Counterpoint: The new Command & Conquer and Star Trek mobile games are shit


Originally published at:

After hearing several positive takes (including one from a site that, at least in the past, was always wary of F2P junk) for the new mobile Command & Conquer title, Command & Conquer: Rivals, I decided to take a look for myself. Within seconds after finishing the tutorial, I clicked on a unit to upgrade and was sent to the screen you see at the top of the post. Deleted. I had ignored C&C: Rivals completely, assuming it was nothing more than the usual cash grab wrapped inside a pretty Skinner box. I’m here to tell you that my initial assumptions were correct. It’s shit.

“But you only played for five minutes!” I can hear you screaming. True. Still, when you can tell a “game” was developed with monetization methods first and only then figuring out how much frosting is needed to make it palatable [note that the base of that word is palate and not palette. Just thought I’d put that here for no reason at all -ed.] it’s pretty easy to make grand, sweeping assumptions. Those assumptions turn out to be true regardless of the ability to control units and different maps and all the other talking points meant to raise this above the other Clash Royale clones: the purpose of C&C: Rivals isn’t to entertain or even be a good game, it’s to hook whales and make EA scads of money. The problem is that the F2P model doesn’t just screw over the whales, but can have a negative effect on those who’ve never spent a cent.

My youngest son is eight years-old and this kind of stuff is like cocaine for his little brain. He lives in a world where, at his age, the F2P model is the only thing he knows. Waiting for a timer, grinding for in-game currency, and paying to unlock loot boxes mean nothing to him. It’s just the way the world works. When I offer other, non-F2P games to play, he doesn’t “get it”. Where’s the instant gratification? There’s no consistent positive feedback loop generated solely so he’ll keep playing and, hopefully, spend money. He’s never spent a dime, but his eyes get glassy and trying to get the iPad out of his hands when he’s in the middle of a Fortnite run is about as easy as getting a drunk out of the pub. I know, I was the latter, once. Now I’m the parent of the former and it sucks. It’s gotten to the point where he’s seeing a therapist weekly and, let me tell you, taking your eight year-old to a shrink for something you facilitated is about the shittiest feeling a parent can have.

[caption id=“attachment_6601” align=“aligncenter” width=“1024”]

May the person who invented loot boxes rot in hell[/caption]

There was a time, before mobile, when games were made to test your skill, to tell stories, or just to use your noodle, not to hook the unwary. Those games are still out there and, yes, the people/companies that make them want to make scads of money, too. I’m sure everyone at Firaxis wants to retire early and hopes to do so via us buying every last, damn cosmetic add-on or leader pack they can code. There’s a way to do it ethically, however, and it begins with monetization not being the first storyboard slide when planning your Next Big Thing. Playing either XCOM or Civ it becomes obvious their goal is to provide the player with a deep, thoughtful experience; one that’s so much fun that buying a few extra leaders or new soldier uniforms or a full-blown expansion seems worth it. Unsurprisingly, it usually is. That happens when people care about the product and not just the revenue. You’ll notice that nowhere in XCOM or Civ are you hit over the head with needing the latest, coolest thing. Nowhere do they shove random loot in your face tempting you to keep playing to unlock some other random bullshit in the hopes of finding “the one”. In fact, you can blow off every damn expansion or add-on and still have a great time. What a concept.

This doesn’t even take into account the fact that there are indie devs out there not just making games, but goddamned art. We live in a world where Return of the Obra Dinn and Command & Conquer: Rivals both exist and, because we suck as a species, C&C: Rivals is the one getting the press. Do yourself a favor and go play Obra Dinn and see what video games are capable of being. Go play Card Crawl or Through the Ages or Civ VI or Hearts of Iron IV or Slay the Spire or Factorio or Meteorfall or Twilight Struggle or TIS-100 or Race for the Galaxy or One Deck Dungeon or Stardew Valley (and all the other great non-F2P gems out there) and have fun knowing that your wallet isn’t the only thing those developers are interested in.

We’re raising an entire generation of gamers who think this is how video games are supposed to be. I see it with my own kids and their friends. They play the shittiest games you can imagine, putting up with ads, timers, loot boxes, and every other F2P trick out there. It’s even trickled into the premium games they play on the consoles, with microtransactions ruining nearly every game from a major publisher. They deserve better than having to deal with these charlatans that are nothing less than digital versions of Phillip-Morris, and all because their parents don’t want to spend money on a game that’s actually worth playing. Even if these F2P games were actually fun to play, we’re doing a disservice to all gamers, now and future, by giving these money-grubbing thieves what they want. In other words, let’s stop playing F2P crap so we can bury its rotting corpse in a shallow grave.

You might have noticed I mentioned the new Star Trek mobile game, Star Trek Fleet Command, in the title and, yet, didn’t mention it in this entire rant. Well, I played it for about 2 minutes and…I’ll just leave this here:

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The Tenth Rule of Acquisition: Greed is eternal[/caption]



Applause, applause, my man.


If we published nothing but this piece this year, I’d be proud of Stately Play.


Thanks guys, I was a little hesitant to hit the publish button.


This piece is a work of art!

One of the biggest shames of this is (aside from the tarnished IP) that C&C had a decent tug-of-war idea buried under a metric ton of crap.


eta: I’m a moron and still can’t figure out how to embed a GIF…


I blame television.




Yes. Timers and other F2P lead on garbage are bad. They’re also the logical consequence of DLC. Why should we stop selling you a game just because you already bought it? This in turn was preceded and no doubt prompted by the existence of MMOs. Look at that, they just keep on charging you month after month, holy shit, genius, how can we get in on that? MMOs, meanwhile, were prefigured by episodic television. Even novels and movies have begun to cleave closer to the format of episodic television over time, even as so-called “prestige” TV began to take the themes of more compact forms of storytelling for its own. In the end, though, Hollywood (to be understood something like the Babylon of the rastafari movement) as the handmaiden of Moloch-Capital has tended to subsume everything under the rubric of episodic television: it never comes to an end, just drags on drearirly year after year, with no real development and no denoument, just a slow fade into irrelevance. In short: television is the form of the destructor, the ultimate fate and ruination of all art in this benighted age.

I’m honestly not sure how serious any of the above is.


A perfect Euclidean proof.


Wait, what other site are you talking ab-

Oh. Yeah.


Anytime I see in-game gems (or other obnoxius in game currency) that offers a $99.99 option for a mobile game, I immediately uninstall. Of course I would install for lesser denominations as well but they all undoubtly have the $99.99 option. And can I also rant about the little psychological trick that every retailer uses, the practice of dropping a penny from the nice round price to make you think you’re getting a deal. It seems like all the game designers these days have behavioral psychologists on staff to hit that positive reinforcement reward loop to keep you playing the game and spending money or watching ads. End rant.


Wow Dave. Thanks for sharing that about your son. As a father of 5 and 1.5 year old boys that couldn’t have been easy. I have been a lurker for awhile but that comment spurred me to join the forums. I just started playing Lego Star Wars with my son last week. I know this may be difficult, but do you have any tips or what to do/what not to do regarding raising a kid in today’s gaming environment? I really hadn’t given it much thought before your post. Thank you, Joe


Welcome! This doesn’t answer your question directly, but we have a “Gaming with Kids” thread that may be of interest to you as well.


Awesome article. Thank you for being brave enough to hit Post. Please don’t ever hesitate again.

And as a parent, I’m with @joe7870 on any tips about raising a child in today’s gaming environs. So far, so good, but we’ve been very strict about not allowing devices or any screens (including TV) ever. And that strategy will only last so long, I fear (and not until he’s 25, sadly).


As a parent Of 2 (10 year old girl and 4 years old boy) I’m a little circumspect at the sentence “We’re raising an entire generation of gamers”.
Let’s hope we 're not.
As Biffpow we are rather strict on screen Time here: the older have 40 minutes per day and the younger 20. The rest Of the Time they read or play (with actual Lego for example)
No youtube no internet surfing, mainly cartoons or kid tv series .
I’m a gamer, even if not as much as I use to be, but I deeply think that, as it’s gonna be an enormous part of their lives In the near future, we should try to keep kids away from screens as long as possible.
And if we already play cardboard games, I hope I’ll play a little strategy games with my kids in a few years
(Sorry for any mistakes In spelling, I’m from France and my IPad isn’t very friendly regarding english auto-correct).


Great article, hitting the proverbial nail in the head. Couldn’t have said it better, well done.


You had me at the headline and then the article itself was a whole lotta delicious cake and icing with some healthy nutrition as well.

I like how how most of your writing is about what’s good in the world of gaming, but a proper rant and railing about what’s evil every once in a while is fun too.

My current rant is about Vengeance… it’s actually a pretty fun and well done tower defense game so far, imho, but wtf IAPs, I just paid $5 for the game and now it wants me to buy bags of gems to level up faster, or just grind until boredom sets in and I delete it.


Vengeance, as in Kingdom Rush? I think all the older games were loaded with IAP, too, but they amounted to more heroes, or items that could be used to make a level easier. Neither was required, and I’ve never bought any Ironhide IAP, although sometimes heroes are a little tempting.


Great article, thank you.