Has your trust in AAA publishers diminished ?

Did we ever trust them you ask? Well, after CDPR's horrendous launch of Cyberpunk 2077 and the significant lack of respect for the consumers, I'm sitting here wondering what the hell is going on with these video game publishers. I mean, right now it seems that the small indie games companies are the ones (yes, I am generalizing) that manage to deliver what they promise or at least be transparent enough to share a roadmap that actually has some truth to it and not just bragging rights. This last decade has just been a significant shitstorm of bad, bad and reeeealy bad communication and delivery from the AAA studios. It is one of the reasons I have stopped buying games from Ubisoft, Bethesda, E.A (just joking, never bought anything from them), Blizzard Entertainment, Gearbox, and Rockstar Games, to mention some.

I have always been skeptical, but right now with CDPR's last stunt and being in the last bastion of the "nice AAA guys", I have depleted my tiny, tiny shred of trust in any AAA company. Why should we bother investing money in any games from these studios in the future, when all they manage to do is delivering half-baked products, bad customer service, and a big tax-free grin running away with all the money to the "bank".

Am I painting a too harsh picture here guys, or have you also lately been feeling that itch to just light a big bonfire and burn all those AAA games yelling "Viva la Gamers!"
 
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I think my trust in AAA publishers has been diminishing slowly over the past few years. Games from Bioware and Bethesda always grabbed my attention, and I usually pre-ordered, especially back when "boxed" games were still a thing. Now, I find Bioware a shadow of it's former self (influenced no doubt by EA), and it's focus more on a "games as a service" attitude (although I'm still hoping for a resurgence with Dragon Age 4, and the next Mass Effect).
Bethesda's last good game (to me) was FO4, and even that was more of a shooter than an rpg (but I loved the settlement building & combat, especially when modded). Fallout 76 and the Elder Scrolls Online held no interest for me, as I don't care for online only games. I'm hopeful that the next Elder Scrolls game, as well as Starfield, will raise my trust that they can still make an immersive single player rpg. But with the Microsoft acquisition, being a large corporation, leaves me with doubts.

Obsidian (although I don't know if they're actually considered AAA), another Microsoft acquisition, has also seen my trust diminish somewhat. They've produced some great games like FONV, POE1 & 2. Outer Worlds seems like a good game, but from what I've read, is a bit shallow. I'm hopeful that they will prosper under Microsoft, but the corporate influence worries me.

Larian still seems to be holding out, and I respect them greatly for having survived corporate buyouts and/or going under (as they almost did after Divine Divinity). They produce some great rpgs. I have doubts whether BG3 will really be BG3, or if it will be more like Divinity on The Sword Coast. Too early to tell.

Piranha Bytes, although bought by THQ Nordic, still has my faith. Although, in truth, I guess they can't be considered a AAA company. But man, I love their games, they're perspective is just so different from anyone else. Elex is one of my favorite games of the past 5 years.

Which brings us to CDPR and Cyberpunk 2077. Has my faith diminished? Absolutely. But I also have faith (hope) that they are ashamed about the release condition of CP2077, and that they will eventually make it a really good, if not great, gaming experience. Too much influence from investors I think was part of the reason it was released way too early. They made things good with the Witcher 1 with a free enchance edition, so my trust, while diminished, is still there.

So, no, I don't think you're painting a too harsh picture of the state of the gaming industry. There are major concerns of "profit over quality" going on.

Also, sorry for the long-winded reply.
 
I don't trust AAA publishers and I generally buy games based on independent and user reviews. Bethesda in particular is a bit concerning right now. Fallout 76 was just unacceptable. Sadly, based on their comments, it looks likely that they will nuke another beloved series in The Elder Scrolls. When they said the new Elder Scrolls game was on the same engine, I simply lost all hope. They have no desire to innovate or make good games any more. It's just an exercise in churning out the most streamlined, lackluster titles to appeal to the widest audience possible to profit immensely. I'll be stunned if the next Elder Scrolls game is good.
 
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No, not really. I've had the rare opportunity to work for both developers and publishers, and I feel like the public perception of these relationships is flawed and misguided in most cases. Each relationship between a publisher and dev is pretty unique, even within the same publisher. And publishers often get focused on the hate train way too often, even when that relationship is just a funding/marketing thing.

AAA games in general, though, I've learned to be skeptical of. I feel like a lot of the time it's not hard to tell the difference between marketing and actual features or functionality, and you can tell when a game is aiming more for a "cinematic" experience than one with depth or engaging gameplay.

Communication is a funny one, because people's expectations for what a community manager can tell you are often also pretty misguided, which results in unrealistic expectations. There's a lot of reasons why they don't tend to tell you things, but the primary one is the entitled gamer mentality results in frivolous lawsuits that will negatively impact the game in a marketing sense.

I think the definition of AAA is also one that is getting more and more blurred these days. For example, is Larian a AAA studio? Before BG3 they were resorting to kickstarting their games, that doesn't really feel to me like a AAA studio. Even a quick google of this term gives really inconsistent results. I typically view a AAA studio as one with a major publisher funding a major developer. But even that has a blurry line.

Ultimately any studio is only as good as its creative talent at the time, and I see a lot of developers get held up on a pedestal because they made a good game or two. But true success requires all of those creative forces working well together to realize a vision, and that success is never guaranteed (something I think a lot of people are learning the hard way right now). Even being a big Larian fanboy, it's something I have to acknowledge, that the combined vision isn't guaranteed to deliver the same level of quality. The biggest sin the gaming community tends to make is setting unreasonably high expectations based on a few words from a developer (which kind of leads me back to the communication bit). I think more skepticism and tempering of expectations would go a long way to correct the hype that tends to build over time for these things. The majority of disappointment I tend to see seems mostly self-imposed, although in some situations the devs certainly bear responsibility for their communication and presentation.

So I guess tl;dr, no I'm not any more disappointed with AAA publishers than I am gamers in general. But I also tend to set pretty low expectations of games, which sometimes leads to me being pleasantly surprised with some gems, but more often than not they land right about where I expected.
 
I don't really trust AAA publishers like EA, Ubisoft, 2k, blizzard/activision or much of the older publishers these days. They've become more corporate and its more noticeable how seriously greasy these companies have become; We're adding xp boosters to our games to make leveling faster! "surprise mechanics" makes games more fun and its not gambling! We made record profits last year but we have to sack a load of people and up the price of our games!

the other problem is that these companies are content to just push a couple of IPs and repeatedly sell the same thing with slight twists. Its like selling a staple product each year or as a utility and its becoming increasingly humdrum. its not helped how this avarice/pursuit for money is starting to impact game design and beloved developers and that's the worst part of it.

That said, nothing will change if people keep buying them. I still buy sequels as long as i find them enjoyable and those that i don't i don't buy anymore (COD in my case). I like to think i'm savy enough to resist and avoid most of the pitfalls or offset them by getting them at a knock down price.
 
Am I painting a too harsh picture here guys
It all depends on what your expectations are. If we define AAA as a public company quoted on a stock market somewhere, then we should expect what we get from all other stock market companies. Which, in USA at least, by law requires the maximization of the shareholders' interests.
indie games companies are the ones (yes, I am generalizing) that manage to deliver what they promise
That would be because the guy making the promise is likely to be on the same continent as the guy fulfilling the promise. That's the nature of business, small companies are always more nimble and more 'real'.

I have stopped buying games from Ubisoft … E.A
I don't think I bought anything from EA in 10s, but my GotY 2020 is their C&C Remaster. Companies can change, so much depends on the CEO—look at MS's transformation under Satya Nadella—so don't write anyone off 'forever'.

I have bought all Ubisoft's Far Cry franchise and been permanently disappointed with only one game—so roll on FC6 so I can pick it up a year later if it's up to par. Same with Firaxis' Civ franchise—if there was a way to pre-order Civ7's Platinum complete GotY edition a year after the expansions & DLCs are done, I'd do so. Altho it looks like they're still doing DLCs for Civ6 4 years later :(
Why should we bother investing money in any games from these studios in the future, when all they manage to do is delivering half-baked products, bad customer service, and a big tax-free grin running away with all the money to the "bank".
For the simple reason that we do the same in most other aspects of life. We probably get our electricity, water, deliveries etc from big bad guys, many get their groceries from Walmart & fast food from McDs, etc.

Closer to home, so many of our books, movies, TV shows & music come from big bad guys.

As I said up top, it's all about expectations. Have the same expectations of your game companies as you do of your utility, grocery, car, medical, food companies and you'll rarely be disappointed.

I still trust CD Project. They've screwed up—for me, the measure will not be the mistake, but how they deal with it.
 

Zloth

Community Contributor
As long as you aren't buying on Day1, you don't really need to trust them - big or small, new or old. The reviews will tell all. (Of course, then you've got to trust your reviewers...)
If we define AAA as a public company quoted on a stock market somewhere, then we should expect what we get from all other stock market companies.
Oh! Not a bad definition! Beats the behoovies out of what I've been trying to use, that's for sure. ("Indie" means independent of a publisher. CDProjekt self-published, thus Cypberpunk is an indie game in my book. I'm thinking I need a new book.)
 
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The majority of disappointment I tend to see seems mostly self-imposed
I agree generally, but it's also often fueled by deceptive marketing—eg trailers not representative of gameplay.
I also tend to set pretty low expectations of games
That's the key. I guess it takes a round or two of unrealistic expectations being disappointed before gamers learn the lesson.
 
"Indie" means independent of a publisher. CDProjekt self-published, thus Cypberpunk is an indie game in my book
CDP fulfilled the two main functions, and are also a significant retailer these days—not just Good Old Games anymore. They're now a big guy, and listed on the Polish stock market, so shareholder pressure will be an increasing factor—although 4 individuals hold 1/3 of the shares, which will keep pressure at bay as long as the 4 stay on the same page.

Their share price has dropped over 1/3 since CP's launch, hopefully that'll recover so they don't get in financial trouble.
 
companies are content to just push a couple of IPs and repeatedly sell the same thing with slight twists

I still buy sequels as long as i find them enjoyable
I'm with you on the enjoyable. But I prefer a company to keep polishing an IP and give me another experience similar to the last one I enjoyed.

Doesn't always work, of course. Crysis is a good example, where 2 & 3 were downgraded to work on consoles and became a slog on PC.

Command & Conquer is one of the poster children for pushing an IP—17 games in total, counting the expansions as games, and there was only 1 bad game in that. Assassin's Creed is another I suppose, but I haven't played it yet so I can't comment—I've seen a few of them panned, but a few out of a lot is ok in my book.

nothing will change if people keep buying them
It doesn't need to change. There is more than one games market, eg for this discussion the market for new and innovative titles and the market for more of the enjoyable same. Let's wish both segments every success :)
 
I'm with you on the enjoyable. But I prefer a company to keep polishing an IP and give me another experience similar to the last one I enjoyed.

Doesn't always work, of course. Crysis is a good example, where 2 & 3 were downgraded to work on consoles and became a slog on PC.

Command & Conquer is one of the poster children for pushing an IP—17 games in total, counting the expansions as games, and there was only 1 bad game in that. Assassin's Creed is another I suppose, but I haven't played it yet so I can't comment—I've seen a few of them panned, but a few out of a lot is ok in my book.

That was what i was getting at too. As long as they keep what's good intact and don't toy with what made the game good, they should be fine. of course, trusting AAA publishers to do that is an all different story altogether. they will eventually run the game into the ground by bloating it with MTXs, lootboxes, trying to change a game into a live service to ensure reoccurring monetization, etc

The latter is especially infuriating as someone who wants the most bang for my buck, the season pass is nothing short of BS in my eyes. I'm paying for the right to unlock stuff. Its like paying my employer to work.

It doesn't need to change. There is more than one games market, eg for this discussion the market for new and innovative titles and the market for more of the enjoyable same. Let's wish both segments every success

i guess. The (irony?) is that the people who are really pushing the gaming frontiers atm are the smaller publishers like devolver digital and devs . In most cases, they're thinking out of the box and are working with passion as opposed to the AAA who are more interested in securing ever increasing profits. Its a fallacy to think it will last, i doubt the market profit will grow year on year forever and something is going to pop. Right now, they're pushing out methods to squeeze money and whilst many people (including myself) don't fall for it, it doesn't stop them from trying to find a way to increase those people buying via more insidious methods. if anything these big companies should be leading the way with experiences with their vast fortunes. In some ways nintendo is doing this, but even they entranced in corporate BS.

I think the point i'm trying to make is that AAA companies only respond to one thing: Money. EA had been voted worst company twice in a row and they didn't bat and eye lid. Starwars battlefront 2 lootbox fiasco didn't turn heads until they became so unpopular that shareholders and governments turned their heads and realized people weren't going to slurrp their BS on lootboxes. Ubisoft tries to push a dodgy Ghost recon game and gets burned etc.
 
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When it comes to the question about what is an indie game company, it seems most include how many ion staff, self-publishing (but not always) how big of a title, and innovation rather than "greed" as a few examples of what defines an indie game company. From what I can see, it is not always set in stone. If you look at No Man Sky it started out being developed by Hello Games with fewer than 10 people (think it was 4 people) and it evolved into a AAA studio. Minecraft as another example developed by one person, but now bought by Microsoft and hardly an indie game anymore.

"Each relationship between a publisher and dev is pretty unique, even within the same publisher." @drunkpunk So with CDPR, how would you put the blame for this absolute fiasco of a release? Clearly, there is a link broken between development and release and from how I understand it, the senior developer in some area would have had to know about the state the game was in, before pushing it forward to whoever is on the top making the green light based on that feedback. I mean, if you build a car from scratch and one of the lead technicians raises a red flag saying that the brakes don't work on some cars, then you don't release the car with faulty brakes if you are not thinking risk vs reward. Someone had to be on the top saying: "Oh, it's ok because at least 6 of 10 cars works, so if we get sued, we will still get our money back and then some. We will just write an apology letter to the people affected and cry some crocodile tears in front of the camera and everything will be ok in the end".
 
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"Each relationship between a publisher and dev is pretty unique, even within the same publisher." @drunkpunk So with CDPR, how would you put the blame for this absolute fiasco of a release? Clearly, there is a link broken between development and release and from how I understand it, the senior developer in some area would have had to know about the state the game was in, before pushing it forward to whoever is on the top making the green light based on that feedback. I mean, if you build a car from scratch and one of the lead technicians raises a red flag saying that the brakes don't work on some cars, then you don't release the car with faulty brakes if you are not thinking risk vs reward: Someone had to be on the top saying: "Oh, it's ok because at least 6-10 cars works, so if we get sued, we still get our money back"

Hard to say without knowing specifically how their relationship is defined, but don't they self-publish? From what I understand they do the do. So that means they make the calls, and it likely comes from top leadership on when to ship the game, possibly investor pressure as well.
 
I think at this point AAA is more a derogatory label for a shady games publisher more then anything. I think its more a label/ethos that the (larger) games publishers seem to share. Like higher price bracket for games (£60-£70 range) , own a vast amount of money, implement freemium mechanics into paid games etc etc.

but that said, the list could easily be marked by the old guard: EA, Blizzard/activision, ubisoft certainly labelled as AAA.
 
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The industry has changed alot since Doom or Wolfenstien 3D were created. Back then the companies tried to give the consumer a good product that the consumer wanted.

Nowadays, it all looks like the companies simply sell what they WANT to sell, and expect the consumer to buy it simply from "brand loyalty", or as Canon camera users buy more Canon cameras "ive got 5,000$ in lenses, easier to buy another canon camera then to get a nikon, etc and have to buy a converter"
 
That was what i was getting at too
Yeah, I agree with what you're saying there.
AAA companies only respond to one thing: Money
Yes. That's the nature of working in a Capitalist system. The CEO reports to the board, who report to the shareholders. Shareholders don't like the return, they fire the board—so the board has to fire the CEO before that happens—so the CEO has to fire whoever's delaying the profit, or at least make decisions to boost the profit.

Problems arise when the CEO is far removed from the customer, which is often the case—eg expertise in running a company rather than playing RPGs on the current dominant console versions. Bad decisions get made.

people who are really pushing the gaming frontiers atm are the smaller publishers … as opposed to the AAA who are more interested in securing ever increasing profits
Right, such is the case in many industries. One of the distinctions I make between big & small business is that big biz can buy their customers—branding, advertising, celebrity endorsements etc etc—whereas small biz has to earn their customers since they don't have the cash to buy them.

Nowadays, it all looks like the companies simply sell what they WANT to sell, and expect the consumer to buy it
Yes—as said, the big guys will follow the money. If the consumers buy crap, big guys will supply it. If consumers don't, big guys have to try another way. Ultimately, gamers are telling the big guys what to produce via what they buy.

The power is with gamers, but the AAAs will be very happy as long as consumers don't exercise it in their own interest.
 
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The problem is, that most people have been indoctrinated as a young age..


I work with a lot of 20-28 year olds who keep buying games in a franchise ONLY because they have the previous games, and want to see what happens to the charecter. NOT because they really liked the game.

Work with a few who bought EVERY colored version of Pokemon for their nintendo system. ONLY because the box and cartridge and screen border was a different color for each color version.
 
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Problems arise when the CEO is far removed from the customer, which is often the case—eg expertise in running a company rather than playing RPGs on the current dominant console versions. Bad decisions get made.

As someone who has played games since i was 4 (coming to 35 now) that is what worries/vexxes me the most with AAA atm.

In the eyes of a business its the right decision, but in the eyes of gamers its the incorrect one. The most annoying thing is that the big companies get some of the best IPs but rather then trying to make more money by releasing a decent product, preferring to opt for the generic tried and tested solution which is baffling. They have the money to experiment, take games to the next level most of the time but instead they make humdrum products. Marvel's avengers springs to mind; developer with a decent rep for reliably producing decent games and a brilliant IP leads to a somewhat mediocre game and only a couple of weeks ago said wasn't making much money. I'm sure they'll eventually make their money back, but its disappointing as to what could have been. Maybe this was going to be the bread winner/staple game that keeps the company afloat, like your Fifa lootboxes we'll never know.

People say that they're reacting to the consumer demand, but how much is that true with some of these decisions? how is FOMO a consumer request? or the lootbox? But lets think of it in a differently; when did gamers ask for a new genre game like ARPG like diablo or Dark souls style game? I doubt many gamers would have come up with that nor/realize they wanted it. AAA publishers can/do run the show and they do have the power to push and dictate a significant part of the market as they see fit. Its just doing it slowly under the radar. The mobile games industry probably has much to blame for current practices and i suspect that is the way it really wants to go and that disgusts me.

Ok, i'm sounding like one of those artisitc beatniks crying out that "YOU SOLD OUT MAN!" slogan. But as someone where video games has influenced his life from a young age seeing some of the best and worst times with these AAA companies, it troubles/disappointments me. yeah, its a business, we all grow, tastes change, but this business influenced method of conducting entertainment doesn't sit well with me. But on the other hand, the indie industry/small developer will thrive as its all digital and i'll carve out my niche somewhere and move on but its frustrating.

Then again, its a business. If life has taught me anything, you can't really trust any business no matter who you work for or who you buy from. They're in it for the money and NEVER have the customer's interests at heart and we should never put loyalty/full trust in return.
 
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You miss the point, there is no genuine interaction between development and consumer anymore.

Apogee days are LONG gone. ID software basically sold out long time ago. Carmac tried to keep going, but wasnt well recieved overall. No magic?

I remember to many games that tried to meet what people demanded, failed miserably. Other games succeeded by ignoring what was demanded from a previous game.

Two many companies and franchises basically died by trying to reinvent the franchise, and "create a new experience". tomb raider anyone? died, bought out, reinvented, died out again.
 

Sarafan

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IMHO the main reason why AAA games leave a feeling that they're unfinished is the scale of these projects. It's very hard to make a 3D open world game. They're very susceptible to bugs and glitches. Of course there's also often a pressure from the publishers or investors to release the game as quickly as possible. But even if this pressure would be non-existent, we have to keep in mind that it's very hard to debug an open world games with a closed group of QA testers. The answer to this can be public beta tests, but even then only a limited portion of the game can be made available. Besides that beta tests of single player titles are basically non-existent.

Of course the bugs are one thing. The gameplay is another one. AAA games from big publishers often feature mechanics that not everyone likes. A nice example is Dragon Age: Inquisition and its MMO-like side quests. This generic content is quite characteristic for big titles. That's why indie games are frequently more interesting and unique. But again it's all a matter of scale. These open worlds have to be filled with something. CP2077 is an open world AAA game and it avoids some of the mistakes of other open world titles. This is also the case when we're talking about The Witcher 3. There are of course question marks there with gear only, but the sidequets don't feel generic at all. CP2077 resigns from inventory items only question marks completely. Every single question mark hides at least a short story.

I wouldn't call CP2077 on PC a disappointment. The game has its problems, but I enjoy it as it is. It was well worth to pay the price for ticket to Night City. :)
 
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Shortest answer for me, simply because i agree with yall on why it has / hasnt affected you, is a NO. Regardless of all the changes and nuances and whatever else goes with time in any such industry, the ones that make the products and sell them will ALWAYS be out for the same thing, so when things go bad or really good, or under or over, its always because of the same thing, Money. So when any Dev makes a decision whether it seems stupid to me or not, it doesn't bother me so, they are a business out to make money and to do that for as long as they possibly can because the industry is a consumer/capitalist industry, just like any other one, its not special in any way except for games being awesome lol, its still about money, power etc. etc. I mean it would have to be right ? They need as much money as they can to make the products for us, to do that, as cheap as possible to them, but to maximize on making as much as they can on us.
 
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Personally, I feel things got better after the Battlefront 2 debacle. Felt like all AAA publishers started cleaning up their act after that. EA stopped releasing map packs, made them free and only charged for cosmetics in Battlefield 5 while Activision went the Battlepass route with COD. EA rectified its other Star Wars controversy, that of canning a promising single-player game by the ex-Uncharted makers, and released the excellent Jedi Fallen Order last year, a game with a solid single-player campaign and no shady pay2win addons. They also released that excellent co-op only game A Way Out made by an indie studio. Ubi have been releasing good Far Crys and Assassins Creeds, as well as smaller titles like Trials Rising, which has been a regular play for me.

Honestly, during this time, FO76 and CP77 are the only two glaring exceptions in what has been an otherwise positive and mostly transparent relationship between AAA publishers and gamers.
 
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@SBan83 you're forgetting that the FIFA Lootboxes is still prevalent (and i guess throw in 2K NBA's MTX) and then there was that fiasco with the WWE 2020 game. Then there was the Ubisoft sexual harassment incident. Oh and on the subject of ubisoft how Ghost recon Breakpoint suffering less then stellar sales. and watch dog legions being a bit naff. Throw in some issues concerning next gen versions like with control and a couple others (although that might be partly gamer entitlement i didn't follow it too deeply) and trying to justify selling games at £70 despite making record profits in the millions. I think the AAA has a long way to go and shouldn't be let off the hook so easily.
 
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@SBan83 you're forgetting that the FIFA Lootboxes is still prevalent (and i guess throw in 2K NBA's MTX) and then there was that fiasco with the WWE 2020 game. Then there was the Ubisoft sexual harassment incident. Oh and on the subject of ubisoft how Ghost recon Breakpoint suffering less then stellar sales. and watch dog legions being a bit naff. Throw in some issues concerning next gen versions like with control and a couple others (although that might be partly gamer entitlement i didn't follow it too deeply) and trying to justify selling games at £70 despite making record profits in the millions. I think the AAA has a long way to go and shouldn't be let off the hook so easily.


There is a company called il 2 sturmovik in russia that makes a good load of ww2 games. All flying, and now a TANK game. You can combine all titles into a super sized whole world experience. Who doesnt want to be a german or russian pilot trying to dump bombs on the other sides tanks?

They have a standard issue for industry with prices, they release a game at a huge price, say 70$, and will routinely drop it down by 40% at random times of the year if they feel they dont have enough interest. And theyll do the same with add on items like new aircraft.

The industry has forgotten if you price a game at cost + a margin of profit all the time, you get more sales.
 

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