Monday, March 26, 2012

How to Fix Call of Duty, Part 2: What Can We Do?

In Part One, I talked about how Activision/Infinity Ward/Treyarch (from now on, collectively referred to as "the publisher") should utilize bungee balancing for short-term balance fixes while also spending the time and money to make a long-term commitment to the CoD community. In this, part 2, I'm going to tell you what you can do as a player to help fix Call of Duty.

Maybe you've heard the term "dollar votes" before?
The dollar vote is a concept economists use to describe how, in a market economy, consumers effectively vote for products—as well as how those products are produced, transported, marketed and sold—by spending their dollars. Through our “consumer sovereignty” we have the power to make our preferences known, one dollar vote at a time.
Every time you buy a CoD game, you are explicitly endorsing the publisher's business model. It doesn't matter if you boycott buying the game on release day, or you wait one month after release to buy the DLC*. They get the money. The publisher is always thinking about the money, especially for publicly traded companies (EA, Activision Blizzard, Capcom, Square Enix, Take-Two, Microsoft, and Ubisoft are all public companies).

* It does marginally matter if you wait to buy the game, but not enough to actually make a difference. 

The only way you are reasonably going to get to companies is to hit them where it hurts: the balance sheet. And there's only one way to do that.

Don't buy the game (new*).

* Buying the game used usually doesn't give the publisher any money, so you can buy it used without helping the publisher. Of course, for you to buy it used, someone has to buy it new, so you're still supporting the system... sort of. If you can't live without the game, then buy it used.

Unless, of course, you need an online pass or other code to make the game work for you. Then the rule still applies: don't buy it.

You may be asking, "But Ed, MW3 sold eighty bajillion copies in the first minute of sales. How can one person not buying a game make a difference?" And you're right; if only one fewer person buys a game, the publisher won't notice. But you can't use that excuse to justify buying the game in spite of your own protests. It's a concept similar to Kant's categorical imperative:
A moral maxim must have universality, which is to say that it must be disconnected from the particular physical details surrounding the proposition, and could be applied to any rational being. This leads to the first formulation of the categorical imperative: "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law without contradiction."
In short, this means that you can only justify your actions if, were everyone were to do the same thing, you'd be cool with the outcome. The classic example is stealing: you may steal something because you think only stealing one thing isn't going to hurt anyone. But if everyone was OK with stealing, then everyone would steal, and property as we know it wouldn't exist.

Applied to games like Call of Duty, if you think there is a problem with the game, you have to not buy the game, period.

Now, I don't really think we (meaning myself and the people who I think might read this blog) are going to convince the millions of 12-year-olds to not buy the next Call of Duty. But it's entirely possible that, if the demographic of CoD gamers became increasingly underage gamers, Activision would be forced to change. Additionally, if you don't buy CoD, you might buy something else, like Medal of Honor, Nexuiz, Battlefield, Bioshock, Metro 2033/Last Light, or Quake. And you'd support that game, rising it up. And maybe, just maybe, things might change for the CoD titan.

Addendum: Since I started writing this post, Mass Effect 3 was released. And gamers played it and beat it. And complained about the ending. Loudly. And Bioware/EA looks to be actually changing their tune about the ending, possibly changing it. Nothing is certain yet, and The Consumerist summed it up well:
What is for certain is if BioWare and EA truly want the entire gaming world to hate them, they will create satisfying endings — and then charge a pile of cash to download it.
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