Early access journalism

Here are three scenarios. Only one of them is true. Your job is guessing which.

Scenario the first – You’ve been waiting years and the big day is finally here! Your favourite author has just released their new book. You waltz into the book shop (yes, I know, it’s 2014, why would you be in a book shop, but we’re role-playing, so don’t break character) and there it is, hardback, £18.99. You fish out your debit card, pay the lovely man behind the counter, and walk off with the book, excited to start reading it on the bus home. The bookseller calls you back. Did you forget your receipt? You numpty, you’re always doing that.

“I’m sorry, but you haven’t pre-ordered the season pass.”

“Excuse me?”

“The season pass. So you can get the rest of the book.”

“What do you mean?”

You open the book, and the paper immediately starts to fall apart. Some pages are missing, the entire last chapter appears to be printed upside-down, some of it is written in what appears to be Aramaic.

“Bookseller! What’s wrong with my book?”

“Oh, there were some problems at the printers, but it’ll be fixed soon, you’ll just have to wait.”

“Then, why have you released it?”

“Well, it’s still readable. Just wait a bit.”

“Can I have a refund?”

The bookseller looks at you like you just farted in church, turns his back to you, and starts whistling tunelessly.

Scenario the second – You’ve been waiting years and the big day is finally here! Your favourite director has just released their new film. You booked tickets weeks in advance, to make sure you got the comfy, but slightly weird sofa seats, and the trailers are over. Here it comes… wait. Is that a boom mic? Well, everyone makes mistakes, let’s get- did the director just walk into shot? Why is Matthew McConaughey holding a script and scratching his tummy?

PLACEHOLDER SHOT, VFX MISSING flashes on the screen where a cybernetic dinosaur should’ve appeared, rampaging across the street.

45 minutes in, the projector explodes, and the film ends. You rush up to the box office.

“Film seller! That film wasn’t working.”

“Oh, yeah, it’s not finished yet. It was released early.”

“Why?”

“To make money so we can finish it and release it properly.”

“Unacceptable! I demand a refund.”

The filmseller looks at you like you just farted in a lift, turns her back to you, and starts whistling the theme from The Prisoner.

Scenario the third – You’ve been waiting a year and the big day is finally here! Your favourite developer has just released their new game. You pre-ordered months ago, for no other reason  than to show your support, it’s not like the digital keys will sell out. You stay up all night downloading it, fanny around with drivers, get yourself a nice big Mountain Dew and an extra large bag of Doritos and fire that sumbitch up.

Hm. This is weird. Characters are falling through the floor. Well, shit happens, they’ll patch that out later. Holy shit, the frame rate is all over the place. You just upgraded your PC, it’s basically two PS4s strapped together.

Wait, what’s this? Microtransactions? In a game you paid £54.99 for? No, this must be satire. Let’s try some multiplayer. I can’t find any one to play with. It’s launch day! Something is terribly wrong, this game is obviously unfinished.

“Game seller!” you cry, realise no one can hear you, and send an email instead.”

“Game seller, this game is obviously broken, I demand a refund.”

“No refunds. Ever. Fuck the EU and its regulations.”

You shed a silent tear, then send an email to the developer.

“We’ll patch the problems out, it’ll just take a month or so. Calm down, we’re really sorry, it won’t happen again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again-”

You close the email.

Did you guess yet? The first two scenarios are obviously made up and, if they happened, the respective critics would cry foul and you wouldn’t hear the end of it. This happens all the time in video games, and the media do very little. They reward the developers/publishers’ fuckery with 8s and 9s, leaving it up to the fans to do the critiquing.

I want to look into this. I would like to talk to developers and publishers and see if they think yearly AAA releases are sustainable. I’d like to talk about microtransactions, macrotransactions, season passes and early access. I’d like to talk about a lot of shit, basically, so if you could back me here, for free, that would be ace.

Ta babs.

-H

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