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Lootboxes, Microtransactions, and [Gambling in Gaming]

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Posts

  • Captain InertiaCaptain Inertia Registered User regular
    Burtletoy wrote: »
    Polaritie wrote: »
    Foefaller wrote: »
    There isn't an offical standalone video for it, but Adam Ruins Everything did a bit about slot machines being designed to make you a gambling addict, and literally everything mentioned is something lootboxes do.

    Actual episode was "Adam Ruins Vacation," was the second part of it.

    Companies are starting to do this to get people addicted to things at work so they work a lot/stay at the company

    Wait, what?

    This

    https://www.theverge.com/2019/5/22/18635272/amazon-warehouse-working-conditions-gamification-video-games

    Also I personally selected and implemented an internal gamification system for call center reps in my former role. The biz case for implementing this stuff is immense.

    We also are clear that these techniques are absolutely not about fun (games) or reward (incentive plans), but motivation. I’m 10000000% positive game industry management knows and uses this distinction as well when discussing these mechanics.

    Shadowhope
  • discriderdiscrider Registered User regular
    I mean, I don't see how gamification of work can do anything that toxic work culture enabling workaholics can't.
    If anything, it might be better because it considers rewards over straight competition and punishment?

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  • furbatfurbat Registered User regular
    It's not really gambling if you can't exchange the goods for currency. When you purchase a loot box, that money is gone. We have slot machines in bars out here, that shit is sad. I'm not sure I can see loot boxes in overwatch as the same animal.



  • kimekime Queen of Blades Registered User regular
    furbat wrote: »
    It's not really gambling if you can't exchange the goods for currency. When you purchase a loot box, that money is gone. We have slot machines in bars out here, that shit is sad. I'm not sure I can see loot boxes in overwatch as the same animal.



    Maybe that's the way you think of it, and that's OK, but... that's not really the same as most of the rest of the world?

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  • ForarForar #432 Toronto, Ontario, CanadaRegistered User regular
    edited May 29
    As a more egregious example, Galaxy of Heroes has character shard boxes that grant 5-330 shards when bought. It takes 330 shards to max out a character.

    Guess how many the average one gives.

    Go on? Guess.

    If you said “5, maybe 10”, you would be right.

    This is how a single character in a stupid mobile game can cost upwards of $300 US, just to own at max stars, before taking getting them to gear level 12++ (getting to 7 isn’t too hard in most cases, 8+ on the day you get them either take a lot of planning and saving, or further opening ones wallet).

    I’d still call that “gambling”, even if one can’t sell the resulting “winnings”. Resources are paid for a random (and often disappointing) outcome, more egregiously tied to the power and options available to a given player, especially since unlocking and starring/gearing/modding dozens of those characters are necessary for various modes and mechanics in the game.

    Maybe that’s showing my own wearing down. Hats for $3 compared to a single character for half a grand is disproportionate enough to do little more than shrug. Maybe that’s the industry’s goal, but I just can’t be bothered by horse armour at this point, with random elements or not. vOv

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  • Lord_AsmodeusLord_Asmodeus goeticSobriquet: Here is your magical cryptic riddle-tumour: I AM A TIME MACHINERegistered User regular
    edited May 29
    furbat wrote: »
    It's not really gambling if you can't exchange the goods for currency. When you purchase a loot box, that money is gone. We have slot machines in bars out here, that shit is sad. I'm not sure I can see loot boxes in overwatch as the same animal.



    Not being able to exchange your winnings for money makes it potentially not "technically" gambling, but it preys on pretty much all of the same psychological weaknesses other gambling systems use, and in effect, it functions pretty identically to how you would expect a gambling system to work. In fact I think a case can be made that not allowing you to exchange your winnings for money makes it even more harmful and predatory. Although it's not as easy to gamble as heavily in one go as it is in, say, a Casino anything you win gambling in a casino or on a slot machine you get to keep, whether you exchange the chips for money or you win a scooter or whatever. But with lootboxes, they employ all the same tricks to get you invested and addicted, and they prey on the human psyche in such a way that the lack of any potential monetary reward doesn't really make people any less likely to become problem gamblers in the system, and in the end the only thing you get out of it are ephemeral shards of software. You get skins, or in-game weapons, or a new character. And all these things are immaterial and since most of the games that have these systems rely heavily on server-side support and multiplayer from the company to even exist, it usually disappears the moment the company decides to shut those servers down.

    None of these things stop some people from spending ruinously, ridiculously high amounts of money on a slot machine whose payout is access to some code that likely already existed on your computer and was simply gated from you in-game. At a chance for a non-existent faux-good whose value has been artificially contrived by a greed-fueled system looking to squeeze every last nickel, dime, and dollar from their users before shutting it all down and doing it over again with another game

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  • MadpoetMadpoet Registered User regular
    If loot boxes aren't gambling then fuck it - let's lootbox everything.
    Why pay rent when you can buy ShelterBoxes? Each contains 1-365 days of a roof over your head!
    Grocerycrate! You might get a bag of lima beans, but you might get STEAK!
    Gatcha-auto: Each box contains a randomly selected component of the vehicle of your dreams... collect them all!

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  • AntinumericAntinumeric Registered User regular
    mcdermott wrote: »
    Battlefield V is adorable, because you can absolutely tell it was intended to be a loot box hell but the actual micro transaction system got axed after the Star Wars kerfuffle. But you can see what this kind of mechanic looks like without the ability to open your wallet and give them literally all of your money. And it looks...pretty stupid.

    Which is to say that this mechanic doesn’t improve the game in anyway. The players get nothing out of it.
    Can you elaborate on this? I'm finding it hard to picture and i am really curious.

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  • HappylilElfHappylilElf Registered User regular
    Madpoet wrote: »
    If loot boxes aren't gambling then fuck it - let's lootbox everything.
    Why pay rent when you can buy ShelterBoxes? Each contains 1-365 days of a roof over your head!
    Grocerycrate! You might get a bag of lima beans, but you might get STEAK!
    Gatcha-auto: Each box contains a randomly selected component of the vehicle of your dreams... collect them all!

    Yes.

    Because shelter, food and transportation are clearly the same thing as a Mercy skin that you really really want.

    HerrCron
  • discriderdiscrider Registered User regular
    furbat wrote: »
    It's not really gambling if you can't exchange the goods for currency. When you purchase a loot box, that money is gone. We have slot machines in bars out here, that shit is sad. I'm not sure I can see loot boxes in overwatch as the same animal.



    You can though?
    Like, I cannot think of a game where people can't just sell the account to other players, and people do just sell the account.

    I don't believe that people not selling their winnings diminishes those items' perceived value much either, especially if/when the secondary account market starts up.
    So even if the player keeps their account, and opens lootboxes, I'd still count that as gambling, as there'd still be a compulsion to make their account worth more than the people who bought into the game.

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  • QuidQuid I don't... what... hnnng Registered User regular
    Nothing about gambling requires one to be able to exchange what they win for currency. All it requires is one to risk money for something they value.

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  • Captain InertiaCaptain Inertia Registered User regular
    I care not about how you define “using coercive and addiction-generating psychological methods to manipulate someone into likely financial and social harm by spending magnitudes more money on things that cost the manufacturer literally zero more dollars to produce for the sake of maximizing profit, and then targeting children with it” but go right on ahead and have us argue over what specific flavor of evil we should call it.

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  • HevachHevach Registered User regular
    edited May 29
    Madpoet wrote: »
    If loot boxes aren't gambling then fuck it - let's lootbox everything.
    Why pay rent when you can buy ShelterBoxes? Each contains 1-365 days of a roof over your head!
    Grocerycrate! You might get a bag of lima beans, but you might get STEAK!
    Gatcha-auto: Each box contains a randomly selected component of the vehicle of your dreams... collect them all!

    With food this is already a thing. A couple of those services that let you pay $40 for $15 in pre-measured ingredients and a recipe off the internet also let you pay less for the same, but not knowing what you'll get with a chance of something from a higher price tier.

    Not to mention there are literally Loot Crate style boxes of random themed food.

    These are certainly less ugly than gaming lootboxes, but those didn't start as bad as they became either.

    Hevach on
  • mcdermottmcdermott Registered User regular
    Quid wrote: »
    Nothing about gambling requires one to be able to exchange what they win for currency. All it requires is one to risk money for something they value.

    As noted, it’s arguably worse because it locks every dollar into the casino once the handle is pulled. The psychological hooks are identical, but the player will always, 100% of the time, be chasing losses. Nobody can win. In fact, “winning” simply locks you further into the game, and there are always better items you can pull for.

    I had a $1,500 to $2,000 a year FIFA habit. I’m familiar with this. In three years, at those levels of spending, I pulled a top-end player (third most valuable base player in the game) *once.*

    But even when you have Ronaldo, Neymar, and Messi up front (and similarly good players behind) there’s always that Team of the Season Ronaldo that you want. He’s significantly better, and was only in packs for a week, so he costs like 10x more. You’d think once you’ve spent $500 or even $1000 and have a 90+ rated team you could just stop, but there’s always more. And you’re invested. Because after $1000 spent even if you’ve “won” you can’t cash out. Instead it becomes the only game you play. So why not spend another $100. Who knows what you could pull! I wasn’t spending more than I could afford, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. But it was pretty bad, and obviously in hindsight I have serious regrets.

    Then the real fun part is when it was discovered that half the “special” cards that people spent hundreds or even thousands trying to collect were, due to a glitch in the game, actually no better than (or actually worse than) the base counterparts. Since no part of this slot machine is ever audited or controlled or regulated they can have kids gambling at undisclosed odds for items with undisclosed or defective effects.

    EA’s response was a patch note referring to “some performance issues with some items” and a free pack for everybody.

    Elvenshae
  • furbatfurbat Registered User regular
    Seeing as so many seem to consider loot boxes to be gambling, I was curious if similar claims against sports cards, mtg, and Pokemon cards were made.

    Looks like in 1999 Nintendo was sued: https://www.nytimes.com/1999/09/24/nyregion/suit-claims-pokemon-is-lottery-not-just-fad.html?module=inline

    In 1996 Topps and Marvel were sued: https://www.nydailynews.com/archives/news/lawsuit-cards-article-1.746692

  • FoefallerFoefaller Registered User regular
    furbat wrote: »
    Seeing as so many seem to consider loot boxes to be gambling, I was curious if similar claims against sports cards, mtg, and Pokemon cards were made.

    Looks like in 1999 Nintendo was sued: https://www.nytimes.com/1999/09/24/nyregion/suit-claims-pokemon-is-lottery-not-just-fad.html?module=inline

    In 1996 Topps and Marvel were sued: https://www.nydailynews.com/archives/news/lawsuit-cards-article-1.746692

    Yes, they don't meet the legal definition of gambling since the maker doesn't offer a "cash out" option.

    But as mentioned, they use pretty much all the tricks and take advantage of the same impulses that gambling uses, which is why gambling is regulated today.

    (Also, IMO physical trading card games are slightly less awful than lootboxes or even online CCGs that use booster packs, since it's harder for a kid to buy hundreds of dollars worth of packs and individual cards on their parent's card without them noticing when it requires going to a physical store.)

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  • furbatfurbat Registered User regular
    edited May 29
    Worth pointing out is that it is illegal for a minor to open up a credit card. Not that kids don't get a hold of credit cards and purchase loot boxes. I'm pretty sure that goes for pay pal accounts as well. Now, they could use cash to buy gift cards I guess?

    But if the argument is that the companies are targeting kids... I'd think the assumption would be that a law is already being broken or that the parents approve.

    Also, kids totally stole from mom and dad for magic cards.

    furbat on
  • NyysjanNyysjan FinlandRegistered User regular
    Not sure about credit cards, but i think minors can get debit cards (and credit cards may differ by country).
    And there are paysafe cards that you can, and stop me if i am going too fast, buy for cash.

    kime
  • FoefallerFoefaller Registered User regular
    There are several things which the government supersedes parent's authority to decide what is best for their child. Like legal age limits to tobacco and alcohol...

    Or, say, gambling at a casino.

    "But the parents said it was okay" is a valid argument in several cases, such as whether mature content is appropriate for their child, but there are things we as a society have agreed that it's more important to limit children's potential exposure to something that may be harmful than respecting the decision of the parent.

    Though personally, I'm more worried about adults that struggle with gambling addiction. Think I said as much about 4 or 5 times in my "don't fuck this up" letter to Josh Hawley.

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  • MortiousMortious The Nightmare Begins Move to New ZealandRegistered User regular
    edited May 29
    When it comes to what is legally considered "gambling", that changes from country to country, and there are even different classifications of gambling, i.e. "games of skill" like poker might be regulated differently from pure/mostly chance ones, or games against other players like bingo might be allowed whereas slots wont be, or even just if it's online vs in-person.

    So I'm not to sure if the argument about loot boxes fitting the legal definition of gambling in a specific country is worthwhile because Pachinko's not legally gambling either.

    Mortious on
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  • furbatfurbat Registered User regular
    I don't know anything about BF2 or Overwatch, but I actually like the business model of online CCGs and I see them being discussed here.

    I went from poxnora, hearthstone, and then to mtga. Over the last 15 years I've probably spent several thousand $$$. It's been totally worth it though because I play a metric shit ton of those games. Hell, cable costs almost $100 a month and TV sucks. Even being a whale in hearthstone costs half that.

    I like that the CCGs are f2p as well. Right now I'm playing mtga for free and it's great. Yes, packs are random. Yes, there is the potential to spend a lot of money. But spending money on cosmetics seems more like a way of contributing to the company that is making something they love.

    I get that everyone's intentions are good and that there may be games that do who knows what. But the games I play, games whose business models I think are great, are being discussed as if they are engaged in wrong doing. That's just fucked up.

  • QuidQuid I don't... what... hnnng Registered User regular
    Because they are engaged in wrongdoing. They are using a business model that purposely preys on people with an addiction. That you’re able to avoid that part doesn’t make it okay.

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  • MadicanMadican No face Registered User regular
    I play gacha games a lot. Would I be temporarily unhappy if they suddenly went away because of legislation? Yes. Do i still want that legislation to happen? Also yes.

    Just because I enjoy it doesn't mean it isn't bad. It means I'm easily snared by the tricks those games employ in combination with being easily addicted to things

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  • Captain InertiaCaptain Inertia Registered User regular
    edited May 30
    I mean my example is right there talking with companies that offer these features and how these game mechanics aren’t intended to be fun or rewarding, but “motivating,” which was said with air quotes and/or a wink because we all know it’s a euphemism for addiction.

    I mean the pitch for this technology includes info from psychological studies about how this stuff taps into intrinsic human desires for things like unit bias (need to complete stuff/“catch them all”), FOMO, currency obfuscation, etc, using things that activate dopamine squirts, such as certain graphics and animations, positive reinforcement, free daily giveaways, etc, which literally rewires our brains.

    It’s not about being rewarded for making fun games anymore, it’s about manipulating people (and their kids, for fucks sake I haven’t even mentioned the kids) into signing in to keep pulling the golden dragons arm

    Captain Inertia on
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  • MadicanMadican No face Registered User regular
    I know exactly which game you're referencing with that last sentence and it saddens me that I do on that little information

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  • ZekZek Registered User regular
    edited May 30
    VishNub wrote: »
    danx wrote: »
    FANTOMAS wrote: »
    I dont know man, that sounds like dota 2 has the same issue with lootboxes, so I cant really see the fine line to walk, particularly with all the re-selling of random boxes stuff, definitely not fit for all audiences.

    Dota 2's prior battle passes also rewards leveling up with gambling via a roulette wheel or ball drop games and encourage gambling on the outcomes of your own matches. They turned Dota 2 into a giant gambling machine and were always looking for new ways to make people gamble more.

    Maybe you can make the case their lootboxes aren't as bad but I'd still be suspect because of all the other ways to gamble they incorporated into their passes. Valve are actively looking to wear people down and make them comfortable with gambling. i.e. it doesn't matter if their boxes are better when they're boiling the frog.

    I mean, it's not great and I'd rather they didn't.

    Pay to win is still 100x more of a problem.

    Pay to win is worse yes, but I consider them basically the same from an addiction standpoint. For many players, cosmetic rewards are just as real and valuable as gameplay unlocks. So the psychology behind that urge to gamble on the chance for desirable rewards is no different at all.

    Zek on
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  • HeatwaveHeatwave Come, now, and walk the path of explosions with me!Registered User regular
    edited June 20
    https://www.pcgamesn.com/ea-loot-boxes
    In response to questions from Scottish National Party MP, Brendan O’Hara, Hopkins says “We do think the way that we have implemented these kinds of mechanics – and FIFA of course is our big one, our FIFA Ultimate Team and our packs – is actually quite ethical and quite fun, quite enjoyable to people.

    "I did not stab you to death. I simply used a surprise blade to remove blood glucose from your body"

    Quite ethical. And very cool.

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  • destroyah87destroyah87 Registered User regular
    I saw that article yesterday.

    That reasoning is just farcical. It reads as something I would expect out of Professor Genki's mouth in a Saints Row game. "Ethical!"

    EA can fuck right off with the weasel wording.

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  • HevachHevach Registered User regular
    edited June 20
    Zek wrote: »
    VishNub wrote: »
    danx wrote: »
    FANTOMAS wrote: »
    I dont know man, that sounds like dota 2 has the same issue with lootboxes, so I cant really see the fine line to walk, particularly with all the re-selling of random boxes stuff, definitely not fit for all audiences.

    Dota 2's prior battle passes also rewards leveling up with gambling via a roulette wheel or ball drop games and encourage gambling on the outcomes of your own matches. They turned Dota 2 into a giant gambling machine and were always looking for new ways to make people gamble more.

    Maybe you can make the case their lootboxes aren't as bad but I'd still be suspect because of all the other ways to gamble they incorporated into their passes. Valve are actively looking to wear people down and make them comfortable with gambling. i.e. it doesn't matter if their boxes are better when they're boiling the frog.

    I mean, it's not great and I'd rather they didn't.

    Pay to win is still 100x more of a problem.

    Pay to win is worse yes, but I consider them basically the same from an addiction standpoint. For many players, cosmetic rewards are just as real and valuable as gameplay unlocks. So the psychology behind that urge to gamble on the chance for desirable rewards is no different at all.

    Cosmetic rewards were also one of the baby steps that got us where we are. Once upon a time, they were everything wrong with microtransactions and the biggest scandals in video game money grabbing were player skins and horse armor. That they're now the lesser evil that we now greet as a great victory is a kind of market Stockholm Syndrome - the captors have stopped beating us and let us have bread again and we love them for it, completely forgetting that we used to get steak for dinner.

    Hevach on
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  • JazzJazz UKRegistered User regular
    Hevach wrote: »
    Zek wrote: »
    VishNub wrote: »
    danx wrote: »
    FANTOMAS wrote: »
    I dont know man, that sounds like dota 2 has the same issue with lootboxes, so I cant really see the fine line to walk, particularly with all the re-selling of random boxes stuff, definitely not fit for all audiences.

    Dota 2's prior battle passes also rewards leveling up with gambling via a roulette wheel or ball drop games and encourage gambling on the outcomes of your own matches. They turned Dota 2 into a giant gambling machine and were always looking for new ways to make people gamble more.

    Maybe you can make the case their lootboxes aren't as bad but I'd still be suspect because of all the other ways to gamble they incorporated into their passes. Valve are actively looking to wear people down and make them comfortable with gambling. i.e. it doesn't matter if their boxes are better when they're boiling the frog.

    I mean, it's not great and I'd rather they didn't.

    Pay to win is still 100x more of a problem.

    Pay to win is worse yes, but I consider them basically the same from an addiction standpoint. For many players, cosmetic rewards are just as real and valuable as gameplay unlocks. So the psychology behind that urge to gamble on the chance for desirable rewards is no different at all.

    Cosmetic rewards were also one of the baby steps that got us where we are. Once upon a time, they were everything wrong with microtransactions and the biggest scandals in video game money grabbing were player skins and horse armor. That they're now the lesser evil that we now greet as a great victory is a kind of market Stockholm Syndrome - the captors have stopped beating us and let us have bread again and we love them for it, completely forgetting that we used to get steak for dinner.

    Horse armor: such a joke once that Bethesda doubled the price one April Fools day (as all Oblivion's other DLC went half price).

    Seems a long time ago now.

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  • ForarForar #432 Toronto, Ontario, CanadaRegistered User regular
    edited June 20
    I don't think that entirely captures the changes to gaming. Games As A Service, MMOs, the proliferation of multiplayer elements, server/network infrastructure, ongoing support/balancing, and more, have given games long term costs that weren't necessarily captured in the past, either because they were unnecessary (an NES cartridge doesn't get updates, for example), or weren't really considered long term (I doubt Blizzard thought people would still be playing Diablo 2 so many years later). Now, clearly some companies could/can cover the costs, but needing an ongoing stream of revenue doesn't strike me as necessarily wrong.

    Yes, the outrage used to be over cosmetics, but that was tied to the fact that, if I'm not mistaken, Oblivion was a single player game. You weren't showing off snazzy duds (unless taking screenshots or had buddies hanging out, I guess). I remember when getting a patch to update a game was a rare thing, as opposed to a standard scheduled part of the month or week as is often the case.

    No, Epic Games doesn't need to make billions per year, and some will argue that no company does, but I think there's more to it than just Stockholm Syndrome or whatever. I've bought cosmetics in Warframe and Killing Floor 1 (on sale) because I supported the development that had been ongoing, that for putting no other money in, I was getting seasonal events, new levels, new enemies, achievements, and more.

    The move to requiring servers, bandwidth, and patches is in some ways self inflicted, but every time I see someone get frustrated over a game not having company servers, I ponder just how much they'd be willing to pay for that hosted experience? At the end of the day, someone has to, especially when talking about a popular game with millions of players hammering away at their keyboards and controllers.

    A set monthly subscription would do it, but one can't usually opt out of it and keep playing the same way cosmetic purchases can be ignored. Paid DLC (new classes, expansions, etc) can fill the niche, but also risk splitting the userbase between the haves and the have nots, mucking with matchmaking or becoming a 'pay for options, if not power' situation.

    I feel like I might be the closest thing to a microtransaction shill this thread has, but my question is basically, if we drop lootboxes (Yay!) and paid cosmetics, how do companies maintain resources to pay for ongoing programming/artwork/infrastructure/etc? The big names like Fortnite can be glossed over, I'm sure Epic could be making half as much per month and do just fine, but what about the hundreds or thousands of other, much smaller games, that are being enjoyed by plenty of people around the world as well? Big enough to have some kind of substantial costs, but not a big name raking in millions per day?

    What would a smaller title or even an average sized one do that would keep the lights on/pay for current and future production, but not be egregiously predatory? I feel like some of the sentiments here are basically 'don't do it at all', which would mean, what, some games/genres/studios just don't exist? Yes, yes, yes, let's put down the pitchforks; if a game/studio requires predatory practices to survive, maybe it shouldn't survive. I'm fine with that. I'm talking about a possible middle ground that generates ongoing income to provide the devs and artists a paycheque while crafting the Christmas event and tweaking UnderDarkBullshit.map to be slightly less bullshit. An occasional steam sale isn't necessarily going to pull in the necessary revenue after the initial sales surge has passed.

    I get that few of us are likely to be business majors or in the middle of the industry, so it's in some ways more of a rhetorical question. What wouldn't be egregious? Instead of characterizing cosmetic dlc as 'Stockholm Syndrome', consider what and how would you pay to enjoy a game that has those elements instead? Because among us, I doubt there is a consensus, and maybe it is about doing the least harm?

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  • FoefallerFoefaller Registered User regular
    edited June 20
    Forar wrote: »
    I don't think that entirely captures the changes to gaming. Games As A Service, MMOs, the proliferation of multiplayer elements, server/network infrastructure, ongoing support/balancing, and more, have given games long term costs that weren't necessarily captured in the past, either because they were unnecessary (an NES cartridge doesn't get updates, for example), or weren't really considered long term (I doubt Blizzard thought people would still be playing Diablo 2 so many years later). Now, clearly some companies could/can cover the costs, but needing an ongoing stream of revenue doesn't strike me as necessarily wrong.

    Yes, the outrage used to be over cosmetics, but that was tied to the fact that, if I'm not mistaken, Oblivion was a single player game. You weren't showing off snazzy duds (unless taking screenshots or had buddies hanging out, I guess). I remember when getting a patch to update a game was a rare thing, as opposed to a standard scheduled part of the month or week as is often the case.

    No, Epic Games doesn't need to make billions per year, no company does, but I think there's more to it than just Stockholm Syndrome or whatever. I've bought cosmetics in Warframe and Killing Floor 1 (on sale) because I supported the development that had been ongoing, that for putting no other money in, I was getting seasonal events, new levels, new enemies, achievements, and more.

    The move to requiring servers, bandwidth, and patches is in some ways self inflicted, but every time I see someone get frustrated over a game not having company servers, I ponder just how much they'd be willing to pay for that hosted experience? At the end of the day, someone has to, especially when talking about a popular game with millions of players hammering away at their keyboards and controllers.

    A set monthly subscription would do it, but one can't usually opt out of it and keep playing the same way cosmetic purchases can be ignored. Paid DLC (new classes, expansions, etc) can fill the niche, but also risk splitting the userbase between the haves and the have nots, mucking with matchmaking or becoming a 'pay for options, if not power' situation.

    I feel like I might be the closest thing to a microtransaction shill this thread has, but my question is basically, if we drop lootboxes (Yay!) and paid cosmetics, how do companies maintain resources to pay for ongoing programming/artwork/infrastructure/etc? The big names like Fortnite can be glossed over, I'm sure Epic could be making half as much per month and do just fine, but what about the hundreds or thousands of other, much smaller games, that are being enjoyed by plenty of people around the world as well? Big enough to have some kind of substantial costs, but not a big name raking in millions per day?

    What would a smaller title or even an average sized one do that would keep the lights on/pay for current and future production, but not be egregiously predatory? I feel like some of the sentiments here are basically 'don't do it at all', which would mean, what, some games/genres/studios just don't exist? Yes, yes, yes, let's put down the pitchforks; if a game/studio requires predatory practices to survive, maybe it shouldn't survive. I'm fine with that. I'm talking about a possible middle ground that generates ongoing income to provide the devs and artists a paycheque while crafting the Christmas event and tweaking UnderDarkBullshit.map to be slightly less bullshit. An occasional steam sale isn't necessarily going to pull in the necessary revenue after the initial sales surge has passed.

    I get that few of us are likely to be business majors or in the middle of the industry, so it's in some ways more of a rhetorical question. What wouldn't be egregious? Instead of characterizing cosmetic dlc as 'Stockholm Syndrome', consider what and how would you pay to enjoy a game that has those elements instead? Because among us, I doubt there is a consensus, and maybe it is about doing the least harm?

    I know of at least one argument on YouTube that posits that Games as a Service are illegal, or at least dubiously legal, because it denies the player actual ownership of the product. If Epic would close down Fortnite tommorow, what happens to all the cosmetics that people bought? All the emotes and upgrades that they have earned? It's a legal question that publishers had been able to avoid for a while because games up till now either still had a single player component (IIRC you can still play with your FIFA ultimate team on the couch or against the AI even after packs are gone) were an up front subscription model, or were able to last until they had faded into obscurity and not enough people cared. But I think the day a major online-only game gets sacked with people having spent hundreds or even thousands of dollars in it (Overwatch would be a good bet IMO) is going to shake up gaming even more than a lootbox ban will.

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  • ForarForar #432 Toronto, Ontario, CanadaRegistered User regular
    It's something that is happening with greater frequency, for sure. Just this morning I got a notification that an old digital movie/show service was shutting down (Flixster, in case anyone is curious), and that they were allowing for people to move their stuff to Google Play, which... ugh.

    We see it with Netflix having things one month and not having them the next. With the concern that one day Steam might shut down and suddenly we lose the possibly thousands of dollars spent on those games. For all the advantages found in the digital era, we don't truly 'own' things the same way anymore, and anti-piracy measures mean that backups may be difficult or impossible to get (at least, legally).

    Am I worried that Valve or Apple will die off this year? No, not at all. But 10 years from now? 20? 50? Over the course of my lifespan, I suspect some big names will eventually bite the dust.

    I think declaring GaaS/SaaS/EtcaaS illegal is probably a bit much, but unethical? Tied to often predatory and shitty business practices? Certainly. Even if the PSN shut down tomorrow, I'd have (single player) games saved to my hard drive I could keep playing, but if EA/Bioware decided they were done with Anthem, then whelp it's gone.

    The recent revival of City of Heroes might be one of the few cases of a 'dead' MMO truly coming back from the dead. This ties into larger issues with curating video game history, where an explicitly digital medium has some surprising issues and gaps within that history. Sometimes it's issues with old hardware or compatibility, sometimes source code isn't maintained and 10 years later someone has to go hunting through old hard drives and USB keys.

    I'm not sure what the answer is. Identifying 'pay to own/win' is a good thing, and now that I've dropped Galaxy of Heroes' bullshit, I don't intend to go back to such a Freemium model (at least not one as egregious at that). However, there are developers who produce content that I enjoy, in a manner that does have ongoing costs, which I don't mind paying into, in a small degree, on my terms, without pay to win elements.

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  • yossarian_livesyossarian_lives Registered User regular
    I think the answer is for AAA developers to stop with the cancerous live services bullshit and just make games and sell them to people. It would also help if said games didn’t need extensive patching after launch. If you cannot make a profit by selling a game without taking advantage of your customers then you don’t deserve to be in business.

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  • NEO|PhyteNEO|Phyte They follow the stars, bound together. Strands in a braid till the end.Registered User regular
    I think the answer is for AAA developers to stop with the cancerous live services bullshit and just make games and sell them to people. It would also help if said games didn’t need extensive patching after launch. If you cannot make a profit by selling a game without taking advantage of your customers then you don’t deserve to be in business.

    I don't disagree, but don't leave the publishers out of the blame game, a lot of the problems come from that side of things.

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  • ForarForar #432 Toronto, Ontario, CanadaRegistered User regular
    edited June 20
    Okay, but what about features that players enjoy and want, that carry a price tag to maintain? Are we declaring MMO's verboten?

    If the standard unit price hopefully moves enough units to pay for development and production during the initial sales frenzy, great. If it's super popular and has millions of players per week filling up server space and bandwidth, that needs to be accounted for over a long enough time frame.

    Some games shunted that off to the players themselves, which then caused issues with Karen's network connection being a pile of shit, or someone hosting the game finding themselves on the losing team and bailing on it, ending everyone's fun.

    Having a beefy Amazon Web Services virtual server farm allows for things to scale up and down with demand, but the infrastructure, the seasonal events we take for granted, the bug fixes, improvements, new maps, new models, that stuff might not be covered in that initial sales swell.

    CoD:BlOps 5: Terrorist Fucker 2 need not be a GaaS, but if 20 million teenagers are going to sign up to kill each other while shouting racist vulgarity, that might add up to enough costs that eventually someone needs to pay something for it. This isn't my genre, I have no horse in that particular race, but when we're talking about paying artists and coders enough to live on, and hosting substantial network infrastructure, improving the game and other elements we take for granted, that funding eventually needs to come from somewhere.

    I think of it like news or porn. We just expect it to be easily available for free, but that means we get what we pay for. Sure, I'd pay a buck or two as an ongoing subscription for some games I love, and lacking that, it's basically how I see throwing the Warframe team $5 now and then for their premium currency, as an example.

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  • jungleroomxjungleroomx And I said, hol up Registered User regular
    edited June 20
    I think the answer is for AAA developers to stop with the cancerous live services bullshit and just make games and sell them to people. It would also help if said games didn’t need extensive patching after launch. If you cannot make a profit by selling a game without taking advantage of your customers then you don’t deserve to be in business.

    You can say that, but there's people like me who have spend hundreds on a game over many years and gotten over 2000 hours from it because it's a genuinely enjoyable experience and unlike anything else available. And it's not an MMO. And you never have to pay for anything, but I do because I'm a big stupid whale that likes matching MTX and supporting a dev that has thoroughly earned my trust. But they have consistent content expansions, rebalances, and changes enough to keep players engaged league after league. This is not an experience that can exist on a single purchase game.

    It's not as black and white as "all games as a service are bad!"

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  • yossarian_livesyossarian_lives Registered User regular
    I stand corrected, it’s mostly publishers. Also not ALL games need online components. It’s just tacked on bullshit for the sole purpose of charging more for basic features. Further I expect legit mmo games to have an entirely different business model.

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  • Albino BunnyAlbino Bunny Quantronic Dreamgirl Registered User regular
    edited June 20
    Similar to how a company not being able to pay minimum wages is a failed company a game that can not continue without exploitation is a failed game.

    Considering some of the biggest titans of the industry got there without them (League's original model prior to loot boxes being put in for example or just any subscription mmo) I have very little sympathy for devs who wish to keep making their game on the backs of exploitation.
    I think the answer is for AAA developers to stop with the cancerous live services bullshit and just make games and sell them to people. It would also help if said games didn’t need extensive patching after launch. If you cannot make a profit by selling a game without taking advantage of your customers then you don’t deserve to be in business.

    You can say that, but there's people like me who have spend hundreds on a game over many years and gotten over 2000 hours from it because it's a genuinely enjoyable experience and unlike anything else available. And it's not an MMO. And you never have to pay for anything, but I do because I'm a big stupid whale that likes matching MTX and supporting a dev that has thoroughly earned my trust. But they have consistent content expansions, rebalances, and changes enough to keep players engaged league after league. This is not an experience that can exist on a single purchase game.

    It's not as black and white as "all games as a service are bad!"

    You can equally say this of casino's, alcohol or any other vice.

    We still regulate them.

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  • MadicanMadican No face Registered User regular
    Businesses will adapt or die, as they always have. They moved this way because conditions made it more appealing, so by making it unappealing they'll move in a different direction. It's not on us to come up with plans for how they're going to change, we just tell them what they aren't allowed to do and they can figure out what they are allowed.

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