The Decline of the AAA Game Industry


Brendan Bradley / Online Journalist

A $20 loot box package from the game Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

Over recent years, many of the currently infamous video game companies such as Electronic Arts (EA), Activision, and 2K have made many blunders in attempts at monetary benefit to the dismay of their consumers. These same companies also seem to be experiencing a decline in the quality of their products⁠—doing things along the lines of releasing incomplete products, or making the game ‘pay to win.’ Ideas similar to this have been looked down upon by most players and and it’s been so for the last 6 years.

One such example of these incomplete products is Gearbox’s new release: Borderlands 3. The Borderlands series is widely known, and popular, for its cel-shaded art style and crude humor. However, the new addition to the series has been heavily criticized due to being rife with various glitches since its launch on September 13. Many of these issues aren’t just small issues either. These problems include extreme frame rate drops during combat, to the game simply crashing completely.

Another common practice that AAA companies seem to have started to implement have started picking up on is the concept of loot boxes. The first main stream game to ever do something similar to this was Valve’s Team Fortress 2 (Otherwise known as TF2). TF2 was one of Valve’s many big hits when it released in 2007, and the game still keeps about 40,000 average players to this day. One of the big reasons behind this longevity is the in game economy, which relies on well balanced loot boxes that could potentially give rare, and expensive, items. The issue with these modern loot boxes today is that the items they provide commonly have little to no use within the base game itself. This problem creates a lack of longevity; the exact opposite of what TF2 was able to achieve.

Activision was the first one to bite the bullet and go for monetization over integrity. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare was released on November 4th, 2014, only to take the entire community by storm in the worst way possible. his specific Call of Duty game made history, for not only was it the first in the series to introduce the mechanics of an ‘exo-movement’ system, but loot boxes as well. People were outraged by this loot box system that seemed to give improved weapons or useless cosmetics at random; essentially deciding who won battles based on who spent the most money, or got lucky enough, to get the best weapon.

Despite the outrage, this new form of monetization spread like wildfire across the game industry. Greed made companies realize that they could release a half-baked game for full price. Then they could have the gullible pay money for content that would artificially enhance their skills. Of course, many of these ‘pay to win’ items were a rare drop in a loot box which increased potential income by millions.

The worst part of this is that a large percentage of consumers are with in the children to teens demographic; meaning that for the last 6 years, companies have been encouraging and providing underage gambling without opposition. Recently, however, Electronic Arts was required to testify before Parliament of the United Kingdom about this issue. During testimony, EA’s Vice President of Legal and Government Affairs, Kerry Hopkins, compared the aspect of loot boxes to the brand Kinder Eggs and said they were “Surprise mechanics.”

Overall, it is quite clear that these AAA companies have been slacking in their concerns for quality in their products. But sadly, it also seems like they are also losing interest in the concerns of their fans as well.