A curious thing appeared in my inbox today. It was an email from Star Trek Online letting me know about their “Welcome Back Weekend” where people who used to play STO and have already cancelled get to play for free for a couple of days. This isn’t unusual, per se, as many MMO games have these promotions to convince former players to sign back up. What’s unusual about the one for STO is that this is the second time they’ve had a welcome back weekend within months of launch. The first time I wrote about STO was back in late January and it is utterly shocking to me that they have their second attempt to get back players within seven months of launch. Did I say shocking? I meant laughable.
Unfortunately, this is the trend I see happening lately more and more in the game-space and in particular with MMO games. Another game I almost bought but held off doing so was APB, which was meant to be much like the Grand Theft Auto of the MMO world. Reviews for APB have been scathing and I’m very glad I saved the $50 by avoiding purchasing the game at all. What have been the main complaints? Buggy play, limited mission types, repetitive action, unbalanced play. Sound familiar? It’s because these were many of the complaints I had against STO as well.
It is just a part of a distressing trend of foisting a poor product onto an eager fan base and then attempting to fix it through new releases and content as they go along. Companies often talk about how “they are listening to the fans” and about how much their fan support means to them. The problem is that if they would have actually cared about their fan base, they might have attempted to put out a decent game first. Let me share two examples of companies that I believe actually care about their fans and do right by them.
First of all, again Bioware did the right thing by putting off the launch of Star Wars: The Old Republic until next year. The more and more I see from this game, the more I’m expecting it to be great. This is from a company who put out two top notch games this year (Dragon Age: Origins and Mass Effect 2) which is a lot to do for any one company. It could be argued that many of their games seem the same, and that would be a valid complaint. However, this one minor con is entirely outweighed by everything they have done right and the improving quality of their games.
The other company is Blizzard with their recent release of Starcraft II. This was twelve years in the making. Twelve YEARS. What did they get for their waiting so long? Oh, pretty much universal acclaim from critics and fans for a well beloved franchise. Not that there hasn’t been some nitpicking and valid complaints as well (let’s face it, every game does have a wart or two), but everything people loved about the original is still there with an engaging single player mode and fantastic multiplayer.
This is what it is all about and really, what gets me to purchase one game over another. A company like Cryptic (makers of STO) is not getting another dime from me as they do not have the player’s interests in mind but rather their bottom dollar. Bioware and Blizzard? Both of them put out great games and their decisions are made to focus on the quality of the game rather than a purely financial motive. Let me throw Valve in there too as a company that sticks to this mantra and also produces top notch games. They get it and because of that, they get my money.