Are we raging out for no more reason than “just because”?
The above phrase came out of a personal conversation where a friend of mine used it to describe the culture of self-entitlement gamers have continuously entrenched themselves in. And in light of Microsoft’s ‘Xbox 180’ policy change last week, I’m beginning to wonder if the internet itself is to blame for this change in attitude.
The internet is indeed a powerful tool, my friends. It gives any collective group of people a worldwide stage to voice their concerns, opinions and dislike of any one thing. And in the most extreme circumstance, said feedback can cause entire companies to change course.
That’s what happened last week, with Don Mattrick publishing an open letter on the Xbox website announcing the reversal of the company’s controversial DRM policies for its forthcoming console; Xbox One. In the letter, he cited fans’ feedback as the reason, a reason that we can argue is a desperate plea to urge gamers back to the Xbox brand in face of the onslaught of weeks of negative press and social media trends.
For now, we’ll sidestep the ‘should they/shouldn’t they have’ debate for now, since there’s already a much larger discourse going on everywhere else, including this very site, and instead focus on the apparent cause of Microsoft’s change in policy; gamers online feedback.
This wouldn’t be the first time in recent memory a games company seemingly “caved” to fans online feedback. Just last year BioWare, under intense fan feedback and criticism over the ending of Mass Effect 3, released DLC in the form of an extended Director’s Cut for the aforementioned game.
Rather than stay true to their original vision for the title, BioWare deemed it necessary to go back and offer fans something in the vein of which they wanted; closure, it turns out. And why did the company turn around and deliver this piece of free DLC? To paraphrase the great George Costanza, “the internet was angry that day, my friends,”.
More recently, Nintendo has come under fire for its ‘steep’ pricing of its Virtual Consoles games on Wii U. In Australia, an NES game is priced at $6.50, $10.50 for a SNES title, and in the eyes of many, we’re apparently getting gouged with such prices. Though if you take a step back, you’ll realize that they’re fairly reasonable when you consider the price tag you’d expected to pay if purchasing a physical copy of any one game either at a retailer who deals in vintage games, or a seller on eBay.
And yet, many gamers decided to flood Miiverse and Nintendo’s social media channels voicing their concern on pricing, making the argument that Virtual Consoles are nothing more than “ROM dumps”. Oh, please. While I won’t pretend to know the full machinations of porting a game to Virtual Console, the act alone of ensuring the game runs smoothly as originally intended on both the Wii U and GamePad would certainly justify the price tag.
The fuel of these blazing campaigns is indeed the anonymous nature of the internet. While social media sites like Facebook and Twitter certainly do well to break down that particular barrier, the point is if someone feels strongly enough about something they’ll raise hell and highwater if they so wish.
We’ve all heard the term ‘keyboard warrior’, and regardless of whether our full name, profile picture, and vital stats are on show, and even if they’re not, the internet provides us a way to push our own personal opinions without fear of face to face confrontation. And that, really, is a fear a lot of people have. It’s certainly easy to be a jerk to any company, organization body or individual when you see yourself as nothing more than a title screen name.
Though while the internet gives a forum to allow it, there’s still a driving force behind our actions. In the case of overly “expensive” Virtual Console games, it’s a culture of a ‘race to the bottom’ wherein we’re now expecting more content, for less price. With the Mass Effect 3 controversy we all felt the game was ours, and so we felt BioWare deserved to give us more than what we were given.
And what of Microsoft’s change of policy with Xbox One? The fact of the matter is everyone was scared of the DRM ecosystem the company was moving towards, and all the new innovations it would be bringing to the table. While Microsoft didn’t do the best job of conveying its message, what they were building was new territory, for better or worse, and a future we’ll now forever be wondering what would look like.
By no means am I trying to devalue anyone’s opinion, after all the freedom of speech is a wonderful thing? I only question if we’re being far too liberal with our rights to speak up. If you’re unhappy with something, then, by all means, provide feedback to the company involved. There is, however, a fine line between voicing genuine concern, and outright complaining like an entitled child.