[Rant] You Couldn’t Lie Like This In Other Industries

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Let’s start this piece by making a bold statement that I’ve repeated to no end on Twitter: The gaming industry is the only one where you can outright lie to customers and just blame the fact that you were really excited to talk about it. This isn’t the first time I’ve made such a claim and it certainly won’t be the last, as we are talking about an artistic medium and artists are nothing if not passionate about their work. They also tend to be horrible planners and businessmen.

But it stands to reason to say that the creative minds behind some of the biggest disappointments of the past decade need to do one simple thing: shut up. Either build a script before you go talk to the press or stop talking to the press, because while people like the fact that you talk off the cuff and don’t sound like a PR marketing person, they only like it at the time you’re talking. When the final product comes out and most of what you’ve said turns out to be at best exaggerated and at worst a blatant lie, you only go so far as to damage your personal reputation and that of the company you are representing. Acknowledge the problem and stop it.

It is terrible, because a lot of the games that get caught up with this are actually good. The Fable series is amazing, but a long series of false promises virtually guarantees that Peter Molyneux will go down as one of the industry’s most prolific liars above one of its most seasoned veterans. Bioshock Infinite was a fantastic game, but that doesn’t change the fact that early trailers were outright falsehoods, cutscenes featuring nonexistent content cleverly disguised as actual gameplay. As we found out much later on, the Duke Nukem Forever trailer we saw in 2001 was a total lie, the game didn’t really exist.

An even greater crime when the developer/publisher continues to push the lie past the point of launch. The most famous example of this discussed here at MMO Fallout is the 10% discount for ArcheAge patrons. This feature was promised only for Trion Worlds to move the goalposts, claim that it was never intended for inclusion at launch, lied about it being advertised at all, only to change the narrative again and drop the bonus after the game had already been out. As we later learned, nobody had bothered to figure out if such a discount mechanic was even compatible with the store, not that it stopped Trion Worlds from promising it in the time leading up to and following ArcheAge’s launch. Also no refunds.

Gabe Newell, a man whose closet isn’t free of its own skeletons, summed up perfectly why you should never try to lie to the internet:

‘Don’t ever, ever try to lie to the internet – because they will catch you. They will de-construct your spin. They will remember everything you ever say for eternity.’

For gamers, nothing raises a red flag quite like the phrase “actual game footage.” In recent years this term has come to mean exactly the opposite. For Ubisoft, you can bet your money that the game will be nowhere near as graphically impressive as the “actual game footage” demo showed at the previous year’s E3. For Peter Molyneux’s titles, you can expect that the more outlandish features, aka the ones Molyneux brings up in interviews, won’t actually make an appearance in the final product. Aliens: Colonial Marines lied about everything from the graphics to the animations and gameplay, honestly the list goes on Forever.

And before somebody brings it up in the comments, I’d like to address the burger analogy:

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We accept, although I don’t, the fact that a fast food burger doesn’t look like it does in the advertising for one simple reason: They are cheap, mass produced physical goods, and cobbled together by minimum wage teenagers, some of whom can barely comprehend that “no pickles” doesn’t actually mean “extra pickles.” Barring employee error in making said sandwich, however, you can also expect that if Burger King announces its A1 Whopper, that the Whopper will have A1 sauce on it. You don’t order your food only to find out that while the company kept the A1 name and the menu clearly shows the sauce, there is no sauce, and the manager tells you “oh sorry, that was actually a prototype build of the A1 Whopper and we removed the sauce since then. No refunds.”

And that is exactly the problem with the gaming industry, while minds like Peter Molyneux and Sean Murray spend years talking up their games with vague promises and hype, at no point do these men ever come out and make the disappointing announcement that no, No Man’s Sky actually won’t support landing on asteroids. Instead, these men make their rounds in the press and drop promises of all sorts of goodies, of which they are presumably aware on some level that they cannot guarantee will make it into the final product, and then leave it at that. No follow up, no ‘hey this didn’t work out,’ no nothing. If we are lucky, we might get an interview a few months down the line after launch explaining why so many promised features were cut. If we’re lucky.

Other times we receive the standard condescending remark. Situations change during development, this is your fault for presuming that my detailing all of the cool things we had in the game meant that those cool things would actually appear in the game. Did I not say that they were cancelled? My bad, no refunds.

So I have to chuckle whenever I see a developer on Twitter wondering why the games industry has such a hostile relationship with its customers, one that the industry has fostered along with the “do your research” culture that we currently live in, one that I absolutely despise. And who can blame consumers? You can’t trust the lead designers because they get really excited and thus can’t be trusted to give an honest or realistic description of the game. You can’t trust E3 demos because the game will either be dramatically downscaled graphically or show off prototype features, without explaining that they are such I might add, that won’t make it into the actual release. You can’t trust press previews because of day 1 patches, early builds, and the increasingly common process of pushing street dates as close to launch as possible. And you can’t trust the developer’s own videos in the year or even months leading up to launch because the demo was on an older build of the game and you’re a moron if you honestly thought that the final game wouldn’t remove some functionality or would look as good.

The only thing you can do is to stop pre-ordering altogether because, at this point, nothing said prior to a game’s launch can be taken at face value anymore. The indecisiveness and blatantly misleading nature of the gaming industry has made it impossible to trust even the most innocuous statements at this point like, will the game require PS Plus or will it go free to play or do I need to buy this starter pack to get access? Even after launch, you can’t trust developers to stick to their word, and MMO players would need a lot of hands to count the times a director or community manager has promised us that their game would never go free to play, that the cash shop would never sell non-cosmetic gear, that players would never be able to gain an advantage with real money.

What a wonderful way to interact with your community, on the common understanding that you have no obligation to realistically portray your game and that the consumer should from the start be under the impression that you’re either exaggerating or outright lying about features in order to sell a product. I have bad news for the industry, the ‘too bad so sad’ days of selling your games on the grounds that the customer has no avenue for compensation once they’ve opened/downloaded the game is over, it is over on PC and judging by how Sony has handled No Man’s Sky, it’s soon to be over on consoles as well. And if you don’t like that, just wait until the courts really get involved. Because they are. They definitely are. Oh boy are they.

Other than that I have no opinion on the matter.

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One Response to “[Rant] You Couldn’t Lie Like This In Other Industries”

  1. tridus says:

    Gamers as a group could end this stuff tomorrow if they wanted to by not pre-ordering. Let the reviewers and early adopters do the work for you.

    That’s the other difference, which you didn’t mention. No one buys the “new whopper” six months in advance, sight unseen, before what it is has even been finalised yet. No one, except gamers. They’re happy to throw money at things far in advance based entirely on marketing hype and on talk about prototypes.

    Well, here in the real world, prototypes change all the time. That’s what they’re for. Sometimes a planned feature doesn’t work in practice.

    But hey, gamers fall for it, every single time. Then they act like they’re helpess victims when in truth they’re the ones enabling the very problem they’re compaining about.

    Any game worth buying the day before launch is still worth buying a week after launch.

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