Does the "Left 4 Dead 2" Boycott Matter?

For days, I've been reading various posts about the apparent 'boycott' of "Left 4 Dead 2," the recently announced sequel to Valve's popular zombie blasting FPS. Although I was positive about the news, throngs of angry fans voiced their opinions to the contrary. Primarily, they were angry about the fact that Valve had promised to continually provide additional content for the original "Left 4 Dead," something that they are known for as a publisher. Fans of the game imagined that they would be enjoy (free) enhancements for years in the same way that they have for past Valve titles like "Team Fortress 2". Also, many fans (myself included) were a bit miffed that it took months to unlock all of the single player maps in the multiplayer modes, among various other minor complaints. Armed with a little piss and vinegar and a seeming mass of popular opinion, a L4D2 boycott group was assembled on Steam, which as of this writing has more than 25,000 members.

The Left 4 Dead 2 Boycott is a group of individuals who have pledged to boycott Valve's upcoming release of Left 4 Dead 2 on November 17th, 2009. We have assembled a manifesto outlining the basic concensus of many members of our community. (Note: this manifesto is a new version, which we have recently posted to keep our manifesto in line with the middle ground of our members. This is the correct group for the boycott)

WE RECOGNIZE:

-Valve is a company with financial needs and cannot be expected to survive without the release of new games.

-Judgment cannot be passed on the quality of Left 4 Dead 2 until its release.

-Left 4 Dead was, and is, a quality game which deserves the praise of the entire gaming community.

WE ARE COMMITTED:

-To holding Valve to its promise of free, continual updates to Left 4 Dead in order to build and sustain the community.

-To keeping the Left 4 Dead community together in order to improve the quality of online gaming.

-To supporting the model of continual updates Valve has set forth with its staple products like Team Fortress 2.

WE BELIEVE:

-The release of Left 4 Dead 2 as a stand-alone sequel will split the communities and decrease the quality of multiplayer gaming.

-The announced content of Left 4 Dead 2 does not warrant a stand-alone, full-priced sequel and should instead become updates (free or otherwise) for Left 4 Dead.

-Left 4 Dead has not yet received the support and content which Valve has repeatedly stated will be delivered.

-The release of Left 4 Dead 2 will make Left 4 Dead an obsolete purchase and inferior piece of software after only one year since release.

WE REQUEST:

-That Valve honor its commitment to release ongoing periodic content for Left 4 Dead.

-That Left 4 Dead 2 not be released as a stand-alone, full-priced sequel but as either a free update to Left 4 Dead or an expansion with full compatibility with basic Left 4 Dead owners.

-That Left 4 Dead owners be given discounts for Left 4 Dead 2, should it be released as premium content.

Therefore, we - the members of this Left 4 Dead 2 Boycott - promise to abstain from the purchase of Left 4 Dead 2 until our requests are addressed.


This looks familiar

There's no debate that the announcement of the sequel and the target release date (this fall) is a huge break from the norm for Valve. What I'm struggling to understand, however, is what this 'boycott' accomplishes this early in the process. So far, most of the info we have on the game has come from the debut trailer, which is to say, very little. What gets my goat a little, is how quickly the L4D community feels that Valve owes them something, without really having any concrete details.

There are many parallels between this apparent boycott and how horror fans tend to handle new releases, remakes, and sequels. I'm not innocent in this way. I have, at one point in my life, vowed that I will never see another "Saw" film. Even now, I'm currently plugging my ears and stomping my feet like an indignant child over the premise of seeing "Orphan." We say these things, usually in jest, but I feel like we rarely mean them. However, unlike our cavalier comments about boycotting films, this particular assembly has clearly defined terms, and a seemingly massive support base. What I wonder, is if those factors make this any more significant than your average statement of non-support. I'm thinking not, and here's why.

The medium is different, but the intention is the same: we only threaten to boycott things that we love. If the 25,000+ were moved enough to join the L4D2 Boycott Group, that means that they know a great deal about the game and are willing to express their wishes for its sequel. That core group is extremely important for feedback purposes, but when you consider that "Left 4 Dead" had sold 2.5 million retail copies (excluding Steam purchases) as of the end of March, a "boycott" from the tip of the pyramid so to speak is a bit laughable.

As much as it hurts our ego, we steadfast fans of movies and games are important from a feedback standpoint, but not so much from a dollar sign standpoint. Of course Valve counts on the hardcores for their enthusiasm and community building, but at the end of the day, they've got the mojo to produce hits in their sleep and laugh all the way to the bank. That, and as we discussed on "Prom Night" episode of the podcast, nine times out of ten, curiosity gets the best of us and we end up throwing money at the very thing that we vowed to avoid.

Temptation is a cruel mistress, and I suspect as more details are released about "Left 4 Dead 2," the Cold Car between Valve and its staunchest fanbase will melt away, and the game will end up a success despite all of the hot air.

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