11 Most Outrageous Video Game Controversies Of 2018 –
Truly, 2018 has been a landmark year for video games. Kratos’ triumphant return in Sony Santa Monica’s God of War soft reboot, Capcom’s most critically acclaimed and financially successful game ever in Monster Hunter: World and, of course, Rockstar’s seminal once-in-a-generation labour of love Red Dead Redemption 2, to name a few, have set the gaming calendar ablaze over the last 12 months, but not always for the right reasons.
Deservedly so, Rockstar has been drowned in praise and adulation for the staggering attention to detail it lavished upon Arthur Morgan’s Old West adventure, disbelief that flipped praise on its head when tales of the studio’s questionable work environment started to circulate, but that furore swiftly dissipated in light of far juicier controversies.
Blizzard proving total ignorance of its fan base’s desires with Diablo Immortal’s announcement, itself far outstripped by Fallout 76 (and the Great Canvas Shortage of 2018, lest we forget) serving as the catalyst for Bethesda’s catastrophic fall from grace, the industry just can’t help but one-up itself on the disaster scale, it seems.
2019 will bring with it a fresh batch of meme-spawning outrage, no doubt, but in the interim between now and then, join us, won’t you, for a nostalgic trip down memory lane.
11. Waluigi Fails (Again) To Make The Cut For Smash Bros.
Following years of unending requests for Metroid’s Ridley to be made a playable character in Super Smash Bros., Nintendo has relented. The Big N, it appears, has finally managed to solve the age-old problem (as well as close the book on a terrific meme) of Ridley’s size not being suitable for Smash’s format. Miracles do happen, then, but Ninty clearly only has enough juice in the tank to perform one in a blue moon, because one poor sod still hasn’t made the cut.
Luigi’s purple-loving doppelganger, perhaps for the last time, has been turned away from the all-star party – again relegated to Assist Trophy status rather than playable character – while his rotund counterpart gets all the glory. Granted, Wario has considerably more thorough character development under his belt to justify higher billing, but surely poor Waluigi would have been a top pick for Smash Ultimate’s nifty Echo Fighter system? Not in this lifetime.
Worst of all? Nintendo is well aware of Waluigi’s fans and sympathisers.
As Waluigi would say, ‘WAH’.
10. Rockstar’s Questionable Work Environment
Have you heard? Red Dead Redemption 2 is out, and it’s rather good. The big, bold and bloody beautiful world of Rockstar’s Old Western epic is a landmark technical achievement and a crown jewel of the current console generation, but games like these don’t grow on trees.
Blood, sweat and (likely literal) tears were shed in the making of Arthur Morgan’s grand tale of moral redemption, a mammoth undertaking that involved all three of Rockstar’s major studios and purported 100-hour working weeks to see the project through to completion.
In the revelation’s aftermath, red flags flew at full mast almost immediately, resulting in several lengthy investigative articles to discern just how true the claim was. Kotaku’s exhaustive piece, in particular, told of several employees who felt Rockstar’s top management fostered a “culture of fear” among employees who felt it necessary to put in as many hours as possible, while others could only sing Rockstar’s praises for its handling of the workplace.
Regardless of the reality and for better or worse, the expose brought to light the extreme amount of man-hours required to make games like Red Dead 2 a reality and the dangers of ‘crunch’ culture.
9. IGN Employee Sacked For Plagiarism
Passing another’s creative work off as your own is never a good idea, especially when the source of said plagiarism is one of the most popular websites on the internet. YouTuber and ex-IGN editor Filip Miucin learned that the hard way back in August when it was discovered that he’d – oft-times word for word – lifted several comments from the video review of another YouTube channel, Boomstick Gaming, for his own critique of the roguelike.
The owner of Boomstick Gaming uploaded a video (below) containing a side-by-side comparison of both video reviews, immediately washing away any semblance of doubt as to their similarities.
Miucin subsequently protested his innocence in regards to the allegations, though IGN had already made its decision. He was fired from his position and his Dead Cells review scrubbed from existence. The dethroned editor retreated from the internet following the scandal, only to reemerge in October to apologise for his actions, but stopped short of admitting fault.
But every cloud has a silver lining. Motion Twin’s game had received a huge amount of free exposure and advertising over the ordeal, so we have Miucin to thank for that, at least.
8. Nintendo Switch Online
When it comes to crafting some of the best video games, both retro and of the modern era, Nintendo’s golden seal of quality is justifiably stamped on every first-party product. In terms of online infrastructure, however, it has and remains far behind the curve of what Microsoft and Sony can offer its customers.
On precedence alone, many an eyebrow was raised when Ninty announced that the Switch would adopt a paid subscription model for its online services, and it turns out the scepticism was warranted. Besides a meagre offering of antiquated NES titles with additional online functionality for subscribers, the main draw for signing up to the service was cloud save availability acting as a back up in the event of system loss or breakage.
Only, the feature was saddled with limitations, some so vague that the gaming press had to contact Nintendo directly to get a definitive answer. Likewise, several big-ticket games like Dark Souls, Splatoon 2 and even Pokémon were disavowed from the list of applicable games as a means to prevent cheating.
A baffling decision, considering some of the very same multi-platform titles have access to cloud saves on other consoles with little to no issues. Funny that.
7. PUBG Corp Goes On A Suing Spree
Did PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds popularize the battle royale genre? Absolutely. Did it singlehandedly invent the formula? Not on your nelly.
Modern-day battle royale games have adopted a series of homogenised rules, but they’re all the product of the ‘last man standing’ mode that has existed since the dawn of the industry itself.
PUBG Corp, however, apparently disagreed with that established history and began throwing its weight behind several legal battles, one of which targeted none other than Epic Games, the name behind Fortnite and creator of Unreal Engine 4. You know, the very same game engine used for PUBG. Chinese developer NetEase was next on the hit list for its supposed copyright infringement, including blatant mimicry of the use of a frying pan as a weapon, an “imaginative treatment” that PUBG Corp apparently cooked (sorry) up.
One very beloved aspect of creative expression in Battlegrounds is the game’s iconic frying pan. Previous shooter games did not include the use of a frying pan… the imaginative treatment of a frying pan as a melee weapon is made even more remarkable by its further treatment as armor against shots to the butt of a character.
What became of the latter allegations remains unclear, but for the claim against Epic, at least, PUBG Corp seemingly realised the error of its ways and dropped the case a month later.
6. Loot Boxes Deemed Gambling; Banned In Several Countries
Are loot boxes in video games a form of gambling? Technically no, as they hold no real-world value, but ethically and psychologically? A definite answer is forthcoming, but evidence to suggest they are, in fact, akin to problem gambling is mounting rapidly.
The response of America’s regulatory Entertainment Software Commission (ESA) continues with the stance that their use in games “can enhance the experience” and has cautioned governments around the globe against “over-reaction,” repeating the industry’s right to self-regulate. An expected rebuttal, only, in the absence of witnessing any attempts at change from the big players like EA and Blizzard, some have tired of waiting.
This year, both Belgium and the Netherlands have ruled paid-for loot boxes a form of gambling and had them subsequently banned, forcing their removal from games like Overwatch. The story doesn’t end there, either. The US Federal Trade Commission has confirmed its intention to investigate loot boxes and if foul play is suspected, the controversial monetization model could be causing headaches for triple-A publishers well into 2019. Watch this space.
5. Sony’s Reluctance To Allow Cross-Platform Play
Change doesn’t happen overnight and certainly not at a one-size-fits-all-pace. Sony – unlike Nintendo and Microsoft, which has publicly promoted friendship with the other by allowing cross-play compatibility between the Switch and Xbox respectively – has been reluctant to follow suit, garnering criticism for its stubbornness and perceived snobbery as the leading platform holder.
To each their own, then, but with the arrival of Fortnite on Nintendo’s hybrid console at this year’s E3, the rules changed. What began as simple frustration over Sony’s unbending stance turned to anger when it emerged that Switch owners looking to play Fornite on the go were locked out of using their account for good if it had ever been associated with a PlayStation 4.
Several months of deflection and question dodging later, Sony finally relented, citing a major policy change for the company as the reasons for why cross-play with anything other than PC took so long.
4. Command & Conquer Returns…As A Mobile Game
Despite the backlash heaped upon it for bastardizing Bullfrog’s classic strategy series with Dungeon Keeper Mobile, EA has, apparently, refused to listen to criticism. Westwood’s iconic base-building RTS Command & Conquer made its grand return as part of EA’s games lineup at this year’s E3, but in a form that nobody asked for.
After what felt like an age of absence and the controversial cancellation of a full-fledged title, the publisher’s announcement of a spin-off mobile game stripped of the franchise’s identity and diluted beyond recognition was simply a slap in the face for fans who had been waiting patiently for the better part of a decade for something, anything, resembling a true C&C title.
Mobile games have their place, no level-headed individual decries that. The issue here is that EA, as it so spectacularly proved five years ago with Dungeon Keeper, has failed utterly to recognise the core audience of an established franchise, opting instead to drag the name of a criminally-underused IP through the mud even more.
What a shambles.
3. Telltale Games’ Closure
Nothing pulls a harder-hitting sucker punch in the games industry than premature studio closures, especially when they happen to institutions like Telltale Games. The developer, famed for its mastery over story-heavy, narrative-driven experiences, closed its doors for good in 2018, but how? Yes, the California-based studio had its fair share of misfires, but The Walking Dead? Tales From The Borderlands? The Wolf Among Us?
Those episodic wonders, among others, helped established Telltale’s enviable reputation for faithful adaptations of beloved properties and yet, here we are, mourning its loss. Not now, or maybe ever, will we know the full story, but Telltale’s demise supposedly came as a result of mismanagement. Decisions were taken by higher-ups that saw the modestly-sized studio stretched too thin across multiple projects, requiring hefty investment from external parties to stay afloat. In the end, those ambitions proved fatal.
If even an iota of good news can come from the debacle, it’s that Clementine’s story in The Walking Dead will see its end, thanks to a last-minute deal brokered by Skybound Games to finish what Telltale started. A small consolation, but one nonetheless.
2. Diablo Immortal
For the very same reasons that Command & Conquer Rival’s announcement elicited no roaring cheers but the deafening sound of chirping crickets, Diablo Immortal represents a monumental misstep and misreading of fan desires by Blizzard, one that has spawned one of 2018’s most precious and lovable memes. Peruse it at your leisure below. The jeers say it all.
To note, early impressions from this year’s BlizzCon actually paint a surprisingly positive picture of the mobile spin-off, but then, the game’s quality was never the point of contention. Diablo, like the majority of Blizzard’s games, have traditionally always appealed to the PC crowd. It’s that audience where the company first found success and continues to prioritize even today.
Diablo, in particular, has always been piloted best with mouse and keyboard, so more than anything else Blizzard’s reveal just feels so, out of place. Not helping matters are suspicions that Immortal has been the subject of a simple reskin on the part of co-developer NetEase, which already lays claim to several familiar-looking titles.
Should have just announced Diablo 4.
1. Fallout 76’s Disastrous Launch (And Bethesda’s False Advertising)
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Right now, Bethesda is licking its wounds following the savage beating Fallout 76 has suffered, but really, the writing was on the wall from the very start.
This is the studio, after all, primarily known for its rich, well-realised worlds steeped in lore and interesting characters. To remove all of the best bits of a Bethesda game, leaving behind only the average components and taking a risky first foray into the always-online environment, the outcome was never going to be perfect. The only surprise is that Fallout 76 ultimately ended up worse than many had feared.
In the past, glaring technical issues, an ageing engine and bug-infested code have been overlooked in favour of Bethesda’s strong points, but Fallout 76 only serves to highlight all the bad; none of the good. That failure, combined with an insulting bait-and-switch with Fallout 76’s premium collector’s edition and a recent security breachhas made Bethesda the gift that keeps on giving this Christmas.
One mistake, even as big as this, can be recovered from, but Bethesda sure does have a mountain to climb in order to regain the trust and goodwill of its customers heading into 2019 and beyond.