What "Assassin's Creed Unity" Means for Gaming


If you read this blog, then you've probably read my thoughts on Assassin's Creed Unity. In case you haven't, I'll give you the quick and dirty: it's a broken piece of trash, and it wouldn't be worth ten bucks, let alone sixty. Now that that's out of the way, I want to talk about why that's an important fact. And rest assured, it is important. It's probably one of the most important facts to be taken away from this year's releases, in fact.

Why? Because, to me, it represents everything we've been working towards. And when I say "we," I mean us as a collective consumer base, and our relationship with the people who publish our games. See, Unity isn't the problem. Hell, Ubisoft as a collective, despite being a despicable pack of con men, isn't the problem. The problem is the industry itself, and the practices we've come to take laying down. All of the dishonest trailers, the micro-transactions, the incomplete releases... this has been happening for a while. And I think now, finally, customers are finally getting fed up with it. At least, I hope so. Because if not, the future is grim. Here are some reasons why.

Publishers Are Okay With Us Testing Their Games for Them


"Gaze long into an abyss and the abyss also gazes into you."
Assassin's Creed Unity is a buggy trash heap. This is something we're aware of. But you know what? So are a lot of games. A lot of games this year, even. Destiny was riddled with issues, and downright unplayable for thousands of players. Ditto for Drive Club, a big PS4 exclusive with a disastrous release and fundamentally screwed online capabilities. The same can be said for the newest Sims game, actually, and it still isn't where it should be for a full-price release. Same with pretty much every big sports game this year, actually. I mean, look, Battlefield 4 came out last year, and it still doesn't work how it was intended to. In fact, EA is already ready to crank out the next entry in February, offering up a proverbial middle finger to customers.

There are other examples, but I think my point is perfectly clear. A lot of big releases, a lot of issues. And it doesn't look like it's getting any better, unfortunately, with next week's Far Cry 4 already getting some early complaints of bugs and glitches. Something tells me that they're not going to get fixed and you know, why should they? Why should they when Ubisoft knows it can release a glitchy, barely functional title for full price, then let customer complaints guide them in their patches... if they even care enough to do that? See, these companies? They know that their games have issues. How could any playtester pick one of these titles up for five seconds and not see that?

But instead of properly going through the process of making sure everything works as it should, and letting people do their jobs, why not just, you know, make people pay sixty bucks for it? That way, they can turn a profit, then tell people that they plan on fixing issues to come out looking like the good guy. It's ingenious, really. They can put forth minimal effort into a game, sometimes with even less than a year of development time, and still come out profitable at the end of the fiscal year. It's ingenious... and disgusting. We're paying to test these games. And we shouldn't stand for it.

Sixty Bucks Isn't Enough 


Breaking News: New Head of Ubisoft Selected.
I remember when games were fifty bucks, and that was just for the big titles. When you spent money on one of these fifty buck games, you knew what you were getting. You were going to get a complete experience. A game that worked like it should for the most part, had substantial content to keep players occupied for a while, enough stuff to do either by yourself or with friends. Behind me, right now, I have a shelf of such games, ranging from SNES to PS2 titles. Now, I'm not one of those "old games were better" people, but I will say that the PS2/GC era holds a special place in my heart. I feel like that's when games were really coming into their own, both in terms of gameplay and narratives, and most of them had enough content to merit their price. You could buy a game, play it, beat it, and not have to spend a cent more.

But Assassin's Creed Unity represents the polar opposite of that idea. The logical extreme of the disgusting direction gaming has been taking. No... the logical extreme of what we've been letting happen. DLC is right in the pause menu, available at any time. A good portion of the game, and content that you see right on the main menu, is not unlockable, but rather, activated through either chipping in more money, or connecting UPlay, or getting the companion app for your smartphone. Hell, there are options in the pause menu to put forth ninety-nine real world dollars to get more in-game money. As in, this is something Ubisoft is banking on. People spending an upwards of sixty bucks, before tax, for the standard release of the game, then putting forth more money.

And this isn't just unlockable stuff, either. Stuff to temporarily power-up Arno, stronger weapons, maps for treasure, chests that can only be opened with the usage of UPlay or the app... the list goes on. What can we learn from this? Coupled with the past few years of absurd DLC practices in both mobile and console games? I think, ladies, gentlemen, and all others, that this means our hard-earned sixty is no longer enough. These publishers need more. They need that sixty, plus sixty more of our sixties, plus our smartphones filled with apps and our personal information in their database.

Buying a game? Buying a game is just the beginning now, folks.

Another Industry Crash is in the Cards


Unity being buried in the desert isn't a bad idea.
I've been saying this for years, and I sincerely hope everybody else starts catching on. These companies, companies like Ubisoft, EA, and Activision, have bloated to ridiculous proportions. Their practices are unsustainable. Their prices are ludicrous. Their expectations are unrealistic. Despite the fact that a lot of the gaming public is embroiled in yet another witch hunt under the guise of more "journalistic ethics" or whatever, there are actual ethical issues in this industry that need focusing on. Yearly releases, DLC chicanery, steep levels of entry, micro-transactions... this is the kind of stuff that could end an industry. But that's never happened before, right? The game industry has never grown to a fever-pitch and then suddenly crashed, has it? Has it?

In case you're unaware, the gaming industry has, in fact, crashed before. It wasn't even that long ago, really, only about 30-ish years or so. Everybody was enthusiastically playing and buying video games. Consoles were selling like hotcakes, along with the accompanying games. But see, companies got too enthusiastic. Development cycles got shorter. Games got advertised harder. Everything started to decline, until finally, everything hit rock bottom. The industry dug its own grave, then did a glorious swan dive right into it. I genuinely fear that this could happen again. All of the signs are there, if you really do your research, and it feels like nobody is taking any preventative measures to stop it. I feel that, if the industry keeps up at this rate, there will be massive consequences for the home console market. I mean, the PC gaming community will be fine, because they always have been, but major consoles? Yeah, those may become irrelevant.

Well. Except for one thing.

Just Buy a Wii U, and Don't Look Back 


Pretty much my face during Unity.
Assassin's Creed Unity isn't coming to the Wii U. Neither is Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, or Far Cry 4, or any other big-name, heavily-hyped title that will probably launch with several dozen handfuls of bugs. But you know what is on the Wii U? Bayonetta 2, Hyrule Warriors, Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros, Super Mario 3D World, Pikmin 3, Shovel Knight, The Wonderful 101, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze... there are more, but that's a nice starting point. But wait, what about all the titles coming out? Oh, well, looking forward, we've got Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (you know you want it, don't even lie,) Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, Yoshi's Woolly World, Xenoblade Chronicles X, Devil's Third, Splatoon, Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem, the new Zelda, the new Star Fox, the new Mario Party... and there's more.

Now before you angrily accuse me of being a Nintendo fanboy, and disregard everything else I've stated at your own peril, rest assured, I don't think they're a perfect company. Their several, several handheld console releases are frustrating, they shot themselves in the foot with the Wii in terms of quality control, their online functions have only just started being good... they're not perfect. They're still a corporation. They still give me reasons to be mad at them. But in today's gaming landscape, they're the only ones who still seem to "get it." Their games are complete packages, and work the way they're supposed to. Their DLC is incredibly substantial, and doesn't feel like tacked-on content. Their prices are all over the place, based on the tier of the title. Oh, yeah, and their E3 presentations don't consist of, "hey, look at this concept art, aren't you excited?!"

In terms of modern gaming companies, Nintendo sometimes feels like one of the only good ones in the bunch. Again, they have issues, and I'm sure as I'm writing this, they're doing something stupid I'll take to Twitter to complain about. But you know... when I buy a Nintendo game, I know I'm not getting conned into giving them more money. I'm not buying a Graphical Glitch Variety Pack. I'm getting a game. I'm getting an experience. Nothing more, nothing less. So, even though I've lost faith in big companies like EA, Activision, Ubisoft, Square Enix, Capcom... there are still bastions of hope out there.

Gaming Isn't Dead, Just In Trouble 


Wario wants YOU to shop smart.
So, yeah, I don't feel like everything is entirely fucked. I feel like gaming, as we know it, may come to an end. Or, more accurately, undergo a huge change. Assassin's Creed Unity is a tribute to the lack of quality control in modern gaming, and to publisher hubris, and to corrupt money-grubbing schemes. And it'll happen again. So don't fall for it. Stick to your Nintendos, your Namco-Bandais, your Devolver Digitals. If you want to play a game by Ubisoft or someone in that vein, just wait until it's used, and they don't see a cent of your money. If you've been burned by a publisher, don't stick your hand back into the fire, hoping it won't happen again.

You have the power to make sure shit like Assassin's Creed Unity doesn't happen again. Use it. Don't buy, or buy used. Support companies that have earned your goodwill, through quality products and ethical practices. In other words?

Be smart. And don't play Assassin's Creed Unity.

Comments

  1. I had to share this on my Google page. It sums up everything that I have issues with in the digital age of gaming. While I'm glad that we have the ability to download new content on a whim, the fact that products are pushed out onto consumers unfinished and we become beta testers paying into the system is cheating us in the long run. And I don't know of any other business that could get away with this - only in gaming! :/

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  2. Thanks for taking this opportunity to converse about this, I feel fervently about this and I like learning about this subject. Please, as you gain facts, please update this blog with more information. I have found it extremely useful.
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