It’s the last Sunday of 2018, and since we spent last sunday looking at all the best things to happen this year, it’s time to say “farewell” to the current year by looking back at all the ways it let us down, disappointed, shamed, failed, hurt, or otherwise simply bummed us out. And even limiting ourselves to just video game news, this has been a pretty, uh… “eventful” twelve months.So let’s get started with the very worst things of this year… and what I hope we won’t be seeing in 2019.
2018 was for video game studios what the Red Wedding was for the Starks. Carbine. Boss Keys. Capcom Vancouver. It was said that nearly a thousand people lost their jobs in the video game industry this year alone. But the biggest, most surprising, and most impactful closing this year has to be Telltale: the point-and-click behemoths who bit off more than they could chew while flying too close to the sun. They crashed hard, burned harder, and left hundreds of people without jobs, and millions of gamers without a conclusion to their favorite stories. That latter issue has since been remedied, but that doesn’t make what happened to Telltale - and what caused it - any better.
Telltale had too many projects, too many people, and too many ambitions. Combine that with a stifling lack of creativity and ingenuity, constant overtime, and an outdated engine that couldn’t compete in the modern gaming market, Telltale’s fall was inevitable but still surprising. If any good was to come from their closure, it was that it kickstarted a conversation about crunch time, which carried over to Take-Two and Rockstar when they tried to brag about the hours their employees were putting into the upcoming Red Dead Redemption 2: changing the cadence from “wow, what dedication!” to “wow, how abusive!”
Still. That’s a small comfort. Despite all their faults, Telltale was, ultimately, an exceptional studio that made the kind of games you just don’t see anymore. With their fall, it may be a long, long time before we see the triple-A world decide to try point-and-click narrative games again.
And that would be the crap icing on this crap cake.
Fallout 76’s crappy bags
Fallout 76 is the perfect storm of bullcrap that it makes you really step back and reevaluate what you think is true or not in this whole damn industry.
I mean, if Fallout 76 had been a bad game, that would be one thing. If a game developer produced some crappy merchandise, that would be one thing. But when you combine those things you get a half-assed, rushed game that could maybe be passed as inexperience until you remember it was put together by the same studio that apparently didn’t mind a whole bunch of false advertising. The result isn’t just a bunch of fans unhappy with the quality of their promised bags (that issue has been more-or-less resolved), it’s the realization that Bethesda really phoned it in for this one. Fallout 76 isn’t the experience we were hoping for, and this bag - cheap and misleading and a product of apathy and money-saving measures - is kind of allegorical. Bethesda is trying to capitalize on “games as a service”, and in the process soured a perfectly good Fallout game.
And remember: Bethesda is supposed to be one of the good guys. There was a time when they were one of the few developers people would actually admire and trust. This isn’t just a bad game and a bad bag, it’s a fall from grace: which means we’re running out of developers we can genuinely admire. I think we’re down to Devolver Digital and Sega at this point, and lemmie tell you: Sega is on some thin ice.
But hey: speaking of developers you can be dissapointed in…
Riot Games was never a “good” studio. They introduced crappy loot box mechanics in an otherwise fine game. They are at the forefront of the eSports scene and yet they have a history of treating shoutcasters like crap. But that could be passed off as symptoms of being a modern game developer, a list of sins that, while problematic, did not make them especially so in today’s gaming industry.
But then the Kotaku report hit, and it turned out Riot Games had a toxic boy’s club mentality that lead to rampant discrimination, degradation, and humiliation of their female employees. The kind of place where people who say hateful things were protected while those who stood up to it and tried to be decent were ostracized or removed entirely. It was a place where people could openly say girls shouldn’t play video games -- and they were applauded for it.
Hell, the fact that one of their higher-ups was publicly saying “sometimes no doesn’t mean no”...
If it had just been that, Riot Games would have easily secured a spot on this list. But it went on. Riot Games,caught red-handed, feigned surprise and said they would look into it. But by all accounts, despite hosting some half-assed panels and the crocodile tears of their founders, nothing has improved. The most toxic people are still in charge. The culture is barely budging. Riot Games failed to show any follow-through. They really don’t see their culture as “wrong”: PR just wants people to love them again without putting in the work.
It’s the kind of thing that makes you wanna wash your hands of them forever. Because no matter how much I enjoy their game, and their eSport, it’s not worth supporting them if it means supporting this.
Being an informed consumer sucks, lemmie tell ya.
Just… all of Activision-Blizzard right now.
I never liked Blizzard, but I could begrudgingly respect the fact that despite everything, they still made games that people loved and that were of exceptionally high quality. They felt, for lack of a better term, like they were still gamers themselves, rather than some big faceless company, and could tap into that gamer mindset to produce wonderful things.
This year has changed that perspective. Or at least challenged it.
The biggest “incident” was the reveal of Diablo Immortal, which was a mess no matter how you cut it. They misread their audience by deciding to reveal a mobile game at the biggest Blizzard event in the world (which is populated mostly by PC elitists) and then insulted them when they weren’t as excited as they’d hoped. And while one could say that the outlandish reaction to the game’s announcement was a simple overreaction from disappointed fans, let’s not forget that a mobile Diablo game probably means that Blizzard is going to be introducing some crazy monetization scheme. They certainly never avoided pay-to-win systems in the PC versions of Diablo (RIP auction house) and in a free-to-play mobile environment? One can only imagine how crappy that will be.
But they followed up that mess with a new one near the end of the year: the abrupt “cancellation” of Heroes of the Storm’s eSport scene, leading to the sudden and very avoidable firing of around 400 esport professionals who had made a living off the game and who were being told in no uncertain terms that they didn’t matter to Blizzard. It would have been easy to warn these professionals ahead of time that the game was being scaled back, but Blizzard remained tight-lipped until the very end, and in doing so once again revealed their inability to understand or empathize with their own audience.
That said, it’s very possible both of these things were more the result of Activision than Blizzard itself, as reports are suggesting that the once-passive Activision is starting to take a more aggressive and proactive role in running Blizzard. But that doesn’t excuse it: Blizzard still has to take responsibility for their mess-ups and lawrd this year had its fair share.
Blizzard, I never liked you, but it used to be unjustified. Stop validating me, please.
Epic Game’s crappy mobile app
Epic Games has gotten a lot of good press at the start of the year for their new more generous store, but that doesn’t mean we forgot the crap they pulled at the start: namely, Fortnite mobile. The game itself runs fine, the problem is in Epic’s never-ending quest for money, they decided to not sell the game on the Google Play store, and instead only sell it from their site, so they don’t have to share any money with Google.
Fair enough, no one here is going to say Google needs more money. The issue is that they still have a Fortnite installer on Google Play (so they can have a presence on that storefront), which just takes you to the actual store to get the game. That might not seem like a problem, but to hackers, it’s the perfect opportunity to do some phishing: which is to say, making a fake app and tricking people into downloading malware with it.
And that’s exactly what happened. They made dozens of fake Fortnite apps that would go on to infect thousands of android phones with malware under the pretense of being the Fortnite installer. Epic could have avoided - or at least mitigate - the damage by removing their own installer or offering the game proper on Google Play. But they stuck to their guns and continued to create an environment where kids could get tricked and stolen from because they wanted money. And sure, it’s Google’s fault too, but this list is too short to focus on their many, many sins.
So there you have it. Some of the worst things of 2018. Here’s hoping the list in 2019 is much, much shorter.