Following the recent Hearthstone Grandmasters tournament, Blizzard found themselves under fire for their treatment of the winner, Blitzchung, after he voiced support for the people of Hong Kong. His prize winnings have since been reinstated and the ban cut in half to six months but not before their reputation took a hit. Spurred on by this, we recount some of the times developers and publishers have shot themselves in the foot and how it's affected our perception of them.
Fans found Battlefront II's lack of Vader disturbing
Sam | Ubisoft
I wouldn’t say any particular controversy has ever made me do an about face and turn my back on a game company entirely. My decision in this instance hasn’t been made based on any one monumental blunder, but rather Ubisoft’s controversial decision to gradually homogenise most of their, once diverse, franchises into a big boring blob.
Series like Far Cry, Assassin’s Creed, Watch Dogs, Ghost Recon, and more once comprised a diverse range of properties in the French publisher’s catalogue. Now, however, all of these games have converged to follow the same dull formula.
It’s so widespread that the thought alone of booting up a Ubisoft game to be faced with a gigantic map, all but overflowing with markers denoting busywork is enough to make me light headed. When Far Cry and Ghost Recon titles weren’t essentially the same, I enjoyed playing both, but the merging of their mechanics has since served to make them suffocatingly boring for the same reasons.
The latter is most egregious to me; Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter and it’s sequel were absolutely exemplary, so to see the regressed state of the series more than a decade later is appalling. The latest entry, Breakpoint, is a genuine embarrassment, to the point I’ve audibly proclaimed that “I fucking hate this” several times while playing.
Hours of adventure, or packed with tedious busywork?
Liam | Rockstar
The only controversy that’s come close to putting me off a publisher, or a particular game, was the revelation of crunch culture at Rockstar following the release of Red Dead Redemption 2. As someone who spent a number of years in the hospitality industry, I know what it’s like to work long unsociable hours and the toll it takes on your personal life, and even your health.
One could argue it’s simply the nature of the beast; games have become these huge, sprawling creations that are built by teams of hundreds for an ever more demanding audience, and crunch is simply part and parcel of that process.
It’s something I never really gave much thought, especially when I was younger, but stories of employees sleeping under desks, afraid to be singled out or let go for not doing their part certainly made me reconsider whether I want to support such a process.
I’m not going to pretend my reasons for avoiding RDR2 were entirely noble (a lack of time and funds also played a significant role) or that it made much difference, but the controversy did at least shine a spotlight on an industry-wide issue, which will hopefully bring about lasting change.
Has our demand for bigger and better games helped fuel crunch culture?
Let us know if a controversy ever put you off a company or game below or in the forums.