Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes
A history of Metal Gear Solid
Published: Monday, February 10, 2014
Updated: Monday, February 10, 2014 09:02
In the halcyon days of the PlayStation 2, “Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty” was one of the biggest names in video games.
It was, for many, the biggest game of the generation. For many it was the first game to fulfill the promise of “Hollywood action” in 3D graphics. Konami, the franchise’s publisher, knew this and leveraged it as best they could.
This came in the form of a game called “Zone of the Enders.” Hideo Kojima was the project lead on both the Metal Gear Solid series and then brand new Konami franchise. It made absolute sense to point out to people just how interconnected the talent behind both brands was.
Zone of the Enders was a mediocre game. It had an overwrought plot, annoying characters, took only a few hours to beat and barely had an ending. It wasn’t until the far superior “Zone of the Enders 2: The Second Runner” that the first game’s uncharacteristically great combat was allowed to breath in a much better game, and the series became a cult favorite.
Despite this, the first game sold exceedingly well for a new franchise on a console that hadn’t yet earned its massive install base. That’s because Konami wisely drew attention to the new property with a massive chunk of Metal Gear Solid 2’s campaign as a lengthy demo for anyone that bought a copy.
“The tanker mission,” as it’s now called, is often cited as one of the biggest bamboozles in video game history. Kojima and Konami led everyone to believe Metal Gear Solid 2 would star Solid Snake, the previous game’s protagonist, when in fact most of the game featured the new character Raiden.
No matter how you feel about the “prank,” it’s gone down as one of gaming’s biggest cultural events. Konami remembers this, and so next month we’re getting “Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes.”
Ground Zeroes is a prologue chapter to “Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain” (which is a sequel to Metal Gear Solid 3 and Peace Walker, but a prequel to Metal Gear Solid 1, 2 and 4 — just roll with it).
According to Game Informer magazine, it clocks in at just about two hours — just like the tanker mission. This time, however, there’s no fledgling franchise to flog. It’s just a demo for the main game, something that’s traditionally (i.e. basically always) free to consumers. A demo is an advertisement for a product, something to entice you while removing the barrier to entry.
Except Konami knows you want more Metal Gear Solid, and they know you’ll probably pay for it. You’re going to have to if you want to play Ground Zeroes, which is described as an “essential” mission and part of the main campaign.
For PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 users, this not-a-demo will be a $20 digital release. Those wanting to play on their shiny new PlayStation 4 or Xbox One’s will have to shed an extra $20 for the not-a-full-game’s $40 physical release.
Charging for things that used to be free extras in games is nothing new. What used to be cheat codes are now $5 downloadable content in the eyes of Electronic Arts and Activision. This is no different, except that it’s a great deal more expensive and as an essential piece of the story, Konami is telling you that you “must” buy this if you’re to get the whole Metal Gear Solid V experience.
It speaks to the absolute worst practices in game publishing these days, and is perhaps the most expensive example to date. Triple-A publishing is more expensive than ever and companies are passing the cost onto the consumer. Why create extra content and hope that people will buy it when you can just cut up what you’ve already made and sell it to people for twice the cost?
When EA tried to implement free-to-play-style microtransactions into $60 games (ahem, Mass Effect 3, Dead Space 3, ahem) the culture rebelled. This is just the latest attempt by such a publisher to find new boundaries to push before audiences shout them down and they have to start the whole money-grubbing cycle over again.
Publishers, here’s an idea: release a game that costs a reasonable amount of money to make and charge a reasonable amount of money for it. Make it good, and people will buy it. Make it worse, chop it up, and sell the bloody chunks for twice as much and you’re just helping to create another economic bubble that will eventually collapse the game industry out from under you.