Thursday, 28 July 2011

Origin, Dragon Age

Okay. This one's going to require a bit of a history lesson. There are 3 major players in this story:

EA, Bioware and Valve.

EA is...

...a company that knows absolutely nothing about video games anymore, a tired sorry excuse for a broken down shell of faded glory that only understands that sometimes games make money. They also have no idea what Public Relations is, because they display all of the subtlety and dignity of a gang-rape when it comes to advertising their products or dealing with their customers. They are responsible for the worst ad-campaigns that aren't for a Sony Playstation. And when they're not making the world's shittiest products, they buy up whatever it can and know fuck-all what to do with any of it(including buying out casual game developers just because they think that's the Phase 2 in the Underpants Gnome's profit plan). The only reason they aren't the the worst, most self-destructive part of video games is because Activision still exists.

Bioware is...

...a shitty developer everyone inexplicably loves, who have made exactly one good game: Mass Effect 2. Ironically, they started to clean up their act around the same time that EA started financing them. And then they went back to making shit with Dragon Age II, a game that went from conceptualization to the store shelves in less than a year. Multiple people went out of their way to tell me what a putrid vaginal expulsion it was. The only other development cycle misguided enough to think you could make a big-budget game in a year was Left 4 Dead 2, a game which I think constitutes a hate-crime.

Valve is...

...the developer of Left 4 Dead 2. They also have the strongest digital distribution system on earth, "Steam". People can buy games through Steam online, and instead of a physical copy, they just have access to the game itself. Like if you actually payed for those things you emulate, you horrible thieving bastard, you.


OK. Now that we know the players in this farce, let's delve deeper:

Valve made "Steam". EA decides to make its own version of Steam, called "Origin". EA sometimes publishes games for Valve and Bioware. Now it's in direct competition with one of its partners.

Are you with me so far?

EA then decides that an upcoming game called "Battlefield 3" won't be available to Steam users. That's a potential 30 million sales they've lost already. They can still buy it through traditional means, as well as EA's "Origin" service, when that's in full swing. And thus, what was supposed to be an epic confrontation between FPS giants has been won, by default, by Modern Warfare 3.

And then somebody tea-bagged it.

Now, a Bioware game, Dragon Age II, has been pulled from Steam. Users can no longer purchase it there. You can purchase downloadable content in-game, which is in direct violation against Steam's guidelines for submitting content like this. Dragon Age 1 did this too, but for the time being you can still buy it on Steam.

Who decided it would be like this? Did Bioware knowingly break the rules here? Did EA force them to do it? Did Valve know about this when they were first submitted?

And what does this mean? What happens now? Is this going to cause a rift among Steam's current monopoly on the digital distribution service? Is Bioware going to jump ship to a service that can let them sell the player Downloadable Content in-game, versus a separate patch or something? Will other developers who rely on Steam follow suit? Couldn't EA have just made it so that Battlefield 3 will have a "timed-exclusivity" on Origin, to reward those the poor souls who do join up, and then release it on Steam a little later?

Should Valve have pulled the game, thus exacerbating competition? Who started this pathetic slap-fight? Maybe EA will fail miserably like they always do. But if they don't, then this could seriously bite Valve in the ass, and they're already cutting corners when it comes to game design. They already changed their modus operandi from developing games to developing hats, think of what an even more desperate creature this company can turn into.

Once again, I have to strongly stress that EA and Valve are common business partners. Portal 2 was released with help from EA. Now they're trying to compete against Valve, in an area where Valve is the undisputed ruler of the kingdom, in an area in which(like many aspects of their business plan), EA has absolutely no experience in handling and no fucking clue of how it could be handled, even with a well-established service staring them right in the face. And they could STILL do some damage to this medium, if enough people are stupid enough to reward them for it. And Valve might not learn the lesson they need to, and might just become even more arrogant about it.

And Bioware... well, they probably won't be a company after their $300,000,000 project does... uh... whatever is going on here.

And it's this kind of childish bullshit that makes me consider dropping video games as my primary hobby. Maybe for something like My Little Pony fan-art. At least then, the only loser is me.

Rainbow Road Warrior by ~Phantosanucca on deviantART



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