Where Metro: Last Light Demonstrates A Case Of Bad Publisher Practice
There are few things in the gaming industry that anger me more than bad publisher practices, especially when they hurt us as consumers and damage the industry. I suppose what riles me even more than that are consumers who don’t stand up for themselves and defend such practices. Today I’m going to be speaking about Deep Silver, the publishers of Metro: Last Light, and how they’ve done a really crap thing with the highly anticipated game that’s releasing later this week.
Before I go on, let me say that this saddens me actually. Far more than it angers me. The reason is because I loved Metro: 2033. I felt that it was an under-appreciated gem, and I’ve even been gearing up for a second playthrough just before Last Light releases. Now, it’s important to understand that Metro 2033 was published by THQ, before they went down, and the sequel Last Light is being backed by Deep Silver, the questionable bunch who were behind the publishing of Dead Island: Riptide, and will be overseeing Saints Row IV. Usually this wouldn’t be a cause for concern, but after playing Riptide and finding it absolutely ludicrous that it sits on the shelves at full retail price despite its failure to fix anything from the original or deliver anything other than what could be classified as an expansion pack, and then discovering Metro: Last Light’s horrible practice, I’m questioning this publisher’s integrity.
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What exactly is the story here? Well, if you read our news yesterday, you would have seen what Metro: Last Light’s pre-order incentive is. For those who don’t know, basically the game has a difficulty setting called “Ranger Mode”, which is effectively a hardcore mode that removes the HUD and increases your suffering, and it was given free to consumers who owned Metro 2033. However, for Metro: Last Light it is a pre-order incentive, and if you’re not in that party then you have to pay $5 to purchase the difficulty setting. Before I say what I have to say, let me give Deep Silver’s explanation:
Huw Beynon, global brand manager at Metro: Last Light’s publisher, Koch Media (they’re currently known as Deep Silver), explained why the mode was made a DLC:
“Game makers and publishers now live in a world where offering game content as a pre-order exclusive is a requirement by retail, and Ranger Mode seemed like the best choice since it was a mode for hardcore fans who would most likely pre-order the game, or purchase it at launch in any case. We rejected requests to make story content or additional missions exclusive. We also rejected requests to make this a timed exclusive.”
In fairness, he does have a point that only hardcore fans will appreciate this feature. He went on to say:
“We do not recommend Ranger Mode for a first playthrough, and this is made very clear both in-game. We expect Metro fans will want to try Ranger Mode for a subsequent playthrough, and we think that for this hardcore player, Ranger Mode offers a richer experience – but only once you’ve clocked the game at least once.”
“We took all the steps we could to ensure that, while still offering retailers a pre-order incentive that met their needs, we did not force players to pre-order, or make them wait to get this content.”
Firstly, let me just put this out there. Alright, fine, you’re required to make a pre-order incentive. I get that. But then why not do what many other titles do, and just give the pre-order incentive as a special weapon? Or something else equally little, like a custom skin? In fact, the game does offer an exclusive in-game weapon and military grade bullets, so why not leave it at that? Clearly, by what Beynon says above, they did it because they were required to, and not because they wanted to. So why make it a difficulty setting and cut the option out for anyone else to try unless they pay for it? A harder difficulty is something games offer for free. It’s not even content, so to speak. It’s just a few tweaks. Hell, Last Light’s predecessor offered the exact same feature for free, and now you have to pay? Alright technically the PC version offered it free, but because of console requirements, it was made available at a low price. But it still stands that it’s just a difficulty, and it’s meant to be on the disk.
But what upsets me even more is the fact that they can then advertise Ranger mode, on the game’s official website, as “the way it was meant to be played”, telling consumers they will experience “complete immersion”. So the way the game is meant to be played, is something you have to pay extra to see? Something that will only be available in the launch (limited) copies of the game, and then disappear? What the hell? How can you make such a strong selling point out of it? You’re basically sending the message out to consumers that those who pre-order it will get the full, and best, experience. Even if that’s not what it is, that’s exactly how it looks because of the advertising. Yes, I know that the contents of the limited edition have been known for some time now, but it’s only recently that official statements were made about this DLC, which brought it to everyone’s attention.
In truth though I’ve just become very resentful of things like this. The online passes, always-on DRM like Diablo III and SimCity, on-disc DLC, Prince of Persia 2008’s horrendous case of an epilogue DLC, Dead Space 3’s microtransactions, and now a difficulty level, which is nothing more than a few tweaks made to the game’s settings. All monetized or forced. All things that should never have a price tag attached or be enforced. And in every case, it’s us as consumers who always have to make concessions. Each time, publishers take a little bit more from us, and give a little bit less.
Alright, Metro 2033’s Ranger Mode was only patched in post-release, and the console versions were forced to have a price for it. But now they could have just included it in the game and be done with it. But instead, it’s DLC, it will cost an extra $5 if you don’t pre-order and once the limited edition copies are out, and meanwhile it’s being advertised as the best way to play the game.
That just sends a really bad message, and is plain bad practice.
This is stirring up a fair amount of controversy on the internet, and I’ve read many cases where gamers have outright said they will avoid the game now so as not to support practices like this. I’ll reserve comment on that, because I can understand disliking the principle of it. I just feel that a lot of the problem is the way the game is marketing its Ranger Mode. And I think many gamers are trying to wrap their heads around paying actual money for a difficulty setting, which is uncommon to say the least.
It’s important to be aware of publisher practices and the implications of them. It’s important to know when you actually do deserve better treatment. And it’s important to keep in mind that in cases such as these, the pirates will not be affected. If it was simply an exclusive gun, no one would really care, but in these scenarios the pirates get the complete and unhindered experience, while paying customers have to put up with barriers and inconveniences. That’s what always leaves a sour taste.
I think given the last few years as well, the boundary on what can and can’t be considered DLC is pretty blurred. And the worry for many is simply: what’s next to be monetized? What’s our next concession?