In the past decade, an unprecedented amount of growth has developed in the gaming industry. As the Entertainment Software Association reports, in 2013, 51% of Americans play video games, 32% of which play social games. In a society where making connections has become a staple in communication and industry, I find it particularly odd and unsettling that where communication is the most important for gamers – from player to developer – a new culture has emerged that defies the typical structure and openness of software developers.
This new business model welcomes a sense of cold, rigid, and flat presentation of software and mindless acceptance of the userbase; money has become the principle concentration of many large corporations we have come to love (and hate), and this has constructed a frightening barrier between the community and the company.
Although I’d prefer not to name-and-shame, one of the most well-known companies in the gaming universe has come to light in the past few years as the worst company in America: EA, with over 250,000 votes from the public. The argument against Electronic Arts has a timeless and violent history; the typical accusations referring to them as cheap, obsessed with profit, and poor in customer support – and yet, EA and NASDAQ report last year’s fiscal earnings at $1.7 billion.
However, when listening to the opinions of a broader bank of community members, it is obvious that there are plenty more companies that have received hate over the years; among the top five are Microsoft, Square Enix, Ubisoft, Activision, and Capcom. I myself can’t disagree with any of them – I am absolutely disgusted at this corporate display of an uncaring, unconcerned, disinterested attitude toward the community, and shameless disregard for feedback. A strong reliance has been placed on microtransactions, downloadable content, ‘promotions,’ and a general dependence upon a Pay-to-Win model that large groups of members have simply given up on their favorite franchises.
Where do we go from here? I’m crossing my fingers that the original, open line of communication we used to see in producers returns once again to save the industry from the horror that is corporate development. When a gaming company, of all things, makes it to the top as the Worst Company in America two years in a row, you must know it’s time to see some change.
GamesBeat 2014 — VentureBeat’s sixth annual event on disruption in the video game market — is coming up on Sept 15-16 in San Francisco. Purchase one of the first 50 tickets and save $400!