THIS GAME IS BROKEN. YOU NERFED IT. THE NEW SERVICE SUCKS. I HATE THIS NEW THING. Listen to "fans" of games on the internet and a lot of the time that's what you'll hear. Loud, indignant complaints.
Sometimes, sure, they'll have a point. But other times? They're making noise. Being arseholes. And aren't always speaking for a game's entire playerbase.
Developer Dan Cook has written a great article for Gamasutra that, while based on studies of his own games (like this one), sound like they apply across the board to most gaming communities, if not all of them.
Cook's piece centres on the argument that those who loudly and publicly revolt at changes made to a game, or decisions made by a developer, are rarely representative of the wider audience. They are instead a minority.
Some of these people, he argues, are members of a community which is "playing a game that isn't your game". Sure, they're nominally involved in playing the actual game, but their actions on blogs and forums are evidence of belonging to "groups jockeying for power and influence", who will "say whatever it takes to advance their position independent of the actual situation in the game."
Others take strong stances in an attempt to "promote an ideology", which can be central to "an identity as a specific class of core gamer".
"How you buy and play games signals that you are part of an elite group and how you are not your mum," he argued.
Finally, he raised a point that should be common sense, but which is easily lost in the momentum of an online shitstorm: "The internet is a series of echo chambers where bias massively swamps any real signal about player behaviour."
What this means is that developers need to either use or come up with better ways of accepting feedback than places like forums, because the people commenting there, by the very fact they're signed up to a forum and are actively commenting, aren't necessarily representative of a game's entire playerbase.
Like I said, Cook's specific examples relate to rather casual games, so he's not coming at this from the perspective of Electronic Arts or Activision. But his points could easily apply regardless of the publisher, budget or genre of a game, so it's definitely worth a read.
Opinion: Player Metrics Vs. The Vocal Minority [Gamasutra]