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:

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.

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 ...


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.

Activision Fakes Its Commercials

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:

EA Sports Creates A Mini-Monopoly

Electronic Arts has dominated the video game pro football market since the early '90s. But then, in 2004, rival NFL 2K5 beat Madden 2005 out in nearly every department, including price (you see, sports games are always one year higher than the actual year in which they are released--this tricks customers into believing that they can look into the future!)

EA Sports learned the hard way that, when someone else sells the exact same product as you, except cheaper, and with an air-hockey minigame and cheerleaders with actual boob-bouncing, it's going to cut into your profit a little bit.

So how could EA overcome their competitor? By working extra hard to make sure their game was superior? By cutting the price?

Don't be ridiculous! They just signed a deal with the NFL that would forbid anyone else from making those games. If competitors wanted to make a football game, it would be without any of your favorite pro teams or players.

So what's the problem?
It's the same as any monopoly: EA no longer had anyone to compete with and, thus, got lazy. Slowly, the Madden games started adding less and less each year, to the point that features were gutted from the first round of Madden games for the new generation of systems. At times the series appears to be going backward, and we project that by 2011, we'll be playing something that looks like Tecmo Bowl.

Real-life Equivalent:
If McDonald's got an exclusive patent on the hamburger, and the only way better restaurants could sell them would be if they left off the top bun.

Gamespot Offers Good Reviews To Companies That Pay Them

Gamespot.com is one of the most popular gaming sites on the web, offering a large database of information on pretty much every game ever made. Gamespot's reviews, in spite of the whining of some fans, have been consistently tough on even big games.

On November 13th of 2007, Jeff Gerstmann of Gamespot released this review for Kane and Lynch: Dead Men. The review received a score of 6.0, or "fair" from the reviewer. Unfortunately for Jeff, the publishers of the game had recently purchased a great deal of advertising on Gamespot, creating the awkward situation where ads were splashed all around the review--the review of the game that the writer specifically told readers not to buy.

Gerstmann was immediately fired.

So what's the problem?
Of particular note is the fact that, in spite of being fired, the review score for the game is still quite a bit higher than the average user review scores on Gamespot. In other words: Gerstmann gave a very generous review for a terrible game, but was nonetheless fired for not lying his ass off.

The message from Gamespot's management (they're owned by Cnet) was clear: a good review is part of what the advertiser pays for. Gerstmann's firing was meant to send this message loud and clear to every reviewer on the site.

Protests were non-violent

In the aftermath of the whole ordeal, several other long-time employees at Gamespot quit their jobs (Gerstmann and others went off to form their own site). Meanwhile gamers, who are used to reading these reviews before making their $60 purchase, had to rethink whether or not they can trust reviews from Gamespot, or any review site for that matter.

Real-life Equivalent:
If you found out Roger Ebert had spent his career offering positive reviews to any director who supplied him with heroin.

If you liked this, you'll probably enjoy our look at The 5 Ways Hollywood Tricks You Into Seeing Bad Movies. Or for some gaming related stuff, check out 10 Highly Anticipated Video Games You'll Never Get To Play. Or learn an important lesson by watching our video about the ways in which Real Moms Aren't Like the Ones on MILFhunter.com.

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