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5 Innovative Ways the Gaming Industry is Screwing You

With any exciting and new industry, there are all sorts of previously unheard-of ways to screw the customer. Video games are no different. As the technology changes, the rules start to get blurry, and publishers are eager to see just how much they can get away with.

These five brazen attempts to screw over gamers gives us a glimpse of what could be a very annoying future:

#5.
Battlefield: Bad Company Sells Upgrades For Real-World Money

The Battlefield games have, for several years now, been known for the massive scale and depth of their multiplayer action. In non-nerdspeak: There are lots of people online, that have to use teamwork to get anything done.

Oh, one minor thing. There's a regular version of the game, and a "gold" version that isn't made of gold, but does have some extra guns available.

So what's the problem?
It shouldn't come as a surprise that people start to get angry when you can pay actual money to make yourself more powerful than your penniless opponents. Suddenly, our online fantasy world starts to look a whole lot like the real one.

But, hey, that's capitalism, right? And after all, on the regular version if you reach the highest level the new guns open up anyway.


You pay more for the ridiculous box

Wait a second ... that means the guns you have to pay extra for are already on the disk. In other words, you paid for everything available in the game when you first bought it. You just aren't allowed to use everything you paid for unless you shell out even more money. Think about that for just one minute and see if your mind doesn't implode. Buying something. That you paid for. And own. That you can hold in your hand. And yes, early testers say that people who pay to unlock these guns will supposedly have a very distinct advantage over the people who use the default guns.

To call this an ominous development is a huge understatement. EA has said this is a marketing experiment that they will continue, should they find it profitable. Fans aren't happy:

Real-life Equivalent:
Buying a car that comes with air conditioning, then finding out you have to pay extra to have it activated.

#4.
Blizzard's Warden Client Is Watching

Blizzard Entertainment is well known for its nine-million-plus World of Warcraft gamers, along with millions still playing Starcraft and Diablo II. Unfortunately, there are always some bad apples in the bunch who want to cheat at a computer game and really, that's one of the most pathetic things a person can do in this life.

So in an attempt to end cheating, Blizzard Entertainment set up its servers so that online games would automatically download a client that scans your computer to ensure that you aren't using cheating programs.

So what's the problem?
Take a look at this piece of the EULA agreement that was added after all the hype, complaining and lawsuit threats reached their peak. Basically it allows Blizzard to scan your computer and ...

"... COMMUNICATE INFORMATION BACK TO BLIZZARD, INCLUDING WITHOUT LIMITATION YOUR ACCOUNT NAME, DETAILS ABOUT THE UNAUTHORIZED THIRD PARTY PROGRAM DETECTED, AND THE TIME AND DATE THE UNAUTHORIZED THIRD PARTY PROGRAM WAS DETECTED; AND/OR (b) EXERCISE ANY OR ALL OF ITS RIGHTS UNDER THIS AGREEMENT, WITH OR WITHOUT PRIOR NOTICE TO THE USER ..."

In other words, the client can (and will) scan your entire computer looking for a program that seems "unauthorized," and reports back to Blizzard on what it finds. It is never stated whether the client considers your passwords, credit card numbers, web history or email addresses to be "unauthorized" so we're forced to assume that is does.

Although there is no "actual" evidence that Blizzard has done anything with our personal information, this is exactly the kind of thing people are pressing in courts to be considered illegal. Regardless of whether Blizzard is a "trustworthy" company, giving that sort of information-gathering power to a company is dangerous the moment an employee decides that he is underpaid and wants to make a few "changes" to the client that we are forced to keep on our computer.

Real-life Equivalent:
Hiring a maid to clean your house, and catching her snooping around your family photos and financial information in that drawer you told her not to touch.

#3.
Activision Fakes Its Commercials

Before Call of Duty 4 came along, you may remember that the franchise--like approximately 83 percent of all games at the time--was about World War II. Call of Duty 2 in particular was gathering an increased amount of attention, because it would be the first in the series to be featured on Microsoft's (at the time) new Xbox 360.

Activision developed and released several commercials that displayed the new Call of Duty in all its high-resolution glory. And to make it look extra good, they created a pre-rendered sequence that, as it turned out, looked far better than the actual game. They showed this in the ads instead of the real gameplay.

So what's the problem?
The visuals were set up specifically so that they appeared to be gameplay (playing out from a first-person perspective, just as the games do). Keep in mind that this was a time when hardly anyone knew what the Xbox 360 was capable of, so they would believe just about anything.

Angry Xbox 360 owners were rather upset to find that the graphics, while better than any previous Call of Duty game, were absolutely terrible in comparison to those shown in the TV commercial:

It's common for publishers to feature cutscenes instead of gameplay in their ads, but Activision admitted that the whole thing had been produced purely for the commercial. This created enough controversy in the UK that the Advertising Standards Authority forced Activision to pull these ads from British television entirely.

Real-life Equivalent:
Advertising this:

And selling you this:

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