Dark Souls 3: The Blame Game

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Written and Edited by: Casey Lightford

Dark Souls 3 is almost here and I am quite excited. I am ready to take my first leap into the Dark Souls franchise after playing the phenomenal Bloodborne. FromSoftware has made people love to die without blame. However, things changed with Dark Souls 3 with its ever-growing popularity. Since the game is already playable in Japan, the public reception has been mixed as everyone is trying to blame someone for spoilers, subtle changes, and ridiculous merchandise. I hope my opinions based on this blame game sheds some light onto this dark soul.

Credentials, Please

Let me be honest with you, I used to hate FromSoftware. Shocking, I know. Why would I support a game that demanded so much from the player? Death after agonizing death, a difficulty level that makes Call of Duty game’s Hard Mode look like Swiss cheese, and the most confusing story in existence. I tried to play the first Dark Souls, but could not handle all of these factors. This is not to say I am a bad player, in fact, it shows how other games are much easier that hold your hand. FromSoftware games do no hand holding.

Evil Forest scenery in Bloodborne
Image via PSLS

Jump to 2015. The Playstation 4 released its first exclusive that caught my attention: Bloodborne. Not only did this game nearly win my Game of the Year award, it is the first FromSoftware video game that I appreciated; it helped me understand some of the Dark Souls culture. This was my first FromSoftware game that I truly appreciated that helped me understand Dark Souls. Sure, I died a lot, raged quite a bit, and threw my controller a time or two, but it was all worth it. The accomplishments along the way made this game stand out like no other.

I remember defeating my first boss, Father Gascoigne. I thought he was one of the toughest bosses I have ever faced in a video game. He is a hunter who is quick, agile, and reacts similarly as I do. The more I struck him with my sweeping ax, my confidence began to rise, until he turns into a beast! There is a second level of Father Gascogine that upped the ante. His attacks were faster and wilder. I could not predict his every move like I did in his normal state. At this point, I died numerous times, and each one was worth it. After slaying the Father, a huge burden lifted off my shoulders. I was free to continue my journey; relief has never felt so good. Strangely enough, Father Gascoigne was actually the second boss in the game and I had no idea at the time. I managed to skip the first boss, the Cleric Beast, without knowing it.

I was hooked. Bloodborne turned me into a FromSoftware fan within a few hours. This video game company was everything I hated, and now love instantly! Their games were always intriguing to me, but I need something more aggressive to capture my attention. With all this now praise, it sounds like I would go back and play the previous two Dark Souls game? Nope, no time! Both games will take roughly 50 hours to complete. A lot of my time is dedicated to finishing The Old Hunters downloadable content (DLC) and defeat the final boss in Bloodborne. To prepare for Dark Souls 3, I watched movies created by SunlightMaggot. His exceptional movies  painted Dark Souls in a beautiful way with amazing camera work and story telling. I will not try to make too much sense of the story since it is very vague (the lore is great though). Also, I talked to many hardcore fans about theories and lore to brush up on the little details that may be important in the Dark Souls series.

Don’t get me wrong, there is still more I need to know about Dark Souls. However, the sense of discovery and anticipation is astronomical when it comes to these games. I admit that I watched a few YouTubers that recorded episodes of Dark Souls 3. I felt like nothing important was spoiled for me since I paid more attention to their humor and screams than the actual game itself. I like what I have seen thus far. This is all relating to the gameplay of course, the business side of things is different.

The Business

Let’s get down, to business. Brass tacks. The whole shebang. [Insert another cliche here]. As many will know already, Dark Souls 3 released in Japan on March 24, 2016. That is nearly three weeks away from the worldwide release date. That seems odd, now doesn’t it? Let’s take a look at past FromSoftware release dates:

Dark Souls

  • JP – September 22, 2011
  • NA – October 4, 2011
  • AUS – October 6, 2011
  • EU – October 30, 2011

Dark Souls 2

  • NA – March 11, 2014
  • JP – March 13, 2014
  • PAL – March 14. 2014

Bloodborne

  • NA – March 24, 2015
  • PAL – March 25, 2015
  • JP – March 26, 2015
  • UK – March 27, 2015
Graph depicting played and completeness of FromSoftware titles
Graph and Survey via Reddit

The first Dark Souls was released two weeks later in NA and AUS while EU had to wait over a month. In the beginning, Dark Souls was not as popular as it is now so the stagnate release dates should not be that shocking. Dark Souls shipped 1.5 million units worldwide in one month which might have been unexpected at the time since their first game role-playing game similar to this series as the cult-classic Demon’s Souls.

Things changed with the release of Dark Souls 2 releasing in NA first and followed with JP then PAL. The sales figures reveal that it shipped 1.2 millions units worldwide in three weeks. The Dark Souls series was gaining more traction. This beloved series had a bigger following than ever before.

Next, Bloodborne followed suite and released in the NA first with other nations following quite quickly. Within one month, the game sold over 1 million units worldwide as a console exclusive. Just imagine what the sales could have been if sold on multiple platforms.

There is one similarity between the Dark Souls 2, Bloodborne, and Dark Souls 3 release dates. Did you catch that? All three of these games release during March in Japan (how convenient). Reason: Japan’s fiscal year comes to an end on March 31. This last quarter of the fiscal year is huge for businesses, especially publishers. Bandai Namco Entertainment Inc. has always help publish FromSoftware games. This Japanese-based video game publisher see two positives from this fiscal year coming to an end and starting again: they will receive sales made in Japan (as well as early adopters through imports or more unique workarounds) and they will count the worldwide release in their first quarter of the new fiscal year.

Fry meme asking for souls to be taken
Fan Art via Reddit

From a business standpoint, this is smart and dumb. What business would not want to double-dip in two fiscal years from one product? Last years fiscal year for Bandai Namco must look good when adding Dark Souls 3’s 210,141 sold copies (these sales figures represent PS4 copies). If Bandai Namco needed to make up losses in their last quarter, I have a feeling this put them over. The big question might be how well will Dark Souls 3 sell around the world. Fans spoke out against these release dates and business practices.  I do not believe it will cost many sales, but spoiling the game for others is a real problem with stagnate release dates.

I can understand why Bandai Namco could/would do this. They will never admit that releasing the game early in Japan was a “business decision.” Please keep in mind that the video game industry is still a business where money is one of the biggest factors. As long as Bandai Namco is making money, they will release their games however they want; more power to them if they figured how sales would be impacted because of these release dates. While blaming business decisions like this is easy, a lot of blame can be thrown at the team in charge of marketing as well.

Bad PR is Good slide
Slide created by Vlad Micu

The Marketing Team

“Dear [insert Twitch streamer or YouTube creator], would you like early access to Dark Souls 3 to help build hype and promote the game early?” Who is going to say no to that e-mail? The Dark Souls 3 marketing team has to be one of the most disorganized I have ever seen in gaming. Bad PR is good PR, but this stretching with key handouts, a Twitter announcement, and going back on their embargo.

First, Namco Bandai handed out keys to popular Twitch streamers and YouTube creators who are allowed to show content up to certain bosses, which happened to be a big chunk of the game. While this is an excellent way to build excitement around the community, no one could have predicted the outrage from fans. YouTubers were getting dislikes on video that showed any Dark Souls 3 content. Fans were not watching their content for the entertainment value, they were jealous and thought everyone should wait like them. Many of those dislikes were not warranted and can affect smaller YouTube channels like Kate LovelyMomo:

Twitch streamers were harassed in their chat or ridiculed on Reddit. The backlash was extraordinary to the point that Bandai Namco asked everyone to stop showing content until April 11, 2016. The company released a statement to Kotaku:

Our community team has asked streamers to stop streaming the PC version of Dark Souls 3 provided to them from us as we start to send the game out to a wider set of streamers. As more and more of these content creators receive Dark Souls 3 from Bandai Namco Entertainment America Inc., we are asking all content creators to wait until the launch of the game to… avoid any confusion and create an even playing field for streamers and YouTube creators on April 12.

Not only was their no real embargo, early adopters were able to download the game on their Xbox One and play in English using a region lock trick. Xbox One games are not region locked, therefore a person could check out as if they were from Japan and purchase the game for 8000 yen. The purchaser will have to credit themselves yen and purchase from Japan’s Xbox.com page. The popular Twitch streamer Man vs. Game hurried to buy an Xbox One to play Dark Souls 3 immediately.

The final straw came when Bandai Namco UK posted a strange tweet that mentioned they had big news to share. Many people were excited and speculated what the news was about. Could it be a HD remake of Demon’s Souls and the first Dark Souls? Would it be the release of Dark Souls 3 earlier than expected? God-forbid, would they be spoilers? Nope. It was none of those things. Instead, it was revealed that there would exclusive merchandise:

This sent fans over the edge as seen on Reddit. The designs were poorly handled showing memes as designs. The phrases used are outside the realm of what Dark Souls is truly about. “Git Gud or Go Home” is a slap in the face since these are not many terms I see thrown out among the community. My least favorite design has to be the woman’s shirt that reads, “Never Trust a Chest,” which blankets the chest area on the shirt. Seriously, how these designs were approved is beyond me. This was not the announcement anyone expected.

The business side and marketing team deserve a lot of the blame. Promoting the game like this is either helping or hurting the business side of things and selling more merchandise only makes Bandai Namco more money. It astounds me that they believed everything they were doing was for the fans. They thought people wanted to see game before its release date. When spoilers are a big deal in video games, this was a terrible idea. There is no sense of discovery when you can watch someone else play it or read news reports talking about the game. 

I have a feeling that the marketing team spoiled Dark Souls 3 for a lot of people. Namco Bandai urged fans to stay off Dark Souls websites without telling them to, they made browsing your favorite video game websites, YouTubers, Twitch streamers, and PS4 nearly impossible. The blame game does not stop here though; be prepared.

The Player

That’s right, the player is also to blame, in the most positive way. It is because of you, the devoted fans, that this game is so popular. I remember listening/reading conversation about Dark Souls constantly on my favorite video game websites and forums. My friends tell me about their epic experiences that sounded like a live-action movie; every instances either meant life or death. I knew there was something special the Dark Souls series from all the attention it received over the years.

Scene from El Dorado

Thanks to all of the hype surrounding Bloodborne, I will get to experience Dark Souls 3 with every fan in the world. I want to discover my own path, destroy bosses in my own way, and experience what fans discuss.  These FromSoftware video games captures elements of gaming that I never experienced before where a sense of accomplishment goes a long way; conquering a boss that takes hours to figure out, the horror when dying twice in a row without picking up my blood echoes (or souls), the longing to sharpen my skills and continue forward.

I understand the player’s frustration in regards to how Dark Souls 3 is being handled, but there is one simple fact that I want to make clear: ignore everything for three weeks. It is that simple! There was no need to complain spoilers if you just avoid everything. If you follow any social media, websites, YouTubers, Twitch streamers, avoid them until the release of Dark Souls 3. Yes, three weeks is a long time to cut yourself off from everything, but I know you can do it if you really cared.

Sunbro praising the Sun
Sunbro via Forbes

You may say in outrage, “I shouldn’t have to do that. I never did that in the past.” Well, yeah… the internet is wonderful place becoming more diverse and forever changing. Social media outlets will show you what is trending and Dark Souls 3 may be on that list because it is one of the most anticipated games this year. Video game websites will continue to report about any aspect about the game to keep up with the inflation of articles posted around the web. YouTubers will continue publishing “Let’s Play” videos to help promote their channel and entertain fans. Twitch streamers need to make money, so they will stream the game if it helps them gain followers/donations. Try not to be too hard on content creators because they have a livelihood to uphold as well.

We’re All To Blame

Instead of focusing all the blame on one particular group, entity, or business, let’s share the blame. However I look at it, everyone is to blame for Dark Souls 3. The business model was not perfect, the marketing team could use some retooling, and the hardcore fans need to stop complaining. I wish this game had a worldwide release so not to upset anyone, but shit happens. To sum everything up, refer to Sum 41’s “We’re All To Blame”:

2 Replies to “Dark Souls 3: The Blame Game

  1. Nice bit on Dark Souls 3! This is one I probably won’t manage to get to but it’s pretty cool how more people are finding appeal in these games and making the leap into giving them a go. They need to burn that merch though. Of all the things they could have done, they went with that.

    1. Yeah, I’m not a fan of the merch. Also, I found out that some if it is exclusive based on where you reside which makes it worst.

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