This post is actually going up when I'm on vacation! It's weird writing my second weekly feature so soon after the first, but a vacation is calling my name loud-and-clear. Last week, we discussed the role the large publishers play in the industry and the struggle of business vs. creative control. In the batter's cage now are the mainstream developers, often in cahoots with a monstrous publisher and maintain a decent working relationship.
Successful developers are the bread-and-butter of the industry, spitting out annual or biennial products for the general audience to enjoy. These studios work closely with their publisher on releases but retain creative control through extensive contracts, lasting possibly a decade or longer. For example, Bungie, famously known for the Halo franchise, signed a 10-year exclusive deal with Activision to finance a new IP. In an industry that deals with contracts, a decade is a hell of a long time. But Bungie's unmatched reputation and the loyalty of its fans is enough for the publisher to take a massive risk.
The publishers might fully control the industry, but the developers can hold their own. Studios like Bioware and DICE have a global fanbase, and disastrous actions from a publisher could be met with backlash. That means a drop in sales, pre-orders and a lowered reputation among consumers. Players are fiercely passionate about their beloved franchises, and often the publishers undermine the player base so heavily that a developer gets the flack.
The aforementioned studio DICE, a subsidiary of Electronic Arts, stunned fans earlier this year by having exclusive pre-order content. GAME, a retailer from the UK, offered players the "Physical Awareness" pack, giving buyers a heightened advantage with more weapons, ammo types and locations. EA previously attempted this with the first console series for Battlefield, Bad Company, but fan outrage caused the publisher to retract the offering. A whole slew of numbers were tossed around in the media, but between 10,000 to 100,000 pre-orders were canceled in Europe alone. In Europe, the Battlefield franchise is serious business.
According to the original Reddit posting, EA hadn't told DICE about the package until after it was announced, blindsiding the developer. Understandably, DICE was forced to follow along because EA owns the studio, and no one can blame EA for wanting to completely monetize their biggest release of the year, but the publisher committed a cardinal sin. Among the popular military simulators of today, Battlefield is consistently known for being balanced, and DICE carefully monitors the stats and adjusts each weapon when necessary. That balance is the most important expectation of the players, and it's shameful EA didn't do more research before offering pre-order exclusive content. Consumers have been waiting anxiously for years for the next numbered iteration of the famed franchise, so there was guaranteed buyers. EA got greedy and it reflected poorly on both DICE and the series.
Greed is good, according to Gordon Gecko, but a publisher must abide by the developer's needs and also what the consumer base wants from a game. And that's the internal struggle of this complicated relationship between companies and consumers. A developer will know its audience best, not a publisher who only works with numbers.
Another issue is creative control, but I'll make another blog post about that. As this post goes up while I drive an ATV (all-terrain vehicle) recklessly, I wish you all the best. Enjoy the rest of the blog.
May the (blog) Post be with you.
Just an update: Can I ask you guys a big favour? Can you guys click the ads to support the blog? Any extra cash would be extremely helpful and hopefully I could be inspired to do more blog posts. Thanks. :)