In an interview posted on David Jaffe’s YouTube channel, Days Gone writer/co-director John Garvin (who has since left developer Bend Studios over what was implied to be personality differences) suggested that part of the reason why the game will reportedly not be getting a sequel is that not enough people bought it at full price.
“I do have an opinion on something that your audience may find of interest, and it might piss some of them off,” said Garvin. “If you love a game, buy it at f-cking full price. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen gamers say ‘yeah, I got that on sale, I got it through PS Plus, whatever.”
It’s an opinion that has indeed pissed many people off not only because it bizarrely insults those who played Days Gone but because it highlights several problems in the video game industry that some say help justify Garvin’s opinion at a time when we’re led to believe that increased access to games is in direct contrast to the act that’s still the lifeblood of the industry: buying a game at full price right away and in great numbers.
So rather than roll our eyes at the sight of another games industry member shoot themselves in the foot, let’s take some time to break down the many reasons why Garvin has identified many issues that plague the modern game industry in a particularly bad way.
You Can’t Compare Days Gone to God of War
In one of the interview’s strangest moments, Garvin seems to suggest that Days Gone somehow deserved God of War’s success.
“It’s like, God of War got whatever number millions of sales at launch and, you know, Days Gone didn’t,” Garvin says. “ Just speaking for me personally as a developer – I don’t work for Sony – I don’t know what the numbers are.”
Besides clearly admitting that he’s not working with complete data (which makes that argument kind of hard to stand by), Garvin seems to believe that you can cleanly compare God of War and Days Gone on the basis of them being Triple-A PlayStation games.
Simply put, you can’t. God of War was part of an established franchise, Days Gone was not. God of War received nearly universal praise upon its release, Days Gone did not. Both share some elements of that PlayStation Triple-A open-world design structure, but given that Days Gone launched when Spider-Man and God of War were already on the shelves and doing very well in nearly every respect, similarities between those titles (however passing) may have actually hurt the game rather than help it.
Garvin has since noted that he’s simply pointing out that a game making more money helps its franchise prospects, which is true in a way that can’t really be argued against but ignores the fact that even apparently equal games aren’t really equal and success should never be treated as anything close to a given during development or after a title’s release.
It’s Hard to Know if You Love a Game Before Buying It At Full Price
The idea of buying a game at the full price doesn’t necessarily mean buying it at launch, but at a time when video game sales come fast and furious, the implication of that suggestion seems to be that you should buy a game as soon as possible in order to support it.
It’s an idea you sometimes hear from an unreleased product’s biggest fans who have bought into the idea of the product’s existence so completely that they’re willing to spend money on it and vocally support it even before they’ve played it. That’s also a mentality that has contributed to calls to stop pre-ordering games and other tech products simply because there have been too many instances of them not quite being ready for primetime and strangely “punishing” their biggest supporters out of the gate by making them put up with various technical problems.
With its own array of technical problems that hindered many people’s ability to play and enjoy the game at launch (and the weeks that followed), Days Gone certainly fit into that “buyer beware” category. The game got better after updates, but those updates came closer to a time when it was easier to find the game at some kind of discount.
As for the argument that those who download the game on PlayStation Plus or similar services should somehow go and buy the game after already downloading it, the practical fact of the matter is that you’re going to have a hard time convincing a substantial number of people to ever do that. If anything, this is a big part of the reason why larger demos and trials need to be worked back into the pre-release culture.
Days Gone Was Already Elevated by Word of Mouth and Fan Support
It’s especially strange that Garvin seems to be going after late arrivals and a perceived lack of fan support given that Days Gone clearly benefited from both of those things in a way that should be encouraging rather than worrisome.
When Days Gone received mixed initial reviews, fans countered with a kind of “anti-review bombing” campaign that elevated the title’s user scores across nearly every aggregate website. They kept the game’s word of mouth strong enough to ensure it remained in the conversation by the time that updates and patches addressed many of the title’s biggest technical issues.
Instead of blaming those who eventually came around to Days Gone for not buying it right away, it’s strange that Garvin isn’t praising the process of how those fans helped convince people to give the game a shot eventually and perhaps saved it from a potentially disastrous debut. Word of mouth is a powerful tool, and Days Gone should be an example of the strength of that process and not a condemnation of the circumstances that lead to it.
At the very least, it’s an especially odd time to attack the foundation of the word of mouth process given that some of those who heard about Days Gone through it will soon have a second chance to buy the game at full price when it’s released for PC. That just makes it easier to buy into the idea that Garvin is maybe feeling a little bitter at the moment.
The $70 Game is Going to Make it Harder for People to Invest in Full Price Titles
As PlayStation’s top executives join the push for $70 Triple-A games, it must be said that deciding to support a game at full price is going to be more difficult for more people once the price of games goes up.
While it’s “only” a $10 price increase compared to the recent industry standard, the $70 game comes at a time when free-to-play titles filled with microtransactions and those aforementioned issues with many full-price games at launch make it harder than ever to simply buy a full-price game right away and not really worry about it. Meanwhile, subscription services are allowing us to play new games without having to depend on actually buying new games right away quite as often.
As more studios appear to suggest that the clearest solution to increased game development costs is to increase the price of games, Garvin’s statements should serve as a warning of the divide that could create and how now is the time to explore modern possibilities to find modern solutions.
Not Every Game Deserves a Sequel
Would Days Gone have gotten a sequel if more people bought it at full price? Probably, but the idea that fans somehow did something wrong by not supporting the game at full price implies that major games are all somehow inherently deserving of a sequel.
At a time when it often feels like we’re drowning in video game sequels, it’s easy to forget that sequels are not a sure thing. We’ve seen games get sequels that didn’t deserve them and games that deserved sequels not get them, but there are times when we’ve got to remember that a game not getting a sequel is just the way it goes.
Days Gone had its fans who clearly enjoyed their time with the game, but it was also an incredibly expensive title that seemingly underperformed both critically and commercially. If Days Gone’s shortcomings mean that developer Bend Studio doesn’t get the chance to try a new idea, that will be a shame, but it’s a problem that says more about how the industry has become too reliant on instant blockbuster successes than the idea that those who play a game at any point under any legal circumstances contribute to its downfall in any meaningful way.