Is Vanity the Achilles Heel of the Game Industry?
On the eve of the launch of Star Wars Battlefront II last Friday, DICE General Manager Oskar Garbrielson released a statement stating that paid microtransactions were to be disabled in the game for the immediate future. It was a major reverse of policy after several weeks of increasing debate and acrimony about the subject from Star Wars fans and wider gamers. It has now come to light that the decision was due to pressure from the rights holders themselves. Disney Head of Consumer Products and Interactive Media Jimmy Pitaro is apparently the driving force behind this U-turn. Naturally with a major movie release only weeks away and the prospect of huge merchandise sales over the holiday season, no one at Disney wanted to see a media circus that could impact upon their bottom line. What happens in the new year when the controversy has died down and the movie leaves the cinemas, remains to be seen. I suspect we have not seen the back of the loot crate issue but for the meantime the problem has been side-lined.
This entire matter is emblematic of a wider issue surrounding marketing, branding and PR. One that bleeds through into multiple facets of day to day life. We live in a curious world where politicians, communities and businesses are often very protective of their “image” and “reputation”. These may be hard earned through years of doing the right thing or simply be the product of proactive PR and spin. But the bottom line is no one wants to be negatively labelled these days, even if that label is justified. Hence, we live in a world were racists don’t like to be called such and companies hate to be perceived as “greedy”, although that is the nature of the very system that predicates their existence. Everyone seems to want to act with impunity but still be seen as a good guy and be able to hang out with fans at community events and bask in the warm glow of public adulation. It’s hypocritical and it stinks. Sadly, we allow it.
So, EA and DICE were told to stand down and this whole problem has temporarily been defused because Disney doesn’t want their image tarnished, although a little research will show they’re far from angels. Has this move worked? Well initial sales may be a little slow of Star Wars Battlefront II but it’s early days yet and I don’t see the game bombing any time soon. Fans also have very short memories and are their own worst enemy in so far as making a stand. People like to posture but they seldom care to go without and that is the only way to effect real change. What happens next with this game is still up for grabs. However, it does prove that vanity and “public perception” are the industries Achilles Heel and we should as gaming consumers continue to use this to effect the changes that we want. All we need to do now is figure out exactly what those are, as a cursory glance around the internet shows that gamers do not share a universal “dream”.