (RE5 versus as mentioned).

    Games like Singularity which is a superb title and Enslaved which is also a quality title like Heavenly Sword before it but all three could have benefitted with extra time and care before release…I guess consumer demand is the priority over product quality.

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