Every form of entertainment and art – including music, film, television and yes, video games too – work in roughly the same way. It starts with an idea from one person and snowballs from there. Sometimes that one person is the only one involved. Sometimes by the end well over a thousand people will have been involved directly. At the end is a product that is released to the public to purchase. However, at any one time there are hundreds of similar products fighting for the customer’s limited finances. So how does a customer figure out if something is worth buying or not? They turn to critics who will review said products and give an overall opinion of the product. These critics hold a lot of power but are rarely respected.
Nobody wants to read a bad review of something they have slaved over for years but constructive criticism is a necessary evil in any industry. Without it you will never learn to improve, doomed to make the same mistake over and over. The recent comments of Gearbox CEO, Randy Pitchford have highlighted exactly this. The game in question – Aliens: Colonial Marines – was ravaged by critics and players alike for being dull, way too short and for being nothing like the preview images and videos. It was buggy as all hell and the “intelligent AI” of the Aliens was so bad you had just as much chance to see one do a little dance for you than it attacking you.
As mentioned all the promotional footage for the game made it look nothing like the final result – I’ll let Jim Sterling tell you all about that – but Pitchford has continuously refused to admit any wrongdoing in what happened with the game. He even has the nerve to put the blame on the “sadistic nature of gamers”. Pitchford said: ““I read it in this way: we moved those people, we touched them – even the person who hates [your game] so much, you’ve affected them.” By saying this it is clear that he seems to think that a huge backlash against the game was somehow a positive – another way of saying “all publicity is good publicity”.
What he fails to see that he will ALWAYS be synonymous with what happened to that game – even if it turned out Gearbox outsourced the game – Pitchford was the face hyping the game up. This wasn’t another Duke Nukem Forever – another game Gearbox put out – where people were expecting a terrible game. There was real excitement – the game was fairly successful on preorders alone. It wasn’t until the game came out that people saw the real truth. Pitchford is ignorant to the fact that his name is now damaged, Gearbox’s name is now damaged and that will have a large effect on the reputation of their brand.
Except it would never have come back into the gamer’s consciousness if Pitchford just stopped bitching about it. It was just this week he made those comments and now the backlash is starting all over again. A simple “sorry, we screwed up” wouldn’t go amiss but at this point it seems too late. Pitchford is not the only developer to blame the consumers and critics instead of themselves and their team. People don’t like to admit their wrong but they need to – otherwise they lose the trust that a lot of this industry is built on. We trust heavily scripted gameplay trailers, we trust the hype from developers but then at the end we also trust the critics who tell us if a game is garbage.
However, as Sterling mentioned in the video I linked earlier, gamers’ tend to have a fairly short-term memory but its time that we treat the people that break our trust with suspicion. Pitchford’s words and lack of accountability has put me off him, his company and their games. Hopefully others will follow suit until Pitchford earns our trust again instead of simply demanding it.