This page aims to be a comprehensive list of the harmful practices common-place in the videogame industry. They are all either exploitative and/or unethical. Any hobbyist would also note that many of these practices are not just anti-consumer, but anti-game. The industry's short-sighted profit motivation throws away any regard for the long-term future of the videogames they produce, denying their right as works of art to be experienced in a playable state.
As we firmly believe in taking a long-term perspective on videogaming, it is our goal to make clear the nature and effect of their actions.
Harmful Industry Practices
Publishers regularly make deals with console companies to not release an individual title to their competitor's systems. Restricting games to their system in this way forces consumers to purchase the system to gain access to the title. The different libraries of each console is the primary differentation factor, but due to system similarities, especially between Microsoft and Sony's offerings in the previous 2 generations, multi-system releases have become relatively cost-effective. Employing contractually restricted exclusivity allows the console companies to create artifical value for their system at the expense of the consumer. It is also hurts the games ability to be played both in the present and in the long-term, especially considering the general trend against backwards compatability.
Limited Backwards Compatibility
Centralized Multiplayer Servers
Centralized multiplayer servers for a multiplayer-focused game makes its lifespan entirely beholden to the company's whims and fortune. If there is no LAN or split-screen options available, the game's multiplayer component is rendered effectively unplayable the moment they choose to pull the plug. Companies can and often do shut down servers without warning, even for games with still-active communities. Any company that cares about a future for its game would provide the ability for players to self-host their own servers.
Digital Rights Management
Banning Digital Resales
Exclusive Content/Pre-order Bonuses
End User License Agreements
Game Launcher Lock-ins
Hostility to Modding
No LAN Multiplayer
No Split-Screen Multiplayer
Revokable Game Licenses
Internet Subscription Fees
Subscription Releases or Seasonal Passes
Harmful Indie Practices
These practices are not nearly as harmful as those listed above, but are notable because the bad faith actors practicing these things exploit the communal spirit of indie game development, selfishly causing damage to the wider community in favor of increased personal profits.
Closed Source & Non-Free Software
Crowdfunding is only ethical if the developers do not profit on their product, or a stake in the future profits is provided to the contributors. By its nature, the contributors are expected to play the role of investor and take on full financial risk. Further, the crowdfunders risk is amplified by the lack of assurance controls that allow them to make sure the end-product follows what they were promised. The major crowdfunding platforms offer zero means to punish a team who fails to complete their project or for the investors to re-acquire their funds. The entire process is an act of both good faith and extreme risk on the crowdfunder's part.
In contrast, the developers take on zero risk. They are paid for their time and suffer no consequences if they fail to be open about their financials or production schedule, or even deliver their promised product. The only contractual obligation is with the crowdfunding platform and that is limited to making the apperance of sincere intent to deliver, at least until the money is in their hands. Yet, despite taking on no risk of any kind, as a culture developers somehow feel entitled to then sell their product and keep a full share of its profits. Despite taking on the full risk of investment, the crowdfunders receive no return from the sales.
There is no justification for the developer to sell their product other than they can get away with it. If the crowdfunding is understood as donation by the community, then the completed work should be provided freely to the commons. A non-profit museum does not fund an artist residency only for the artist to sell the works to private collectors, it is expected to be presented to the public. Why would developers reap pure profit after already being paid for their time on a product they took on no risk for? It is a nonsensical business proposal. That the crowdfunding companies do not provide any method to mitigate abuse or that the crowdfunders open themselves to abuse by acting on good faith does not make it justified.
Making consumers pay for early access is effectively requiring a game's early supporters to pay to play the role of beta tester. This is a duty people in the past performed for free as a contribution to the indie community and to help the development of the games they loved. Monetizing this position is an act of bad faith. It is especially exploitative when it is a decision taken after the community has already formed around the game.
A secondary result of normalizing the sale of games in an incomplete state is de-incentivizing financially motivated developers from producing quality work as their customerbase and their money is already obtained by the incomplete product. Similar to crowdfunded products only needing to worry about selling their pitch, not a complete game, early access products only need to worry about selling their demo. If it does not seem the future profits are worth continuing the game for, the developer suffers no consequences from dropping the project despite his non-contractual promise to the "early backers". This is an opportunity easily and regularly exploited by indie developers.
Paywalled Development Blogs
Independent developers regularly make use of the Patreon platform to regulate donations in the form of a monthly subscription. However, for some donations are not enough, and they resort to cutting content away from their fanbase to share to only to "Patreon Backers" in an attempt to incentivize purchasing a subscription above a certain rate. In extreme cases, the cut content is actual game content, but most often it is content regarding the development of the game. In this way, they have monetized the common dialogue on development processes, and by doing so, hurt its openness. This stagnates the growth of the indie development community by limiting friendly, open communication. of innovations and techniques.