Those publishers with established franchises often feel entirely comfortable treating their customers’ complaints with contempt because the allegedly flawed product sells brilliantly anyway. Prince of Persia and Force Unleashed had extremely dodgy gameplay, but we’d already bought them by the time we realised what the reviewers had glossed over. COD:MW2 might have been a steaming pile of garbage in the single-player, and the multiplayer might have been unplayable for anyone not in the US, but we bought it anyway. GTA IV was an enormous disappointment, but we only found that out after it we got home. Left 4 Dead has appallingly bad matchmaking facilities for non-Americans, but we bought the sequel.
But you know where it does hurt them? DLC. I haven’t bought DLC for any of the above – and it was a happy confluence of principle and what I was going to do anyway. If you don’t enjoy a game that you thought you were going to enjoy, you still might consider the sequel, on the off-chance that they fix the things that made it a disappointment. But DLC, the most profitable form of game development – well, that’s more of the same game. And why would you pay for that if you ultimately didn’t enjoy the main title?
So I have no idea what happens in the PoP “Epilogue”. I didn’t care to find out what happened with “The Lost and the Damned” or Gay Tony. I’m never going to see whatever the extra Star Wars levels were for Force Unleashed. And if they don’t fix matchmaking on MW2 I might well not buy the inevitable new multiplayer maps – I certainly won’t be buying any single-player extensions.
And I’m glad. There should be a cost for developers not properly playtesting their games. And if it isn’t at retail, because we’re not being properly warned by reviewers before purchase, then at least DLC gives us an opportunity to be heard. And where they’re most likely to listen.