The publisher behind novel action-adventure Control recently confirmed that players who already own its game and/or its expansion packs will have to pay for it again if they want to experience it on their shiny new consoles later this year.
In news unlikely to surprise you, this has not gone down well.
The accompanying YouTube video that proudly announced Control Ultimate Edition currently sports more downvotes than up ones. The comments section is awash with unhappy patrons.
The wave of other publishers – including 2K, Bethesda, Bungie, CD Projekt, Electronic Arts and Ubisoft – who are all offering free upgrades to encourage players to buy their games now and not wait for next-gen, have unwittingly identified 505 as something of an outlier.
This didn’t happen when we transitioned from PS3 and Xbox 360 to current-gen, of course. Players who bought their game on Xbox 360 had learned the hard way that access to our favourite adventures is transitory – a one-generation thing.
After all, I couldn’t play The Legend Of Zelda again on Super NES when I upgraded from NES. I understood that I wouldn’t be able to play Halo: Reach again when I moved from my Xbox 360 to my Xbox One (related: imagine my delight when it popped up on the backwards compatibility list!).
To be clear: I very much understand the outrage triggered by 505’s announcement. The publisher’s cute phraseology may pretty things up with the term “upgrade path”, but we all know what it is – it’s a way of making console players drop £35 to play a game they already own for fancier graphics. But what’s most interesting to me is how 505’s dubious decision has highlighted just how far gaming has evolved for the better across this console generation.
And, look, I know – I know – we put up with some shit, too. For every consumer-friendly step forward it feels like there’s another step backwards, but for all the loot crates and DLC and expansion packs and microtransactions and nonexistent customer service, there have been many positive changes too – changes that felt inconceivable only a few years back.
Let’s take cross-play, for example, or backwards compatibility. The former removes the barriers – and cost – that prevent pals with the same game on different formats from playing together. The latter means most players will be able to pick up pretty much any game from this generation and play it on the next, enabling them to box away their PS4 to physically make room for their PS5.
Maybe even part-exchange their Xbox One to offset the costs of the Xbox Series X, without sacrificing the ability to play their last-gen comfort games. It amazes me that rather than squeezing us for those extra pennies and forcing us to rebuy the inevitable next-gen remaster, there’s been an attitudinal shift that’s surprisingly in favour of the consumer.
This is why 505 Games’ decision seems so inexplicably at odds with what’s happening elsewhere in the industry. While both Sony and Microsoft are working to ensure its offerings span both generations this time around, many developers are going even further than this to offer those next-gen upgrades.
And look, we know that video games are a business. We know few are doing this out of the goodness of their cold, executive hearts. As the old adage goes, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, and the sooner a game can hook you, the sooner it’ll convince you to prise open your wallet and cough up for all those cosmetic skins and DLCs you promised yourself you wouldn’t get.
But at the same point at the end of the last console generation, very few companies gave a shit about enabling you to play one game across two consoles for no extra cost. Now, the one company that isn’t offering this option is making headlines for all the wrong reasons.
I doubt it’s coincidental that along with crossplay and backwards compatibility, this generation also heralded the growth of social media and community management, that direct – and often beleaguered – connection between game makers and the people who make them.
It’s not without its issues – you remember the Mass Effect 3 ending debacle, right? – but it’s also been a force for good, too. It makes me hopeful for what else will change in the next decade or so, and curious about what else industry leaders will do to make it easier for people to play their favourite games on their preferred platforms with the people they like best.
I know the next-gen has yet to arrive, but I can’t help it – I’m so excited for the next next-gen generation, too.