Are gamers insatiable? Is it wrong to expect more from big game companies?

I’ve decided to make this a video/article mash-up, so I’ve posted the notes I was working from below the video for you to read over if you want another look at your own speed. Watch the video, read the article and let me know what you think!

Reggie Fils-Aime recently stated in an interview with Gamasutra – “One of the things that, on one hand, I love and, on the other hand, that troubles me tremendously about not only our fanbase but about the gaming community at large is that, whenever you share information, the perspective is, ‘Thank you, but I want more.’ ‘Thank you, but give me more.’ I mean, it is insatiable. For years this community has been asking, ‘Where’s Pikmin?’ ‘Where’s Pikmin?’ ‘Where’s Pikmin?’ We give them Pikmin. And then they say, ‘What else?'”

On first glance, he seems to be saying that we’re all whiners with an undeserved sense of entitlement. IGN talks about this being a response to the very mild reception of Nintendo at E3 this year, but I’m more interested in asking why Reggie feels this way, and if it is right that he should do so.

There are those who agree that our generation has a sense of entitlement that makes us insufferable, needy children who complain about everything. I happen to think this is the case sometimes, but we can’t confuse this with rightly being annoyed when our expectations are not fulfilled.

Everyone has a right to be pissed off when a service they have bought is not up to scratch, for example a car rental plan – we are offered a specific car for a specific amount of time, and we expect said car to have the features it is advertised as having (air-con, electric windows, cup holders) and to be in good condition. If one or several of those features is missing, we have the right to complain about it, as our expectations provided by the rental company are not being fulfilled, and we paid based on those expectations.

Buying a games console is slightly different – there is no contractual obligation involved from either party aside from handing over some money to receive the console as it’s described on the box (and if it’s broken or doesn’t have the RAM described, we have the right to complain and change it). However, we don’t solely buy a console based on the specs alone – we buy a console based on the games it will play.
Imagine at E3, Microsoft announces the Xbox 720, showing fancy pictures of the console and reeling off the technical specs in great detail. They might even show a CG scene that runs on the 720, but this scene is not based on any game that is or will ever be released. In fact, they state nothing about any games of any kind at any subsequent conventions, right up to release. They also don’t show any of the other functionality, like web browsing or Netflix. Would anyone buy the console?

Undoubtedly, there would be some who would snatch it up as an offering from the gods, but the more discerning of us would be left wholly underwhelmed by the lack of evidence that this console plays games that we want. The machine could be the technological marvel of the modern gaming age, but without any evidence of games to play on it or any functionality that we want, no one with any concern for their hard-earned money is going to drop the hundreds of pounds Microsoft wants for their latest gamebox.

However, go back and look at previous console releases – N64, PS2, Xbox 360, Wii, PS3 – all of these showcased fantastic games being played on their systems. People got excited, and people wanted the consoles because they would play those games. So far, the WiiU launch seems troubled because of the lack of core games being played on it – that’s not to say there have been none, but at the biggest gaming expo in the world they mainly showcased decidedly casual games, which failed to get anyone really excited.

When you buy a console, you are entering into an unwritten, unspoken agreement. You are essentially saying, “Ok, here’s my several hundred pounds for this on the promise that there will be games and/or functionality that I shall enjoy on this console – for which I shall pay more money in the future.” Nintendo and Reggie seem to be expecting us to enter into this agreement without the assurance of the second part – we’ve not had any big exposure for huge, core titles from Nintendo, and people are worried it’s going to be another casual console like the Wii (also thanks in no part to the shambolic announcement at last year’s E3).

With games consoles and the companies who manufacture both them and games for them,  it is not too much to expect decent games for a console before forking over your money for it. People are smarter about buying games these days, we have far more access to finding out about them and consoles, and we are no longer sat at the feet of the games companies eagerly awaiting whatever tasty morsel drifts down to us. And we can be satiated – when a console boasts fantastic game support, we have bought it in droves.

What do you think? Do you think we’re all just expecting too much from game companies? Or do you think Reggie is just acting out of spite and anger at a mild E3 reception? Leave some comments below the video on YouTube or below this article.

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