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You Win, Amazon Add-On Program

Back in the day, one of the big draws of Amazon for me was the free shipping on any orders over $35. If you waited long enough to accumulate a decent enough shopping cart, it worked out rather well as you were spending more than $35 anyway. Other times, I would really want that $25 item right now, but was faced with the prospect of eating shipping costs and “getting nothing” versus just finding ten more bucks worth of whatever. Of course, that is kinda Amazon’s entire plan, right? Once Prime came out, my worries disappeared and these days I routinely pick up $15 items whenever I feel like it rather than saving for one big purchase.

Enter Amazon’s Add-On items. If you want a thing of $1.59 Scotch Tape, Amazon won’t ship it to you at all unless you pair it with $25 worth of other items.

So last week, I found some random item I wanted to get for someone. “$2 add-on, huh? Okay.” I started looking around Amazon for other things that perhaps I had been putting off purchasing. So I picked up a 3-meter HDMI cable for $7.50. And… err… let me look around some more. Oh, here’s an anti-static wrist strap for $6. You know, for that distant future in which I install another SSD or upgrade my video card or whatever. Then it was one of those shake bottles with the metal ball inside, for protein shakes, for $8. I was close now! And you know, I always wanted another end-table and here’s this one for $19. Done!

Oh. The end-table isn’t shipped from Amazon, so it doesn’t actually count towards the limit.

At this point, I’ve been on Amazon for almost an hour and decided to basically say “Fuck it” and bought what I want. Which was this:

Fine~

Fine~

So, you win this round, Amazon. And, I suppose, I win a little too.

Interesting Move, CCP

Way back in February, I was quoting Bullshitter in Chief, David Reid, on how Dust 514 could make EVE “the biggest game in the world at the end of 2012.” There are only 33 days left in the year for this to be theoretically possible, but nevermind.

At that time (and still currently), my questions focused on the “what the hell were they thinking with a PS3 exclusive” angle. The related followup question was how CCP planned to muscle into an already crowded FPS marketplace with a completely unknown IP (the FPS portion anyway); free-to-play will only get you so far, if no one knows about you.

Well, with all the game console browsing I have been doing lately, I have a partial answer:

Product Features

Platform: PLAYSTATION 3 | Edition: 250GB Uncharted 3: Game of the Year
  • The new 250GB PlayStation 3 System, with a built in Blu-Ray player, can hold over to 1800 Games, 140 Movies, 99,000 Songs, and 40,000 photos
  • The PlayStation 3 system includes a free PlayStation Network membership for online gaming, streaming movies and music, and access to the PlayStation Store
  • UNCHARTED 3: Drake’s Deception Game of the Year Edition showcases Nathan Drake’s journey through new challenges and includes over $45 of Bonus Content
  • With a 30-day trial of PlayStation Plus, access your instant game collection and download from a free library of hit games. Save over $70 with the PlayStation 3/Uncharted 3 Game of the Year bundle
  • Dust 514, a free to play game available exclusively on the PlayStation Network, thrusts you into the explosive ground conflict of the EVE universe
  • Included with this PlayStation 3 bundle is a promotional code for your personal DUST 514 ordinance pack containing a 7-day active skill booster, a permanent Armored Personnel Carrier, an assortment of digital items, and 2,000 Aurum to spend on in-game gear, weapons and equipment. Over $30 in total value.

That’s right, somehow CCP got Sony to include $30 worth of item shop goods in the, er… PS3 Uncharted 3: Game of the Year bundle. Because nothing says sci-fi F2P FPS like a 3rd-person action game.

It is an interesting move, and certainly one that will garner some extra attention from whomever takes advantage of that bundle. I can’t help but get confused though, when it appears that the Dust 514 mention is missing from the other bundles like the 500gb Assassin’s Creed 3 and even the 320gb Uncharted 3 bundle. Did CCP only pay enough to get on the 250gb bundle instead of the 320gb? Surely there is no hardware difference, so did they just change their minds? Did Netflix out-bid them?

Regardless, I find myself even more intrigued by this unfolding drama than I was before. And, hey, now that I own a PS3 myself, I might actually go full gonzo and try it at some point.

Memorial Day Sales

In case you haven’t seen them yet, there are a bunch of sales going on this weekend.

There is a fledgling new indie game marketplace called Because We May. Until June 1st, all of the games up there are 50% off or better. Those include:

  • World of Goo ($2.99)
  • Osmos ($2.99)
  • The Binding of Isaac ($1.99)
  • Psychonauts ($4.99)
  • Q.U.B.E. ($7.49)
  • Cthulhu Saves the World & Breath of Death VII Double Pack ($1.49)
  • Dungeon Defenders ($7.49)

EA finally got (one of) the memo(s) about why Origin is terrible compared to Steam, and now all (four) Origin games are 50% off. This includes:

  • Mass Effect 3 ($29.99 but see below)
  • Battlefield 3 ($29.99)
  • BF3: Back to Karkand DLC ($7.49)

Amazon is also a place where sales occur:

  • Syndicate ($17.99)
  • Total War: Shogun 2 ($7.49)
  • Mass Effect 3 ($25.99)
  • Saints Row the Third ($16.49)
  • Mirror’s Edge ($4.99)

Finally, Steam appears to be selling EVE for $6.80 again. Still not pulling the trigger just yet.

The Weaponization of QQ

The end goal of all QQ is for a game (etc) you enjoy to be fixed or changed for the better.

If you look at something like the WoW forums, or any game forums really, you will see dozens and dozens of impassioned arguments as to why the author is quitting. I seem to recall there being an actual study that demonstrated that the vocal complainers spend the most money on a given game, far in excess of the average; considering I cannot find said link though, let us assume the opposite for now. Why tell tens of thousands of anonymous readers that you are unhappy with the game? Why not just shrug and uninstall?

The ideal scenario in an “I quit” post is for you to continue playing a game you enjoy (in most respects), and for other people to quit. It is like “voting with your wallet,” using other peoples’ wallets. As strategies go, it never seemed too effective, although obviously it is effective enough that moderators tend to shut it down pretty quickly. Besides, the only audience you can reach by posting on forums are the people who read the forums, so any damage is pretty limited.

Oh, the times they are a-changin’.

Metacritic, Comparison

Welcome to the future.

I do not know whether Modern Warfare 3 was the first Metacritic salvo in a post-Weaponized QQ landscape, but it has become increasingly obvious that it will not stand (or fall) alone.

Now, obviously, there is nothing inherently wrong with a game receiving universal critical acclaim by professional gaming journalists, while being panned by uncouth Philistines. Or vice versa! But if you dig a little deeper, an incredibly large portion of the negative reviews for those three games (and who knows how many others) stem from issues not necessarily connected to the game itself – complaints about the state of the game industry, or the existence of Day 1 DLC/multiplayer, or people who wanted a sandbox instead of a themepark.

Maybe those things are connected to the game. Maybe you do enjoy MW3 less knowing how much was copy-pasted from MW2. Maybe people have wildly differing views on what constitutes a “review.”

What I do know is that, going forward, we can expect more of this:

Head to the bunker.

That right there is the present scoring of Mass Effect 3 for the Xbox 360 on Amazon. The PC version has less reviews, but it too is 2/5 stars.

What ever you think about the ending, and how much ever it may have soured the entire experience in your mind… is the game really 2/5? Were all of the emotions you felt during the journey not worth it? I am not entirely sure I want a philosophical debate about the nature of objective experience (or the nonexistence thereof); I just want everyone to know that this is our future.

Believe me, I am the first in line to say that customers have the right to question the creative decisions of designers/writers. However… is this what we want? Do we want developers worried that any reasonably controversial aspect of their work will lead to highly visible backlash? Does that actually encourage higher quality games, or simply encourage safer games? Or are the collateral effects of public catharsis simply their problem?

I used to believe the latter. Now… I’m not so sure.