Oh, how we moaned when EA announced Project Ten Dollar; the initiative designed to neuter the preowned retail market. How we whined when company after company started implementing online passes. How we bitched and wailed when crappy scraps of DLC began clogging up the marketplace - and developers tried to supplement their income with launch content. And now, as you're doubtlessly aware, even major console manufacturers are starting to slap arbitrary unlock codes on their first party games while boasting about their free online service. You know who I mean.
Yes, we gamers love to kick up a fuss when something - anything - offends us. Forums overflow with anger, developer inboxes run black with bile and hackers embark on ill-conceived crusades at the slightest provocation. We do this because the internet provides us with a voice and empowers us to reach out to our like-minded brethren. It's natural. It's the basis for our gaming democracy. And it's completely pointless.
The problem, dear reader, is that no-one is listening. Publishers and shareholders simply don't care about petitions and protests... so if you want something to change, you need to start speaking the right language.
The customer is always supposed to be right according to traditional wisdom, but this generation has marked a shift in the relationship between consumers and suppliers. Rather than being treated as valued clients, us gamers are starting to be viewed as the enemy - or worse, as brainless cattle who simply can't be trusted to make the 'right' decisions. We can't be trusted with OtherOS, after all. We can't be trusted to play with our mates on the Wii without friend codes. So why should our opinion make a blind bit of difference?
We're still not convinced that online passes are necessarily a bad thing, but it makes for an interesting example of this phenomenon at work. "Gamers can't be trusted to buy new games at retail" argues executives. "Never mind that store credit allows them to afford expensive special editions. They're too stupid to accept the juicy carrot of good exclusive launch DLC - and hey, we're not going to lower our prices or make our games undeniably worth the RRP. So let's take aim at the used games market and remove the choice. They're not fit to make it anyway."
So when a massive controversial move comes along, the thousands - sometimes millions - of objections go unheeded. Because when the moment of truth comes and the offending game or console redesign actually hits the shelves, we go ahead and buy it anyway. No wonder publishers and retailers think we're weak-willed. Why listen to the voice of dissent when us gamers will hand over millions regardless? Why fix something that ain't broke?
Listen up, fellow gamers, forum dwellers and petition-starters. If you really want something to change, there is a single important fact you need to remember.
Software companies are built on your money.
They literally wouldn't exist without your hard-earned cash... which, dear reader, makes you the most important part of their organisation without even knowing it. Publishers and shareholders only understand one thing: money. Your money. And thus, if enough people don't buy the latest piece of cynical DLC, microtransaction, avatar item or online pass enabled game, someone is bound to take notice. If a company's bottom line wobbles, even quivers by the tiniest amount, its shareholders will kick up a fuss and ask why. They'll start to take the backlash seriously - hell, they'll actually notice it. There's a place for forum backlash and angry initiatives, but sadly, there's just no way you can hope to change anything without speaking the universal language of profit and revenue. Oh, and if you make a scene but end up purchasing the game anyway, you're demonstrating that there's no steel behind your words - and there never will be. Future complaints will be ignored out of hand as toothless empty gestures... because they are.
Otherwise, quit your whining and let them get on with it. Are online passes really so bad? Will Battlefield 3's DLC unbalance everything? Probably not. If you can't stand something strongly enough to write an angry forum post or start a petition, then don't buy into it at launch.
Put your money where your mouth is.