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Open Letter to Clifford Bleszinski

Dear Mr. Bleszinski:

I am a big fan of the Gears of War series. It was one of the first games I purchased alongside my Xbox 360. I have very fond memories of playing through the cooperative campaign with a friend online, and I continued to happily play multiplayer games long after I knew every enemy spawn in the campaign by heart. The game was not perfect though. Glitches and exploits in the multiplayer games made the community grow very frustrated, and Epic took longer than most gamers felt was reasonable to fix them. I recall the frustration of being killed instantly by someone running up with a shotgun yet somehow using the chainsaw attachment on the Lancer. I recall enemies being beneath the map but still capable of killing those of us above them. Despite those frustrations, many of us happily continued to play. There are various reasons why, but most of the reasons hinge on the fact that we were still having a good time and felt like we had purchased a quality game.

Gears of War was released back in 2006. Since then, Epic has released another two games in the series, each one having a larger launch than the last. There is no doubt the Gears of War franchise has grown, and it would be difficult to point to specifically what has caused the growth. In general though, I feel the games have simply gotten better overall. The campaign has been fleshed out further with new environments and enemies. Multiplayer has grown with new maps and game modes. It is easy to point to things which aren’t perfect, but let’s be honest: there will never be a perfect game release. Gamers, in general, will put up with imperfection if the overall experience feels worth it. Many gamers aren’t the traditional 12-18 year old boys that the media covers. We’re adults living in a world where our free time and disposable income are precious. There is a lot of competition for our free time and money. I think you already know this.

That is why I was confused to read part of an interview you had with Game Informer Magazine posted by ComputerAndVideoGames.com. The interview touched upon the controversy Gears of War was causing with the release of DLC. You defend the DLC by saying “[y]ou don’t just lift up a rock and say, ‘oh shit, there’s new levels!’” Based on how you responded I think you are missing the point entirely. I’ll be up front and say that I’ve written an article about how I feel there is no excuse for DLC content on the disc. Just to recap what the DLC release schedule has been for Gears of War 3: (1) Weapon Skin Collection was available at launch; (2) Horde Command Pack was released on November 1, 2011; (3) Versus Booster Map Pack was released on November 24; (4) “RAAM’s Shadow” was released on December 13, 2011; (5) Fenix Rising Map Pack was released on January 17, 2012. Gears of War 3 itself, of course, was released on September 20, 2011.

From what little I know of game development, at some point a game goes “gold.” The term means that the master copy of the game disc is ready to be used to create all of the copies that actually ship. This typically happens around one month prior to the game being released. Epic announced that Gears of War 3 had gone gold on August 19, 2011. That means any content created after August 19, 2011 couldn’t possibly be on the game disc because nothing new could be added.

As I previously said though, the Weapon Skin Collection – Launch Collection was available for purchase on the day the game was released. It costs 3,600 Microsoft Points, or $45. It is only a collection of weapon skins and they were available during the Gears of War 3 beta which took place five months before the game was released. On top of that, it was already on the game disc but inaccessible to players without purchasing an unlock code. I haven’t been able to find any interview with you or anyone from Epic admitting to the content being on the disc, but it has been proven. What is worse is that the Horde Command Pack, which is being sold for 800 Microsoft Points, or $10, contains maps which were also available on the disc already. I am also unable to find an official statement from Epic admitting to that as well.

Only five weeks after launch, Epic is trying to charge me another $55 for a game I already paid $60 for. And the content that you want to charge another $55 for had to be done by August 19, 2011 when the game went gold. I don’t think you’re a stupid person Mr. Bleszinski. As a result, your callous statement about DLC in the Game Informer Magazine article can’t be interpreted in any way other than insulting. You know very well that your fan base is aware of the work that goes into creating DLC. The real issue consumers like myself have is how we feel like we’re being taken advantage of. You are nickel and diming us with weapon skins. You are not creating DLC. You are creating a game and then taking out of that game content which you want to sell at a premium price.

You know that no gamer is going to stop purchasing Gears of War 3 because it doesn’t include some absurd weapon skins. But your business model factors in the people that will purchase them in addition to the game, and those profits are more than welcome. The part of the equation you’re not factoring in, though, concerns what I said earlier.

Much like encountering glitches and exploits in a game that lessen the experience, most gamers will only put up with things in general if we feel like we’ve purchased a quality game. There are a lot of things my spare time and money could go towards. The more I feel like Epic is trying to squeeze all the money they can from me, the less I feel like I’ve purchased a quality game, and the more likely I am to find something else to spend it on. Stop responding to your consumers’ legitimate concerns with nonsense or avoidance of the issue. Stop insulting our intelligence by trying to make us pay for something we’re already holding in our hands. Stop seeing the people that buy your games as cash cows.

Or you can start seeing a decline in consumers and profits.

-Carmelo M.


Sent via Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/CleverMusings/status/161944997690736640

I’ll update this if he sends a response.

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