Editorial: Why Red Dead Redemption 2 Busts the Myth of Unsustainable Triple-A Gaming

It’s All About Strategy & Quality

For years now, gamers have been nickel and dimed by game publishers. And when asked for the reasoning for their pricing shenanigans, publishers give the same reasons: The cost of triple-A high-budget video game development and support is bankrupting them. It’s hogwash and I’m here to tell you why Red Dead Redemption 2 is the shining example on why this is nonsense. But first, lets bust some of the common complaints, excuses and pricing shenanigans employed by publishers.

Even “Failed” Video Games Make Tons of Cash

Publishers often complain that if they pump tons of cash into a triple-A title and the title does badly, it will sink the whole company. Seriously? Then why are you making the games in the first place?

Just because the sales of a particular game don’t meet the lofty and often unrealistic goals of publishers and their investors doesn’t mean that the game didn’t make money. It made a lot of money. Almost every time. You hear all the time about so-called failed big-budget video games and how “disappointing” their sales are. Disappointing to whom? For what reasons?

Most likely the game was disappointing to players because the game was simply bad or mediocre. Or the game was released at a disappointing time; sandwiched between competing titles fighting over the same audience. But what publishers are really complaining about when they say a game’s sales are disappointing is that the game’s sales were disappointing to investors because they didn’t make some obscene return on investment.

Unless a game sells so poorly that it can’t recoup its development and promotion, then at the least it was a break-even venture. Even if a company had several games that followed this path, it’s not going to sink the company without very poor management. I can count on one hand the major games that failed this spectacularly. And if a company can’t survive one or two of these types of failures, they don’t belong in the business. They should shrink and start making indie games.

Infrastructure For Online Features and Downloads is Cheap to Free

Remember Online Passes from last generation? They were codes printed on cards included with physical games to allow those games to connect to online infrastructure like multiplayer and DLC. They were money-grabs by game publishers for two major reasons. The first excuse publishers gave was that it cost money to maintain servers and other infrastructure for online gaming and that they had to recoup their costs somehow. Bull.

Online infrastructure is often provided by game platforms to publishers. And in the rare cases where publishers provide dedicated servers, that investment has already been made to provide the same services to past games. They aren’t paying any extra to use equipment and services that they already own. And any extra overhead needed for especially popular games is recouped in the new game’s sales. Plus, paid DLC literally pays for itself.

The second reason publishers gave for Online Passes was to recoup the money they didn’t make for second-hand used game sales. Since when does any manufacturer make money from used product sales? Does Ford get money when you sell your 2002 Ford Focus to a new owner? Does Levi get money when you sell your jeans to a thrift store? Seriously. Worst excuse ever.

There is Literally No Need For Loot Boxes or Micro-transactions

Remember back when you had to pay for each of the Robot Master’s powers in Mega Man? No? How about the time you had to pay for a loot box just for a chance of getting a powerful weapon in Halo Combat Evolved? No again? Exactly.

There is literally no excuse for a loot box or microtransaction to appear in any game that is not free-to-play. They are money-grabs made even more egregious if you have to pay for a game on top of them. Want to put loot boxes in Star Wars Battlefront? Awesome. Give me the basic game for free. Simple. Want me to pay for players in a sports game? Sure! Just don’t expect me to pay you for a cookie-cutter game every year. If I have to pay just to play a game, then it better be a fully completed, fully featured game.

Add as much DLC as you want as long as it is developed after the initial game and doesn’t detract from my base experience. Season Pass it all you want as long as it is clear exactly what I am buying with the pass before I buy it. Heck, I don’t even mind if you include all the DLC from the game on future “Game of the Year” releases as long as the price of the main game has been reduced and all DLC development is complete. Just don’t make it a blatant money-grab.

So What Does This Have To Do With Red Dead Redemption 2?

RDR2 is certainly one of the largest, prettiest, most technically impressive video games made to date. It exemplifies the meaning of “Triple-A” game. It’s gargantuan and complex and of the highest quality imaginable. It took years and untold talent and manpower to produce. It is polished and complete. It cost Rockstar Games an untold fortune to make. And it is going to make them BANK at “standard” pricing. Why? Simple. Because the game is good.

Not because it is crammed with micro-transactions. Not because you have to buy a loot box to get a better old-timey repeating rifle. Not because of a season pass or an online pass. Not for a bloated price. RDR2 currently has none of that and it will be phenomenally profitable because of Rockstar’s good name and because the game is simply good.

It’s not a perfect game. It doesn’t have to be. It is a product oozing with the love and care of its developers, not with the stink of a corporate profit motive. That’s good enough. And gamers will reward Rockstar for it. Just like they would any publisher releasing such a product.

Rockstar will be sauntering to the bank with a sack full of our wallets like a western outlaw anti-hero and we’ll be cheering them all the way. And if other publishers want in on the take, they’ll have to earn it.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.