The Five Most Hated Brands in Gaming

There has been a ton of venom pouring out of gamers the last few weeks and months, so much so that I can hardly keep track of it all. I do my best to cover it when I can on other sites, but today I wanted to discuss it with you all here.

There is a rising anger among the gaming community about being abused by the very institutions they once trusted, be they developers, console manufactures, retail stores or even websites. Not all of the reasons why are interconnected, but a few of them are, and I wanted to examine why each of these brands is currently so hated, and whether or not it’s actually justified. Feel free to let me know your own thoughts about each and any of these.

5. Activision

There is a die hard contingent of anti-fans who seem to hate Activision with a passion regardless of whether or not they have a legitimate reason. Yes, they come out with a new Call of Duty title every year that rarely changes anything significant and still manages to break world records each time. This may be lazy to a certain extent, but it’s not inherently evil, or something you can actually point to as a poor business practice. It’s actually quite a good one, and the model will remain in place until we, the consumer, stop buying each new game every year regardless of how it is or isn’t moving the genre forward.

Activision was also at the forefront of the DLC debate a while back. The controversy used to be about their $15 map packs, which usually offered levels that were little more than reskins of old maps, with maybe a few new ones thrown in. Surely, not worth 25% of the game’s asking price? But again, we need to learn a lesson that worth is determined by what people are willing to pay for. If Activision benefits by pricing things this high that theoretically could be free, it’s only because they sell massively well, and reap massive profits for little work. Most COD titles will end up having three map packs, or $45 worth of bonus content. That’s 75% of the entire price of the game, and all it took was a few weeks working on some multiplayer maps, or even better, porting in ones from old games.

Activision’s latest controversy centers on the “Call of Duty Elite” subscription service which costs players a monthly fee to do…what exactly? It’s not paying to play online, and it hasn’t been made explicitly clear what the paid features of the program is. If it’s something that significantly affects gameplay, then that’s horrible, if it’s not? Then let idiots pay an extra $5 a month if they want to. All in all, Activision seems fairly clean compared to these other brands. Lazy, but not satanic as the above Google searches would imply.

4. Sony

One mention of Sony in this list, and what do you immediately think of? Obviously the hack, which has made the brand synonymous with a lack of security. The PSN takedown was one of the biggest data breaches in history, and millions of customer information was compromised and credit cards even had to be cancelled left and right. It was a massive headache, and made the brand look inept as its competitor’s online services remained intact.

Much of this was Sony’s fault, as they should have definitely had a more secure system. But in today’s day and age as hackers get more and more advanced, you may think you have proper security but the bad guys simply bring bigger guns to the fight. Recently a hacking group called Lulzsec has been taking down everything from EVE and Minecraft servers to Senate and CIA websites. You never can quite know if you’re secure enough, and it’s unclear if they’ve even fixed the problem to a manageable degree.

Fortunately for Sony, they had a pretty good showing at E3 which finally made people stop talking about the hack at long last. I was impressed with their game line-up and even the PS Vita, which I would actually consider picking up. But they might have just looked competent because of the horrible Microsoft conference that had just taken place hours earlier. Anyone would look great in comparison.

3. Kotaku

No, this is not someone actively involved in the production of games, but it’s hard to remember the last time I’ve seen a website get this much hate. Perhaps its sister site Gizmodo, but that’s about it. As a website EIC myself (albeit of a much smaller domain), I can understand a lot of the stresses with running a site and dealing with criticisms and what not, but Kotaku seems to be handling everything the absolute wrong way.

Their issues started a while back, when they started veering in and out of journalism by getting facts wrong or skimping on articles that should have been more in depth. Rather than report news, they often just pull things to fill space. Take a look at this recent post. One line and a picture. Now, some of you may say, “Hey, you guys do that too! Don’t tell me you wouldn’t feature that picture as it has Pokemon in it.” Yes, that’s true, we might, but I would certainly write more than one line and more importantly, we are two guys running a website about quirky fun stuff in the entertainment industry, not a fully staffed video game news outlet with the backing of a giant parent company. There are different standards and Kotaku’s seem to be dropping rapidly.

Obviously their biggest blow came in the form of one of the worst redesigns the internet has ever seen that plagued the entire Gawker network. It’s a counterintuitive Javascript nightmare, and all the sites are far more cumbersome to use and navigate, and their viewership has dropped dramatically because of it. Even worse, not one word of these cries were listened to, as months later the design is still in place, and Kotaku since has become famous for punishing long-time commenters who dared speak out against the new design. The place is simply falling apart at the seams.

2. EA

The most popular post I ever wrote for Forbes was this one, published a few days ago detailed the big mistake EA had just made regarding upcoming DLC and pre-order bonuses for their game. The amount of traffic it got should indicate just how much of an misstep the community believes EA has made, and now Call of Duty‘s overpriced map packs look generous compared the kinds of shenanigans EA is trying to pull.

The core concept comes down to the fact that EA is offering exclusive weapons and attachments for Battlefield 3 only to those who buy the game from a certain retailer in a certain format. This is not a new concept in itself, as preorder bonuses have been around for lots of games recently, but it’s different because of the game in question. Not only is Battlefield something of a sacred cow to its fans, discouraged by this sort of maneuver, but as this is an online multiplayer shooter, removing certain guns and attachments and giving them to “special” players has the potential for disastrous things in the future. EA has since backtracked as of yesterday and said that all these items will be made available eventually to all players, but that doesn’t mean this won’t come up again in the future, as it undoubtedly will, and they’ve opened a can of worms.

It’s a slippery slope. EA says that the items will not unbalance the game, despite listing them as “essential” in the item description. But even if they don’t, the principle is that they’re removing content from a game to give to a few select people, and what’s to stop that from becoming something that does in fact unbalance things down the road? How much of a game can be assigned to select people before it starts to feel like its missing pieces?

1. Gamestop

And now we have our number one, Gamestop, who is responsible for the above problem and in fact many of the issues plaguing the industry today. Publishers try to bribe Gamestop with exclusive preorder bonuses to make them push new copies of the title. The reason for this is that Gamestop is absolutely ravaging the console industry with their used game sales.

You can see how big the issue is when you use a few simple bits of math. Gamestop sells a game for $60, they get a $10 cut of that. Not great, but not bad. The player beats the game, and wants to sell it back. Gamestop says that they’ll give them $20 for it. They turn around and sell it for $50. Someone else buys it, putting a full $50 into Gamestop’s pocket with nothing going to the developer or publisher. The new player beats the game and sells it back a month or two later. Gamestop says they’ll take it for $10, and then immediately flip it for $40. Off one copy of a game, Gamestop has made $70 while those who actually made the game got far less.

It’s a double edged sword. Used games offset the massive $60 investment that almost all titles are these days, but by buying them, we provoke these sorts of incentivized preorders that the cute girl working the counter tries to shove down your throat whenever you’re in there. Moving to online distribution might be convenient, as it will effectively kill Gamestop and these preorder bonuses, but it will also kill the used games market and the price of games won’t go down. You think publishers will bump the price down to $50 just because Gamestop isn’t getting their cut? That’s cute.

So as you can tell, a lot of these places are doing some shady, greedy things that are bad for the industry. But the main problem a good majority of the time is us. Don’t like $15 map packs? Stop buying them. Don’t like exclusive retailer bonuses? Stop preordering games there. The fixes for these things are simpler than we imagine, and the industry will continue taking advantage of us as long as we let them.


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  1. Dont forget gamefly and other rental services my friend. These services also have caused the practice of including codes in brand new copies of games just so you can play online. If you dont have the code then you have to pay a $10 fee to get one. Dont get me wrong I subscribe to gamefly and I love the service but if I know I am going to play a game online I just go buy a copy so I will have my online code. EA is notorious for that.

  2. Great post. I have been saying for a while that DLC and preorder bonuses only work if the market is willing to pay for it. The market in the end will decide what the “appropriate” price point will be. Also alot of games started to release codes with new games to give you access to the online portion of the game and locking out players who buy the game used. When that happened I heard alot of people saying they would boycott the game which is kind of funny since the company doesnt care about you if you bought the game used anyway.

  3. Re: #1.
    I don’t play consoles, solely PC games. But I think this is a good poll question you should setup:

    Would you buy more/less/the same number of games if you knew you couldn’t eventually trade that game in for some credit towards your next game purchse at stores such as Gamestop?

    I can’t trade in PC games when I’m done with them. And since I’m not performing illegal activities in order to maintain an expensive game habit I don’t buy as many games. I have to wonder if console gamers would be buying full priced games in such numbers if they knew they were stuck with the game forever. Unless of course they are aware of magic revenue streams I am unaware of. At any rate, is it possible that game developers are actually selling MORE games with stores such as Gamestop than they would without? Maybe some people are only shelling out $60 for COD or such games because they knew they can recoup some of that investment and put it towards the next 1st person shooter.

  4. The thing Sony is at fault for in the hacking fiasco is pissing off a large chunk of the hacking community by suing geohotz. Any company with any amount of security could have been hacked in that same fashion if they angered that same group of people.
    Gamestop does suck a giant donkey dick though.

  5. @Sam:

    Yes, Sony sued geohotz, which was probably a dick move. But one thing I gotta give them is the following: They could have sued the SHIT out of geohotz, make him pay whatever the hell they wanted, so he would have to pretty much waste his entire life paying back the credit he needed for the settlement.

    Instead they settled with him out of court. So while sueing him in the first place was a douchy act, at least the settlement was rather humane. AFAIK he didn’t have to pay any fines or charges, and the only order he has is never to hack any sony thing ever again – reasonable.

  6. @Josh

    No, but the hack is far and away the biggest story of the year in the industry and out of all of these, had the most potential to actually be damaging, unlike preorder DLC and map packs.

  7. Battlefield and Call of Duty are the ‘Madden’ of their genre. New game every year, with slight tweaks from the old one. Madden sales are finally dropping, I can only hope there is a similar trend with these titles.

    I mostly play PC games, I have a PS2 for older games I like, and to play dvds. I bought MLB: The Show ’11, which is the last generation of PS2 games freshly made (NCAA football, Madden, and a wrestling game were the last batch). I still have my SNES, and often buy used games for it (Like NBA Jam! Tournament Edition). Single player has evolved greatly over the years, but nothing will beat the fun of multiplayer on those older systems.

    It’s because of stuff like this that I’ve logged 600+ hours into Team Fortress 2 over the last 3 or so years.

  8. “but it will also kill the used games market and the price of games won’t go down”

    I don’t see how. One can sell their games through Amazon, eBay etc.

  9. @Aether McLoud
    I’m not sure if this came through in what I said but I was actually defending Sony or at least trying to. These assholes were attacking Sony and its consumers, for no real reason. And you’re right about geohotz deserving everything that would have happened to him, Sony really should have put the spurs to him but they didn’t. He may not have personally been pirating anything but by posting the root key, which he knew full well was illegal, was contributing to the piracy problem.

  10. Sony sucks more than just for the hack. It’s how they handle customers that gets me. I asked them “how do I get the free PSN+ subscription as part of the welcome back program.” They said if you don’t see it in the welcome back section of the PSN store, you already have it. So I downloaded a game that’s supposed to be free for PSN+ users. They charged me in full for the game. When I complained they said “We usually don’t give refunds so IF we decide to refund you, it will only be a one-time thing”. And that’s only the most recent problem I’ve had with them (just happened today).

  11. Funny, I think EA and Actaivsion have miked Call of Duty so much, it’s just pathetic now. I try’d playing any of the Modern Warfare and their so damn boring.
    I have issue with these games, due to people saying Bungie has milked Halo, hahaha. right. in ten years, 4 games! In less then ten, coming up on like 6 or so games? Gez.
    I suppose it’s true though, your ether a Halo fan or a COD:MW fan.

  12. Hmm, how can you write this article an not mention UBISOFTS crappy online copyprotection that won’t let you play the games you actually bought unless you are online and their licensing severs are up and running. So forget playing the game on the airplane for example. Unless you are a pirate and dowload a cracked versio for free from the interweb, since it’s only actual paying customers that are affected. Idiots!

  13. I don’t get it… if you don’t like GameStop’s used game policy (or the fact that they can make a lot of money by buying games back for ~$10 apiece) then just sell it directly to another consumer on ebay. They have to pay for overhead and expenses…. there is nothing wrong with profiting from trading in used games if people are willing to sell them back for such a low price.

  14. That new Gawker website redesign is the worst thing I have ever had to endure. Most times when a website I frequent changes shit, I tend to hate it then gradually comply grow to like it. But with Kotaku I just haven’t had that transition happen yet.

  15. I think I’m in the minority whereas I actually like Gamestop and see no issue with them.

    I get the chance to get rid of games I don’t want to play anymore and get the chance to buy games for a cheaper price that I’d never buy at full price.

    What’s the issue here?

  16. So the hack against Sony puts them on this list? As other hacks continue and Microsoft is eventually hacked as well, this issue will just make Sony one of the first of many companies to have to deal with it. For Microsoft and Nintendo, it’s not a matter of “if,” but *when.* It will be interesting to see how anti-Sony sites like Kotaku (whose hack also resulted in stolen user information–the hypocrites) will report on the eventual Microsoft and Nintendo hacks.

  17. @Robb
    While I’m sure Sony has plenty of problems, that PS+ problem you described sounds like another glitch where people redeem a welcome back gift, only to not get it or something. I can understand the frustration….but you do have to add funds to your account before you buy a game and it even shows the total and everything so while I can understand you wanting a refund…they can refuse on grounds of you didn’t pay attention. :/

  18. You all do realize there is a splash view option and a blog view option on kotaku now? They put it on the website about 2 or 3 weeks after the redesign. Its to the left of the house button at the top of the page.

    This article complains about it and people have posted about how it sucks. But no one has mentioned it there.

  19. @Crash
    I’m not really sure. Honestly….sounds a lot like a pawn shop to me. You sell something back at a small fraction of the original price, maybe 15% at most usually, then they sell it for WAY more than that. I guess people crap on it because they focus on just games and in doing so, has become so big to where they have an influence on games themselves sometimes.

    Other than that….I don’t know. I have gotten MANY games for cheap by trading in my unplayed 360 games. >_>

  20. I was surprised at seeing Kotaku in your list. Most of the others were almost self explanatory. But then as I read your explanation, I found myself shaking my head. The new redesign truly is abysmal. The funny thing is, every time I visit, I change how it displays, thinking, “Oh, I hate this, I must have liked it better the other way”. Nope, it sucks both ways. Also, I find it incredibly appropriate that you pointed out a post by Luke Plunkett as evidence of the site going down the tubes. He is probably the reason I’ve mostly quit visiting Kotaku. He is a pox on the face of games blogging. One of the worst hit-whores I’ve read, always spinning news to flame up fanboy wars and get keyboards clicking. I think this is because Kotaku pays by the number of hits and comments your posts get. Its sad. I quit going to joystiq after Vlad Cole ran it into the ground and now Kotaku is heading down that same path. Brian Crecente and Stephen Totilo are talented but they’re not enough to save that place with the likes of Plunkett and Ashcraft sinking the ship.

  21. This list is laughable. Although it was obvious that EA and Activision would make it on the list writing didnt seem to add up. For EA you dont list anything other than the stupid pre-order nonsense for BF3. Honestly that was mistake by them and they will learn from that. I think EA is actually making amends in alot of ways they are allowing more small independent companies a chance at making games. They really pissed me off when they bought westwood and made red alert and C&C suck, but ill let by gones be by gones.

    Activision killed tony hawk but otherwise i couldn’t care, they will make money where they can, who cares it is what corporations do.

    Kotaku although it does have its faults is not a bad site nor is widely regarded as such. I see that they are much larger than you and therefore you have a stake in seeing them fail. However the redesign is actually nice, you can view it in the blog view which i always do and as long as you have ad blocker on you are good to go.

    Gamestop is evil only because i pledged my love to EB before gamestop bought them out. Used games may hurt the industry some, but no more than movie rentals and used movie sales hurt, i mean gaming companies can innovate and they are making more money than ever per product thanks to crazy DLC and bonus editions and such. Obviously a lot of people still buy new games. As a gamer i find it ridiculous to think that them giving us an option to trade in our games and get games used for far far below their original value is somehow a bad thing. I think even if you dont like them you cant argue that its good for gamers to spend less.

    As far as sony goes I don’t think they have done anything wrong. They fixed the issues, which are not unique to them ( they are just the ones who were targeted in this case). They gave us free games and apologized, heck i wasnt even mad to begin with. How am i suppose to hate my favorite company. They haven’t failed me, other than not making a sequel to legend of dragoon to this day!

  22. The point about Gamestop immediately flipping the game is false. They offer cash or in-store credit for a trade-in but in doing so they take a risk. There is no guarantee they will resell what you trade-in. Just look at some popular titles like call of duty, halo, or metal gear solid. They are not likely to resell even half of those traded in. Rarer/out of print titles will probably be bought quickly but those aren’t bought and sold in significant volume and if they are out of print than the publisher/developer wouldn’t make any money if a new copy sold instead. You can get more money for you game on craigslist or ebay but it just takes more work on your part. Used sales does hurt developers for sure but each trade-in is not a lost sale.

    I recommend using to get the old look.

  23. I only read Kotaku through RSS feed now. I can easily skip the crap I’m not interested in and I don’t have to deal with the crappy website design. Occasionally I have to click to the website to view a video, but it’s still way better than trying to just read the site the normal way.

  24. I’m sick of people complaining about the dlc being $15 for Black Ops, yet they buy it anyway. I’m also sick of the PS3 Cod players saying they hate how xbox gets dlc early and all this shit, but, even though all they play is Cod and the Xbox version is obviously superior in multiple ways unfortunately, (this is coming from a PS3 only player,) they keep playing on the PS3 version of Cod, getting treated like crap with worse graphics, worse lag, more bugs, and DLC a month later like PC.

    Stop fucking complaining. It’s like you voted for Obama but hate what he’s doing. You’re the fucking idiot that voted for him, it’s your fault if you don’t like what he’s doing. (Vice-versa for Republicans).

    You supported something or continue to even though you hate it. Stop being fucking idiots. How to stop Activision from charging $15 fucking dollars of DLC? Not buy it. Dumbfucks.

  25. When I found Kotaku four years ago, it was awesome. The articles were well written and there was a great mix of gaming and otaku news. The comments were insightful and there was a sense of community. Back then, you had to be approved to comment and if you misstepped at all you got smacked with the Banhammer. Even as a college educated man, I was a little intimidated by the process.

    Nowadays, it’s a mess. The quality of the writing is poor far too often. Clearly proofreading has been thrown to the wind. They’ve reduced themselves to advertising the comments of a poster who parodies Jesus in an effort to drive more traffic there (I guess). The layout is brutal. Even the overall tone has become more caustic, whiny – much like the other Gawker sites.

    I appreciate this article because I felt like I was the only one who saw this.

  26. Don’t tell Kotaku they’re a news site; their readers will immediately berate you with insistence that they’re “a blog, not a news site,” and because of that they are for some reason allowed to be as shitty as they want.

  27. Hm, I don’t want to get into defending or attacking Kotaku, but is it really popular enough to warrant hating on the scale of EA or Activision? The only people who would probably “hate” it are people who were fans of it. The Gawker redesign is terrible, but easily fixed by going to the Canadian or Australian alternatives.

  28. In regards to Kotaku, at least give them respect for actually linking to this article/list (and not in a derogatory way). That being said, I only go there 1 time a week, to see their links to lists around the web.

    “Kotaku is a blog, not a news site.” Whether it is appropriate or not, many (I was going to say “most,” but that would be overstating it) blogs are considered a news site anymore. A massive number of “legitimate” news sites run in a blog format now. The bigger concern is where do you draw the line? It’s up to the reader.

    Additionally, while you get on Kotakus case for the one-line link/pokemon post, I think the real answer lies in the category. It is “fan art.” There is only so much you can say, and usually the art is good enough to give the idea without having to explain it to readers. One obvious solution, though, would be to save up the fan art and only post when there is a reasonable number of pieces.

    “As other hacks continue and Microsoft is eventually hacked as well.” This might have been addressed, but I didn’t see it. In 2007, Xbox Live was hacked and data stolen. A couple others, but they depend on what you consider “hacking:” Larry Hyrb (Major Nelson), Xbox’s main spokesman, was hacked last year (though some say it was more a “social engineer hack” rather than a system hack). Another person claimed the same thing earlier this year.

  29. I don’t know what Gamestop locations you’ve been frequenting, but I’ve never seen a girl working there that I would describe as “cute”.

  30. Well you guys have your facts dead wrong about just how big of profits GameStop is making at your expense. The amount of money all retailers make off of your new $60 game purchase is closer to about $2, hence Wal-Mart not being able to undercut the competition for say, selling their game $5-10 cheaper. When a video game store takes in your trades they also undertake a financial risk. Let me elaborate: when a store gives you $12 for your copy of Madden and is unable to sell that copy for the $40-50 asking price they are forced to sit on the game until it sells, they mark it down to $30, it still doesn’t sell, so they wait. Now the next year or edition of that game has come out and the demand for that Madden game is all but dead, the game gets moved to the bargain bin for between $5-10, resulting in a loss for the video game store. Now multiply that small loss for one game by the thousands of copies of Assassins Creeds, Guitar Heros, and Army of Twos that a major retailer like GameStop will have to take, or maybe never even sell that game at all. So are the trade in prices always fair? No. But are they sometimes justified? I believe so.

  31. bashing other websites, eh? You know what kotaku doesn’t do? they don’t bombard me with dumb ads that I have to skip as soon as i get linked in to an article, then hit me with another one that i have to skip when I start scrolling down the page. browsing your website is like get flipped off, then getting stabbed in the eye repeatedly with the same finger.

  32. in regards to Activision, it’s not so much the Madden-style release schedule for CoD that pisses me off so much as the fact that they’ve established via company policy that they will never make a game they can’t churn out annual sequels to(hence the Starcraft II “Trilogy” to artificially inflate profits), followed by axing the development houses they put these ridiculous demands on as soon as market over saturation devalues the brand(see Red Octane and Neversoft). Activision has firmly planted itself as an assembly-line publishing house, churning out the same shit once a year until people grow sick of it and they find a new developer to place under creative servitude. and if you don’t like what they demand of you as a developer, just ask Infinity Ward how well they handle complaints and criticism from their top earners. to hell with Activision and Kottick, they are a perfect symbol of why the industry is staring down the barrel of a 90’s-comic-industry-style collapse.

  33. I really don’t get this bashing of Gamestop for selling used games. It’s the same thing as selling a used car, do you think all those used car salesmen send a percentage to the manufacturer if they sell one of their products? A Ferrari 250 TR was just sold at an auction for 10 million pounds, how many of those pounds do you think went to Maranello?
    And the other thing is, the game Gamestop is reselling might not be bought new from there in the first place, so they’re only making their first profit from the game by reselling it.

  34. CasualGamer – Completely agree. This is capitalism folks…where there is a demand, there will be a supply and while games are being retialed and £40-50 new, gamers that find that little too expensive will look to buy second hand. I buy all my games from Amazon due to nothing other than the lower cost price than buying new from retail stores. I also sell a lot of my games on via websites such as amazon in order to fund further purchases…should I then donate a percentage of the money I have made to the developers? Catch a grip!!

    As for the rest of the list. EA in my opinion are the devil when it comes to games. However, my reason is due to their incistence on buying out every single credible, indepentant developer in order for EA to rebrand their series with their logos and their watered down approach to game design.

    Another I would add to the list (that I’m not entirely surprised isnt on there) is Microsoft. Arguably the most hated corporation in the whole world…not just in the games indutry. For the last 30 years they have been effectivly using the general public and their wallets to test their Operating Systems, software, consoles and games. Never has there been an initial release of windows that wasnt full to neck with bugs that were later fixed due to “customer feedback”. Also…look at the state of the XBOX 360 upon release. Excited gamers were shelling out hundreds of pounds only to get home and find a console that was poorly supported in terms of software, an extra £40 fee waiting on them if they wanted to play online and a RRoD if they played the thing too long…of yeah and lets not forget the deafening noise of the fan which made watching HD DVDs (another mess) impossible unless the TV was at biblical decibel levels!!

    Decent list otherwise.

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