It's bothersome how acceptable the practice of lying has become. Whether it's ISPs' advertised speeds, customer support lines experiencing "an unusually high volume of calls" every hour of every day, or referring to games that rake in hundreds of millions of dollars a month as "free-to-play," there's such a constant supply of deceit and obfuscation that we encounter in our day-to-day lives that we can no longer muster the proper outrage to do anything about it. In most cases, we just accept it and move on.
But USGamer is a new site, a chance to turn over a new leaf, and an opportunity to combine the gaming audience's apparent love of lists with a sad peek at how lazy some people in this industry have gotten about their lying. So let's start with Take-Two Interactive CEO Strauss Zelnick and a presentation he delivered to investors recently at the Cowen and Company Technology, Media, & Telecom Conference. This isn't to single Zelnick out for mockery, as I don't believe he's any worse than the next publisher exec when it comes to stretching the truth. But it's worth starting somewhere, and Zelnick's event was just timed nicely for the new site's launch.
1. "This is going to be the first video game where you can shift seamlessly among three protagonists."
Zelnick said this about Grand Theft Auto V, and he's absolutely correct. Unless you're going to be some kind of stickler and point out Lost Vikings, Thomas Was Alone, Brute Force, The Cave, Trine, Fuse, a few of the Lego licensed games, Marvel vs. Capcom 2, Rise of the Guardians, and this is where I got tired of coming up with examples. The bottom line is it's been done.
2. "We also think that you're going to have multiple protagonists in video games going forward. We actually know how to do it because we're the first ones to do it. It's going to be very, very difficult for our competitors to do this. And they're going to have to do it, in our opinion."
Major points for Zelnick's work ethic here. Despite the absurdity of one narrative structure taking over and becoming the only viable option, Zelnick isn't half-assing it. Now he just needs to follow through. Because if he honestly believes this is true, he should be mandating the multiple protagonist approach for all future Take-Two games, just the same as they all have post-release downloadable content campaigns. I also look forward to the Take-Two patent filing for this incredibly innovative and difficult to reproduce feature.
3. "2K covers all key genres including shooters, action, role-playing, strategy, sports, and casual family entertainment."
Role-playing? 2K's official site has a role-playing section that includes Borderlands 1 and 2, The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion (2006) and its expansion (2007), Dungeon Siege II: Broken World (2006), and Dungeon Siege: Throne of Agony (2006). Borderlands--a game in which you run around shooting people in the head with guns from a first-person perspective in real-time--is a role-playing game in the same way Gearbox gave Aliens: Colonial Marines its very best effort. But if you think a handful of six-year-old games qualifies as "having it covered," then I guess this one's true.
4. "We're actively investing in online MMOs. We're not doing it in the US. Why? Because MMOs don't work here. ...We look at it and say how many MMOs have ever been successful in the US? Anyone want to venture a guess? Two. World of Warcraft and Everquest."
Everyone measures success differently, but that's still oddly dismissive of Ultima Online, Anarchy Online, Asheron's Call, Dark Age of Camelot, Club Penguin, Guild Wars, RuneScape, Planetside, and Toontown Online, among others.
5. "Max Payne revolutionized the third-person shooter genre with narrative-driven gameplay and extraordinary action sequences that were previously thought to be only relevant in feature films."
Remember when Max Payne came out and we all thought, "Oh crap, action sequences and story can be relevant in games, too?!? Next you'll be telling me they work in books and TV shows!" Yeah, I don't think that happened.
6. "We got no pushback from consumers. To the contrary, they loved the virtual currency and they were thrilled at the opportunity to buy upgrades and cheats and the like in the game."
This one was about NBA 2K13 introducing microtransactions to the game. I looked around online and saw some grousing, but not a ton. Honestly, Zelnick's assessment might be more or less on point here. I just included the statement because it makes me sad, and misery loves company.