Lately, every time I wander into a local video game dealer, I grow increasingly embarrassed to be a gamer. And, just to be clear, it's not because I'm particularly uncomfortable with my weight, odor, or any of the other gamer clichés that we've been rallying against for decades. Actually, the problem isn't with gamers themselves, but with the way the industry views us as a population.
See, the shelves that used to be chock-full with the latest and greatest titles are now starting to overflow with aimless accessories and pointless peripherals. It's becoming painfully obvious that the industry doesn't view us as a respectable group of responsible adults, but as a collection of easily influenced nitwits just waiting to dump our wallets into their bank accounts.
Now, you're probably wondering whether you should be jumping on my self-righteous bandwagon or taking sides with your favorite publisher. But after I give you a couple of examples, I'm confident that you'll join my militia.
Wii Sports Resort 8-in-1 Sports Pack
Yup. This accessory pack contains several chunks of worthless plastic that will transform your Wiimote into something that loosely resembles a piece of sports equipment. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but if people actually wanted to get their hands on a real ping-pong paddle, they would be playing ping-pong, right? And doesn't the same go for canoeing, golf, archery, Frisbee, and wakeboarding? Is this accessory pack actually supposed to make the experience of wakeboarding in your living room more realistic?
On the off chance that you haven't already emptied your bank account on the Battlefield 3 and Gears of War collector editions, now you can polish off that last 90 bucks on a custom wrapper for your Xbox 360. Unless you're a complete idiot, you must be wondering how a company can possibly justify charging roughly half of a console's sticker price for what is essentially an in-home advertisement for a game that you've already purchased.
Well, I don't know either.
SkylandersPerhaps the most impressive example of a company's overt attempt to negotiate every single cent from your college fund is Activision's Skylanders. This is a game that practically requires you to constantly purchase new merchandise in order to experience the title's full range of entertainment.
Any predictions about when all of those accessories are going to start showing up in used game retailers across the country?
Now, don't get me wrong, I understand that this phenomenon isn't new. I'm sure anyone who purchased Nintendo's Power Glove wasn't exactly proud of themselves the following year. And I'm fairly certain that SEGA doesn't remember the Sega Activator as their most dignified historical moment, but at least those things had a facade of usefulness. These days, companies like Performance Designed Products are releasing entirely redundant mounting kits for the Kinect; the only possible explanation being that they hope to trick uneducated mothers into accidentally purchasing them for their kids. And last month, gamers who bought a copy of Kid Icarus: Uprising got a free stand for their Nintendo 3DS. Yes. You read that correctly. Players received a stand for their portable gaming system. Not a charging station. Not a grip. A stand.
Part of me wants to chalk this all up to the industry trying to milk every last cent from gamers, because we're witnessing the death throws of the video game market in its current format. With gamers increasingly purchasing their favorite titles digitally, the publishers' profit margins are growing razor thin and everyone is trying to find new ways to diversify their products.
The problem with this theory is that many of these crappy pieces of plastic are made by third-party manufacturers who have little or no affiliation with publishers or console makers. So it seems foolish to blame the industry as a whole for their misdeeds. However, big names like EA and Activision need to share at least some of the blame, because they're actively licensing their brands or producing this garbage themselves.
But, something tells me that it's us who deserve to take most of the blame. If we weren't so stupid, none of these products would exist in the first place. So, maybe we deserve the reputation that we've been given by the industry.
Also, we're fat and smelly.
Date: April 16, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central. This week's is also purely a work of fiction*