Saturday, March 7, 2015

Bait and Switch in Gaming - Is it a good or bad thing?

Today I wanted to talk about something a little bit different--a topic which may actually anger some of some of you. What is this topic you may ask? Well it is none other than what one might call "Bait and Switch." Now before I continue on, keep in mind that this can actually refer to different things. While Bait and Switch can refer to an illegal act, in this post what I'll be discussing is when developers make a game to appear to be one thing (or have one specific feature), but then do a complete 180 and possibly shock and maybe even anger you. One famous example is none other than Metal Gear Solid 2, and that's where I'm going to start this.

In the year 1998 the very first entry in the Metal Gear Solid series was released. This game took what had been set in the original Metal Gear series, updated it for the PlayStation's new advanced hardware, and it took stealth and storytelling to a whole new level. The game became insanely popular, and before long fans began their long wait for the upcoming Metal Gear Solid 2. As time went on, the game was finally announced to be a PlayStation 2 release, and a demo was even included with another game by the name of Zone of the Enders. After seeing this demo, which featured everyone's favorite hero Solid Snake, and seeing many pre-release trailers, fans simply couldn't wait anymore for the real thing. From what was shown, it looked flat out amazing. Everything that had been done in Metal Gear Solid 1 had been expanded on, what little players knew about the story excited them, and just about everything in general excited fans. They couldn't wait to get their hands on it, and they were sure it would be the "best game ever." So, what happened? Outrage... That's what...

When the game finally came out and people jumped into it, players were soon shocked. After a roughly one hour long intro (depending how fast or slow you play it) something very strange happened, and fans didn't know what they were in for. Solid Snake vanishes, and a new guy with long hair sticking out from under a mask is seen being called Snake instead. Shortly after this scene the guy actually removes the mask, we see his face for the first time, and he is given the new name of "Raiden." Just who was this guy? None other than the new main character, that's who.

(Raiden would later go on to become
a pretty cool Cyborg Ninja, but at first
many MGS fans flat out hated him.
In fact, some still do...)
Yes, that's right. After waiting years for a sequel, the game finally comes out and fans find out they have been lied to. Solid Snake isn't the main character like the demo and trailers lead them to believe, but instead they are greeted with this "rookie" who looks like a girl, and seems completely single-handedly stripped away many fan's excitement. As said before, outrage soon followed, and Metal Gear Solid 2 became known as one of the most hated games in the series--for some that is. The moment I saw this I too didn't know what to think. A friend had brought a copy of the game over, and when I saw Raiden I remember saying "where is Snake?" At the time I wasn't a fan, but I still knew enough about MGS1 to know that this wasn't right, and that alone semi turned me off from it. Of course I would later go on to play it and actually greatly enjoy it, but back then it even sort of ticked me off. So, was this a good move, or should something like this never happen? Well... That's actually really hard to say.

The thing is, although Bait and Switch such as MGS2's case can really upset fans, it also adds uncertainty to the game. Sometimes shocks like this can really make a game stand out above all others, but when it is people's only reason for buying the thing that is changed that's when things can become really bad. With MGS2 a lot of fans were buying it simply to play as Snake, but when they learned Snake wasn't in the game playable (at last not in the original release) it really damaged it for them; meanwhile the people who really didn't care who they played as may have actually been in for a very pleasant surprise. Sure not many people out there will admit they were happy to see Snake being replaced, but there's a handful who may have thought just that. Really though, in general, this is something I feel game developers shouldn't do. No one should be lead to believe a game is something it isn't, only to start it up and see they had been lied to. It's not much different than buying a "New" Nintendo 3DS online, only to receive an original unopened 3DS. While the picture the webpage shows you may be of the New 3DS, what you got is something different and unusable if you wanted that C-Stick, or the ability to play exclusive New 3DS games. Really it's no wonder who this sort of thing angers people, but what if it isn't such an extreme case? Well, I hate to tell you guys but some of you out there may find yourself facing what MGS fans did many years ago very soon.

Without saying the name, or going into too much detail (I'm not going to spoil this for you guys), but there is an upcoming game which does this yet again. It's a game I am really looking forward to, and have been following since a handful of domain names were registered for it (that's another hint, if you really want to know you can find the answer here at NGR), but it is also one that tricks fans--but to a lesser extent. In this game one of the main characters was heavily advertised, and many fans out there may still expect to be able to play as this character. While he/she may not be a deciding factor in the game overall, they are someone you expect to see throughout the course of the story. Well, that doesn't happen. Shortly after the first part of the game, this character leaves the cast (due to the storyline), and a new character completely replaces them--one who many fans thought nothing of, and passed off as an unimportant side character (and possibly NPC) at that. This switch has already angered many fans who have bought the game in other regions (yes, it's not out in the US yet), and it continues to be a hot topic in the game's fan community. Still, was this switch really that bad? Personally, I don't think it was. While I am a bit saddened that I wasn't able to use this character (I actually liked them as well), I also have no issues with the character that game in their place--in fact I may even like them better. As for the character leaving/why they leave, that is actually pretty shocking and one fans did not see coming. Just as I mentioned above, things like this can really help games stand out, and it will keep people talking as the years go on. Of course there's always some who may have been completely turned off from the game due to this, but in this case it wasn't the main character. The developers of this game never really lied to us about how the game would be, they just changed it slightly. Outside of that, the game still plays the same, the story is still the same, and as an added bonus the removed character does actually have their own story mode which can be bought as DLC. Sure this also angered fans, but at least it's something. Really though, this is the type of thing I personally like to see in games. Yes it gives people a valid reason to be upset, but smaller shocks like this do not truly ruin the game.

So, going back to the main topic... Is this a good or bad thing? Personally I'd say that it really depends on the person. I can't give you a solid answer as everyone will react different to what these games do. Some of you may welcome these shocks with open arms, and you may actually like these changes a lot better than the original game; meanwhile the rest of you may actually flat out hate the game, and refuse to play it because of said change. It all comes down to what you personally like, and just how the game pulls off this "Bait and Switch." It's never right to flat out lie to someone, and make them buy a game by telling them it is something it's not, but making smaller changes or changing things due to the plot is a completely different story. Heck even Resident Evil Revelations 2 may upset some, but that's all I'm going to say about that. In general though, when it comes to things like Metal Gear Solid 2, that's the sort of thing fans really should know ahead of time--as it may directly impact their decision to buy it or not. I'm sure if the new "Super Mario" game removed Mario after the first stage and replaced him with a new original character fans would freak out over that as well... Now let's watch Nintendo do it! (It wouldn't be the first time they lied to us... After all, Metroid: Other M was not a Super Metroid style game, but rather Metroid Fusion reborn.)

Now, what do you guys think about this whole issue? Does Bait and Switch annoy you? Has it ever turned you off from a game? Feel free to leave a comment below.