My name is Jared Whittaker, one of the hosts and Audio Chewbacca of the Super-Fly Podcast and PCW! Welcome to Game Changer, a weekly burning missive about all aspects of video gaming with a little bit of opinion thrown in for fun. Proceed with caution and tread lightly, gentle gamers. It’s going to be good time. Like the first time you saw Super Mario 3 good time.
So, we meet again.
Last week, I vented my frustration about the situation with Bioware and the rabid fan base of Mass Effect 3, Bioware’s eventual caving to the “outrage” of the fans and subsequently planning to changing the ending of the game. And boy, did people come out for it and let me know what they thought about it. The developer caving and amending the ending of the game in the face of fans being up in arms is disappointing. As an artist, the worst thing in the world is to have to compromise your artistic vision. But Bioware revising the ending of the game lead me to ask a few questions to no one in particular about the “new,” possibly community approved ending…..
What happens if the community doesn’t like THIS ending?
This was the first thing I thought when the news broke that Bioware would be rethinking the ending of Mass Effect 3. The amazing outcry about the original ending was like nothing we’d ever seen before. Sure, fans have gotten upset about certain aspects of video games. Fans were upset about Modern Warfare 2′s multiplayer being largely broken at launch. Sony consumers called for heads to roll over the PSN being down for close to two months due to Anonymous hacking and subsequently crashing the whole system. But those two examples couldn’t be helped or seen ahead of time to be fixed ahead of time. This was different.
This fan outrage got the job done. The developer got cold feet in the face of people screaming on the internet and went back to the drawing board to pacify angry fans. While companies have done some things to try and satisfy fans when they are upset about something concerning their game, this is the biggest concession that I’ve seen from a gaming company. So the question now becomes what happens when the new ending becomes available and again, doesn’t satisfy rabid fans? Does the new ending get sent back to Bioware’s if it doesn’t pass the smell test? It becomes possible that Mass Effect 3 could never be finished if it’s fans are satisfied with the end to a certain point. That then begs the question how far is Bioware willing to bend over backward for their “fanbase?”
What will be the next project that will change majorly to fan outrage?
Now that the precedent has been set that fans can actually effect production aspects of a game if they aren’t happy with the direction of it, what could be the next game that will have to be “fixed” by the community? It is a long shot that something like this will happen to another game, but now it has to be in the back of every developer’s mind now. If the story to possibly one of the year’s biggest games, Bioshock Infinite, fails to captivate it’s fan base, is Irrational Games going to have to go back and change major parts of their story to quiet the screams of the angry consumer? Will the next Call of Duty game stay away from any major changes to the game’s tried and true gameplay for fear of fan backlash? It’s a dangerous door that’s been opened and can’t be closed. From this incident on, game makers will be actively second guessing themselves when writing story aspects for the game they’re working on, thinking “Is this going to upset the fan base so much that we’re going to have to change something later.” It’s going to lead games into complete mediocrity, not trying anything that deviates from the “standards” that gamers have set, leaving gaming as a whole to possibly stagnate.
The whole situation isn’t cool, but it’s happened and there’s no going back now. We’re in the shadow of fan outrage being a mitigating factor in studio decisions. It’s scary and weird, but it’s reality now. I wonder about what the future holds for gaming now that this is a real thing that’s happening. Will more games see a backlash if “fans” aren’t satisfied? We’ll see…..
What do you think about this? Am I completely off the mark? Have we turned the corner in gaming? Let us know.
Jared Whittaker plays a lot of games. Not as much as he’d like, but as much as time and money will allow. If you want to play some games with Jared, you can find him on Playstation 3; PSN tag: JFX. He is also on Steam and Battle.net as JFX316 and while he doesn’t have an Xbox 360, he has the coolest Gamertag in the world: Obiwan Jaborni. Feel free to add him as a friend or email him at JWhittaker@PanelsonPages.com. and on Twitter as JFX316