2015's biggest gaming scandals
Jack Thompson may have been disbarred and the media hasn't flipped out about incredibly tame quasi-sex scenes in a Bioware game lately, but there's still plenty of scandals to be found across the industry.
Unfortunately, many of them are caused by us – the collective gamers of the world - being lame to each other instead of sticking together as a community of fans. Other scandals this year came about by both developers and publishers making some seriously bone-headed decisions that caused major backlash in the digital realm.
Metroid Prime Federation Force
Some of this year's most notable scandals didn't come from leaked photos, bad online behavior, or even potentially offensive content – the issues that riled gamers up most frequently came from unexpected changes in gameplay styles. On the one hand we demand innovation and changes, and then on the other when something actually changes we typically don't take it well.
That was most definitely the case with the announcement of Metroid Prime Federation Force, which caused a much bigger ruckus than expected. With nary a Samus to be found, this is essentially a spin-off series despite the name. Changing both to a chibi art style and to first-person co-op gameplay did not go over well with fans.
As of this writing, the game's trailer has 82,000 downvotes and 9,000 upvotes. Yikes. People are so upset a that a petition was launched asking Nintendo to cancel the game entirely and start over with something else. 23,300 people so far have signed the petition, which explains its position with this statement:
"With the release of the Wii U and its greater technological capabilities thousands of fans were expecting a new and improved Metroid game. What we got however is a disgrace of a game with the name Metroid slapped on the title.
"It has no elements at all of what Metroid is about and its a disrespectful manner to old and new fans of the series of showing them that the Metroid franchise is not dead after all. This is not the Metroid we asked Nintendo to make. We should let Nintendo know what we really think of the game and make them actually LISTEN to their fans for once. Help us stop this atrocity of a game from bearing the beloved Metroid franchise name and make Nintendo halt production on it."
Obviously gamers are passionate about their franchises of choice, but not everyone jumped on the flip-out train. Some of our readers and contributors don't get the hate at all and have called for a calming down and cooling off.
FF7 Remake Goes Episodic
If you thought Metroid changing styles was a big deal, then you weren't prepared for the shockwave of rage that crashed through the Internet when it was revealed the Final Fantasy 7 remake would not only be episodic in nature, but would also be ditching traditional turn-based combat.
Has there every been a faster instance of a full-speed-ahead hype trail immediately derailing? FF7 went from the most anticipated thing coming out in the near future to the most despised, and all in a matter of seconds!
You never know, Square Enix could reverse course on this, but for now it seems like those who can stomach the changes will be buying another portion of the game every few months while hacking and slashing through Shinra soldiers, rather than politely waiting for a gauge to fill before summoning the Knights Of The Round.
Hideo Kojima Banned From Game Awards
The not-so-secret feud between Hideo Kojima and Konami boiled over this year and managed to burn gamers across the globe when Silent Hills was canceled out of the blue. In an insane move to apparently kill any good will anyone in the world had left towards them, Konami reportedly banned Kojima from attending the 2015 Game Awards at all.
There was some pure, unadulterated hate splattered across any Konami-related social media page that night when Keifer Sutherland had to accept the Best Action/Adventure Game award for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain in Kojima's place.
Gamergate Rears Its Ugly Head...Again
It's the scandal that just won't die and keeps bringing out the worst in everyone. Every time you think it's over, it comes back again, recently culminating in threats of violence against the annual SXSW convention in Austin, Texas.
In a response to the ongoing Gamergate debate and intense vitriol spread across various gaming forums, two panels were planned for SXSW 2016 to discuss sexism in the industry and harassment from gamers.
Fellow human beings expressing opinions in “Save Point: A Discussion on the Gaming Community” and “Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games” was just apparently more than some people could handle, as SXSW initially canceled the panels after death threats were called in.
When major organizations announced they were pulling out of SXSW entirely due to that decision, the organizers of next year's festival immediately reversed course, and now there will be a whole day dedicated to the issue of harassment in the gaming industry. That hasn't put a lid on the issue though, as some are still upset about the inclusion of speakers who have been accused of harassing women in the industry.
Reading all the back and forth and vicious attacks that have come from both sides, all I can think is: seriously, can't we just enjoy games and not be pricks to each other? Why is that such a tall order?
Undoubtedly a low point in the history of gaming
Valve's Mod Charging Fiasco
In one of the quickest turnarounds of recent memory due to instant and unrelenting negative backlash from the gaming community, Valve and Bethesda implemented paid mods for Skyrim and then removed the feature only days later.
On the one hand, allowing passionate gamers who put in the time to make mods get some compensation for their efforts is actually a good idea, as it could easily lead to higher quality mods across the board. Unfortunately it became clear that wasn't the driving force behind the decision when it was revealed the actual content creators were only getting 25% of the cut of the sales, with the remaining 75% going to Valve/Bethesda. It reeked of more unnecessary cash-grab microtransactions, and fans weren't having any of it.
The statement Valve released about why the feature was reversed was surprisingly candid and deserves some props though:
"We've done this because it's clear we didn't understand exactly what we were doing. We've been shipping many features over the years aimed at allowing community creators to receive a share of the rewards, and in the past, they've been received well. It's obvious now that this case is different.
"To help you understand why we thought this was a good idea, our main goals were to allow mod makers the opportunity to work on their mods full time if they wanted to, and to encourage developers to provide better support to their mod communities. We thought this would result in better mods for everyone, both free & paid. We wanted more great mods becoming great products, like Dota, Counter-strike, DayZ, and Killing Floor, and we wanted that to happen organically for any mod maker who wanted to take a shot at it.
"But we underestimated the differences between our previously successful revenue sharing models, and the addition of paid mods to Skyrim's workshop. We understand our own game's communities pretty well, but stepping into an established, years old modding community in Skyrim was probably not the right place to start iterating. We think this made us miss the mark pretty badly, even though we believe there's a useful feature somewhere here."
Of course plenty of other gamers were just as adamantly opposed to the idea on the grounds that they would now have to pay for something they previously got for free, so essentially no one liked the idea. With the way the industry is going in terms of DLC and microtransactions though, it's a good bet this idea is going to return sooner rather than later in a modified form.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided's Tiered Pre-Orders
Again we have to throw some congratulations towards the publishers and developers of the game industry even while reporting on their scandals: this was a year in which companies actually listened to their customers!
Pre-orders are a point of contention among gamers these days anyway, and many aren't happy with how different regions or even different retailers get varying content depending on which version of a game you pre-order. Making that issue even more convoluted was a tiered pre-order system setup for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided in which you chose from different rewards at each tier, with new tiers unlocking as more people pre-ordered.
The bottom line is that essentially everyone hated the idea, so Square Enix relented and canceled the scheme altogether, offering all the various options to everyone who pre-ordered instead. This is again an issue that's not going away though – various PC game pre-orders from other companies are still using this setup, and it's a good bet others will continue to do so in the future.
Arkham Knight Pulled From Steam For Bug Fixes
Echoing the ill-fated release of Assassin's Creed: Unity, the latest in the Arkham series of Batman games was an epic flop due to a horde of game-breaking bugs. This is a problem that's become more widespread recently, especially for AAA PC games, as publishers rush to get a game out the door on specific schedules rather than allowing developers to actually finish them first.
The numerous issues were so bad that Arkham Knight was actually entirely pulled from Steam due to a relentless barrage of negative reviews. After various fixes were implemented, the title finally returned to Steam along with the serious mea culpa of Warner Bros. giving away free games to anyone who had previously bought Arkham Knight.
With the amount of money publishers and developers are losing out on after releasing unfinished and buggy games, we can only hope other companies will look at the disasters experienced with Assassin's Creed and Arkham Knight and vow to polish off their games before releasing them in the future.
Afro Samurai 2 Erased From Existence
Even going a step further than Warner Bros. did with Arkham Knight, publisher Versus Evil entirely pulled the epic flop that was Afro Samurai 2 from all retailers permanently, with no plans to fix any issues and re-release. In a move that's almost unprecedented, the publisher is even refunding the purchase price to anyone who bought this universally reviled game, apparently realizing how badly they'd messed up. Versus Evil issued this statement explaining the decision:
"Versus Evil strives to create great products and valued relationships with our partners and customers. Despite our best efforts, Afro Samurai: Revenge of Kuma Volume One did not meet the quality standards that we require. As a result, we have decided to voluntarily refund the purchase price of the game and its associated Trilogy pack with our sincerest apologies. We have also decided to cancel all future Afro Samurai episodes.
"Depending on the retailer you purchased your game through; your purchase price will either be refunded automatically or may require you to request a refund. As you can imagine, this has been a difficult decision for Versus Evil, but creating great games is our highest priority. We greatly appreciate your cooperation and look forward to a continued, long-term relationship."
While both Versus Evil and Afro Samurai 2 developer Redacted Studios will no doubt take a hit from this fiasco, there's something to be said about a company owning up to its mistakes plainly and publicly without making any excuses. Hats off to you guys for doing the right thing.
Cynthia Bunnay's Online Feud With MVG
As eSports become more widely accepted by the mainstream, we will unfortunately start to see some big scandals just like we occasionally do in the regular sporting world. It's already started with the flame war that erupted earlier this year between Super Smash Bros sponsor Most Valuable Gaming and former employee Cynthia Bunnay.
The very public drama was a breakup in more than one sense of the word as personal and professional relationships got all intertwined -- and for some reason had to be splashed across Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter for all the world to gawk at. If you missed that whole debacle, an overview of the mess can be read here.
That would have been enough negative attention for eSports as it was, but unfortunately events took a nasty (and potentially illegal) turn when somebody - apparently not connected to Most Valuable Gaming - decided to throw fuel on the fire by engaging in “revenge porn” and leaking nude photos of Bunnay across the web. It doesn't get much more despicable than that, and if eSports want to be taken seriously, this entire drama-fueled adventure is one that shouldn't ever be repeated.
What did you think was the biggest scandal of the year that you hope to never see repeated? Sound off and let us know!