Batman: Arkham Knight launched earlier today, and I can’t see myself ever buying it. Not when a possible Game of the Year Edition is released, not when everything bundled together costs $10 in a future Steam “insert event” sale, not ever. Not being the biggest fan of Batman as a character may be a small factor, but considering how Warner Bros. has been handling the publishing of this final Arkham series chapter, it has likely killed off any interest in checking it out in the future.
This is not to knock on the effort brought on by RockSteady Studios, who most assuredly been working tirelessly to craft a fitting conclusion to a well-respected gaming series. No, it comes down to a number of mitigating factors, including a DLC/season pass scheme that slaps on minimal content for almost the price of a full game across several convoluted levels of access and a terrible mishandling of the PC port. I’m not the only one to be holding out, but there is a troubling amount of people that think waiting for a possible Game of the Year Edition (a bundle with all the game’s DLC in one complete package) up to a year after launch is an effective means of not supporting terrible publishing practices.
Unfortunately, it’s arguably helping to give a popular title like Batman: Arkham Knight extended legs and a sales resurgence later in release life. If you truly do not support what a game is doing in its practices, it’s best to fully boycott the game entirely.
Setting A “Rush PC Port Now, Fix Later” Standard
It’s safe to say that a great deal of video game developers these days have focused their efforts on releasing their titles for consoles first. Whether it be under guidance of their publisher or a conscious decision is on a case-by-case basis, but we’re starting to see a trend where companies bring a lead console version of a game to PC (whether as a last measure or through a 3rd-party studio) and ultimately screws it up at launch. Mortal Kombat X was a prominent case of such atrocities, so much that the idea of a bad PC port is now synonymous with the High Voltage name.
That’s what makes the early PC troubles of Batman: Arkham Knight quite peculiar, as the game has several fairly noticeable issues. First, the game on PC is inherently capped at 30fps, meaning it isn’t naturally supported at a higher frame rate. You can change the values in the system files, but it could have adverse effects on your performance. Not only that, but users with even powerful graphics cards like the Titan X had encountered framerate fluctuations down into the single digits without going into the system files. Finally, Rocksteady updated its minimum specs for the PC version just yesterday, requiring a more powerful AMD graphics card with 3 GB of VRAM at the bare minimum. Gamers who previously had support for the minimum requirements are hung out to dry, especially if they pre-purchased the game.
Steam Refunds could not come at a better time than right now.
Rocksteady has already issued a statement about the fps problem of Batman: Arkham Knight, saying they’re working closely with their “external PC development partner” to create a fix, but even this statement is non-committal. First off, when people drop down $59.99 minimum for a product at launch, the barest expectation is that it functions properly. When PC’s are, possibly, monumentally stronger than the PS4 and the Xbox One in terms of computational and graphical power, the expectation is that they function at a relatively better performance. Constantly dropping the ball when PC versions of a title launch indicates a company does not care about the users of that platform to get it right the first time.
Furthermore, it shows Warner Bros’ insistence of protecting their own image to spite PC fans of Arkham Knight. If they truly outsourced the port job of the PC version to a third-party studio, why not mention who’s responsible for this mess? By hiding such information, the only people left to blame are the publishers at Warner Bros., who made the decision to outsource the port in the first place. If they’re not willing to be transparent in their practices to rightfully outraged fans, then they are left solely responsible for it.
Steam Refunds could not come at a better time than right now.
Breathing Second Life Into Sales Totals
Due to the significant price it requires to build or maintain a high-end gaming computer, many regular or hardcore gaming enthusiasts like to play their games on consoles. Even when blissfully unaware of the problems of the Arkham Knight PC port, there are some anti-consumer behaviors in the PS4 and Xbox One versions, as well. There are eight different bundles or retailer-specific pre-order incentives when it comes to Batman: Arkham Knight, each with varying degrees and levels of exclusive content. Most of the Premium Edition and Season Pass content (both adding $40USD or $45 CAD to the basic game purchase) will be trickled out over the next 6 months, with vague descriptions of what the content will bring.
In order to access all the content planned and developed for Batman: Arkham Knight, up until last week, the only option was to buy the game at each retailer and wait for the content to eek out over the coming months. It was only after each retailer acquired most of its pre-orders (and buried under the pile of E3 2015 news) that Warner Bros. clarified on their forums that you can just pay 66% the price of a full game 6 months after Arkham Knight launches to get each retailer’s exclusive content in one package, just in time for Christmas.
If people are so willing to buy the title when it’s finally complete and fixed months later, why bother to pull it off properly at launch in the first place?
Siphoning off content ready at launch and making it only available to premium title purchasers half a year later is such an egregious practice, one that’s particularly offensive. It prioritizes corporations like Walmart, GameStop (EB Games in Canada) and Best Buy by offering them incentives for why customers should shop there in exchange for personal profit, rather than for the consumer who is already going the extra mile with their $100+ purchases. It’s why so many are just not bothering with the title until next year when, knowing Warner Bros’ policy with Game of the Year Editions, they won’t spend money on Arkham Knight until all problems are fixed and they can play all content at launch-value prices.
The problem with this line of thinking is that it doesn’t mean Warner Bros’ bottom line is affected in that grand a fashion. Horrible pre-order culture aside, games that market themselves in such a way and make use of an iconic IP like Batman with Arkham Knight will generate revenue in the tens (if not hundreds) of millions in revenue. People will buy this title in droves at launch, especially in a weak month when it comes to competition on the market.
By delaying a $60 purchase of a title at launch in order to pay for a ~$50-60 “complete” version of the game later just gives the publisher a second wind when it comes to sales, especially heading into the holiday season. Furthermore, should the market dictate the popularization of such Game of the Year Edition purchases (as it has in the past), all it accomplishes is to incentivize publishers to rush development of titles from their development studios in order to make a quick buck. If people are so willing to buy the title when it’s finally complete and fixed months later, why bother to pull it off properly at launch in the first place?
Don’t Support Bad Monetization Schemes
It’s simple; if you don’t support a game for its policies at launch, don’t support the game until they no longer exist. I’m not telling you to boycott a publisher’s entire library due to its marketing and publication of one specific title; release policies and support vary from game to game, and it would be foolish to paint all games from one publisher with the same brush. No, I’m saying that the only effective way for the consumer to show dissatisfaction with the way a game like Batman: Arkham Knight is being handled is to never purchase the game at all.
Publishers would like to think that they can get away with any monetization schemes they want as long as they market it effectively, but such is not the case. It is because of consumer feedback that the insanely anti-consumer practice of paid online passes is now defunct. It is because of consumer outcry that Uplay Passport is no longer plaguing Ubisoft’s titles with paid online schemes. Region locking, for most platforms, is a thing of the past, meaning players can import most games from around the world.
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The same can be done for splintering pre-order exclusives or launching broken releases for Batman: Arkham Knight. If you’re a current PC owner of the title and are fed up with how you were completely let you down with another broken PC release, get your refund as soon as possible and never look back. If you’re tired of companies continually expanding the prices of season passes for games, or expanding their pre-order practices, don’t ever buy into them at all.
It is only when publishers lose total overall sales that business practices are changes on a grand scale. Delaying your support for such practices, no matter how long it takes, is still intrinsic support.
The views expressed in this article explicitly belong to the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of, nor should be attributed to, GameSided as an organization. For more on our policy, click here.
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