What does the criticism of an exclusivity deal look like before a game is published? On PC, Remedy Entertainment’s Control launched exclusively on the Epic Games Store distribution platform. The article “(Un)Playful player responses to exclusive video game publishing” (2020) by Sari Piitti analyzes a Twitter thread spawned from the release date announcement. Comments critical of the decision are both playful and serious, including humor as well as aggressive language. Criticism paints Remedy Entertainment as an incompetent villain whose actions are unforgivable, and the people opposing the company as morally righteous. The tweet, the responses of which were analyzed, read as follows:
August 27th, 2019. Get @ControlRemedy on your platform of choice. #EntertheOldestHouse
Preorder #ControlRemedy now at controlgame.com
Watch the gameplay trailer: [link]
[an image of the game]
Many of the more playful complaints were found to revolve around the wording “platform of choice”. While available on PC, the game could not be purchased on the distribution platform Steam which many players prefer. Because of this, Remedy is made to appear incompetent at communication through jokes and sarcastic comments. In contrast to their target of ridicule, the commenters portray themselves as clever at language play. The company is judged too incompetent to even respond.
Serious criticism was found to be more exact in its reasoning. Complaints deem the exclusive game launch as morally wrong and purchasing the game on the Epic Games Store as not an option at all. Being familiar with the player community is necessary to understand much of the criticism. Responses, such as those simply affirming Steam as their platform of choice, are criticism only for those in the know: the exclusive launch is not mentioned in Remedy’s original tweet. The tweets create a social reality of what kind of acts are morally acceptable, yet players cannot directly affect publishing decisions. This powerlessness is contested by pointing out perceived injustices, as negativity can influence the opinions of others. Negative game reviews are also known to decrease sales.
The researcher highlights how the content of the game is not addressed in the responses. The study is based on a small portion of a larger data set, which includes comments on platforms such as YouTube and Reddit. Unlike the Twitter thread, other discussions included topics such as game mechanics, graphics, narrative, and character design. Because of this contrast, the context of a published news post is deemed an interesting future research opportunity. The responses showed game companies publishing decisions as highly important to players. Because of this, the research is indicated as useful for developers, publishers, and promoters, as well as scholars in game studies.
The study was conducted as a discourse analysis of tweets critical of exclusivity deals. The criticism was found as an emergent phenomenon from the data set of a broader study. The analysis focused largely on a single Twitter comment thread from March 27, 2019, where individual tweets were highlighted as examples of the complexity of player communication. The thread was found to be representative of criticism present in the larger data set, and the tweet by Remedy marking a shift from pre-release excitement to criticism.
Piittinen, S. 2020. (Un)Playful player responses to exclusive video game publishing. Proceedings of DiGRA 2020.
Promotional screenshot by Remedy Entertainment.
You might also like
More from Game Research Highlights
Highlight of “Role-Playing Games and Well-Being” by Kerttu Lehto (2021)
Impacts of role play games (RPGs) in the study of well being is undeniable.
When Non-player Characters (NPCs) play
Are Non-Player characters a way of human-AI co-operation?