Ubisoft is cyberbullying you for not playing Far Cry 6 enough

In a new turn of “how is AAA gaming being completely fucked”, Ubisoft has started sending out e-mails to players with low hour counts on Far Cry 6, framed as messages from the villain, Castillo, mocking them for not playing more.

Apparently, the game also is sending players e-mails as they play the game, too.

So, there are a few ways to read this, right? On one end, there’s the cynical (and possibly accurate) read, which is that they are trying to crank engagement through this weird negging ritual. In which case, it’s very creepy. But if you’re being very charitable, maybe it’s just some people saying, “oh hey, maybe there’s a kinda neat thing we can do thematically with the framing device with the data we have”. But in that case, how did this get greenlit!? No matter how you slice it, this feels invasive, scummy, and just uncomfortable.

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‘Bet you can’t play our game for 200 hours while spending an average of $13.37 per player on weapon skins, loser.’

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Maybe an unpopular opinion around these parts, but this is fine? I mean, it’s just an email that you can easily ignore (or gets caught by the spam filter anyway), and it’s a neat little bit of ARG world building for some folks. I dunno, seems more like a molehill than a mountain to me.

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I do not understand this choice. Actually I do understand this choice; someone said “we need players in front of this game for X hours in order to boost the amount of upselling we do so figure it out” and a bunch of creative-type people arrived at this in-fiction solution. A “please for the love of God they won’t unchain us from this computer unless you buy $10 of UbiBucks” email would certainly be more honest.

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I definitely do not think this is a mountain of an issue, but it does really rub me the wrong way. Specifically, the framing of guilting or mocking a player for not playing enough. My understanding is that these e-mails were sent out regardless of how much time you’ve put in; it’s an engagement tactic, I get that. I just worry about the precedent.

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I think the larger issue is why do we need to give our email contact to the publishers in the first place? Like, this is way less offensive to me than Square flooding my inbox with offers to buy FFVII mugs or something. I’ve specifically kept the Hotmail address I registered when I was 11 to quarantine all this crap.

But alas, the ship has sailed on that. So if a dev wants to shake things up with a cheeky joke about people who pay full price for a game at launch not playing it? I just don’t get the Internet pushback on this specifically.

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As someone who works in marketing, and who bounces off new games all the time and sometimes feels guilty for spending all that money on something I’ve barely played, I think it’s a pretty good attempt to get people back into the game. Especially since Farcy’s main thing is to pit you against a big bad charismatic villain who taunts you to do more. Not to mention they went to the expense to get Giancarlo Esposito for this game and have him plastered all it’s creative. It’s a typical Ubisoft move of course, “Hey n00b, don’t you want to fuck up some shit? don’t you want to overthrow this fascist dictator it’s totally not political”.

It would be better if they got Esposito to record a video message that was sort of directed by the player’s ingame activities, but I guess that would have been too expensive. It would be fun though, do awesome for da socialz!

For all the ‘outrage’ the news is generating, isn’t it still just working to remind everyone that there’s a new middling Farcry game out now? Isn’t the majority of news stories surrounding games just another means to market towards the core audience.

Is it any worse than Amazon/ebay reminding you that you were browsing products from a while ago. Is free will not a thing anymore? Do mark as spam buttons don’t work anymore? Presumably players had to agree to receiving emails when picking up the game in the first place. GDPR is no joke people.

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Right, I’m uncomfortable with the ways brands are nudging their way into personal spaces like this. This is by no means a new thing, but it is a new framing that feels… bad.

@Velocirapture
It is similar to the Amazon and eBay stuff, sure! But I pretty regularly hear people complain about that, too.

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The way I see it, these types of manipulative guilt tactics are used for much more materially impactful things, like goading you to buy something (on an online store or in a game for example) or fund-raising for political campaigns; so even if the manifestation of this specific case is someone might play more Far Cry than they would have before, I am not going to give this sort of tactic an inch of ground because I don’t think this is an acceptable way for a company, political figure, whatever entity, to engage with people, especially once the stakes are raised.

EDIT: I do think that this specific case is being highlighted and discussed both because the game is already under some critical scrutiny and because it’s unusual to see these tactics deployed at such relatively low stakes as “play more of our single player game you already spent money on”. This sort of manipulative communication trickling down so far as to something so seemingly trivial is worth reflecting on.

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The thing I’m most immediately reminded of now is the whole thing with Gardenscapes’ butler:

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It would work better if they sent me emails from my game characters upset I forgot about them. Just a sad shot of Colt feeling lonely and drunk texting me because I never played more than an hour of his game.

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…but seriously though getting an in-character drunk text from Colt would be kind of great lol

This whole furore has reminded me of a case of invasive marketing that might be the worst I’ve ever heard of or at least the worst that I remember being a part of (as the consumer I should say).

CW for death of a parent

There’s a music festival in the UK called Parklife which is run by a guy who is fairly renowned for being a bit of a tosser both behinds the scenes in his organising and just in his public persona. Anyway, we went to the festival around 2014 and so were obviously signed up the mailing list as we had also attended his Warehouse Project events the year before.

One day I remember being out somewhere when I get a message to my phone from what was clearly labelled as “Mum” saying something along the lines of “I hope you’ve got your Parklife ticket sorted for this year!” Now, I was a bit confused. I wasn’t going and hadn’t mentioned that I was going and my mum knew that as we had a pretty horrendous experience the year before (even by UK festival standards) so why was she messaging me this? Well, I check my messages and I notice that I now appear to have two separate numbers for my mum. At this point I’ve clocked the direct link to buy tickets and conclude that it’s a marketing ploy from the festival to get you to buy tickets.

Now I’m sure you can work out what the issue is with sending a text labelled as coming from your mum to potentially hundreds of thousands or even millions of random people.

I learned quickly of one potential problem when my friend, whose mum passed away when he was younger, contacted me to ask if I’d been texted by the same number. Just a thoughtlessly callous thing to do in the name of selling tickets to a festival which sells out no problem every year.

And of course the organiser gave the weakest non-apology for this.

So yes sometimes marketing people don’t think before they act do they!

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It’s like those obnoxious quit messages from Doom and Duke 3D, but in your e-mail. No thanks.

I can imagine a certain type of game, one that’s already playing around on a metatextual or even just plain “weird” level, where engaging the player in a light ARG via e-mails could make sense and even be enjoyable. This ain’t it, though.

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This is a reminder of why my ubisoft connect login uses my spamdump gmail account.

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Or even something like the aforementioned Deathloop where Colt and Julianna are cool and likable (give me an in-game Twitter like Spider-Man but just Colt and Julianna roasting each other please and thank you). No one wants to hear from a Far Cry villain.

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Some folks in the Discord mentioned that Rainbow Six Siege already sends regular emails with your stats, which people generally like or at least don’t mind. The difference there is that Siege is a competitive game you’re designed to engage with on a consistent weekly basis and there’s no judgment in the email about your stats. Those emails make sense and serve a clear purpose for the recipient, even if the company has the same goal.

The main reason this rubs me the wrong way is that, if I were to play Far Cry again, I would probably play it occasionally over a very long period of time when I had a friend available to play with. I think that’s a pretty common, reasonable way to play a AAA open-world video game, but this email sort of punishes you for engaging with it that way. Also, I absolutely do not care about stats in a single player game. Especially “number of kills” in FC because that’s just a reflection of how long I played, not how good I am.

The tone of this also seems very hokey and sort of breaks the 4th wall for me. This makes the villain significantly less mysterious and menacing to me because you’re taking them out of the context of the story/world and making them deliberately cartoonish for advertising purposes. I think this would work better for me if it was for a game that was already somewhat goofy instead of one that wants you to think it’s a very serious, deep story. Or like other folks said, if it was a goofy thing from one of your allies instead.

Hello, this new far cry 6 is not good I played all the parts for me the best far cry 3 in my opinion other people may think otherwise