Before I begin ranting, I’d like the record to show that I actually agree with many of the points Steve raised in his defence of Ground Zeroes. However, for me, Konami’s approach to the promotion of this glorified demo is an epic swindle of the fanbase.
Much like Steve, the demos of Metal Gear Solid and Sons of Liberty hold a special place in my childhood. At the tender age of eight, my hands clutched the demo disc from Official PlayStation Magazine, which included a small sample of the upcoming Metal Gear Solid. I carried this disc to every friend’s house, because no matter where I was, I wanted to make it into the hangar.
Was I too young to play MGS? Of course. Did I have much of a clue about what I was doing, or what the Colonel was saying? Definitely not. But I knew I loved this game. I also now know that I somehow managed to complete the game upon its release, but during a recent playthrough I couldn’t beat Metal Gear Solid, confirming I am not as good as a nine year old at MGS.
Unlike many, I got hold of the MGS2 demo through OPM, and not Zone of the Enders. I was equally enthralled. I took in every nuance the game had to offer, while averting my young eyes from the provocative posters in the lockers I was hidden in as guards swarmed on my position.
I probably spent more time with those two tasters than with half of the games I’ve ever played. Working out the different routes to completion, beating the spotlights to reach the item that lay in the middle of the helipad, making soldiers jiggle to give me their dog tags and feeling a rush of adrenaline when soldiers exclaimed their sighting of Snake are all fond memories.
Yes, the time spent in these demos justified my £5 investment in the magazine, but no, I would not justify paying £40 for any demo, no matter how great the content, and this is where the problem lies.
The concept of the consumer attributing value to a product is fine, but that doesn’t remove all liability from content providers justifying cost with content. Demos cannot exist on their own and demand top-end price points. Halo 3 and Sons of Liberty’s samples in Crackdown and Zone of the Enders were incentives for gamers to invest in new franchises. Those who were dissatisfied with the game could simply spend more time in the demo. It is irrelevant if gamers buy the game for the bundled demo, because it wasn’t the primary promotion, Crackdown and ZoE were. You can’t now remove the new franchise and just sling the demo onto shelves and ask gamers to pay the same amount.
Ground Zeroes would not look out of place as a free listing on the PSN or Xbox Marketplace. It is the opening chapter for Metal Gear Solid V, for all intents and purposes, the equivalent of taking the MGS2 demo and labelling it “Metal Gear Solid 2: La-Li-Lu-Le-Lo”.
The designer for Ground Zeroes has argued that the length of the title is irrelevant, with indie titles such as Dear Esther and Journey offering similarly short experiences, but again, neither of those titles demanded £40 to play. Had Ground Zeroes asked for maybe half of that sum, I wouldn’t be so pissed, but the nerve to ask gamers to double dip is morally ambiguous at best.
As somebody who has always relied on trade-ins and/or weeks of saving up cash to afford new games, I know how I’d feel if I saw Ground Zeroes on the shelf. I would absolutely believe that it was the “new” Metal Gear Solid, expect a fully-fledged experience, considering the cost, and go straight home and grab as many old games as I could muster, get ripped off on the trade-in value, and buy it. Konami knows this, and the exploitation of the fanbase’s attachment to the series is what annoys me most. They know gamers will pay full-price for Metal Gear Solid, but many will feel ripped off if they knew what they were getting.
This isn’t being advertised as a small sample of MGSV, not to the average consumer anyway. You, reading this, are not an average consumer, you are an informed, passionate gamer. You wouldn’t be reading websites and op-eds if you weren’t. Most people just buy what they see on the shelf, and again, they’ll simply see a brand new, next-gen Metal Gear.
The inclusion of 'Metal Gear Solid V' on the box art of Ground Zeroes only adds to the notion that Konami is swindling fans. Many people won’t acknowledge Ground Zeroes is a stop-gap cash-in, but instead think it a full release, much in the same way that Guns of the Patriots, Sons of Liberty and Peace Walker were.
The nerve of Konami to flog this to people and expect them to pay is absurd. I know there will be many people fooled into picking this game up, bitterly disappointed having completed it before having done much of anything. No matter how fun it is, it’ll sting when the credits roll and you’ve barely got comfortable in your seat, £40 down the pan.
Yes, previous MGS demos have offered multiple routes through them, and replaying them was considered fun, but why would I replay Ground Zeroes? I’d feel forced to go back through it again in order to justify buying the thing in the first place. I’d desperately try and suck every ounce out of the game just to excuse the cost.
I hope gamers vote with their wallets on this one, because this could set a dangerous precedent going forward. If this sells well, we could see other titles do the same, then we’re all in trouble.