5 Trash Ways Video Game Publishers Screwed People Over

You cannot underestimate the masochistic streak of the average gamer. From the developers' perspective, they're hapless and forgiving addicts. If you can think of a better explanation of how Fred Durst wound up an unlockable character in three separate games, we'd love to hear it.

That kind of reasoning would also go a long way towards explaining the following ...

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5
Bethesda's Paid Mods Debacle Used Modders as Free Labor

In 2015, Bethesda Softworks launched Skyrim's "mini-DLC" store for Steam, selling cosmetics and other in-game items.

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It didn't take long for people to pick up that Bethesda was making money from repackaging user-created mods available for free elsewhere, often made by unaccredited modders. Bethesda denied it, insisting that it was not mods but mini-DLC, and therefore not the same thing (they were clearly the same exact things). Gamers unaware of free mods began maxing out credit cards for nothing. 

Bethesda
"Goodbye, college fund. Hello, Dwarven mail armor set."
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Steam canned the operation after four days and apologized with the remarkably dumb, yet honest reply, "It's clear we didn't understand exactly what we were doing." A petition by 34,000 angry customers in one day didn't help. 

Counting the fiasco as a learning experience, Bethesda never pulled this shit agai-- haha, j/k; they immediately repeated the same mistakes with their next game, Fallout 4. This time it was permanent. It stands out as all the more douchey, as Bethesda relies on (unpaid) modders to fix their habitually glitch-crippled games.

4
Bioware Skipped QA-Testing to Cut Costs and Gave Hundreds of PlayStation Units "Strokes"

To say EA's Anthem was a disaster right out of the starting block is an understatement. It's was the equivalent of a runner spraying explosive diarrhea right when the starting gun went off. 

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Bad games are a dime a dozen. The real problem is that EA and developer Bioware were aware of the hardware issue. Short of time and lacking top-notch engineers willing to move to frozen-ass Edmonton, Bioware shrugged off quality assurance -- a hugely important part of all video game development -- and rushed out the beta to users. It was more like ordering an army of condemned prisoners to clear a minefield by walking in a row. 

Fans reported hard crashes and problems rebooting their PlayStations, while some failures were even worse. EA end up having to offer tutorials and advice on how to revive jacked-up consoles. By then, Anthem users had become intimately acquainted with PlayStation's blue screen of despair ...

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... and the blue balls of not being able to play the game.

3
Nintendo Got Rich Running An International Price-Fixing Cartel for a Decade At Your Expense

The current day microtransactions that drive you crazy look honest compared to the racket Nintendo had going on back in the 90s. You'll probably never look at Nintendo the same way again. 

Nintendo is a highly "insular" organization, and that extends to its business model. Their games were sold with special instructions to retailers in Europe for years. What one person paid for Diddy Kong Racing in Germany or Holland wasn't the same price as someone in Britain. Nintendo addiction was especially painful for Spaniards, who were forced to pay three times the cost for the exact same product. 

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The only problem? That particular scheme is illegal, and basically mob-tactics. Mind you, we're not talking about chain-smoking Yakuza with full-body gang tattoos hidden under their tracksuits; we're still talking about these guys:

Nico Hofmann
Might explain why we never see Mario without a shirt on.
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The European Commission found the Japanese firm guilty of inflating prices and sued the Super Mario makers for $147 million for collusion during the mid-90s. Note: this is not to be confused with their other price-fixing scandal, over in the United States, as the US Federal Trade Commission found the company guilty of the same racket in 1991.

2
Dozens of Companies "Accidentally" Sneaked Spyware into Their Games

As if security wasn't hard enough, now the products you use for are spying on you on behalf of advertising firms. The newest privacy invaders? Video game publishers, with one particular ingenious data-mining tool they're using called Red Shell

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What the hell is that? Good question. When It took the world by storm in 2018, gamers didn't know either. It was an invasive program, hidden in games that no one had any knowledge of or had ever authorized to gather their info. Imagine a tick sucking your blood. Now imagine it was invisible and monitoring your entire digital footprint, and you've got a good sense of how Red Shell operates.  

James Gathany/CDC
"Just taking a glance at your browser history...what does 'yiff' mean?"
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It was basically publishers using unknowing patrons as a revenue source after the point of sale. After their games were included on a Reddit shitlist of games collecting data, a good chunk of the offending companies vowed to remove it, scrubbing Red Shell from their properties like a dog turd stuck to their shoe. How bad was this spyware scandal? About 50 games bad. Guilty parties include some big-name IP not limited to: Elder ScrollsCivilization games, the Warhammer series, and Dead by Daylight. And those were just the ones gamers flagged and shamed. There may be more we'll never know about. 

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1
Shitty Developers Sued Steam Users for Alerting the Public That They Are Shitty Developers

Judging how video game companies repeatedly ignore fans, you'd assume they are immune to criticism. That is, except one. In 2016, after a bunch of fan ridicule, Digital Homicide sued a hundred Steam users for trashing them online, seeking $18 million in damages. 

The Steam gamers, part of a self-identified consumer advocacy group on the forums, had the nerve to ladle scorn over Digital Homicide's consistently shoddy quality control. It wasn't the first time they tried to silence their critics. Digital's first target was YouTube gaming channel The Jimquisition, run by game journalist Jim Sterling, who didn't hold back in demolishing Digital Homicide's The Slaughtering Grounds. He was slapped with a $10 million lawsuit, his channel hit with a bogus copyright-claim complaint, and his review reduced to an error screen:

YouTube
Admittedly more entertaining than gameplay footage of The Slaughtering Grounds.

The filing was a thinly-veiled nuisance suit held together by bullshit and anger tears. The suit was soon dismissed, with allegations of stalking, conspiracy, and "tortious interference" being too stupid for even the plaintiffs to continue entertaining. In defense of its users, Steam banned Digital Homicide, its catalog of stinkers being banished once and for all.  

Top image: Bethesda

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