The Needles

The Needles
Left 4 Dead 2: Why the Boycott Is a Good Thing

Andy Chalk | 16 Jun 2009 17:00
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So what happens next? Left 4 Dead 2 is a long way off but I'm nothing if not a bold internet prognosticator so here goes: By the time the game gets here most of the support for the boycott will have long since drifted away, primarily the result of waning interest, although Valve may manage to change some hearts and minds along the way if it does, in fact, continue to support Left 4 Dead as Newell claims it will. When Left 4 Dead 2 is finally released - and I further predict there's no way in Hell that Valve will have this thing out in November - it'll be so damn good that the bulk of those remaining will give in and buy it simply because they can't help themselves. And the tiny portion left will stick to its guns, send angry emails, bitch about it in forums and never buy another Left 4 Dead game ever again.

Sound ridiculous? Sure, and to be quite honest I think it's a little ridiculous myself; notwithstanding the irony of criticizing Valve for releasing a new game too soon, it all looks a bit too much like people who want something for nothing and are angry because Gabe and the gang won't give it to them. Yet I have no doubt that there's more to it than that, and I can very well relate to their outrage and to the determination of the true believers to make a stand.

You see, I don't buy Mechwarrior games. It's a long story but the bottom line is this: The last Mechwarrior game I ever purchased, and probably ever will purchase, was Mechwarrior 2: Ghost Bear's Legacy. I went through a very similar process many years ago, when all this foolishness started: I made a few angry forum posts, sent some shitty emails and swore that I would never again buy another Mechwarrior product unless my demands were met. 14 years later, I'm still waiting, albeit somewhat less hopefully. It's been a painful vow at times but I've stuck to it. I've drawn my line in the sand and it remains uncrossed.

But what I didn't have, unlike Pancakes and his merry band, is easy access to millions of other people, at least some of whom might be of a similar mindset. Because of that, they also have the attention of developers. It's easy to dismiss an email every now and then as the ranting of an angry, socially-stunted crank; when tens of thousands of people have virtually lined up outside your office window to flip you off, it's a different situation entirely and one that studios are all but compelled to pay attention to.

Isn't that cool? I'm not a big fan of social networks myself because I think the internet for the most part is full of idiots, but I do very much like the idea of turning them to a worthwhile purpose. We're not curing cancer here, no, but the potential is obvious: Gamers are no longer tilting at windmills on a great open plain of isolated indifference and just as important, game developers have access to immediate, large-scale feedback on what they're up to. It's still a relatively new phenomenon and its value at this stage is sometimes debatable, but one thing is certain: At this very moment, Valve is well aware that 30 thousand Steam users are unhappy about its plans for Left 4 Dead 2.

I'm reminded of the old saw about how I may not agree with what you say but I'll shoot 100 guys in the face to defend your right to say it. Something like that, anyway; the point is that while I happen to think the Left 4 Dead 2 boycott is something of a fool's errand, I also think it's great that they're having such success doing it. Will it change Valve's plan for the game? Not a chance. But it got the company's attention, and that in itself is unquestionably a victory.

Andy Chalk doesn't even own Left 4 Dead yet, but he's working on it. Interested in the boycott? See it in action at steamcommunity.com/groups/L4D2boycott

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