Current Issues that Plagued the Video Game Industry

Video games are not only a hobby but it is a billion dollar industry. Although its inception began in the 1950[1], video games have changed a lot in terms of graphics, stories and gameplays. And although it has its own detractors like parents, politicians, people of both the left and right wing political spectrum, video games have overcome those obstacles and provided entertainment and escape from reality to me and millions of gamers. However this is my pessimistic take on the current issues that are affecting the industry especially around the AAA[2] video games.

These video game corporations have not only ruined their own reputation but they have destroyed the legacy of their games for example Konami’s lack of respect of their own video games like Metal Gear, Silent Hill or Castlemania and turning them into Panchiko gambling machines[3] shows a complete disregard for their own intellectual properties and this move is also hurting Konami’s reputation as a company.

Companies like EA and Activision, is aggresive monetizing their games through micro-transactions, loot-boxes, RNG etc. not only makes them anti-consumer at times but it also makes them morally bankrupt Vijay Mallyas of the video game industry. In other words often resort to unethical practices, not to mention EA became the 5th most hated company in America[4] according to USA today[5]. Most gaming companies have one thing in common- Insatiable greed. This greed has affected companies like EA, Activision, Ubisoft, Bluehole and so on. This greed has destroyed the quality of video games especially in AAA titles. Just like the world being dynamic, the industry itself has created something new, innovated, creative and epic. There were times we have got games like The Last of Us[6], God of War[7], Metal Gear Solid V[8], Uncharted 4[9], Red Dead Redemption[10], The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild[11], The Witcher 3[12] and so many more there were times corporations and their greed have affected the current state of gaming.

Youtuber The Act Man [13] has perceived the decline of gaming for various reasons-

1. The increasing numbers of buggy, glitching games with big budget games updating their mess of their games because of their botched launches (to fix the issue).

2. Over abundance of Remakes, Remasters and Chasing new trends

3. Corporatization of video games.

4. Aggressive monetization system like loot-boxes, micro-transactions and RNGs.[14]

Those perceptions have evolved into the current issues that the video game industry is facing and there are more issues that are still relevant in the society like treatment of workers, hypocritical political views, chasing new trends and so on. So this article will focus on the current issues that plagued the industry.

Issues regarding the decline of gaming

1. Complacency- A feeling of content or self-satisfaction, especially when coupled with an unawareness of danger, trouble or controversy.[15] According to The Act Man, complacency has become a deterrent to quality game design. And how companies like Valve, Rockstar and EA Star Wars have become complacent in the last decade. In the 2000s these companies were making tons of games like GTA 3 and 4, Star Wars Battlefront 1[16] and 2[17], Knights of the Old Republic 1 and 2, GTA San Andreas, GTA Vice City, Bully[18], Manhunt[19], Half-Life 2[20], Portal[21], Left 4 Dead[22] and so on. [23][24].

He further explains how in the 2010s Rockstar has only made 2 games (GTA V[25] and Red Dead Redemption 2[26]), EA has made 3 Star Wars games (Star Wars Battlefront 1 and 2[27] and Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order[28]) ever since they acquired the rights of Star Wars Games and Valve has only made 1 game i.e. Portal 2[29] and since 2011 Valve hasn’t made any more games other than Half-Life Alyx[30] because they were making profits from both Dota 2[31] and Counter Strike[32].

Bathesda is currently suffering from the consequences of Complacency with the release of Fallout 76[33] which later became a huge mess[34] and it is been almost 10 years since the release of Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim[35] and there is no news of Elder Scrolls 6[36]. According to The Act Man, although Nintendo makes tons of money without complacency, other companies will remain complacent because their previous games like Skyrim or GTA V are making huge amount of money and it is the easy way.[37]

2. Hypocritical Political Opinions- Video Game Corporations and Hollywood Celebrities are the same thing. They preach about something and they do the opposite of what they preach. Hollywood celebrities preach about environment and yet they travel via jets and yachts[38]. The biggest example of a video game company showing their hypocrisy was Blizzard. In 2019, Blizzard banned a popular Heartstone player Blitzchung for his support for Hong Kong Protest alongside the two other announcers. Because of this, people’s perception towards the once beloved company has changed. Blizzard received huge condemnation from their fans and #BoycottBlizzard was trending on Twitter[39].

Things have gone so bad that even the US Congress got involved and urged Blizzard to reconsider the ban[40]. Blizzard eventually reduced the suspension of Blitzchung but the damage was already done.[41] The biggest reason why Blizzard did this is to appease China which has a controversial record of human rights[42]. The Act Man also pointed out the hypocrisy of Blizzard when they were preaching of human rights and democracy during the George Floyd Protests and yet they banned Blitzchung for his democratic support of Hong Kong just so they could please their not so democratic and human rights abusive Chinese political masters[43]. This is just one example but it just explains how video game companies have complete hypocritical political stances.

3. Treatment of Employees- Various video game companies have been accused for their unethical and ill-treatment of their employees. One example is Konami- Konami has been on hot water for its treatment of their employees. Ever since the firing of Hideo Kojima[44] who was the creator of Metal Gear franchise[45] and the cancellation of PT and Silent Hills[46], various accusations were brought against Konami like over-surveillance of staff, underpaid staff, blacklisting of former employees, reassigning employees to low level jobs and in one case even demoting an employee just because she was pregnant.[47][48][49][50]

Employees working for EA has filed a lawsuit against the company for their failure to pay overtime compensation.[51] Blizzard fired almost 800 employees in 2018 even though, it was their most profitable year.[52] And with the rise of #METOO movement in the post-Weinstein era feminism[53], many women are voicing out against the major video game companies and their top brass[54] like the 3 executives from Ubisoft[55].

EA also came under fire after shutting down studios like Visceral[56], Pandemic Studios, BioWare Montreal, Dreamworks Interactive and so on[57], if their games don’t really work just in the case of Mass Effect Andromeda[58] which became a huge mess specially in the graphics and animation.[59]

4. Chasing New Trends- The Act Man expresses concern about how video game companies are just chasing trends instead of making something original. Some of the trends are as follows-

1- The oversaturation of remakes and remasters in video games. Videogamedunkey says that the video game companies who remake or remaster their games often do it just so they could exploit the nostalgia of the gamers because they want to make some bucks. The Silent Hill HD[60] Collection is a pure example of that.[61] The Act Man also says that remastered or remake games that come out one year after the original is kind of ridiculous. He states how could it be considered a remastered when the industry doesn’t just change in one year. Resident Evil 2 Remake[62] is a prime example of how to do a good remake[63].

2- Copying of other trends like in the case of Battle Royale, First Person shooters ever since the rise of popularity of PUBG, Fortnite, Call of Duty, Titan Fall and so on. Companies just copy everything from the other games instead of making their own and original concept or fixing their games like PUBG[64]. The Early Access games are worst examples and excuses of lazy game making and their inability to admit that they want to finish their game especially in the case of Zombie Survival Shooters.

3- We live in a time where games are now treated as services with all the post launch content. With the exception of Overwatch[65], lot of games are just launching their half baked games and then they release post launch content where they add more content or fix the game instead of just doing that before even releasing the entire product in the first place. Halo 5[66] and Halo: The Master Chief Collection[67] faced those issues with the former requiring an extra year to become a complete game and the latter was filled with game breaking bugs, messed up menus, ranking system and it was impossible to find matches. It took 3–4 years to finally fix this game and make it playable. The Act Man was disappointed that there was no class action lawsuit filed against the 343 Studios. The Ship it Now, Fix it Later mentality these corporations have is not only disheartening but a proof that they have turned their backs on their roots[68][69]

5. Corporatization of Video Games-

This is the worst issue faced in the industry. Companies don’t please the gamers or consumers as a whole anymore. Their main interests are to please shareholders or investors, meeting deadline and overall making profits. In front of the profit, the needs and wants as well as the rights of consumer is considered secondary now. Video Games like movies have become soulless because of the corporatization. The aggressive monetization system is a clear proof of that. In Call of Duty World War 2[70], a working loot-box is more important than a working game.

One of the worst example regarding the aggressive monetization system is the Star Wars Battlefront Loot Box Scandal. Long story short, the game requires 40 hours to unlock a hero, and it requires real money to progress, get skins and buy weapons. This caused an uproar among fans and the outrage was all over Reddit, Twitter and many other social medias.[71] Even Hawaii Representative Chris Lee states that it is an online Star Wars Cantina that attracts kids to do gambling[72] and this led to Hawaiian lawmakers to bring loot boxes regulations[73].

Nintendo has been taking down hundreds of fan made games and songs through mass DMCA strikes and even if it is well within it can still be considered as a scummy move from Nintendo and it would prevent people from buying their product.[74][75]

This isn’t the only game. EA’s sports games like Fifa and Madden are aggressively monetized. So is Middle Earth Shadow of War[76] which is SINGLE PLAYER GAME. WHO MONETIZES A SINGLE PLAYER GAME[77] ? Metal Gear Survive[78] has the audacity to ask players to pay $10 for A SAVE SLOT[79]. Recently a kid from Punjab has spent Rs 16 lakh on PUBG and lying to his parents that he is using it for his studies[80]. It is really sad how this unethical and even anti-consumer practice is allowing kids to throw money on some games just so they could get skins. These game companies are just the corporate versions of Harshad Mehta and just like Harshad Mehta scammed banks, these companies are scanning kids and adults alike. These companies are just repeating the same mistakes of the CSGO Lotto Scam[81].

Various Solutions to Tackle the issues

1. Belgium has banned loot-boxes in video games as it violates the Belgium Gaming Commission. The Minister of Justice even said that gaming and gambling are very dangerous for children.[82]

2. The Dutch Court has fined EA 10 Million Euros for their implementation of loot-boxes in games like Fifa 19, 20 and 21. And EA was ordered to change it and if they fail to do so then they will be paying 500000 Euros per week. Thus the Netherlands Gaming Authority declared loot-boxes illegal.[83]

3. Blizzard’s recent screw up, Warcraft 3 Reforged was panned by fans because it missed a lot of elements in the games and the promises that Blizzard made were even incomplete. And with terrible User Interface, always online system, lack of refund options, Blizzard’s controller over user generated content made a lot of people to hate the company[84]

4. The Indian Government has banned Tencent which was responsible for PUBG Mobile, one of the most popular games in India. The reasons were the ongoing border dispute between India and China and with the death of 20 Indian Soldiers, the public was furious. Chinese products were boycotted and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has banned PUBG alongside 118 apps[85] under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act 2009.[86] Not to mention that the Chinese Companies are selling malwares[87] and Tencent is a Chinese Company

5. On June 2020, about 70 women came forward with their stories through Twitter, YouTube, Twitch and TwitLonger regarding sexism and sexual harassment.[88]

In context to India

For video game companies and subsidiaries in India

1. Section 2(n) of The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2013 defines Sexual Harassment[89]. Section 3 of the said act talks about the prevention of Sexual Harassment at workplace.[90]

2. The Minimum Wage Act 1948, ensures that worker whether skilled or unskilled get minimum wages that could ensure good health, comfort, education, dignity, housing and help in any emergency.[91]

3. Article 19(1)(g) of the Indian Constitution ensures that every person has a right to practice any profession or to carry any trade, occupation or business.[92]Article 32 ensures constitutional remedies for the encroaching of the Fundamental Right.[93]

4. The Public Gambling Act, 1867 prohibits betting or wagering or any act which facilitates the same.[94]

5. The Consumer Protection Act 1986 provides various rights to the citizens which are as follows:-

i. Right to Safety

ii. Right to Information

iii. Right to Choice

iv. Right to be heard or representation

v. Right to Seek Redressal

vi. Right to Consumer Education[95]

6. The Consumer Protection Act, M.R.T.P. Act, Environment Protection Act, The Companies and etc. are the legislative measures to enforce ethics in business as well as to protect public interest including the business and the businessmen.[96]

7. There is a possibility that India will implement regulations of loot-boxes with the rise of India’s gaming industry with 37 billion Rupees game revenue as of 2017 so that it could protect children from falling prey to the virtual gambling.[97]

8. Section 14 of the Minimum Wage Act 1948 talks about the overtime wages.[98] Section 22 talks about penalties regarding minimum wages.[99] The Act ensures that the defaulters will be fined for RS10000 or 5 years of imprisonment.[100]

Conclusion

Video Games as a medium is a popular hobby and to see a hobby being robbed by corporate robbers is unfortunate. However, with the decline of loot-boxes[101] in the current times it is hoped that the other issues that plagues the video game industry are solved as well so that video games could be inclusive, consumer friendly and most of all healthy competitive and at the same time more innovative, epic, creative and new. I hope that in the near future that video games will be loved among people all ages and all walks of life.

[1] Video Game History — Timeline & Facts — HISTORY

[2] What Is a AAA Video Game? (thoughtco.com)

[3] Konami Brings Back ‘Silent Hill’ Again as a Pachinko Machine — Bloody Disgusting (bloody-disgusting.com)

[4] Why Is Electronic Arts the Worst Company in America? (marketrealist.com)

[5] America’s Top 20 most-hated companies (usatoday.com)

[6] The Last of Us — Wikipedia

[7] God of War (2018 video game) — Wikipedia

[8] Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain — Wikipedia

[9] Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End — Wikipedia

[10] Red Dead Redemption — Wikipedia

[11] The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild — Wikipedia

[12] The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt — Wikipedia

[13] (20) The Act Man — YouTube

[14] (20) The Decline of Gaming — YouTube

[15] Complacency — definition of complacency by The Free Dictionary

[16] Star Wars: Battlefront (2004 video game) — Wikipedia

[17] Star Wars: Battlefront II (2005 video game) — Wikipedia

[18] Bully (video game) — Wikipedia

[19] Manhunt (video game series) — Wikipedia

[20] Half-Life 2 — Wikipedia

[21] Portal (video game) — Wikipedia

[22] Left 4 Dead — Wikipedia

[23] Grand Theft Auto — Wikipedia

[24] Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (series) — Wikipedia

[25] Grand Theft Auto V — Wikipedia

[26] Red Dead Redemption 2 — Wikipedia

[27] Star Wars: Battlefront — Wikipedia

[28] Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order — Wikipedia

[29] Portal 2 — Wikipedia

[30] Half-Life: Alyx — Wikipedia

[31] Dota 2 — Wikipedia

[32] Counter-Strike — Wikipedia

[33] Fallout 76 — Wikipedia

[34] Bethesda knew Fallout 76 was a mess, launched it anyway | TweakTown

[35] The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim — Wikipedia

[36] No New The Elder Scrolls 6 News “For Years,” According to Pete Hines | News | Prima Games

[37] (20) The Decline of Gaming — YouTube

[38] Jet-Powered Hypocrisy: Celebrities Leave Massive Carbon Footprints (breitbart.com)

[39] The Blizzard China Controversy, Explained (ign.com)

[40] Congress members urge Blizzard to ‘reconsider’ Hearthstone suspension — Polygon

[41] Blizzard restores Hong Kong player’s winnings, reduces suspension after international uproar — The Washington Post

[42] Everything you need to know about human rights in China | Amnesty International | Amnesty International

[43] (21) The Decline of Blizzard — YouTube

[44] Hideo Kojima — Wikipedia

[45] Why Konami fired Hideo Kojima, according to MGS V’s composer | GameZone

[46] Silent Hills P.T. Cancellation Killed Guillermo Del Torro’s Dream To Make Horror Video Game | Player.One

[47] Report points at disgusting staff treatment at Konami — SA Gamer

[48] Scathing Konami Report Alleges Cruel And Unusual Employee Practices (forbes.com)

[49] Konami are allegedly blacklisting ex-employees from the entire Japanese game industry | PCGamesN

[50] Video Games: An Overview (legalserviceindia.com)

[51] Employees readying class-action lawsuit against EA — GameSpot

[52] Activision Blizzard fires almost 800 employees (guru3d.com)

[53] The Case Against Harvey Weinstein, Explained — The New York Times (nytimes.com)

[54] Video Game Industry Rocked by Outpouring of Sexual Misconduct Allegations — Bloomberg

[55] Ubisoft sexual harassment investigation claims three more executives | Games | The Guardian

[56] EA Shuts Down Visceral Games (kotaku.com)

[57] A Brief History of EA’s Closed Studios | Game Rant

[58] Mass Effect: Andromeda — Wikipedia

[59] What went wrong with Mass Effect: Andromeda (looper.com)

[60] Silent Hill HD Collection — Wikipedia

[61] (22) Remakes and Remasters — YouTube

[62] Resident Evil 2 (2019 video game) — Wikipedia

[63] Resident Evil 2 Remake Review — “True survival horror returns” | MGL (mygameslounge.com)

[64] (22) The Tragedy of PUBG — YouTube

[65] Overwatch (playoverwatch.com)

[66] Halo 5: Guardians — Wikipedia

[67] Halo: The Master Chief Collection — Wikipedia

[68] Mass Effect is yet another “ship it now, fix it later” game — PlayStation 4 (gamespot.com)

[69] (22) The Decline of Gaming — YouTube

[70] Call of Duty®: WWII

[71] The Star Wars Battlefront II Controversy Timeline, How the Events Unfolded | SegmentNext

[72] Hawaii Wants To Fight The ‘Predatory Behavior’ Of Loot Boxes (kotaku.com)

[73] Hawaii lawmakers introduce loot crate regulation bills — Polygon

[74] Nintendo Mass DMCA Takedown Removes Hundreds of Fangames from Game Jolt * TorrentFreak

[75]

[76] Middle-earth: Shadow of War — Wikipedia

[77] Microtransactions and Loot Boxes — Middle-earth: Shadow of War Wiki Guide — IGN

[78] METAL GEAR SURVIVE (konami.com)

[79] Metal Gear Survive’s extra character save slots cost $10 — Polygon

[80] Punjab teen spends whopping Rs 16 lakh on PUBG in-game transactions | Technology News,The Indian Express

[81] TmarTn CSGO Lotto Scandal Explained | American Betting Site

[82] Video game loot boxes declared illegal under Belgium gambling laws — BBC News

[83] EA to appeal Dutch FIFA loot boxes ruling following €10m fine • Eurogamer.net

[84] ‘Warcraft 3: Reforged’ Is A Disaster — Here’s Wh(24) Nintendo Is Horrible — YouTubey Fans Are So Upset (forbes.com)

[85] PUBG: India bans Tencent game in latest crackdown on Chinese apps — CNN

[86] What is Section 69A in The Information Technology Act,2000? (jagranjosh.com)

[87] China’s APT hackers move to ransomware attacks (bleepingcomputer.com)

[88] Dozens of Women in Gaming Speak Out About Sexism and Harassment — The New York Times (nytimes.com)

[89] Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 | Bare Acts | Law Library | AdvocateKhoj

[90] Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013 (taxguru.in)

[91] Minimum Wages Act 1948- Objectives, Components, Case Laws (lawnn.com)

[92] Article 19(1)(g) in The Constitution Of India 1949 (indiankanoon.org)

[93] Explained: What have been the Supreme Court’s recent observations on Article 32? | Explained News,The Indian Express

[94] LEGAL POSITION OF ONLINE GAMING/GAMBLING IN INDIA (lawyered.in)

[95] Consumer Rights under the Consumer Protection Act, India (yourarticlelibrary.com)

[96] Regulation of Business Ethics in India | Business Ethics of Indian Managers (accountlearning.com)

[97] Future of video game loot boxes uncertain as game-of-chance mechanics come under increased government scrutiny — World News , Firstpost

[98] Section 14 in The Minimum Wages Act, 1948 (indiankanoon.org)

[99] Section 22 in The Minimum Wages Act, 1948 (indiankanoon.org)

[100] Introduction To Minimum Wages Act: Penalties & Offences (toppr.com)

[101] (24) The Rise & Fall of Loot Boxes — YouTube

I love writing articles