Asset flips: the quick rub with fake games – topical games

Normally, low-budget games not discussed by the press or influencers get little or no attention in the Nintendo eShop. Art Game Studio's The Bullet: Time of Revenge, released on May 7, 2020, did just the opposite. Just a few days after the release, the web was swarming with articles about the previously completely unknown third-person shooter.

But not because the switch title would be particularly outstanding, innovative or different in terms of play. No, but rather because, in the eyes of many consumers, it simply does not deserve to be called a "game" at all. Correctly read: Although the 4.49 euro title has a protagonist, various vehicles, several opponent types and fully functional gameplay mechanics, many testers categorize the result as a fake game or so-called asset flip.

But what exactly is an asset flip? The term itself was established a few years ago by the well-known gaming YouTuber Jim Sterling and is derived from the English "house flipping". What is meant is a common practice in which someone buys a property that is usually in need of renovation at a low price, then refurbishes it and then resells it for a significantly higher price. Applied to the games industry, the procedure is quite similar, but at the core much braver.

<img src = "" alt = "In the upcoming Asset Flip Tycoon Simulator for PC you will become yourself Creator of inferior game clones, but due to Corona, the original launch planned for early March has been postponed indefinitely.
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In the upcoming Asset Flip Tycoon Simulator for PC you will become the creator of inferior game clones. Corona-related, however, the original launch planned for early March was postponed indefinitely.

Source: Narcos Digital

In a nutshell: In the case of The Bullet: Time of Revenge, Art Game Studios initially bought a so-called full game kit from Hammer 2: Reloaded in the online store of engine manufacturer Unity. The material package penned by Xform Games, based in Utrecht, the Netherlands, costs just 44.66 euros in the Unity Asset Store, was published at the end of 2015 and is actually intended as a fully playable design basis for future game developers.

The complete program code as well as all graphics, sound and music files – all of this is part of a handy, 104.8 megabyte all-round carefree asset kit. Always with the goal in mind that another developer modifies these materials at will in Unity, in order to then use them as a foundation for an independent gameplay experience. At least that's the theory.

Developer Art Game Studios, however, trod on this concept, only changed the name, made minimal technical adjustments and shoveled Hammer 2: Reloaded under the code name The Bullet into the Nintendo eShop for 4.49 euros. Keyword price: A special offer runs until July 16, 2020, which grants a 30 percent discount and apparently should lead even more unsuspecting customers to buy the clone shooter.

The Steamcalypse takes its course

<img src = "" alt = "In addition to assets for the engines Unity and Unreal there is also the inexpensive game kit Game Guru quite popular among asset flippers.
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In addition to assets for the Unity and Unreal engines, the inexpensive game kit Game Guru is also quite popular among asset flippers.

Source: Game Guru

No question, the trick behind The Bullet: Time of Revenge is snotty and damn immoral, but strictly speaking it's a fairly old hat and just the tip of a giant iceberg. An iceberg that has been growing and proliferating under the surface for years, especially on Valve's Steam download platform.

The topic got rolling for the first time with the introduction of Steam Greenlight in August 2012 – a kind of "quality control" for new indie game projects. For a fee of $ 100, small developers could submit upcoming titles, create a introduction page and then have the project evaluated by the community. If a sufficient number of positive votes came together, the game received the "green light" and was allowed to be sold on Steam.

What sounds reasonable at first glance and sounds like a good idea has unfortunately been massively abused by numerous black sheep within a short time. In addition to bots that automatically submitted reviews and product information pages with falsified screenshots and incorrect information, for example, reports of bribery maneuvers leaked again and again. Some developers paid users with money or steam keys, among other things, so that they rated their project positively.

<img src = "" alt = "The platformer Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy blossomed into an indie hit in 2017. However, because the challenging game concept is convincing, hardly anyone is bothered that mostly Unity Store assets are used here.

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The platformer Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy blossomed into an indie hit in 2017. Since the challenging game concept is convincing, hardly anyone is bothered by the fact that mostly Unity Store assets are used here.

Source: Bennet Foddy

The result of the well-intentioned but miserably implemented Greenlight system was a flood of fake games. At the forefront: the Digital Homicide Studios. True to the motto "mass instead of class", the brothers James and Robert Romine published "Gaming Experiences" in a chord, which were completely listlessly cobbled together from inexpensive Unity Store assets and always had the same quirks. Apart from countless bugs, imprecise controls and repetitive music, the titles of the Americans were usually characterized by a missing pause menu and omitted players.

This was the case in the zombie survival shooter The Slaughtering Grounds, published in 2014, probably the most famous work of the Romine brothers. After struggling through three game levels of never-ending clone opponents, all based on the same AI routine, it just started all over again. Incidentally, "torturing" hits the nail on the head, because the only way to complete a level was to somehow survive 16 minutes and 16 seconds. The total playing time was just under 49 minutes. Support requests? Have been consistently ignored. Negative user reviews? Consistently deleted.

The fact that the shitstorm around The Slaughtering Grounds quickly picked up speed was primarily due to various, particularly critical YouTubers, including James Stanton (aka Jim Sterling) and Joe Vargas (aka AngryJoe). They dissected every detail in extensive video streams, thus promoting attention within the Steam community.

<img src = "" alt = "Many elements from the Battle Royale shooter Rules of Survival by NetEase Games – such as the 3D model of the hero – are astonishingly reminiscent of PUBG.The resulting legal dispute was only settled in spring 2019.
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Many elements from the Battle Royale shooter Rules of Survival by NetEase Games – such as the 3D model of the hero – are astonishingly reminiscent of PUBG. The resulting legal dispute was only settled in spring 2019.

Source: NetEase Games

However, the whole thing only escalated when Jim Sterling later from Digital Homicide was sued for damages of $ 15 million. Reason: Sterling's test (which, by the way, was only a first impression) be pure defamation and defamation. But that's not all. While Sterling was reluctant to make public statements due to the litigation, many influencers continued the micro-war against Digital Homicide. This in turn took the opportunity to sue 100 critically attuned Steam users – among other things, for public humiliation, loss of income and the formation of hate groups. Damage this time: $ 18 million. The asset flip mutated into a legal dispute for the second time and now also affected Steam's image. However, since the situation was pretty clear and hostile activity towards users wasn’t acceptable, Steam Digital Homicide was banned from stores in the summer of 2016.

Steam Trading Cards: The Ultimate Fire Accelerator

Admittedly, the kicking out of Digital Homicide had a signal effect. But the issue of asset flipping was far from over. There are many reasons for this and are also directly related to the Steam trading card system. For a better classification: Many games sold on Steam contain digital trading cards. If the user spends a certain amount of time in the game or masters certain challenges, the cards are unlocked. However, a maximum of half of a set is accessible through playing. The second half can only be obtained by trading with other players, or by buying them on a dedicated marketplace on Steam for small money.

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