It’s Friday, October 27, and it feels like Christmas. Gamers everywhere are waking up to find themselves finally able to play Super Mario Odyssey, Assassin’s Creed Origins, and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. Three games from three beloved franchises are over delivering on content, and providing players with three new Game of the Year candidates in one fell swoop.
I cannot help but feel bad for The New Colossus though.
All three games are getting review scores in the same range. Odyssey is definitely on the higher end of the range (9-10) and Origins is on the lower side (7-9), but all three are pretty much getting 8-10 across the board. In any other year, this would be a cause of celebration. Sure, with such similar scores, one of those three games would be bound to sell less than the others, but that’s just capitalism. Not this year though, not in 2017. This is the year that loot boxes exploded onto the scene, in a way that is very reminiscent of the sudden surge of remasters and remakes that gamers got in 2016. Single-player games are suddenly becoming much more expensive, as players are repeatedly asked to drop more dollars on games that they have already paid for.
Gamers have been boiling for a while now, clamoring for developers to stop reaping their players of every last nickel and dime they have left. So you can imagine the outrage when EA announced the closing of Visceral Games, citing a need to rework the developer’s Star Wars project to fit into gaming’s new landscape. Although they did not expressly say it, it was clear that the publisher wanted to move away from a single-player narrative and embrace the multi-player formula of recent successes like Overwatch and Destiny 2, that are making huge amounts of money, with no signs of that stopping anytime soon.
I honestly don’t blame them. Video games are becoming bigger every year, and that can only translate into the need for more work and money. Games that rely heavily on multiplayer, like Overwatch, can rest assured. Those games will keep making money for months, maybe even years, after their release with post-release content. For games that only provide the player with a single-player experience though, the developers and publishers are only getting money out of players’ initial purchase. Unless, of course, DLC or loot boxes are implemented.
The former is expensive to make and does not guarantee a return. I rarely buy DLC anymore, as I just do not have the time to return to games that I have beaten once already. I know I am not alone on this. On the other hand, loot boxes prey on the risk-reward system that wrecks people into gambling their money away in reckless abandon. I have dropped (at least) $100 on keys for Rocket League’s loot boxes, because, to some extent, all video game players are gamblers. So developers can either throw money and resources into a multi-player or DLC that gamers may never actually buy into, or they can implement a simple, addictive mechanism that almost guarantees some return, big or small. Sounds like a no brainer. Does not make players any less angry about the situation.
The New Colossus, a single-player narrative, released into this maelstrom. Both Odyssey and Origins are single-player narratives as well, but each incorporates a means for players to pay for more even after they have already purchased the game. Odyssey uses amiibos, and Origins uses loot boxes. Neither are mandatory, but both are there. The creators behind both games are going to see some sort of return on those systems.
So that just leaves The New Colossus, the sole game left to bravely defy EA’s decision to shut down Visceral, whether it wants that role or not. Players and developers will be closely watching, eager to see if The New Colossus can prove whether or not the single-player narrative is still worth something. I honestly don’t think The New Colossus can do it.
People SHOULD be going out and buying The New Colossus to prove EA wrong, and prove that gamers don’t mind paying $65 for a game where you play through a phenomenal story and little else. Yet, as I look around the web, and converse with my fellow editors and staff writers at Gamer Professionals, I only see people gravitating towards Odyssey and Origins. I see plenty of people claiming that they will get to The New Colossus in time, but, as a gamer, I understand the nature of the back log. Once something enters that dark void, it is almost impossible to escape. The New Colossus might have been fine if the game was shaping up to be most player’s second purchase going forward, but it seems to be coming up as the third choice for a lot of gamers.
I’m one of those people. I don’t agree with EA, but Assassin’s Creed is just one of my favorite franchises in gaming, and I have always wanted to play a 3D Mario game. I cannot help but feel that my choices are somehow validating EA’s decision to axe the Visceral Star Wars game though. The New Colossus represents everything that Visceral’s Star Wars game was going to be: a gripping narrative that would transport a player to another world without secretly hiding some additional fees — and players are ignoring it to buy the two games that do actually feature a form of loot boxes. Players may not be okay buying a game that features loot boxes, but that is not what the sales charts are going to be saying.
The worst part is that it is not even The New Colossus‘ fault. Mario is just Mario. That game could have released to 7/10 reviews and people would have bought it. Assassin’s Creed’s absence from 2016 may have been a welcome change of pace, but it does not mean that players were not clamoring for a new entry into the beloved franchise. Meanwhile, 2014’s Wolfenstein: The New Order just could not garner a cult following. The original Wolfenstein games may be classics, but a vast majority of gamers below the age of twenty-five have never played them. The New Colossus‘ audience is just much smaller than Odyssey and Origins’.
The New Colossus really, REALLY should have come out a month sooner or a month later. A month before, and it would not be under the spotlight now, being forced to prove a publisher (one it is not even connected to by the way) wrong. It is something the game cannot hope to do with its current competition lowering its initial sales. Had the game come out a month later, it would be satisfying the players who were looking for something to carry them through the end of 2017 to the start of 2018, a period that is currently pretty dry on game releases at the moment.
As soon as I get off work, I am going to pick up my copy of Assassin’s Creed Origins. I will excitedly talk about the game with my fellow gamers, before picking up Super Mario Odyssey and reaffirming my decision to buy a Switch. Where does Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus fit into all this? I still don’t know. I want to play it, but I may never actually get to it. Even if I do, by the time I do buy it, will I, and the rest of the players who will also be finally buying the game, pay enough for Bethesda to justify a loot box free sequel? Only time will tell.
Be sure to read our review of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus and check back for additional game review, feature, and news articles.