Small victories, perhaps, but maybe a sign of changing times as well.
Two separate incidents to talk about today, but both revolve around the Better Business Bureau and game companies. The first and arguably less severe, at least at the moment, would be the comments that the BBB made towards EA recently in their blog.
The blog post "Mass Effect 3 is Having a 'Mass Effect' on Its consumers for Better or Worse" by Marjorie Stephens. Now, you can feel free to think what you want about the fact that some gamers did choose to take their complaints to the BBB regarding Mass Effect 3, I certainly believe that it was a little bit on the extreme side. However, I can't argue that if gamers have felt jilted enough to seriously they have the right to bring their complaints to an organization whose purpose is dealing with that kind of thing.
Although it's not any sort of official punishment or anything of that sort, the blog post to give gamers at least some ground to stand on. In it Stephens says that since EA advertised Mass Effect as a game where “Experience the beginning, middle, and end of an emotional story unlike any other, where the decisions you make completely shape your experience and outcome” (emphasis hers), that what BioWare did does in fact amount to false advertising. She basically sums it up as follows (bolded indicates words that were originally italicised):
"The issue at stake here is, did Bio Ware falsely advertise? Technically, yes, they did. In the first bullet point, where it states “the decisions you make completely shape your experience”, there is no indecision in that statement. It is an absolute. The next statement is not so absolute. It states “your choices drive powerful outcomes”. A consumer would have to very carefully analyze this statement to come to a conclusion that the game’s outcome is not “wholly” determined by one’s choices. This statement, really though, is very subject to interpretation. Also this is just a small example of their advertising and does not take into account anything that might have been said, as far as their public relations and other advertising campaigns."
It has to be validating for gamers who complained to read that, although I am guessing that they would prefer some sort of action be taken. BioWare has promised DLC that won't give new endings, but will hopefully flesh out and more fully realize the ones that people already have. It's a small victory, but a victory nonetheless.
Another company doesn't have it so lucky, in that the BBB actually took a punitive step of downgrading their rating. I'm talking about the recent move by the BBB to take Capcom from an A+ to a B. Whether or not the rating will drop further wholly depends on if more people complain, but it would seem that the root of this comes from the same on-disc DLC discovery that I talked about a little last week.
Now, it is a victory in the sense that the complaints of gamers have done something, but it also doesn't mean much to the company in terms of whether or not they can successfully sell to gamers. The rating is still a fairly good one (at least at the moment), and while it might hurt public relations on a more macroscopic level, it won't really mean much if gamers keep buying Capcom's games. Boycott is a dirty word these days, mostly because it honestly seems like half of those participating in any given one cave and buy the product they claim they won't, or play the game during the day they claim no one should, and so on. That being said, if you don't agree with what a company is doing, then there's no better way to at least spare yourself a headache than by not buying the games that use practices you disagree with. Call it less of a boycott and more voting with your wallet.
These are both small victories, but I believe they are also important ones if only from the standpoint that it means that gamers are more willing to make their complaints known to organizations that actually matter, as opposed to preaching to the choir or venting in a no doubt cathartic but ultimately harmless display of anger, only to pick up the next title in the series. One step at a time folks, one step at a time.