Clouded Requirements.

I’ve been a long time fan of the Tropico series. According to Steam, I’ve spent well over a hundred hours as El Presidente, island hopping around on fictional tropical paradises, making sure my loyal tropicans get what they need, while secretly killing off anyone standing in my way.

In May 2014, the fifth installment in the series, Tropico 5, was released and I’ve been quietly sitting on the fence since, waiting for a sale somewhere so I could pick it up. A few days ago, Green Man Gaming started celebrating their 5th birthday by slashing the price on a lot of their games, and there it was: Tropico 5 for less than $10.

After downloading and installing the game, I was greeted by this error message on launch: “You need DirectX11 and a DirectX11-capable graphics card to run this game.” DirectX 11? No one said Tropico 5 required DirectX 11! Or did they?

Tropico 5, minimum requirements on Green Man Gaming.These are the minimum hardware requirements as they are shown on the Tropico 5 store page on Green Man Gaming. It lists a few graphics chips, with the “GeForce 400 or higher” being the interesting one for me since I own a graphics card with an NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GT chip. So you’d think that, by the common laws of mathematics, my GeForce 9800 graphics chip is “higher” than the GeForce 400 graphics chip? Right? Wrong. At some point, NVIDIA decided to change how they name their graphics chips. The 400 series is newer than and thus, at least in terms of features, “higher” than the 9000 series.

The wording used for the graphics requirements could have been a lot better. Instead of using “higher”, what about “newer”? That would have made a lot more sense, at least to me. Using “higher” says nothing to the layman about how modern the graphics card has to be, at least not in NVIDIA’s case because of the way they changed their naming strategy. Also notice the complete lack of any mentioning of the required DirectX 11 support.

Tropico 5, minimum requirements on Steam.Steam has decided to go for another approach on their Tropico 5 store page. The same video cards are listed as a minimum requirement, but they are also listing DirectX 11 as an explicit requirement, not once, but twice. There is no doubt that this game does, in fact, require a DirectX 11 compatible video card.

The root of the problem is perhaps that a game like Tropico 5 actually requires DirectX 11. There really isn’t any good reason for that. It’s a pretty simple game in terms of graphics, it really hasn’t changed significantly since Tropico 4 and a lot of people – including me – then assumed that it would run on the same hardware that we played Tropico 4 on.

I know that assumption is the mother of all fuck ups, but human beings still tend to assume a lot of things. Even though explicitly stating that DirectX 11 was required is not part of the official requirements from the publisher, Steam thought one step ahead and added it to their store page. That way, they are in the clear, there is not doubt about the DirectX 11 requirement. Green Man Gaming, on the other hand, also makes an assumption that bites them in the ass: That their customers research the graphics capabilities of video cards listed in the requirements, video cards they most likely don’t own. By adding DirectX 11 as an explicit requirement, a potential buyer would only have to know the graphics capabilities of the video card they actually own. This would save both the buyer and Green Man Gaming a lot of trouble.

You might think that I make a lot of fuss about I game I paid less than $10 for. But this is not about the money, it’s about telling people what they need to know to make the decision to buy a product or not. As a merchant, you have to realize that your customers are idiots. To get a pleasant shopping experience, they have to be guided through everything. If you leave out information that results in your customers buying a product that ends up being useless to them, you’re not giving them a satisfying shopping experience.

In case you wondered, Green Man Gaming does not offer refunds on a purchase if the game key has been redeemed on Steam. I tried. You’d think they could do some sort of key recall, but no. The lesson here is, once again, to never assume anything, both as a merchant and a customer.

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