Game Producer Quest, Part 18

As I write this blog, the back of my head is filled without a mental checklist of what I need to do before I travel to San Francisco for this years Game Developer’s Conference.  It makes me think about how last year my attention was divided between schoolwork and the conference itself.  This year, the most stressful thing will probably be figuring out the how Caltrain works.  It’s been years since I’ve taken a train anywhere, but with that said, I think things will be okay as long as I pay due diligence and plan ahead of time.

There’s been quite a bit of goings-on in the gaming world; I mentioned the SimCity debacle, courtesy of EA/Maxis a couple of posts ago, but just as big a story in my mind is the resignation of EA CEO John Riccitiello.  Here’s his message on the EA blog.  Personally, I’m not sure what to think about the news, in that him holding himself accountable is well and good, but for him to proclaim the personal assertion that EA is in a better position as a company while himself citing EA’s declining financial results seems contradictory to me.  I can appreciate positive spin to a point, but sometimes the less said, the better.

In my mind, there’s another slight slant in this, and that’s EA’s Origin service and how they operate.  I’ve been keeping abreast of the situation, and one thing that I’m somewhat dismayed that the gaming press isn’t tackling is that one cannot get a refund if one buys a game through said service.  Thus, when EA announces that more than a million sales have been made, I wonder how much of that number included people that were denied a refund, simply because it’s in Origin’s terms of service?  If it’s in their EULA that everyone pretends to read but ignores, the legality of it appears fine.  But despite having the legal right, it’s a horrible policy in my opinion, one that fails to build any type of positive relationship between the company and the consumer.  Add to that the apparently blatant lies about the need for SimCity (traditionally a single-player gaming experience) to be always online, and EA will need to do something beyond the status quo to buy back consumer confidence and earn consumer trust.

Then again, I’ve been wrong before.

As a side note, Rock, Paper, Shotgun really did a great job reporting on this, so kudos to John Walker (no, not the Captain America replacement from the 90’s aka U.S.Agent) on being an example of strong, gaming journalism.

Also, I can’t help but be embarrassed to be in the game industry at the moment.  It’ll definitely pass, but when I think about the blunders various companies (Ubisoft, Blizzard, EA/Maxis) have made these past couple of years to try to integrate an always online component into a single player experience and how we have always shamefully fallen flat on our face in the attempt, it makes me sad.  I often say that no one bats a hundred, but so far we’re a perfect 100% in failing at this endeavor.  Why are we constantly screwing this up?  When I ask ‘why,’ I mean the real reason(s), not the public relations bullpoop reason.  A part of me wishes I could get in touch with Google’s CEO (or summon Steve Jobs spirit from the grave) about this subject, just to see how they would go about it.  Because right now a perfect 100% failure rate is nothing to brag about.

I was going to also mention Richard Garriott’s interview regarding game designers and his inability to frame anything in a positive light, but I do have packing and planning to do, so maybe I’ll save my thoughts for the post-GDC blog.

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