Too many AAA games in recent memory have faced the criticism of lacking in content and features. We ask the question whether gamers are too ‘entitled’ or if some AAA games are knowingly launching with a lack of content.
Whether it’s the rise of the season pass, microtransactions or the ever increasing costs of developing AAA video games, one thing has become clear: there is a disturbing amount of full-priced AAA games launching with a lack of content and/or features. At worst, some AAA developers these days are even launching what are arguably incomplete products. Before we get into the crux of the discussion, here’s an analogy worth thinking about; Imagine if you were to go to a store and buy a bicycle, only to find that the bicycle’s back wheel is missing. As a consumer, it would be outrageous to deem this anything less than completely unacceptable. So, it begs the question, why do game developers seemingly get away with this?
If you have bought games like Battlefront, Destiny, Evolve, The Order 1886, Street Fighter V, Rainbow Six: Siege and others, you’ve probably heard the same complaints being made with all these different games. A complaint that consumers feel they have not got their money’s worth for what they’ve paid for. Destiny was a highly anticipated title and when it released, it was a genuinely fun experience… for a day or two. In the case of Destiny, it quickly became clear that the story element of the game was practically non-existent. You see, Destiny relied on a formula that was very similar to gambling or other addictions: looting. A game like Destiny relied heavily on its loot system in order to keep people re-playing sections of the game, potentially hundreds of times, in the hunt for the loot they so desperately wanted. This system allowed Destiny to cover up their gaping lack of content, as players quickly became addicted to Destiny and it was undeniably a huge success. Estimations have Destiny as having sold 6.3 million copies in its first month alone, and we’re sure that number has jumped much higher since then.
In a similar case, the return of the Battlefront series was a huge treat to many fans of the original Battlefront and Battlefront II but upon the game’s release, it became evident to these loyal fans that Battlefront was another example of a AAA game launching with a lack of content. Most strikingly, the game was confirmed to have absolutely no story mode (something Battlefront II had in 2005) and this was much to the disappointment to many fans who were anticipating the game. Furthermore, Battlefront II had at least twice as many heroes and villains, and offered far more content. The vanilla game comes with 12 maps from a disappointingly small amount of planets where as the Season Pass for the game will bring 16 new maps. This might seem fair until you realize that the Season Pass costs £39.99/$49.95/AU$69.95 and you might be scratching your head as to how you’ll end up paying the same amount you paid for the full game, just for the dlc.
It’s clear that gamers are not happy with this either. Taking a look at this thread you can see a lot of scepticism over DICE and EA with Battlefront’s content. “I have confidence in DICE to make a great game,” Redditor ThatHeathGuy wrote. “However I also have confidence that EA will hold most of that back and sell it to you in pieces.” ThatHeathGuy also assumed that the absence of space battles (which had been in the game’s predecessor)”is for it to be a DLC further down the line, because EA.” Therefore, it’s clear that Redditors like ‘ThatHeathGuy’ are not alone. Gamers are getting increasingly angry with the value they’re getting from big AAA games like Battlefront and we hope it forces some developers and publishers to change their ways.
Just like Destiny, Battlefront has also gone on to sell huge numbers with estimates putting Battlefront as having sold upwards of 12 million copies already. We can’t help but feel that, despite all the criticism these games are getting for their lack of content, they seem to be selling very well despite it. This is worrying because other developers might see this success and then try to clone their formula and this might lead to less content in video games becoming even more of an issue in the future. For instance, Street Fighter V has just launched on the 16th February and has already come under fire due to the game’s missing features and lack of content as you can read in our article here. So why is it that so many AAA games these days are falling short of the content they should be delivering?
Just Cause creator, Avalanche Studios founder and creative director Christofer Sundberg believes that AAA development today is unhealthy and most big-budget games struggle to continue making a profit. Sundberg told Gamespot that “It’s really not healthy at the moment. Games have evolved, technology has evolved but as businesses we’re still stuck where we were 15 years ago. As budgets grow, risks increase.”
“The publishers are nervous because they have to project a game being a massive hit three years into the future and the developers are frustrated because they need to be flexible to every move the publishers make. It’s impossible to make everyone happy in the current equation.”
Sundberg’s comments echo those that President of Sony’s Worldwide Studios, Shuhei Yoshida has made before. Yoshida made similar shortly after E3 2014 where he noted that “I hear complaints [about the lack of AAA games]. I do realise that some people are only interested in big-budget AAA games. I don’t really understand those people.”
With some games like Destiny having cost $500 million to develop and promote, it makes comments like those from Sundberg or Yoshida clearer; AAA games have become very, very expensive for studios and publishers to develop and promote and as such, due to the risks, developers are almost constrained and have to make sure they keep their game in check. The downside of this for the industry is that many developers and publishers will not take as many risks, as a measure to keep costs down and therefore will likely have to cut down on the amount of content they would have liked to put in the game in order to ensure they keep costs down.
Another reason that may be behind this problem of the lack of content in some big AAA video games these days is the rise of microtransactions. Don’t be fooled, microtransaction CAN work (yes, really) when developers keep them in check and ensure that they don’t make their game pay-to-win. Microtransactions have become very prominent in free-to-play games, but what happens when we get microtransactions in AAA games? AAA games like Call of Duty, The Last Of Us, Halo 5, Uncharted 4, Destiny, Street Fighter X Tekken and many others have tapped into this market of microtransactions and it’s very shady indeed. Whether it’s Call of Duty locking guns behind chests or The Last of Us allowing people to buy the best guns in the game, it’s my strong opinion that microtransactions have no place in AAA games, unless they’re done right. For instance, Halo 5.
Halo 5 development chief Josh Holmes said about Halo 5’s microtransactions or ‘REQ packs’ that “While players will earn REQ Packs across both Arena and Warzone, only cosmetic items can be used in our Arena experience. This is to ensure that all players start with the same weapons and abilities as part of our vision for the balanced, competitive play in Arena multiplayer.”
Cosmetic items that can be bought with real money or can be earned through in-game progression, are easier to swallow. If the cost of developing AAA games is indeed becoming ever more expensive, then we can put up with microtransactions of this nature if they ensure that developers make a greater return on their games in order to help them make a profit and therefore continue making more AAA games.
However, since this article has been a bit doom-and-gloom. I’d like to take a moment to commend developers such as CD PROJEKT RED whose excellent ‘The Witcher 3’ was supplemented by a wave of over 16 free dlc’s (including a whole New Game + mode) and whose paid DLC, starting with the expansion ‘Blood and Wine’ which offered around 20 hours of gameplay and was only £7.99. CD PROJEKT RED was awarded the award for Developer of the Year at The Game Awards and rightly so. We hope that the example they have set is picked up by other developers and publishers in the industry and they follow in CDPR’s footsteps. Similarly, I’d also like to commend 343 and Halo 5 for reinvigorating the game with fresh new and most importantly FREE content updates every month.
In closing, I don’t believe gamers are too entitled and rather expect more from their hard-earned money, it’s not okay for some developers and publishers in the industry to continue knowingly launching games with a clear lack of content and/or missing features. It’s appreciated that ever increasing costs of AAA development are putting strains of the bigger publishers and studios but even if games have to endure a delay, we would rather that than not getting our money’s worth for our money.
How do you feel about the issue of big AAA games releasing with a lack of content and/or missing features? If you’ve got any thoughts or opinions on the topic of the article then make sure to leave a comment below.