I recently had a bit of an exchange with someone over social media about The Walking Dead: Season Two’s episode release schedule. I originally asked developer Telltale Games if they can please release Episode 4 a month after Episode 3’s release, because I felt the rollout was taking a bit long.
I brought this up because the first episode of Season Two came out for the PC last December 17, 2013. At the time of that comment, it was already the second week of May 2014 and Episode 3 was just about to be released.
Between episodes, there was a waiting time of over 70 days. From Episodes 1 to 2, people had to wait 2 months and 15 days, while the gap from Episodes 2 to 3 was 2 months and 10 days.
If this schedule persisted all the way till the last chapter, we may see Episode 4 sometime in late July 2014 and Episode 5 in the second week of October 2014.
The other person (let’s call him/her Gamer X) explained that Telltale is alternating development between The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us. On one month, Telltale releases a Walking Dead episode, the following month is for The Wolf Among Us. Rinse and repeat.
I recall Telltale releasing Tales of Monkey Island almost every month back in 2009, so I opined that Telltale should change their approach because paying customers shouldn’t have to wait that long.
Gamers are “ungrateful” these days
Gamer X then asked me rhetorically if I was “seriously that impatient” because it was just two (insert expletive here) months, and if I knew “how hard they (i.e. Telltale) worked.” Gamer X later remarked something about gamers being ungrateful these days.
So let me get this straight: reasonably asking for a game already paid for to be released more promptly is ungrateful? What exactly should I be grateful for? That Telltale makes great games and sells them at affordable prices?
Look, there was an exchange of goods for money, so I would say that Telltale and I are (somewhat) even. “Somewhat” because I received three out of five paid episodes to date. Telltale actually owes me two episodes.
This needs to be said time and again: even if developers, console makers, and publishers seem nice to you, even if the companies produce excellent and reasonably priced products, you should know that they are not your friends. Like any business, game companies are out only for themselves.
Some try to treat their fans right; others consistently create high-quality products; and many do this because they’re passionate about games. However, you shouldn’t mistake their actions–commendable as they are–as a sign that they care about your personal well-being; they don’t.
Game companies are smart; they know that doing commendable stuff is good for their bottom line.
Need for change
Take note that there’s nothing wrong with this! Looking out for itself doesn’t make a game company the embodiment of evil in this world. After all, they need to be profitable to stay in business; if a company doesn’t make any money, it goes belly up.
Game companies don’t go out of their way to screw you either. If they piss of enough people, they lose money. What companies aim for is the sweet spot between making truckloads of money and making the most number of people happy. To achieve this, they will try to get away with as much as they can.
So unless you push back, companies will keep trying to push the envelope. And no, this will never change.
What needs to be changed, however, is how many members of the gaming community behave. If someone questions or criticises a company whose products we like, some of us will defend the company without question and even go so far as to criticise the aggrieved party.
If you get this urge, try to shrug it off and take aim at the issue instead; it’s most likely the root of the complaints. The criticism may feel like it’s a personal attack towards you because we humans associate ourselves with the brands that we like.
A little exercise
Let’s shift gears for a moment.
I’d like to ask you to do a little exercise: breathe deeply, relax, and try to think about certain events in your gaming past:
- Do you remember how it felt after your fourth Xbox 360 broke down?
- Do you still recall how close to impossible it was to play SimCity when it first came out, and how EA handled the entire debacle?
- How about the time you bought then-named zombie game The War Z, then found out afterwards that the features listed by developer Hammerpoint Interactive weren’t in the game?
- Do you remember having to pay an extra $5 just to play the hardest difficulty setting in Metro: Last Light?
More than ever, it has become necessary to question game companies publicly to keep them honest and accountable. We may occasionally disagree with the disapproval, but let’s try not to invalidate other people’s views and the issues they raise.
These gamers are just looking out for themselves, just like the company they’re questioning or slamming, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
If anything, you should consider backing the aggrieved, especially if the issue has merit, because these people are consumers just like you, and there’s probably a good reason why they’re up in arms. Who knows? Under slightly different circumstances, the aggrieved may have been you.
Of course, “looking out for yourself” as a consumer should be done within reason. Making death threats to a developer because they decided not to support dedicated servers, don’t enjoy combat in games, or changed the performance of certain virtual guns is not reasonable.
Please don’t let admiration cause you to overlook a company’s faults or defend them from criticism. It’s good to appreciate companies that do right, but never forget that they are not your friends, no matter how seemingly awesome they may be.
In fact, you should make it a point to criticise the game companies that you love because you want them to do better.
Going through changes
So whatever happened to Telltale Games’ episode schedule?
The developer later announced that they will be releasing Episode 4 of The Wolf Among Us on May 27, 2014, just two weeks after rolling out Episode 3 of The Walking Dead: Season Two. I seriously doubt that the shorter turnaround time was caused by my earlier comments, but I believe I wasn’t the only one who was unhappy with the schedule.
That being said, I also doubt that Telltale sped up the release schedule just because.
Here’s a question I want to ask you: have you ever defended a company you like even in the face of criticism from other gamers? Or have you encountered a fellow gamer who attacked you verbally for questioning/blasting a game company over an issue?
I’ll hazard a guess that many of you encountered either or both of these scenarios. I would love to hear your story!