AAA publishers have become rather antagonistic towards gamers since the later years of the previous console generation. Its like they forgot how to treat consumers with respect. Many of these publishers can only think of the bottom line, consequences be damned. People with little to no experience with game development are steering the course of these companies. They put demands on their development teams that put them in difficult, no-win situations. They must tow the company line or face losing their jobs. We often put the blame on them instead of the faceless corporate executives who were really at fault. AAA has become more of a mindset rather than a budget tier. A mindset of anti-consumer practices and blind greed. AAA publishers chase trends and ignore anything else. Everything must be go big or go home. The pre-order bonuses, special editions, and season passes show how $60 is only a shell price. None of this is healthy for the future of the industry.
AAA publishers are constantly trying to chase popular trends. Everything else gets ignored. When Call of Duty was at peak popularity, publishers were looking for something that could compete directly. But what they failed to comprehend is that the people who love Call of Duty have Call of Duty. They don’t need Battlefield. What we ended up getting was an oversaturation of gray military shooters focused on online multiplayer. Today we’re seeing the same thing with battle royale games. Publishers are seeing the massive success of PUBG and Fortnite and want a piece of the pie. Once again people playing Fortnite aren’t going to be looking for another battle royale game. This mindset has led to AAA publishers killing off genres because they can only see what’s most popular. They forget that niche titles can make money. There’s an audience for games like this. Look at the success many indie horror games like Amnesia and Five Night’s at Freddie’s have had. AAA publishers ignore these successes because it doesn’t fit with their narrative. It’s a go big or go home attitude.
The culture of AAA publishing has embraced a go big or go home mentality. Such incredible shortsightedness is not a healthy business practice. Budgets for AAA development has reached outlandish heights. No one asked them to make these games more expensive. Not many gamers asked for the latest in graphical power. As the success of many indie titles show, high graphical fidelity is not an indicator of success. Excellent art direction will always beat out graphical horsepower. Publishers whine about how expensive games are to make despite no one demanding them to make them so expensive. Since they don’t know how to business properly, they pass the costs onto the customer. That’s where all those pre-order bonuses and season passes came from.
With the blind greed comes the pre-order bonuses, limited editions, day one DLC, and loot boxes. It shows that $60 is just the shell price. To get the full experience you will most likely be paying upward of $110 if not more. No one is worse with pre-order bonuses and limited editions than Ubisoft. An Assassin’s Creed game can have as many as 7 or 8 different editions. None of which truly give you the entire game. Popular games don’t need to be pre-ordered as they will be available in mass quantities day one. You will never have a problem finding the new Assassin’s Creed after its release day. There is no motivation to pre-order such games, even for the bonuses. All that content will be available in the Game of the Year Edition that will be released months later. You will be rewarded for waiting. Publishers continue to demand more money from us and we get little in return.
AAA publishers just can’t get out of their own way. They can’t help but stick their hands in our pockets. The anti-consumer practices are enough to make me sick. This mindset of blind greed cannot be a sustainable business model. Publishers chase trends and ignore anything else. Everything must be go big or go home. Pre-order culture has gotten out of control. All these practices can make you lose hope for the industry. Luckily, not all publishers act this way. There are still plenty of good games without this nonsense. Just like politics, if I ignore it, my overall mood will be better.