Cliff Bleszinski, design director, might be taking a break after leaving his post at Epic Games last October. But Cliff Bleszinski, unfettered opinionator? Not a chance.
The Gears of War trilogy designer, colloquially known to the gaming public as Cliffy B, has taken strong stances in the past on everything from on-disc DLC to console generation lifespans. Shaped by his experience at the helm of one of the industry’s marquee studios, his perspective often bears a distinct pragmatism, an acceptance for what he sees as the cutthroat realities facing today’s publishers and developers in what’s ultimately, sifting through the Locust viscera and silencing the Lancer chainsaws, a business environment.
It’s a transparent, love-or-hate attitude that was on display again today in a lengthy posting to his blog, Clifford Unchained.
Addressing this week’s controversial announcement by Electronic Arts that microtransactions will be featured in all future EA games, Bleszinski staunchly defended the company as a free-market competitor. He also alleged that a double standard exists among many gamers regarding EA and Valve: The former, he says, has their actions met with instant acrimony while the latter, even when operating in the same way, receives excessive praise.
The video game industry is just that. An industry. Which means that it exists in a capitalistic world. You know, a free market. A place where you’re welcome to spend your money on whatever you please… or to refrain from spending that money.
I’ve seen a lot of comments online about microtransactions. They’re a dirty word lately, it seems. Gamers are upset that publishers/developers are “nickel and diming them.” They’re raging at “big and evil corporations who are clueless and trying to steal their money.”
I’m going to come right out and say it. I’m tired of EA being seen as “the bad guy.” I think it’s bull**** that EA has the “scumbag EA” memes on Reddit and that Good Guy Valve can Do No Wrong.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m a huge fan of Gabe and co most everything they do. (Remember, I bought that custom portal turret that took over the internet a while back and I have friends over there.) However, it blows my mind that somehow gamers don’t seem to get that Valve is a business, just like any other, and when Valve charges 100$ for an engagement ring in Team Fortress 2 it’s somehow “cool” yet when EA wants to sell something similar it’s seen as “evil.” Yes, guys, I hate to break it to you, as awesome as Valve is they’re also a company that seeks to make as much money as possible.
They’re just way better at their image control.
Blezinski’s entire argument encompasses much greater depth: comparing microtransactions to the machinations of old arcades; highlighting the exorbitant costs of triple-A game development; claiming that the average gamer — “[the guy who] buys just Madden and GTA every year” — doesn’t mind spending a little more money within the game; and asserting that, adjusted for inflation, games are actually cheaper than ever (though inflation might be catching up soon). His closing statement, however, implores gamers to match their words with (monetary) action: “You vote with your dollars.”
It’s sound advice for gamers on either side of the microtransaction debate, and ultimately the only thing that will determine whether the model is here to stay in the next generation.
Ranters, do you stand with Cliff Bleszinski on microtransactions in games? Do gamers hold a double standard when judging EA and common fan-favorite companies like Valve?
Follow Brian on Twitter @Brian_Sipple.
Source: Clifford Unchained