Is it right for game publishers to turn off online servers?
Last week, video game publisher Electronic Arts announced its intention to close several online multiplayer servers for titles like Tiger Woods 10 and Battlefield 2. Is it fair to remove a feature we’ve paid for?
Electronic Arts’ (EA) official reason for turning off online servers for its games, also including Skate and Need for Speed, is due to a lack of active players for these particular titles, or ‘fewer than 1% of all peak online players across all EA titles’.
I say it’s about time publishers guaranteed that a game’s multiplayer servers will be open for a specific period. And not only that – they should let gamers know how long this will be before they’ve spent their money on it.
Online passes enter the fray
This is especially the case given the current trend for charging a premium for going online. For those who may not have heard of this; in an effort to combat the huge second-hand games market, some publishers are including ‘online passes’. These are “free” codes included with a new game, but since they can only be used once, if you’re buying second-hand you’ll have to purchase another pass separately.
Paying for online passes is a whole other topic that I might come back to at a later date (especially with the next Call of Duty introducing a monthly online charge), but it does nicely illustrate that when you buy a game, you’re paying for a service. A service that includes a certain set of features. And unless we’re told that these features will be removed at a specific date, why should they be taken away from us?
Shouldn’t publishers, like EA, better inform us about the lifespan of their games’ multiplayer components? That way we can asses the value for money we can expect to get from them.
Forcing us to upgrade?
It’s hard not to be cynical about these servers being closed down when many of the affected games are released on a yearly basis, especially sports titles. Would it be too much of a stretch to suggest that these servers are being closed down to encourage gamers to buy the latest version at a premium?
If publishers could guarantee that a title’s multiplayer servers would be open for a set number of years and inform us on the box, then we’d be in a much stronger position to make an informed choice about our purchase.
It would be unrealistic to say that these servers should be left open indefinitely, but their lifespan definitely shouldn’t be a mystery to those of us paying for the experience.
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