Wednesday, April 27, 2016

When you just can't wait, throw money at it

Patience is a virtue, and impatience is a cash cow. One of these is a saying, the other is a toxic business model. We've all seen the generation of internet-addicted zombies who believe that since information can be obtained in an instant, that reality must work that way too. Well it doesn't. Or at least it didn't used to. For years companies have preyed upon the impatience of the younger generations. Fed upon their lack of financial self control. The generation of "Me, me, me, mine, mine, mine, now, now, now" (Dustin Hoffman, "Hook" 1991).

Smartphone companies pump out new phones twice a year. Not because the technology is better, but because they know people will buy it just to have the "new thing" that much sooner. The worst offender though, is in media entertainment.

You see, where retail companies will offer "new stuff, even earlier!" media companies don't even have to deliver a product. This is where we get into the "early access" problem. How much would you pay to see something first, a few days/weeks/months ahead of the rest of the world. Time is a lucrative business for these companies. We're going to focus on gaming companies, specifically one company. The Coalition and Microsoft. Now I include Microsoft in there as it's really Microsoft who decides the pricing, bundles, deals, etc. But since it's The Coalition's game, we'll just bunch em together.

Now here's the problem. MS/TC recently announced their bundle packages for Gears of War 4. The first is "Gears of War 4: Ultimate Edition." ($100 USD)
"Gears of War 4 Ultimate Edition is your gateway to Early Access for Gears of War 4, allowing you to download and start playing Friday, October 7 – four days before the game’s standard release date."
 First paragraph in on the bundle and we're approached with early access advertising.
"Includes the base game, Season Pass and pre-order bonuses Gears of War: Ultimate Edition Character Pack for use in Gears of War: Ultimate Edition and an exclusive Vintage Del character for use in Gears of War 4 multiplayer modes. Season Pass includes the exclusive Vintage VIP Pack, unlimited map access, early access to an exclusive VIP playlist and six Gear Packs."
And again another reference to early access through this bundle. What's in this VIP playlist?
"an exclusive VIP “Early Access” Playlist that grants a preview to upcoming modes, maps and variants"
So not only are we buying early access to playing the game, but we're also buying early access to test new aspects of the game before they are implemented. Sounds like a kickass bonus, but what is the point of getting to play modes, maps, variants early? Playing certain "new" things early is usually called "play testing", or "quality control." Is the early access meant to be a paying tester? Buy-in in order to give feedback on the new modes and what needs to be changed? Does each early access pass come with a Q&A pack on how you think the modes are?

Let's not forget the rest of the bundle's glory. 2 "Vintage" character skins, a "vintage" gnasher and dropshot skins, "vintage" emblem, and "vintage" bounty card. What is with all the "Vintage" being thrown around? What the hell does "Vintage" even mean? This is the first Gears game in this trilogy, the first time we've seen these characters. What does "Vintage" even do? We also get 6 gear packs "which unlock special character and weapon skins, equipment and abilities, and XP boosting bounties." The packs can be earned through playing, so we get early access to 6 of em. Equipment and abilities? That better be restricted to Horde or the equivalent. And finally, maps. Not all the maps, just 2 maps per month for a year. 24 total. And only in Private matches. These maps will be automatically added in and dropped out randomly in online playlists.

So we get private match maps (2 per month but pay full amount up front), "Vintage" skin stuff, and early access to the game for a weekend, all for $100.

Now, if you don't feel like that's not nearly enough money to spend on a game, don't you worry. They added a statue and a keychain to the deal for the Collector's Edition for $250! What a bargain.