Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony, Doesn’t Matter…

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by Bob Reinhard

Each of the three major video game companies has taken plenty of heat for questionable decision and poor relations with their fan base. Hell, most any company is going to have similar stories to this one. But the real question is: Why? I’m going to break down a few points one needs to understand when dealing with a company of any kind.

No Company/Corporation is “Evil”

In order for this to make sense, I have to get a bit abstract first. A corporation cannot be “Evil” because a corporation isn’t a thing. It’s a theory. A set of ideas. It doesn’t have a tangible existence. Nor is it a living entity. A conscious being. Therefore, it has no thought process, will of it’s own, or any actual actions that it takes. A corporation is simply neutral. The best way to explain it is by comparing it to something such as a gun. A gun is not evil. A gun does not CHOOSE who it shots. PEOPLE choose who it shoots. A gun can be used for recreation, protection, or murder. The choice is not up to the device, but it’s handlers. The same can be said for a corporation.

“Sony” was not what wronged our friend here. People did. People were on the other end of the phone line. People wrote the terms and agreements. People will be in charge of controlling what the company itself does next. Bringing it back to the gun metaphor, someone on the other side of a smoking gun had it pointed at her! We don’t blame the gun, we blame the people who pulled the trigger.

We, as a species, enjoy generalizations in our life. It’s easy to blame a faceless, lifeless corporation. It’s much more broad, and easier to sum up. When I say “Nintendo” doesn’t make quality software anymore, I am referring to the people at Nintendo in charge of making the decisions of what to publish. By using the company name, we name it easier to target. The same can be said for any label. Religion. Political Party. Whatever it is, it’s easier to give our “enemy” a easy label. While “Sony” is the company who’s actions wronged, it was people that set those actions in motion at it’s core.

The “A Few Bad Apples” Theory

So, was it everyone at Sony that made them do this? Do we blame the collective of people in a corporation for doing wrong? Was all of, say, BP the ones responsible for the oil spill? Do we blame everyone who works at the White House for the President and Congress passing stupid Bills? Of course not. Not everyone associated with something is bad.

No matter which version you say, the cliche “a few bad apples ruins the bunch” is often used in this kind of a conversation. As cliche as it is, it’s quite true. But I’m going to take this a step further. Not only do the few bad apples in the COMPANY ruin the company, but it is also a few bad apple CUSTOMERS that ruin the company.

I can use an example that I’ve seen here, on this site. For every “Fuck Gamestop!” or “This Gamestop employee was a dick!” story that I’ve heard, I have also heard plenty of “I work at Gamestop, and this asshole customer did this!” story. Basically, no matter what side you’re on, there are going to be people who screw things up.

The fact is, everyone is faulty. I have flaws. You have flaws. No human is perfect. Mistakes can be made. Be the conscious mistakes or true accidents.

The best example to convey this I can think of are warning labels. You plug in your hair dryer after a bath, and you notice a stick that says “Do Not Use In The Shower”. You laugh at this because it’s ridiculous and shouldn’t need to be put there. We should know better than to use an electrical device in a shower. But that sticker isn’t there just because. It’s there for one of two reasons:

  1. A group of people working for the hair dryer manufacturer actually believed this to be something that could happen. They got together and came up with the thought that it is possible for someone to make this mistake, so they might as well put a warning up.
  2. Someone did this before and sued the company. And won. We’ve seen it countless times before. McDonalds has to tell us our coffee is hot so we can’t sue them when we burn ourselves. It’s a byproduct of the suing age.

The same can usually be applied to terms and agreements. This doesn’t mean EVERYTHING in there was written for this reason, but some stuff very well could have been. Things about “No Refunds” could easily be a company preventing fraud. There are people who set out to find loopholes to exploit or ways to burn a company. There are customers who can’t help but complain and fly off the handle, which can make customer service representatives get defensive when dealing with people. That being said, there are also rude customer service representatives that are simply jerks to people. There are rule-makers in companies that make these rules to pad their wallets and make it easier to manipulate a few extra dollars out of their customer base. But that’s still just a few people.

“All Companies Care About is Making Money!”

You’ve probably heard the term “Corporate Greed” flung around quite a bit these days. It’s a term that annoys the hell out of me. Partially because, again, a “corporation” isn’t something CAPABLE of greed in and of itself. It is people who are greedy, and use corporations for greedy means. This is more “Human Greed” than “Corporate Greed”.

The other thing is: Of COURSE a business is trying to make money! That’s what a business does! It makes money! It makes money so that it can use that money to continue being a business. Be it Apple or a ma-and-pa grocery store, every business needs to make money. You have to pay bills and create product.  You have to pay employees and benefits. To say a corporation in and of itself is greedy and using the money wrong, is like saying everyone at Enron was stealing money. The bulk of the people in the company were being wronged just as badly. “Corporate Greed” doesn’t JUST affect the customers, it also affects the corporation itself. If those few in the company that are greedy continue their greedy ways, it can ultimately cause great damage to the company.

We Have All Been Played!

How do companies make money? People find ways to manipulate. Sure, a quality product has ways of selling itself, but a lot of time things such as advertising go a long way.

This can be where the greed comes in.

“Truth in advertisement” isn’t exactly something that is always perfectly practiced. The main objective of advertisement is not only to bring attention to a product, but manipulate your mind into wanting said product. They can do it through the various psychological methods of advertising. From aesthetically pleasing products to gimmicks that make you think you’re buying something way more useful or good quality than it actually is, advertisers find a way to play us for gain. It’s not necessarily an all-bad process, but it’s often over-used and can sometimes come across as flat-out lying. If you bought an Apple product thinking it’s worth more money than a Microsoft product: You’ve been played.

Just about every company has people in charge of playing this card. From throwing out “free” games for those of us that paid for a 3ds before the price drop to Sony providing “welcome back!” gifts after being hacked, companies play this kind of card quite often.

Companies Steal Ideas From Each Other: And It’s Perfectly OK!

Every company siphons ideas from each other. This is how improvements are made. You take something that’s been done, and you strive to do it better. Some people bash Sony and Microsoft for implementing motion controls after the Wii. This isn’t “stealing an idea” or “riding the popularity wave”, this is taking something and looking to improve it and implement it in new ways. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The very fact an Xbox even exist Microsoft copied the idea of Console gaming!

Every area of business does it. Especially in the entertainment mediums. Movies are remade. Songs are covered. Books are made into movies are made into games are made into books are made into tv shows are made into video games. There is very little that is truly innovative. Usually, it’s just a creative spin on something that already exists.

However, this is necessary for moving forward. It is when this is used for lateral movements, which I believe to be the case for Nintendo more often than not, that it is used poorly. Making the same thing over and over again with very slight differences is another case of us being played. But this isn’t the fault of a “company”, it’s the fault of some people not wanting to stretch out their creative wings, and instead rely on easy formulas and gimmicks to manipulate more money out of you. This is, and has been for a long time, one of the biggest complaints against Nintendo.

But that doesn’t mean JUST Nintendo does it. Every company has it’s moments of simply copy-pasting existing work to make a few extra bucks. Square Enix releases countless Final Fantasy ports and remakes to make extra money. Microsoft releases a remake of Halo.

This is something, like most things related to business, that can be used correctly or in a horribly corrupt way. We can even tie it back to the Sony story and some of their manipulative ways of using Playstation Plus, which is more or less an offshoot of Xbox Live’s premium membership.

The Speed Of Business: We’re Moving Too Fast!

The customer services representatives in this story were more than likely poorly trained. This is a result of a revolving-door business that has to do things quick and get people working. Legal terms are usually quite lengthy, and learning them all perfectly would take a lot of training and time.

We live in a fast world nowadays. Businesses look to deal with as many people as possible in as short a time as possible. This leads to stress for those that have to do the dealing. This can lead to mistakes or bad days. Everyone is susceptible to moving so fast they mess up. Everyone can be overwhelmed to the point of losing their place.

I can give an example from my own personal life. I used to work at a restaurant that had a “Three Minute Rule” for making and serving food. Essentially, the computer system TIMED each order placed! From being put in to the register to the time it was given to the customer, you had three minutes. And it was timed out by the computers and documented. Stores would be compared and contrasted based on their times. Sometimes even rewarded for having the best times.

What happened? Lots of messed up orders and unhappy customers happened. I saw plenty of orders screwed up, someone who asked for no onions got onions. Someone didn’t get this with their order when they ordered it. We’d get nasty emails and comments about messing up orders. Quite frankly, that was because of the three minute rule. That’s a lot of stress and pressure when you’re dealing with dozens of orders an hour. Having to feel like you HAVE to get it out by three minutes can lead to mistakes happening.

Our society seems to have lost it’s ability to slow down and wait. We get mad when our internet takes a few minutes to load a website. We expect our pizza to be here in 30 minutes or less. We groan and get mad when we’re put on hold. This leads to more rapid-fire dealings, and it also leads to more mistakes and people who hate their jobs. Customer service is just as likely to fall into this trap as anything.

So how do we sum this up? Simple:

  • People are the root of all things evil. Any one person can make mistakes, be greedy and manipulative, or hurt others.
  • We are moving so fast now that it’s easier for mistakes to be made and it’s easier for people to bet burned out or stressed.
  • Most things looked at as “Bad” could be traced to the actions of either side of a business transaction.
  • Things that seem “Bad” such as stealing ideas or manipulating customers can be used for good as well

Where does this leave us? What is the solution? The issue is, these problems are quite large in scale. Human greed isn’t going anywhere, and as long as we rely on other people for things, we are capable of being kicked in the ass. The only thing we can really do is try to be good ourselves. If you work in customer service, you can try to do your best every day. You could still make mistakes, but as long as you aren’t screwing people over on purpose, you’re already doing your part.

We have to understand one another. Don’t blow up at someone for messing up your order, because odds are they didn’t do it to offend you. It was a mistake. You’ve made them. I’ve made them. You simply say “That’s alright. Honest mistake.” and odds are they will remedy the situation for you.

Not everyone is bad. For all the idiots that abuse trust, there are people who are more than willing to help you out. Sometimes, you’re going to simply not find a way out of one of these situations. It’s a sign that the assholes have won this round.

But do not let them win the war. 

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