Battlefield V got a massive amount of blowback when a combination of historical inaccuracies, outrage from both extreme left and right-wing groups, and terrible PR responses after the initial negative reaction to the game’s first trailer.
Then Diablo Immortals got a ton of blowback after a long-running PC-exclusive franchise suddenly went the mobile route. It was featured as the star attraction of a convention showcase where the fanbase was expecting something larger. Naturally, like EA/DICE with Battlefield V, the response from Activision Blizzard was, shall we say, less than stellar. And yes, we do have phones.
Now Bethesda is taking a turn with Fallout 76, a game that was created for a trendy genre several years too late to that party and was release as a broken, buggy and lifeless mess. Couple that with the recent outrage over a nylon bag in the $200 special edition where a refund of $5 of in-game currency (which is jack squat), and fans are also extremely pissed off.
This is just three recent cases of major franchises making a massive mistake (or several) and generating losses (or in Diablo’s case, potential losses) for franchises that before these controversies, were guaranteed to make tons of money in profits before even counting microtransactions, DLC and more. But there’s plenty of other franchises that developers and publishers alike have been slowly pissing away all the good will they’ve had over years and years, game after game.
Final Fantasy. Without counting the surprising success FFXIV: A Realm Reborn has had, single-player Final Fantasy games haven’t had a real hit since Final Fantasy X on the PlayStation 2. FFXII went well under the radar, FFXIII was a trilogy no one outside of Japan asked for, and FFXV showed promise, but was a mess from the beginning of its pre-production and could not have been saved.
Mass Effect. Not just a trilogy, but THE trilogy from the past console generation. Despite the controversial ending of the final installment, the series was one of the most well-respected franchises in gaming. Cue Mass Effect: Andromeda, a game that was released in a poor state, made by a studio that had never made a game of that scale before, and was such a disaster, no single-player DLC came out for it and the series has been put on hold, potentially forever.
Star Wars. One of the few licensed franchises to have legitimately good games and then EA decided to get its hands all over it and do what EA does best. Cancel potentially interesting titles (Star Wars 1313, the game Visceral was going to make, etc.), refuse to remake or continue promising games within the license (KOTOR, Republic Commando, Rogue Squadron, etc.) and release only Star Wars titles of the most poor quality and rifled with microtransactions and create one of the largest video game controversies in history (Star Wars Battlefront II).
There’s six franchises right there. We could talk about Konami ruining Metal Gear Solid, SEGA constantly saving Sonic the Hedgehog and then screwing up all over again, and so much more, there’s just so many examples out there, some I’ve forgotten or aren’t even aware of. It’s not an anomaly anymore, it is a yearly, if not quarterly occasion now for long-time consistently great franchises in gaming to get either destroyed or severely damaged.
With Fallout 76 being the current offender, while not striking a lethal blow on the Fallout franchise, there is now considerable worry and disdain from fans of the series because of the game that many are calling an absolute disaster, a broken mess, a failure of failures. Couple the bad game with a terrible PR response to the aforementioned nylon bag in the $200 edition and it’s clear that Bethesda is going a similar route that a lot of the major publishers and developers are going. They’re simply using the good will of their franchises’ names and making games that cost less and rake more profits in through overpricing the base game, microtransactions, and other nefarious means.
Let’s not kid ourselves here. We’re in a very important time in this generation of gaming. Thankfully, we’re responding in the way that we should, however we’re also failing as well. Sure, we may be giving companies hell for failing miserably and insulting our intelligence, whether it’s making garbage games, poor PR relations with their consumer base, or just plain ol’ not listening to what their customers want, but in the end, way too many of us are just buying or even worse, pre-ordering their games just on brand recognition alone.
I’m sorry folks, but I have no sympathy for people dropping hundreds of dollars on games that “might” be good. It’s your job as a consumer to not look at things through a rose-coloured lens, rather than just pre-ordering a game, assuming it’ll be just as good as the last one. I made that mistake with Andromeda, and I will beat myself up for that one for years to come. The signs were all there, the game didn’t look that great, what little of it was shown. The concept was all I had to go on and that should’ve been a red flag. Fallout fans, you knew this game was not going to be a traditional Fallout game. Hell, we knew it wasn’t even going to be just “Fallout Online”, it was going to be something more akin to Rust or ARK: Survival Evolved. As someone who really enjoyed Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas, but not Fallout 4, just the idea of getting a Fallout game that looked a lot like a copy/paste of the latest edition in the franchise, but one that would be more devoid of life as most of these survival games are, I was immediately not psyched. Boy am I glad I steered clear of this one.
So the question remains, are we in for a long period of time, perhaps permanently, where long-time franchises are doomed to failure? Are we soon to expect other franchises like Street Fighter, HALO, Legend of Zelda, The Witcher, Hitman and many more, follow the same trend and royally piss off their consumer base, just to make a quick buck off the brand value? Hell, even though I like what I’ve seen from Kingdom Hearts III, I’m not discounting the possibility that this game could be an absolute pile of shit and completely drive the franchise into the ground, just like Square Enix has been doing with Final Fantasy.
But in the end, I remain optimistic. I think it really depends on who’s running the show. If it’s EA, there’s no hope. Activision Blizzard? Hahahaha, we know we’re screwed now. Bethesda is new to the game, maybe they’ll learn from Fallout 76. Ubisoft has learned their lesson several times, just take a look at Rainbow Six: Siege, Tom Clancy’s The Division, the Assassin’s Creed games. They’ve improved. Nintendo should be fine, they generally put real effort into what they make. It’s honestly a 50/50 chance that your favourite franchise could take a hit when they release their next game.
So have a coin handy the next time a big reveal trailer drops for a series you love and adore. Heads, you pre-order. Tails, you don’t. It’ll help you make a call so you don’t have to take those rose-coloured glasses off.