So today’s October 19th. Battlefield 2142 comes out in Europe today, and has been available for a couple days over here on this side of the Atlantic. I couldn’t tell you how it played, or anything like that; I dislike first person games with an almost unhealthy loathing, especially since they’ve singlehandedly destroyed the Metroid franchise in my eyes. Reviews so far point to it being a good game that doesn’t expound too much on the prior title, but that’s not in my interests.
What IS in my interests are a couple of key items that I picked up. The first one, courtesy of a podcast by Computer Gaming World, is a nice little tale about Battlefield’s in-game advertising. Now, we’re getting used to that sort of thing; games are sponsoring more and more of their features in a bid for both revenue and realism. As a sports gamer, I’ve grown used to seeing halftime shows sponsored by Dodge, and the boards adorned by ads for companies like the hockey equipment manufacturer Bauer. Lately, though, Electronic Arts has taken it to an artform. In NHL ’07 for PS2, they spent more time placing Dodge advertisements into the game than they did making their game not suck (I regret that it got so much as a 5.0 when I reviewed it). In Fight Night 3, you advance in the game by winning fights sponsored by companies like Under Armor and Dodge (who seems to care more about this stuff than making their trucks not suck), and can even pick The King – the scary looking f*cker from the Burger King commercials – as your trainer before fights after you unlock him. In Tiger Woods ’06 (and I’m assuming ’07, but that game’s changed so little I refuse to buy it), you actually gain money and statistics by becoming a walking billboard with your clothes and equipment. Naturally, after Vivendi started the trend of streaming in live advertisements into SWAT 4, and the purchase of Massive and IGA Worldwide, two advertising firms, you knew streaming ads were a matter of time.
But not only do the ads stream, they also collect “anonymous” information as to what you care about. Electronic Arts, in their defense, states that they do not collect any personally identifiable information about anyone (read: name, SSN, etc.), but that they do take your information and send it to external servers. They’re not even hiding it; in a slip of paper that comes with the game, IGA Worldwide says, in big block letters, that if you have a problem with this, tough shit, don’t install the game to a computer that is on the internet. Considering the fact that you can’t return a PC game that you’ve purchased (due to piracy concerns), that’s a wasted load of cash, should you be angry about finding this out. Furthermore, I’m seeing nothing that stated that this would be the policy that was released before the game’s release date a few days ago.
Layman’s terms: You are installing spyware with Battlefield 2142, and EA is telling you to f*ck off if you don’t like it.
“Oh, who cares? Companies like Google do this all the time!” This is different. They are forcing these advertisements into a game that is already heavy on the internet connection, which not only hurts your bandwidth – degrading your experience online – but could also hurt the experience even more on systems already on the border in terms of the recommended settings.
Now, a rational person would think that all these advertisements would lower the price of the game, right? Like you’re paying, through the viewing of their advertisements, therefore the price would be lowered, much like how when you sign up for the online version of a sports game, you can choose to either pay a small fee (like $2 or $3 USD) or receive emails from ESPN, advertising their shit?
Of course that’s not going to be the case, and frankly, I don’t see why. The fact of the matter is that consumers will still buy the game, no matter what. They’ll buy the Playstation 3 games, even if they go up to $100 a pop, and they’ll buy these games, despite how much they’re being ripped off. Even if they’re essentially paying twice for the game, due to all of the ads that are degrading their experience. Battlefield will still cost $50 in the United States, which works out to 39.78ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬.
… So why is it coming out at 54.99ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬? That’s the price, according to The INQuirer, of the game that is coming out today. According to XE.com, that rounds out to $69.13 USD. $20 USD more for the same game, same Draconian EULA, same advertisements, same “f*ck you” mentality.
This, combined with Sony releasing the PS3 four months later in the PAL market, and explaining it away by basically saying “who gives a f*ck? They’ll buy it anyway, even with the inflated Euro price!”, shows that the PAL market might be in the worst shape it’s ever been in. I remember going into electronics stores in the European countries in 2002, and seeing games at 60ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬ a pop, and going “Jesus…”. Well, that was back when the Euro was about the same as the American dollar. Even if the Euro was still about the same as the US Dollar, it’s STILL a $5 increase for no other reason than “Europe will buy it anyway”. $70 for a PC game is too much. $70 for a PC game that forces advertising down your throat that have almost nothing to do with the game, and possibly tracking your activity is a blatant insult, and akin to double penetration of the PAL market.
By my watch, it’s coming up on noon in GMT, being 6:30AM EST. My hope is that anyone who’s mind I would change with this double dip of information gets this before they go out to the store to pick up their shining new game, to find out that they can’t return it later.