The Next Big Thing
I was chatting with a few fellow gamers recently and was asked if I had pre-ordered any new up and coming titles, such as The Crew 2 and Anthem. They seemed surprised when I responded "no". I subsequently explained that I had reached a stage in my life where I was beginning to tire of hype, false expectations, the continual internet chatter and the crap that accompanies being an early adopter. I think that the whole Star Wars: Battlefront II debacle pretty much put it all into perspective for me and I just don't see the point in going through all that again. Then the subject of early access and soft launches came up and I similarly pointed out that I wouldn’t be jumping on the Sea of Thieves bandwagon either. I like to buy a game when it’s finished and therefore get an entire product. I don’t have to be part of the crowd that’s playing any game on day one of launch.
I’m frequently unimpressed with the pre-order bonus items associated with buying in advance, as they’re seldom of any real benefit and often smack too much of a cash grab. I appreciate that game developers need to get cash up front, but if I am to spend money prior to a game’s release I want a tangible incentive, not just baubles and trinkets. Plus linking beta testing to pre-orders strikes me too much like hedging your bets. I think it is important to try before you buy these days, as gaming often requires a sizeable cash outlay if you want the full product. To gate beta testing behind a pre-order does seem counter intuitive, potentially alienating many of those who would under other circumstances, be happily testing your product for free. $60 (or more if you want a season pass as well) is a lot to spend on a product that may not eventually be to your liking. I beta tested many MMOs in the past and didn’t buy all of them.
I also have doubts over the future of the MMO genre, so would rather wait a while before purchasing any of the new titles currently in early access. Hence Project: Gorgon and Crowfall remain on my radar through news feeds rather than first-hand experience. I want to see if they succeed or fail and what sort of community grows around them. In the meantime, there are plenty of smaller releases that I am interested in. However, these are not MMOs so do not have the any of the potential risks or problems. I am eagerly awaiting Frogware’s The Sinking City, for example. It won't have the any of the hype and marketing impetus of any of the major studio releases this year, but it will arrive on time and in good order, doing hopefully everything that it's more measured sales campaign promises. I find that many of the smaller game developers still have a sense of perspective and tend not to over sell their products.
The cult of "the next big thing" and the early adopter is really a state of mind. I recently spent some time perusing old titles via Steam and Origin, looking at established games that were over two years old. Such products have usually been patched and fine-tuned, eliminating any bugs. There is also a wealth of online resources should a player require any assistance. Then of course there is the massive price differential. The latter is a very important factor. The net result of my search was that I found the RPG The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt GOTY Edition available via for £15, if you shop around online. Let it suffice to say that unless you need to be at the cutting edge of gaming, you can avoid the respective baggage that accompanies “the next big thing” and find comfort and satisfaction with last year’s titles. Sadly, too many people still are enamoured by pre-order culture and “being there” on day one. Until this culture changes, the egregious bonuses and tat that come with premium pre-orders will continue to blight the industry.