This topic has been a long time coming and I’ve touched on it in other places, but I really wanted to address this idea of defending companies against the backlash for bad decisions and choices.
I’m sure we’ve all felt it. That feeling of disappointment when something we’ve invest in turns out to not be as great as we thought it would be. Personally, I felt that way when it came to Mass Effect 3 and it wasn’t the first time.
It’s a case of misplaced trust. You feel like a developer or publisher you trusted couldn’t possibly have made a choice that directly impacts the enjoyment of a title. They wouldn’t lie to you…would they?
That’s the basic case that we all need to understand. Businesses lie and that’s just what they do. I’m not anti-capitalism (thought I don’t think any system is perfect) and I’m not making some sweeping moral statement, but at the same time we need to understand that companies are there to make money, so we need to assume that every decision they make is with financial gain in store. It’s just the nature of the system.
So if we’re told that something will be the ‘best title ever’ and if we’re told about something ‘revolutionary’ that will accomplish things we’ve never seen before (I’m looking at you, Google) we need to start being more critical about the information we’re being given.
Now let’s take Stadia, the new streaming service from Google, as an example and go a bit further.
It’s one thing to be hopeful and it’s perfectly fine if your decision is to stick with a product as it evolves. I’m glad you feel happy with your purchase and I hope it does achieve those lofty goals, but you can’t start aggressively targeting people who aren’t totally happy with the state of something they’ve been sold.
Stadia has had a rocky launch, to say the least, with many finding their preorders cancelled and others discovering that the product isn’t (at the moment at least) capable of the things they’d been promised.
Instead of support and understanding those that are unhappy with their Founder Editions, we instead see people jumping down the throat of the consumer from the wider community, suggesting they’re just creating ‘negativity’ and that they were’t (and this is a direct quote) ‘Founder Material’.
Don’t be that guy.
If a product isn’t up to par, you’re welcome to disagree, but bear in mind that you’re not sticking up for the underdog in this situation, unless it’s a small-time indie developer.
Nine out of ten times, people are sticking up for the company, who doesn’t know who you are and isn’t interested in your happiness, they’re interested in your money.
I understand that you’re angry that someone is saying something you’re looking forward to isn’t as great as you thought, but you can’t aggressively shout down critics, because cutting out someone’s tongue doesn’t make them incorrect.
Think of it from a business perspective.
I recently met with a large game development company (I won’t state who) and honestly, I was told by one of the higher ups that, for example, ‘Steam reviews don’t matter’. When I argued the case that I felt the community opinion is important not only to progression but also to consumer loyalty, do you know what their reply was?
‘Don’t worry, our more loyal fans tend to stick up for us’
The criticisms that are coming towards this company are of bugs and bad consumer practice, but instead of actually addressing these problems they’re sitting back on their laurels because they know that aggressive, die-hard fans will step up and defend them.
This is what you’re accomplishing when it comes to targeting people who have negative feedback. You’re not assisting with the growth of a AAA title or project, instead you’re helping producers and developers to ignore reported problems and, in the worst cases, push further with things like micro-transactions and in-game purchases because you’ll defend it.
Everyone needs to be able to voice their opinion, but at the same time, we need to create a consumer-friendly space that encourages the growth of titles rather than divides the community, because honestly, it doesn’t help anyone.
Discussion does, however, and that’s why we need to respect the views of others and give our feedback vocally, with everyone able to voice their opinions without the fear of aggressive backlash.
Let’s work towards better video games together.