In general, gamers aren’t very effective at organizing to effect change in the game industry. Sure, there are hundreds of online petitions demanding everything from a “Full House” game to a generalized end to game hacking, but the vast majority fail to garner much attention or support. Even well-organized and well-publicized efforts, like those seeking LAN support in StarCraft 2 or further support for the Earthbound games are met with official responses ranging from polite refusal to teasing hints, and rarely with real change.

But this year, many gamers took a different tack to protest what they saw as a betrayal of a publisher’s past promises. Mere hours after Valve announced the planned November release of Left 4 Dead 2 (L4D2) at June’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, a group calling for an L4D2 boycott popped up on Valve’s own Steam user community. The group’s first public message asked a simple question that would come to define its cause: “Where’s all the content and the updates you promised for [the original] L4D, Valve?”

By casting their disagreement in the form of a boycott, the tens of thousands of gamers that joined the L4D2 boycott group immediately set themselves apart from the Internet petitioners that came before them. A petition is just a polite request for someone to change their mind, if they would, please. A boycott, by definition, is a statement of collective action — a way for a group to flex its economic power to force change. It’s a way for a community to effectively put its money where its mouth is and demand that its case be heard. It’s a cause that brings up images of patriotic movements, civil rights struggles, international incidents and other momentous events that seem much more important than a silly argument over the timing of the release of a videogame sequel.

But, in the end, was this boycott any more effective than any of the other failed grassroots petition efforts undertaken by gamers over the years? Now that Left 4 Dead 2 is actually available for sale, can those that took part in the boycott argue they achieved their goals? Did Valve change its plans to gain the approval of the masses, or did it effectively pacify the Internet throngs with nothing more than a couple of plane tickets and a hotel reservation?

In other words, was the boycott successful?

Well, it depends on what you mean by “successful.”

(full article)