Not very long ago, EA was the foe that gamers from all sides united against. After the, and let’s be honest here, complete joke of a launch that was Origin, and the continual fumbling launches of Battlefield 4 and SimCity, EA took flak from both gamers and the press for utter mishandling of EA’s own products.
SimCity is a prime example. For the first few days of launching, there were no servers that were playable to any degree. Gameplay itself was bugged, with the Sim AI completely failing to work out traffic pathing. Other measures, designed around the ‘always online’ mantra, greatly changed the formula of the SimCity series. For example, leaving the game to run at full speed for long periods of time, (useful for generating a lot of funds) was actively prohibited by the engine, which scaled back the speed of the game to the slowest speed without player input. This was, according to EA, to prevent players from gaining an unfair advantage in the global online rankings.
The online aspect of the game was easily the most controversial, EA’s claim that the game was unable to be taken offline was soon refuted by modders. Nevertheless, it took more than a year for EA to drop the claim that an offline version of the game was impossible and release an offline patch, as well as releasing a slew of patches which rectified many of the launch bugs. If the behaviour exhibited by EA had occurred in any other industry, there would have been a massive public backlash, product recalls, public apologies and refunds on a mass scale, these are all thing that happen with other, smaller companies and across a wide spectrum of industries. Gaming however, gets a free pass to pump out substandard dreck, time and again.
However, gaming has a newly crowned potentate of poor products, a new tsar of substandard software, Ubisoft.
I’ve been watching them for a while now, ever since Assassins Creed 2 had three semi-sequels. This wasn’t a concern until the launch of Assassins Creed 3.
The bits ringed in red? This should never happen if your game budget is 7 digits long and climbing. I’ve used this image from the Ubisoft forums themselves, and who knows what other people have screenshot. My lingering memory of AC3 will be complete white screens, bugged textures, boring gameplay (seriously, make with the assassinating already) and a thorough disappointment after the great miniseries that was Assassins Creed 2. Not content with ruining a successful franchise, Ubisoft set about becoming the new EA.
The most glaring example of why pre-ordering is a bad idea, why bloated game budgets are bad for all involved, and why everyone with a spark of creativity stays the hell away from Ubisoft was their open world hacking game, Watch_Dogs. Hyped for years, promising an amazing experience, the game was the crown jewel of Ubisoft’s marketing department. At launch the game was found to be buggy, have the same gameplay style as basically all Ubisoft open world games to date with (once again) a middling storyline. Gaming companies are still able, for some reason, to promise features, take money from orders based on these features, and then cancel the features. Why? Because we let them get away with it. Preorder culture, despite the many disappointments from various companies, is still rampant. It’s beyond me why this is still a thing. Preorders deliver nothing of value to gamers, and allow publishers to fire out unfinished, unpolished, unprofessional products. By removing incentives for publishers to actually release great products by giving them more money before the game is launched, people who pre order games are selling short the entire medium.