I’m more shocked it hasn’t happened sooner. Gamers themselves have been so vexatious regarding letting developers and publishers using other revenue streams that, of course a more horrible solution of trying to wring slim margins from AAA games would appear. It’s a proven concept that makes money even though it is horrible. But at the same time, Gamers do what they do best and constantly complain. “The industry is always trying to sell ne something” which of course is no duh, Capitalism. But there’s this paranoia that the gaming industry is this Scrooge McDuckian paradise where Bobby Kottick jumps into his money bin every morning when the reality is that big AAA games have slim margins and development is combustable (Mostly with real cash). And no one is allowing the industry to explore other revenue generators. For example, product placement and advertising. That’s a good one. Nearly every AAA blockbuster has some form of it (Or if it’s made by Sony pictures. ALL OF IT.)
I remember last gen when EA tried pushing free content for games like Army Of Two that were sponsored. Kike a whole new game chapter presented by Pontiac or NFS Getting a content pack hosted by Coke Zero. Branding, sure. But it was passing on the cost away from customers. Ads on the dashboard could go get hecked but if it brought me a net benefit like 1 vs 100. That’s more than fine for me. But gamers, did what they do best and complained, complained, complained like this was undermining the integrity of the game. Uncharted has a Subway promotion? Boooo. Games are ART damnit. Get rid of it. And no one stopped to realise how silly it was to cut off games that are already on slim margins to cut off a revenue stream no matter how much Naughty Dog tried to have a laugh at their own expense. Gamers disliked product placement, in game ads. Anything the industry was selling, Gamers weren’t buying. And of course, Microsoft bought the technology and company behind “Live” in game ads and it died a death.
Nowadays the minute there’s a Destiny 2/PopTarts combination. Everyone’s quick to dunk on it on twitter with their hot take. What if as part of the deal, Keloggs Co pushed some cash towards a new Strike and Crucible map along with a free “Tony The Tiger” shader for everyone? Would it bring good will or would people still complain? Is the purity of the Destiny 2 experience that important a cereal brand is ruining the lore? (Duh, no. If you got mad at Destiny Poptarts. Reconsider what you get mad at every day.)
Here’s an interesting one from a game released recently. If you play NASCAR Heat 2. All the DLC related to Toyota and Toyota Drivers is free. Free Paint schemes, Challenges, spotters from Toyota teams and more. But the ingame running order screen looks like this. Granted, there’s a realism aspect at play since NASCAR itself is loaded with product placement (The Final Lap is even brought to you by Credit One Bank) but if a big honking Toyota advertisement is the price for getting all the related DLC for free. Would you take it? I absolutely would.
So what we are at is again, the unsustainable nature of AAA meeting the immovable object that is the Hardcore gamer who demands their gamers pure and free of “Shilling” but is also totally against DLC, lootboxes, expansions or anything that actually helps make an AAA game. And the darker the methods go, there are still more gamers lined up to complain in a never ending struggle. (They are down for the merch though. The merch serves all. The merch soothes all. Consume the merch. Slather it all over your body)