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10 Great Games Ruined By Bad Business Decisions

VO: Todd Haberkorn WRITTEN BY: Kurt Hvorup
It always sucks to see otherwise fantastic games that get hurt by terrible calls from the higher-ups. Here are our picks for the top 10 times that good games got screwed over by bad decisions.
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10 Great Games Ruined By Bad Business Decisions

Passion, creativity, ambition – all for naught if upper management’s made a bad call. Welcome to MojoPlays, and today we’re taking a look at 10 Great Games Ruined By Bad Business Decisions.

For this list, we’re examining what we feel to be the most egregious and disappointing instances in which those in charge of a studio or development team made creative choices which ended up negatively impacting a given project. Sometimes it’s a matter of integrating bothersome money-making mechanics, other times it’s something more insidious, but always the result is a game that’s worse off.

#10: Keys & Event Passes
“PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” (2017)

Back in its early access days, the unrefined-yet-engaging design of “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” earned it a fair bit of attention. Folks were drawn to its stripped-down take on player-versus-player combat, with the prospect of parachuting onto an island and surviving as long as possible seeming quite enticing. Alas, the early wave of success that “PUBG” experienced soon gave way to controversy when the game’s creators added a paid Event Pass and various Lootboxes tied to keys worth real-world currency. Many players complained of how these additions served to disincentivize regular play in favor of spending out-of-game money to progress, thus undermining both the effort and enjoyment of the player base.

#9: Loot Boxes in a Single-Player Game
“Middle-earth: Shadow of War” (2017)

Much of what made “Shadow of Mordor” compelling as a sandbox experience and as a reworking of Tolkien’s original fiction carried over into the sequel “Shadow of War”. Its combat still proved fluid and energetic, its Nemesis system a clever way to keep the player engaged with recurring adversaries, its world an intriguing blend of re-imagined lore and familiar iconography. What players didn’t find so charming, though, was how “Shadow of War” saw the introduction of paid loot boxes into the existing gameplay loop. Suddenly, orcs and equipment gained in moment-to-moment play felt less significant for folks and more like a tiresome chore, considering the more convenient if expensive alternative.

#8: Losing Kojima
“Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain” (2015)

Years of waiting and anticipation gave way to wide-spread celebration in mid-2015, as Hideo Kojima’s final contribution to the “Metal Gear” saga hit store shelves. From the expansion of base-building and recruiting mechanics to the more slick and intense combat, “The Phantom Pain” delivered on many fronts and proved quite exceptional. Alas, one recurrent complaint was focused on the half-finished, oddly structured narrative – said to be a consequence of publisher Konami’s changing corporate culture and alleged cruel treatment of Kojima Productions. Reports speak of horrific working conditions and malicious attempts by Konami to erase Kojima and company’s contributions, culminating in Kojima’s eventual departure.

#7: Bad Release Timing
“Titanfall 2” (2016)

All the talent and creative drive in the world can’t save you if the release schedule isn’t on your side. So it came to pass that “Titanfall 2”, generally praised for its enjoyable campaign mode and refinements on the previous game’s mechanics, fell short of sales expectations. This is owed primarily to the game’s competition at launch; it was wedged between Electronic Arts’ other major 2016 shooter “Battlefield 1” and Activision’s “Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare”. With multiple games belonging to one genre vying for the same audience in the same relative period, it’s only a matter of time before one of them falters. And that’s a damn shame.

#6: Prioritizing DLC Over Patches
“Batman: Arkham Origins” (2013)

Even before launch, this WB Games Montreal-produced installment of the “Batman: Arkham” series had the weight of expectations bearing down on it. “Arkham Origins” sought to deliver a similar thrilling open-world experience as its predecessor “Arkham City”, but with greater emphasis on exploring the developing antagonism between Batman and his foes. A sound and reasonable effort to be sure... except that the game also launched with severe bugs and glitches which rendered portions impossible to complete. Adding insult to injury, Warner Bros made it crystal clear that patching said issues was less important to them than working on downloadable content for the game, leaving “Arkham Origins” in its compromised state.

#5: Real Money Auction House
“Diablo III” (2012)

From the beginning, the “Diablo” series had centered the collection of loot by players as the main draw of the experience, with the hack-and-slash combat and dungeon exploration feeding into that aspect. While it’s understandable that developer Blizzard would want to shake things up with “Diablo III”, their aim to provide a space for above-board trading proved all too easy to exploit. Enter the Auction Houses, digital marketplaces where items could be traded for virtual gold or real money. Players complained of how the Houses served to undercut the appeal of loot gathering and created severe balance issues, to say nothing of those who used the Houses for personal profit.

#4: Over-Marketing
“No Man’s Sky” (2016)

Trust matters in the marketing and sale of a game, and it’s hard to regain once lost. Hello Games experienced this firsthand when producing their procedurally-generated space exploration sim “No Man’s Sky”. Various interviews and previews of the game had Hello Games’ co-founder Sean Murray commenting on the development process, with conflicting and muddled details on what would be featured in the final work. This lead to an intense backlash once “No Man’s Sky” was actually released, as players slowly realized that certain features teased or alluded to were absent from the experience. Even with later patches and updates introducing a number of the promised game elements, many folks aren’t inclined to forgive or forget.

#3: Censorship
“Mortal Kombat” [SNES Version] (1993)

An older case, perhaps, but no less valuable when discussing questionable business decisions in gaming. The original “Mortal Kombat” for arcades found success in courting controversy, leaning into its perception as a deliberately provocative work packed with then-outrageous amounts of violent action. While most ports of the game largely retained this focus on gleeful brutality, the Super Nintendo incarnation instead omitted the more gruesome imagery due to Nintendo’s desire for family-friendly content. This would end up backfiring when the Sega Genesis version of “Mortal Kombat” proved more popular, thanks in no small part to the inclusion of the expected blood and gore.

#2: Mismanagement
“Mass Effect: Andromeda” (2017)

They’re only human, after all. In production since 2012 and boasting a budget of at least $100 million dollars, “Mass Effect: Andromeda” had much riding on it being a stellar product. Instead, the road to launch was paved with poor decision-making on the management level, from overly ambitious goals to pushing for use of the ill-suited Frostbite engine. Stories came to light of essential team members leaving mid-development, shifts in design priorities and even the scrapping of plans for procedural world generation. The result was a game that, on release, proved underwhelming to many people and which may well have done long-term damage to the “Mass Effect” franchise.

#1: Pay-to-Win Loot Boxes
“Star Wars: Battlefront II” (2017)

Well, this is depressing. Many folks eagerly awaited the launch of 2017’s “Star Wars: Battlefront II”, feeling secure in the belief that it would successfully make amends for its initially content-lite predecessor. Unfortunately, hope would give way to anger and contempt once players learned of the integration of loot crates into the game’s multiplayer economy. These crates – made easier to access with a cash infusion - contained in-game currency and resources which could offer tangible bonuses to online play and speed up progression. Not even Electronic Arts representatives trying to frame the crates as a positive incentive for play distracted from the calculated cynicism and gross psychological manipulation of the whole affair.
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