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  #51  
Old 04-09-2019, 09:38 AM
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I'm reminded of the old Hollywood studio and theater system where movies would be exclusive to certain (often studio-owned) theaters. And the current exclusive distributions studios and theaters make to keep movie off streaming services.

I can see pros and cons to both sides. Higher profits to game studios could let them invest more in future and better games. But I see a lot potential for rent-seeking behavior and raising the cost of entry (of both produces and consumers) into the market.

As for mine own game buying, I'm pretty much only buy Steam keys these days. If a game isn't delivered by Steam, I simply pass on it. I also have no must-buy games, so it's an easy stand for me to make. Hmm, one exception--I do play Sims which is on Origin's platform, not Steam.
  #52  
Old 04-09-2019, 10:23 AM
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Welp, they've done it again - retroactively, now ! I just got a mail informing me that one of the games on my Steam wishlist (Anno 1800) which had been available for pre-purchase for a while now is going to be removed from Steam, a week before launch, because it's now an Epic exclusive.
Pricks.
Best case the sales for these titles will be lackluster and these companies will re-evaluate exclusive distribution.
  #53  
Old 04-09-2019, 10:32 AM
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Well, that one's an Ubisoft game, and they have their own storefront. They didn't give up their own access to it, so it's going to be more of a Steam-excluded rather than an Epic exclusive.
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Old 04-09-2019, 11:48 AM
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They didn't give up their own access to it, so it's going to be more of a Steam-excluded rather than an Epic exclusive.
More so than that. While Ubi will have it on their store, they're prohibited from selling Uplay keys through any other 3rd parties. Same story as Division 2 which got pulled from stores once the Epic deal went in.

So while it's technically not Epic exclusive (since it's on Ubi Store), it's not available for wider distribution than those two and I wouldn't be surprised if Ubi isn't allowed to sell under Epic's price.
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Old 04-09-2019, 11:57 AM
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This whole idea that Steam's margins are lower because they give away keys is misguided at best.

First off most of the actual cost of servicing a sale is in the fees to the payment providers. So if Green Man Gaming or whoever is selling the key they are also the ones who have to pay for the payment provider. The cost of this varies quite a bit depending on territory but it's often at least a few percent and sometimes quite a bit more. Downloading the actual bits at the scale of steam just doesn't cost them much. A lot of that capacity is almost free because they need to have huge capacity for spikes anyway.

Secondly if you do use a Steam CD key you are contractually required to run the rest of the money for the game through steam. So, for example, if you buy a game on Green Man and then you buy a DLC or purchase anything inside of the game that money has to go through Steam. So yes, they may not get a cut of the initial sale but they get something more important, the customer! This is part of why Steam is so large. The key strategy has been part of their thinking for years because it allows developers to use steam as a one stop shop for everything but still sell some keys other places (like retail or other stores that may bring in customers who wouldn't necessarily find the game on Steam).

Overall Steam has had brilliant customer focused strategy that has worked well. That being said 30% simply isn't a sustainable margin because it's simply too easy to buld technology to do it cheaper than that. Epic knows it, so do others.

The key to being competitive with Steam then isn't really the tech (as you can always catch up on tech) but it's about getting the customers in the door. Exclusives are a long time honored way of doing that. Backlashing against it is like backlashing against gravity, it's pointless. There is really nothing unethical about exclusives and any developer who has an opportunity to risk reduce their game by taking a bunch chunk of money for an exclusive is very likely to do so.

I feel like you guys aren't quite understanding how insanely risky and competitive the games industry is.
  #56  
Old 04-09-2019, 12:03 PM
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Backlashing against it is like backlashing against gravity, it's pointless. There is really nothing unethical about exclusives and any developer who has an opportunity to risk reduce their game by taking a bunch chunk of money for an exclusive is very likely to do so.
It's not pointless, if enough people do actually not buy games through the Epic store that they would otherwise have bought through steam (or buy the stuff from the Ubisoft launcher) then that does send a message. And such messages have a recent history of working, such as with the very low sales of the Star Wars battlefield game vs expected.

Of course people will buy from the Epic game store, as is their right, and it's not a poor choice for them to do so. It will be interesting to see what happens when a game like, say, Other Worlds (an Epic store exclusive for 6 months when it releases) does actually release on Steam.
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Old 04-09-2019, 12:22 PM
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It's not pointless, if enough people do actually not buy games through the Epic store that they would otherwise have bought through steam (or buy the stuff from the Ubisoft launcher) then that does send a message. And such messages have a recent history of working, such as with the very low sales of the Star Wars battlefield game vs expected.
And now EA has a bunch more games that people are putting hours into that aren't on Steam (e.g. Apex). You might win a round or two but competition is going to come to the online marketplace. Why? Because the amount of money sloshing around is in the billions.

Notice that a lot of the big companies have already ditched Steam to move that money to their own store.

Steam is great but the time of 30% margins has come to an end. Again, welcome to the store wars.

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Of course people will buy from the Epic game store, as is their right, and it's not a poor choice for them to do so. It will be interesting to see what happens when a game like, say, Other Worlds (an Epic store exclusive for 6 months when it releases) does actually release on Steam.
I think that will depend on whether or not the game is any good more than anything. Also remember, Epic has the resources to go a long time here (they just raised $1.2B in capital + Fortnite profits) which means they can run this store forever basically. Almost all the services are required for Fortnite anyway.
  #58  
Old 04-09-2019, 01:36 PM
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Update: just got an email from Paradox telling me to link my Paradox and Steam accounts. Pictured prominently is a VtMB2 image. If they were planning on jumping ship to Epic in the future, I don't think they'd push Steam so strongly now.
  #59  
Old 04-09-2019, 02:33 PM
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First off most of the actual cost of servicing a sale is in the fees to the payment providers. So if Green Man Gaming or whoever is selling the key they are also the ones who have to pay for the payment provider.
This has nothing at all to do with the fact that Valve gets nothing out of a sold retail key. When Rebellion requests a retail Steam key for Sniper Elite 4 (for example) and then sells that key through Amazon, Valve gets no money from it. Amazon gets a cut, Rebellion gets a cut, Valve gets zero.
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Secondly if you do use a Steam CD key you are contractually required to run the rest of the money for the game through steam. So, for example, if you buy a game on Green Man and then you buy a DLC or purchase anything inside of the game that money has to go through Steam.
Incorrect. The DLC agreement is simply that if you have a game hosted on Steam then any DLC you put out has to be available through Steam as well. This is to avoid situations like EA selling Bioware games via Steam but then requiring the use of EA-only "Bioware Points" to purchase DLC (which was done through EA's website). Everyone hated the Bioware Points system and Valve probably got tired of fielding tech support from angry Dragon Age 2 purchasers who now had to go through some convoluted process to purchase DLC. Plus it ensured that you could uninstall and reinstall without it turning into a hot mess of getting your DLC back.

However, Steam DLC can have a key generated just like a Steam game. That copy of Sniper Elite 4 you bought from Amazon can get a Steam-activated season pass you buy from Gamersgate and, again, Valve gets no profit from it. It's just another generated and redeemed Steam key.

In fact, the "Must be available through Steam" is weaker than it once was. It used to be that if you bought a Ubisoft game via Steam (such as R6 Siege) you had to buy the "Steam version" of the DLC. That's no longer the case -- recently I bought Watchdogs 2 (base game) from Steam and then bought the Season Pass as a Uplay key from another source and activated it through Uplay just fine. Ubisoft still needs to have a version of the DLC available via Steam but doesn't have to restrict the DLC source any longer.
  #60  
Old 04-09-2019, 03:50 PM
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Best case the sales for these titles will be lackluster and these companies will re-evaluate exclusive distribution.

Yup. And in the immortal words of Starship Troopers, "I'm doing my part."
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  #61  
Old 04-09-2019, 08:17 PM
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Incorrect. The DLC agreement is simply that if you have a game hosted on Steam then any DLC you put out has to be available through Steam as well.
If Steam delivers the bits and the transaction happens in game, then you are only allowed to run the transaction through steam. Note this is a little different than your DLC scenario here.

In the past they also required a revenue share for users which originated on Steam (which includes using a free key) of 20%. I think this may be gone from more recent agreements as it was a pain for them to deal with.

Last edited by neutro; 04-09-2019 at 08:17 PM.
  #62  
Old 04-09-2019, 08:18 PM
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So one other interesting fact I just learned today about the epic store. They don't cover 100% of the transaction fees, they pass some of them on to the consumer. This is the opposite of what Steam does. This is actually a pretty big deal.
  #63  
Old 04-09-2019, 08:41 PM
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PC gamer has an article about some up and coming new store that will use blockchain to track your game keys and allow you to resell your games with the majority of the resale going back to the game publisher. GMG once tried a form of "reselling" but it was limited to games on GMG's terrible Capsule client and never took off.
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The gist of Robot Cache is that it's a new store that uses a blockchain certificate as a form of DRM. That certificate allows the store to track individual copies of a game so they can be resold. The price is the same as a new copy—you're really just selling a license to a digital good, so it's never really "used"—and you get a 25 percent cut put on your credit card, while the publisher gets 70 percent and the store takes 5 percent.

"Used" copies up for sale are put into a queue alongside brand new ones and the sales alternate between new and used copies, so on some sales publishers will get 95%, and on others 70%, as long as there are players selling their games back. Crucially, Jacobson says, you can't sell a game back in the first 90 days after release, when publishers make the most money.
Other features include a "Spotify style" list of discovery games for the week and the opt-in ability to mine cryptocurrency towards the store which I'm sure a lot of people will be skeptical of. They also, amusingly, already have a better laid-out and feature rich store than Epic.

Still, it's interesting to read about a store trying to compete with something better than "We're the only place to get this so suck it".
  #64  
Old 04-09-2019, 09:17 PM
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I'm sure we will see quite a bit of innovation in store fronts. Both in terms of pricing and business model like this blockchain one.

Having some of the resale going to the developer is a good idea, but it might not be enough.
  #65  
Old 04-09-2019, 09:23 PM
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PC gamer has an article about some up and coming new store that will use blockchain to track your game keys and allow you to resell your games with the majority of the resale going back to the game publisher. GMG once tried a form of "reselling" but it was limited to games on GMG's terrible Capsule client and never took off.

Other features include a "Spotify style" list of discovery games for the week and the opt-in ability to mine cryptocurrency towards the store which I'm sure a lot of people will be skeptical of. They also, amusingly, already have a better laid-out and feature rich store than Epic.

Still, it's interesting to read about a store trying to compete with something better than "We're the only place to get this so suck it".
That’s fantastic. I definitely have games I’d resell if it was that easy.
  #66  
Old 04-10-2019, 12:18 AM
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In a very broad sense, it's a good thing that a non-niche primary distributor is entering the market as competition for Steam.

Alternate platforms (Humble, GMG, etc) which sell Steam keys are not competition because they keep gamers in Steam's ecosystem and encourage future sales.

The forced exclusivity thing feels like a shitty way to go about it, but how else do you compete with a near-monopoly like Steam? Only providing a better product (and Steam is a great product) isn't enough by itself - you have to provide a product so much better that it makes up for the hassle of dealing with launcher fragmentation. So they go with exclusivity instead. It makes sense, even if it doesn't make consumers happy.
Well, GOG seems to be increasing in success even without exclusives. They started out with only old games (which I guess were sort of exclusive to them, if only because nobody else was bothering to do the work to make them playable), then they moved on to being a full store, and they're apparently reasonably successful. I imagine they're nowhere near as big as Steam, I haven't seen numbers, I don't even know if they have 10% market share or anything, but they're doing something and having some reasonable level of success. And that's with, as far as I know, no exclusives at all.

Other services have had exclusives, but again as far as I know, it's always been their own games. Valve games on Steam only. EA games started being on Origin only once they launched that. I mean, damn, Epic is being more dastardly and evil and anti-consumer than EA for crying out loud, with this going out and buying up other developers' titles as exclusives.
  #67  
Old 04-10-2019, 07:09 AM
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Even though it's the same bits, a used game really ought to be cheaper than a new game. If a lot of people are selling a game, then that's a sign that it's not as good as they thought, and so the market should be pushing the price down.

And I'm automatically skeptical of anything involving blockchain.

That said, though, it's an interesting idea, and it is, in fact, something that Steam isn't doing, that could potentially give this new company an edge.
  #68  
Old 04-10-2019, 08:01 AM
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It's pretty rare that I go back to a completed game so, even if it was enjoyable, there's still a decent chance that I'd be up for selling it. But it seems like more of a boon for the customer than the publisher -- it's not as though the publisher is spared from making more product. I guess maybe it would make customers a little more likely to buy a game if they knew they could get something back later?

The games in their little promo video don't inspire a ton of confidence; they're not bad games but they're old discounted titles like Darksiders 2 and Syberia. You're not jumping on this to play the latest AAA shooter or even 2016's top AAA games. Still it looked interesting and, yeah, someone actually trying something new.
  #69  
Old 04-10-2019, 02:36 PM
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Even though it's the same bits, a used game really ought to be cheaper than a new game. If a lot of people are selling a game, then that's a sign that it's not as good as they thought, and so the market should be pushing the price down.
I disagree. I might sell an amazingly good game because I'm not the type of gamer who does much replay. Bioshock is a game I'd recommend wholeheartedly, but I'll never go back into it. Arkham City (the second one, whatever it's called) is the same way.

And if I know I'd have the right to resell a game once I'd finished it, I'd be a little more willing to buy it in the first place.
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Old 04-10-2019, 04:10 PM
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It's pretty rare that I go back to a completed game so, even if it was enjoyable, there's still a decent chance that I'd be up for selling it. But it seems like more of a boon for the customer than the publisher -- it's not as though the publisher is spared from making more product. I guess maybe it would make customers a little more likely to buy a game if they knew they could get something back later?
Think of it this way : back in the days when we still had to schlep our fat arses to brick-and-mortar game stores, the used games market was thriving (because why buy a new game 50 bucks when there's a copy sitting next to it at 35 ?) and the developers/publishers saw not one dime of that market. In fact, the consumers didn't really either, because Gamestop & co would buy your entire game collection for 5 bucks and re-sold each of them for 35. AFAIK that's still the case on the console market, which is why game publishers started tying a ton of in-game content to ID keys and whatnot that the first buyer could access but not second-hand buyers.


So that new system would be step-up from the producer's POV, even if they'll probably still see a downturn compared to the days of "you can only buy brand new digital copies" ; and some types of games will be more adversely affected by this than others (e.g. pure adventure games à la Grim Fandango which have very low replay value besides sheer nostalgia 10 or 20 years down the line)
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Old 04-10-2019, 04:11 PM
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Arkham City (the second one, whatever it's called)
It’s called Arkham City. It’s the sequel to Arkham Asylum.
  #72  
Old 04-11-2019, 12:01 PM
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My son has pretty much taken over my Steam account. These days I’m more of a PS4 gamer anyway. It is disappointing that companies engage with these “engineered scarcity” tactics to goad people into paying higher prices. But as a consumer you can choose not to buy those products on first release. I no longer pay $59 for an early release game . Usually within two months there will be a sale at $39. If you really want the game, then pay the extra $20. The more profitable the game is, the more likely the publisher is to keep making games like it.
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Old 04-11-2019, 03:08 PM
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The only games I buy at full price are Elder Scrolls and Grand Theft Auto. All others can wait. $5 - $10 is what I pay for most PC games.
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Old 04-12-2019, 07:58 AM
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I'm honestly baffled as to why this is an argument at all. I don't find any of the arguments in favor of Epic to be credible.

So, there's a market you want to break into. So, you make a plan. You have to appeal to more to at least some customers than established players in the market. So, you create a better product. Or you sell a cheaper product. Or you create some product that appeals more to a certain niche. The competition gives consumers better options, the consumer wins. yay.

Or... you bribe the makers of the products to only be sold through your store. The consumers now have less choice, less competition, and where they previously had a whole market in which to choose where to buy their products, they now have only one option if they want that product. The consumer loses. Boo.

I find the attitude of "well it's just business, businesses can do whatever they want as long as it's legal, no matter how dickish, now shut your mouth and stop complaining" to be disgusting. You are essentially advocating on behalf of consumer-hostile or otherwise shitty businesses. You're the reason we treat "the only obligation of a business is to make a profit for its shareholders" as some sort of law of the universe, as if that's the only way it could ever be, and encourage and celebrate shitty businesses that make things worse for society as a whole.

Costco is a better, more ethical, more decent company than Walmart. In 'n Out burger is a more ethical, more decent company than McDonalds. Now you're going to quote their profit margins and market caps to me to prove I'm somehow wrong, and that's exactly my point. People like you are why we have such a dysfunctional idea of what capitalism is, and what it has to be.

What epic is doing is undoubtedly, conclusively bad for consumers. And to those of you saying that, well, steam is unfair with their 30% cut, then what epic could do is simply offer a 10 or 20% cut and give publishers the options of putting their games there, and if the publisher wants, only there. But that's not what they're doing. They're bribing the publishers for that exclusivity. They're forcing them to sign contracts only to offer their product there. Epic is not competing for publishers based on their cut, epic is bribing publishers not to sell on other platforms.

It's also not Epic vs Steam, and people are shortsighted to frame the question that way. It's Epic vs Every Other Game Store And The Way PC Gaming Has Always Worked. Somehow there are still a lot of people that have an irrational hate boner for steam, and they view Epic as heroes just for trying to compete with steam, and I really don't think there's a rational case to be made for that one either.

I would suggest that this isn't even a good natured debate on which reasonable people can disagree. I would suggest there's something flawed about the values or beliefs of people who are advocating for Epic, which, as I said above, are the sort of values and beliefs that bring out the worst in capitalism and basically have broken it in the US.
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Old 04-12-2019, 08:39 AM
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I don’t think there’s any reason to have a hyperbolic freak-out over Epic. I don’t think what they’re doing will work. Their deals are only benefiting themselves. Those offering Epic exclusivity are going to lose out by having their products only sold in one store, and as a result I don’t expect Epic is going to get very many items of quality. There’s a reason why that business model isn’t very common.
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Old 04-12-2019, 08:52 AM
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A freak-out is justified because it's the best way to kill this in the crib. Console gaming may have tolerated exclusivity, but PC gaming has never had anything like this bribe-to-exclude type of exclusivity ever, and it's insidious. If it's mildly successful, it encroaches upon what's acceptable. People get used to the idea and it grows. We once mocked Horse Armor for Oblivion, and then 10 years later we've got games with hundreds of microtransactions and now every other game is based around trying to hook you on gambling. Acceptance will cause it to slowly grow like a cancer that spreads. Better to hit it with maximum effect - raising it as an issue so people are aware, organize boycotts, and generally just blast Epic as much as possible so that it receives the most negative reinforcement and least positive reinforcement while it's still able to be killed in the early stages.

I, personally, won't buy anything from the Epic Store. I would fully encourage everyone else to do the same. If a game was once exclusive to the Epic store, but then goes on another store, I'm about 95% less likely to buy it. Maybe, maybe a game I really want I'd be willing to get down the road on another store/platform, but since I've got all the games I could ever play already I probably just won't support publishers that do this.

Last edited by SenorBeef; 04-12-2019 at 08:54 AM.
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Old 04-12-2019, 09:08 AM
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I don’t think there’s any reason to have a hyperbolic freak-out over Epic. I don’t think what they’re doing will work. Their deals are only benefiting themselves. Those offering Epic exclusivity are going to lose out by having their products only sold in one store, and as a result I don’t expect Epic is going to get very many items of quality. There’s a reason why that business model isn’t very common.
Well, it's still a very common tactic in the console world - and in that world, the barrier of entry isn't "install a shit app", it's "buy a completely different gaming system which costs a lot of money". I suppose it could be argued that porting games from one system to the next in itself costs money so that more money is made by only releasing games on one system compensates for the loss of sales, but I'm skeptical. I don't think there's a ton of in-depth market or financial research being done in the video game world.


Also, what SenorBeef said. PC gamers tend, by and large, to be older folks with (hopefully) the tools to identify shit marketing and cancerous business trends - like has been shown with the uproar over loot boxes in games. We can and should respond to these consumer-unfriendly methods with "fuck you where you live".
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Old 04-12-2019, 09:20 AM
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Think of it this way : back in the days when we still had to schlep our fat arses to brick-and-mortar game stores, the used games market was thriving (because why buy a new game 50 bucks when there's a copy sitting next to it at 35 ?) and the developers/publishers saw not one dime of that market.
I get that, but the only way 'used' digital is going to be a thing is if the publishers allow it to be so and it feels like cannibalizing their own sales even if they get a piece of the action (which is less than they get from an original sale). The way it's set up, you don't even know if it's new or used and the retail price is the same. The only real difference is a smaller cut for the publisher.

I suppose more people may buy if they know they can resell it later. Not sure if that's enough to make up the difference but I appreciate someone being willing to conduct the experiment.

I don't think that consoles are a great comparison to Epic. Once again, it's people conflating platform and store. "This game is on Xbox but not PS4" is like saying "This app is on iOS but not on Android". What we have here is more like "This Xbox game is only sold from Gamestop, and Walmart, Target, Amazon, Best Buy, etc aren't allowed to carry it".

[Edit: I'm aware that stores sometimes have exclusive DLC or something but when the core game is the same, I don't find "Buy from us and get a red scarf for your guy, buy from them and get a blue scarf" to be a real issue.]

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Old 04-12-2019, 09:38 AM
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I get that, but the only way 'used' digital is going to be a thing is if the publishers allow it to be so and it feels like cannibalizing their own sales even if they get a piece of the action (which is less than they get from an original sale). The way it's set up, you don't even know if it's new or used and the retail price is the same. The only real difference is a smaller cut for the publisher.
I suppose more people may buy if they know they can resell it later. Not sure if that's enough to make up the difference but I appreciate someone being willing to conduct the experiment.
Oh, I agree. From their POV it's very probably a net loss compared to the current model, no matter how you slice it. But it's more consumer-friendly, which as a career consumer I tend to appreciate .
ETA : I think the 90 days grace period is a step to mollify those concerns though - because it's true that past that "OMG it's out !" period, people tend to only buy games when they're heavily discounted. And at that point, what's the difference between getting a smaller cut because you're selling it 50% off and getting a smaller cut because it's a used game ?
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  #80  
Old 05-01-2019, 05:38 PM
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Oh good, Epic actually bought not only Rocket League, but it's developer Psyonix. A beloved game with millions of owners on steam will now disappear from the steam store and force you to go to the epic store if you're a new player who wants that game, or probably if you want any sort of DLC or cosmetics that come out in the future.

This competition is awesome! I love when I have a lot of choices and then get reduced to one choice from a shitty company! Exclusivity is awesome!

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  #81  
Old 05-01-2019, 05:49 PM
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Oh good, Epic actually bought not only Rocket League, but it's developer Psyonix. A beloved game with millions of owners on steam will now disappear from the steam store and force you to go to the epic store if you're a new player who wants that game, or probably if you want any sort of DLC or cosmetics that come out in the future.

This competition is awesome! I love when I have a lot of choices and then get reduced to one choice from a shitty company! Exclusivity is awesome!
ISTM you should be equally pissed at Psyonix, if not more.

ETA ditto Gearbox.

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  #82  
Old 05-01-2019, 05:53 PM
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I am. They went from one of my favorites to fuck them. I won't spend another cent on rocket league, although I won't stop playing it so long as I can continue to play it somewhere other than the epic store.
  #83  
Old 05-01-2019, 06:14 PM
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I'm not keen on Epic being the exclusive platform for B3 because I can't buy things off the Epic Store any more... I've been playing Fortnite for the past year and bought two accounts and a half-dozen upgrade packs, one as recently as February, and now they're telling me my card's no good and I should use PayPal instead. My card's fine with everybody else, so, nope.
  #84  
Old 05-02-2019, 08:54 PM
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Fuck, companies wanting to increase their profits? What is this hobby coming to??!?
...I know this is an old post, but I think the best response to this is something that games critic Jim Sterling has been repeating over and over again:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Sterling
Companies don't want to make money. They want to make ALL of the money.

This is why you'll see layoffs and cutbacks no matter how successful a company is.

The more they make, the more they expect, and they'll gut anyone to get it.

...

We talk about this very regularly on The Jimquisition of course, and what we talk about there applies to so much more than games. This is the end result of thoroughly unchecked capitalism. Companies want their "growth" to be both impossibly quick and infinite.

...

Shareholders want to see a level of growth that simply can't be sustained, and companies will do almost anything to keep it going, provided what they do doesn't negatively impact the people making and keeping most of the money.

https://twitter.com/JimSterling/stat...61330414206977

Jim uses Activision Blizzard to illustrate that point. They posted “record-setting revenue" in 2018.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bobby Kotick
“While our financial results for 2018 were the best in our history, we didn’t realize our full potential."
They made more money than they have ever made ever. $7.5 billion in sales and $1.8 billion in profit. Bobby Kotick got a 15 million dollar bonus. But they didn't reach some arbitrary profit percentage so they didn't reach their "full potential."

So they laid off 800 staff.

The thing is: this is unsustainable. If they have already made "all the money in the world" and all the money is "not enough", then where do they go from here? The normalization of "microtransactions" and "games as a live service" have shown that the "bean-counters" think they have "struck gold at the end of the rainbow." But the reality is very very different.

Compare this to what happened with No Mans Sky. At launch it was a disaster. But two years later (IMHO) the game is a triumph.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sean Murray
No Man’s Sky has flourished in recent years, rising in regard through the 2017 Atlas Rises update and 2018’s No Man’s Sky Next.
While he won’t release sales figures, Murray said that “last year we sold the kind of numbers a AAA game would be happy with at launch,” using the industry jargon for big budget games.

“I’d love to say it’s because we had this great plan and blah blah blah, but I did not think that would be the case,” he said. “You know, Atlas Rises was the version we released after a year, that did really well. Each update has sold commercially more than the one before. I sat down with the team for Next and I was like, ‘We should be prepared that this obviously isn’t going to sell as well as the things we’ve done before. It’s two years since launch and we went a year without doing an update, which is supposed to be death for a games-as-a-service game.”
https://www.kotaku.com.au/2019/04/th...f-no-mans-sky/

I bought No Man's Sky a few months ago. It won't run on my current computer and I haven't played it yet, but I will upgrade before the end of the year, and I'll be able to play it in all its glory But its a game that from the description is profitable, doesn't have microtransactions, isn't a "live service", doesn't charge a fan pass or offer paid DLC. Instead they have just been working solidly on the game making it better and better and more and its still selling as well as most other AAA games at launch. Every update is free to everyone who has purchased the game: and every update takes the game to a whole new level.

One of these business models is sustainable. The other is setting itself up for disaster. Of course companies should try and increase their profit. But if you pursue profit with an unsustainable business model then eventually the whole thing is going to turn to custard. Look at how Games as a Service has evolved.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wiki
A study by DFC Intelligence in 2018 found Electronic Arts' value rose from US$4 billion to US$33 billion since 2012, while Activision Blizzard saw its value rise from US$20 billion to US$60 billion in the same period, with both increases attributed in part to the use of the GaaS model in their games catalog. Electronic Arts had earned US$2 billion from GaaS transactions in 2018.
Their value increased in part because of GaaS. But if GaaS stagnates, if it doesn't grow as anticipated by "the industry", then there is simply no way for the games companies to meet increased profit forecasts.

TLDR: you've missed the point.
  #85  
Old 05-03-2019, 07:23 AM
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You know, I wonder how well NMS would have done if it had launched "complete" rather than spending two years working its Cinderella-story comeback.

Part of its post-launch appeal has been in experiencing a game that launched as one of the most spectacular dumpster fires in modern gaming history. The dev's twitter account went dark for, what, almost a year? And then all of a sudden - bam! - they start churning out update after update. Craziness.
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Old 05-03-2019, 08:07 AM
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You know, I wonder how well NMS would have done if it had launched "complete" rather than spending two years working its Cinderella-story comeback.
I think if it had launched as it is now, it would have done very well.
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Old 05-03-2019, 08:37 AM
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GaaS will stagnate and be a massive waste of money for all but one or maybe two companies because it cannot not be.



We've done this shit before, FFS - with MMOs, which were the Ur game-as-a-service. MMOs, very much like today's crop of GaaS, expected and demanded constant, daily, quasi-exclusive play from its users. That was the whole business model - the games themselves were shit for the most part, but you had bars to fill up and ladders to climb and bear asses to collect ; and if you didn't collect them bear asses you'd irretrievably fall behind the players who did while you were faffing about having fun playing other games or boiking your girlfriend, you absolute loser. And because a couple of MMOs became hugely succesful and made more money than regular games since they essentially sold you the game 4 times a year (each months' suscription being 1/3rd of a regular game's cost, more or less) there were suddenly MMOs launched every month, each more sprawling and time sinking than the next.


Well guess what : most MMOs died out in a year or two (while also costing more to maintain, patch and generally manage than regular games in that timespan). Because players simply did not have the time to fill the new bars by dedicating all of their free time twice. It wasn't a quirk or a disappointment or an unexpected result, it's common fucking sense. Resources are finite. And yet I don't know how many companies tried to be the next WoW. Most often by straight up copying WoW, which didn't and couldn't work because WoW is better at being WoW than any non-WoW product is going to be by fucking definition ; nevermind the added sunk cost mindfuckery going on when one considers abandoning an MMO character they've dutifully raised the bars of and played for months on end. Or they did something different from WoW, at which point WoW just copied it while still also being WoW and benefiting from those sunk costs and that was that.

Fuck me but this is all painfully evident to me, and it was at the time too. Yet people who get paid real money, lots of it, for a living, didn't grok that much.


And sure, there were a handful of outliers - Dark Age of Camelot did realm-vs-realm combat better than WoW for a long while, City of Heroes was a brand new thing because superheroes hadn't been done in a long long while (this was before the MCU), EVE Online did space and spreadsheets better than anyone else, and a few other games eeked a temporary life out of a massively recognizable existing IP - Star Wars Galaxies (then again with Star Wars TOR), Star Trek Online, Conan... but the overwhelming majority of the MMOs produced in that 00s "fool's gold rush" were absolute failures, both creatively and financially, to the point that you can't even name the majority of them today let alone their stand-out features. Hey, do you remember there was a Matrix MMO at some point ? And a Shadowrun one ? No, you fucking didn't until 2 seconds ago, don't lie to me. And plenty of companies were shuttered in this nonsense, greed-based, mindlessly-follow-the-leader rush-to-the-shiny-thing mentality. It didn't work then, it won't work now. You want to make all of the money, create a new original niche for yourself and let Fornite be Fornite. Take risks and be rewarded for them (some of the time).

There's your strategy, AAA gaming companies. Now where are my big bucks ?
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  #88  
Old 05-03-2019, 08:47 AM
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And plenty of companies were shuttered in this nonsense, greed-based, mindlessly-follow-the-leader rush-to-the-shiny-thing mentality. It didn't work then, it won't work now. You want to make all of the money, create a new original niche for yourself and let Fornite be Fornite. Take risks and be rewarded for them (some of the time).
The problem is that is DID work for companies. WoW copied Everquest's formula, refined it (or dumbed it down depending on your POV) and, while Everquest was "big", WoW exploded and dwarfed it. Fortnite did the same with PUBG; refining the formula and making PUBG's impressive population look quaint by comparison.

So people figure, "If they did it, why can't I be the next big thing?" In fact, why make something new when you're likely to be the next Everquest or PUBG and get someone else copying you, learning from your mistakes and taking all the money?
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Old 05-03-2019, 09:46 AM
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(Oh, and while I evidently hold your attention, AAA companies, also let Fortnite/Epic have its 100-hour work weeks and mandatory overtime only not paid as such. Because they're shit, and every industry needs an example of absolute shit, if only to know what not to do.
You're multi-billion dollar enterprises, literally making more money than Hollywood at this point, you can afford to pay more man-hours if you need them ; and you can afford more employees if you need more man-hours you greedy fucking prickballs).


Quote:
Originally Posted by Jophiel
So people figure, "If they did it, why can't I be the next big thing?" In fact, why make something new when you're likely to be the next Everquest or PUBG and get someone else copying you, learning from your mistakes and taking all the money?
And the obvious answer is : "because you're not". Not statistically-speaking, and not creatively-speaking either because you can't just copy/paste and expect people to find you better than what you copy/pasted. So the real choice isn't between being the next Fortnite or being the next PUBG. It's between trying to be the next PUBG (and maybe capitalizing on that cred later) or declaring bankruptcy and failing your dearest of the dear : shareholders. Because you're not going to be the next Fortnite. There's already a Fortnite. People who want to play Fortnite are already playing Fortnite. Every single evening.
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Old 05-03-2019, 10:07 AM
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I don't disagree with you, really. Just saying that, for a select few, copying not only works but works really well.
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Old 05-03-2019, 11:26 AM
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I'm not saying derivative cannot or doesn't work - it works everywhere to some extent. But one has to keep in mind market realities and the specifics of the industry they set out to be derivative in.
It's fine to shovel out a new superhero movie every year, or even twice a year - they're short bursts of entertainment costing consumers little money, and once you've seen one you're probably not going to rewatch it too much because they're... not great movies, really. But the next one will be fun, so there's no market saturation for superhero movies yet (even though it already feels like they're every movie being put out). Even the real turds (*cough* Thor anything-not-Ragnarok *cough*) still make enough money to justify their existence, if only as quick bank stopgaps to shore up the next real good one.

Same goes for music. People are not going to listen to one CD for a month, or a year, on single rotation. So derivatives and bands that sound almost but not quite like that one other band are still OK. I mean they're shit and a little shameful to listen to but fine, they fill up dead air. And same goes for *some* video games. Once you're done playing Skyrim, you're pretty much done with it ; so there's space for The Witcher a couple years later.



In contrast, MMOs (and GaaSs) expect to become the end all, be all of a consumer's vidya game universe, forever ; both in terms of time invested (gotta keep 'em running on that treadmill) and in terms of spendable money (gotta make them buy your lootbox instead of the next guy's game). That's a scummy business model, but again, fine, that's neither here nor there. What *is*, is that by definition there cannot be a niche for many of these services at the same time, let alone just two dominating ones. One will dominate, every other will hobble on at best. Even if your game is better than Fortnite in all respects, it simply won't uncarve the niche Fortnite has carved itself.

And I know this, because I played Warhammer Online and loved it to bits (I even wound up working on WAR as a result !). Warhammer Online was either on par with or better than WoW. At everything. It started out with a gigantic budget by then MMO standards, also built on an existing IP nerds loved, it also had colourful cartoonish visuals, it also had funny dialogue and didn't take itself super seriously. It had arenas for quick PvP, it had realm-vs-realm and sieges and all that good DAoC shit and the cred of having been made by the DAoC guys, it had great & varied character classes and mechanics (better than anything WoW ever did IMO), it had a rapid levelling cycle to make you feel like filling up the bars wasn't a day job but an endless loop of neat rewards, it had zone-wide quests and GM-driven events to bolster the community feeling... I challenge anyone to name anything WoW did strictly better than WAR, except perhaps the sheer scale of WoW's world after so many expansions. And yet WAR failed. Spectacularly. What's worse, it was killed off... by a WoW expansion. To this day, WoW is still the only WoW in town (in the West. In Asia Lineage is the only Lineage around I believe, even if WoW tries to make a dent).



The lesson here is that in the end there was only market space enough for one big fantasy MMORPG, at least in the traditional subscription model (LoTRO, Age of Conan, Neverwinter and even EQ2 are doing okay-ish as free-to-plays, probably putting food on the table of their makers. But they're not the giant piles of Donald Duck money EA and Blizzard expect out of Anthem, Apex, The Division and so on). How many play-this-game-every-day market spaces do these business geniuses reckon there are ?
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  #92  
Old 05-03-2019, 02:56 PM
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...I know this is an old post, but I think the best response to this is something that games critic Jim Sterling has been repeating over and over again:

...
TLDR: you've missed the point.
I read all of it, but I didn't miss the point; you did, by eliding the second and third paragraph of my post that you quoted.

Of course the freemium, microtransaction, loot box bullshit might be a losing strategy. I hope it is, because I hate that shit. There's no disagreement there.

The disagreement I have is with the implication that it's an immoral strategy, that one can condemn it by pointing out that they're trying to make more money. Even if you want to offer a critique of capitalism as a whole (and I'm probably down with that critique), video games are a luxury item, and I don't care about whatever gross strategies folks are using to get people to buy their luxury items, as long as those strategies aren't in a small subset (preying on children, preying on addictions, leveraging gross stereotypes, etc.)

There's a decent argument that microtransactions in some cases prey on children or on addictions, and those are good criticisms. But "they're trying to make more money" isn't that criticism.

And Blizzard's downsizing of its workforce is worth examining and criticizing, but not because it's a shitty commercial strategy, because it's a shitty labor practice.

Oh, and edit: what I said above about microtransactions not being immoral most of the time goes double for these exclusivity deals, which are not immoral in any sense I can think of, except that capitalism is sometimes suckass.

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  #93  
Old 05-03-2019, 03:18 PM
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Leftie, my man, you're fusing and confusing all sorts of wildly disparate concepts together. And it's not your fault, really - in truth, people have been trying to confuse moral arguments with financial, materialistic crap for centuries. I mean that literally - it probably began in the 16th century when the bourgeois first tried to make themselves look respectable. Witness, as example, this simple and common phrase : "work ethic". There's nothing inherently ethical about working vs. not working - it all depends on the job, doesn't it ? Besides, coal mining is just prostitution absent sex, and I'm told that one's very very immoral, so what the fuck, eh ? And there's nothing ethical about earning money by working vs. earning it some other way, certainly not in the minds of those happy right wing capitalists who'll poo-poo other parties for lacking in work ethic. They're just moochers expecting handouts, while I'm earning money by the moral virtue of my investments and stocks ! And so on. I'll spare you the Marxist lecture unless you absolutely force me to.


This is a direct threat. Don't make me, or else.

But that is not to say that capitalism and morality are inherently divorced (or, coming the other way, entwined). It's not implicitly moral for a company to seek out profit at every conceivable turn. It's not implicitly immoral either. But then again, "morality" is a difficult butterfly to pin down. As the social science major hilaaaarious joke goes, the dictionnary oughta go "Morals : see ethics. Ethics : see morals". As for myself, I don't see "making shareholders richer" as a particularly moral aspect of capitalist enterprises. Morally speaking, a given enterprise either benefits society at large or it doesn't. That's the one moral standard that can apply.

If you make knives that are good and cheap and you make a million of them and you sell them, good. You should get rewarded. People who believed in you and enabled you to build your knife empire (that sounds a bit more nefarious than it should, doesn't it ?) should also gain something. And the bespoke artisan who made knives just as good, but not as many and not as famous and so on, well, tough for him. He'll simply have to rebrand, and maybe learn to gild in gold. Sell upmarket. Target hipsters. There's a way for that guy.

On the other hand, if you make shit knives but they're the only knives anybody can buy because you've fucked every other knife maker out of the market ; then how are you a moral entity in any way, shape or form ? And if you make shit knives and you know the next guy over actually makes better knives than you but you manage to succesfully sink his business anyway, somehow, then no matter what means you used to do so you are an actively immoral actor. You suck. You make society worse by existing. Fuck you, and everyone looks like you. I hope you die. I hope your shareholders die. I hope the people who study you or aspire to become you die, too. I know you won't, because I have a history degree and I've been spoiled extensively - I know you win the whole time. Still. There's always hope, innit ?
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  #94  
Old 05-03-2019, 04:08 PM
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I for one never forgot that the Matrix Online existed. Or sucked.

(But Shadowrun had an MMO? How did I miss that?)
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Old 05-03-2019, 04:13 PM
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Errr, minor edit to #91 : that would be "giant piles of Scrooge McDuck money", not "Donald Duck money".

Look, I'm French, I'm trying to culturally translate here. I'm faillible. I forget shit. Like whose the one we dubbed Picsou over here, and I even had to look it up because I'm not 13 any more. And that name is funny and political because it phonetically means "steals pennies", which makes it a lot more culturally biting than your original "Scrooge" name wot implies a mere personal character flaw as opposed to a more general slam on the very nature of the character and all of his ilk and a moral criticism of you know what, just, fuck y'all, you knew whom I meant ! Jesus !
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  #96  
Old 05-03-2019, 04:18 PM
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(But Shadowrun had an MMO? How did I miss that?)

Yup. I'm... not even sure it ever came out, not actually, at any point ? I honestly don't know. It might have gone tits up before it even released. The screenshots make it look like a beta for the Harebrained games. But I know I was *very* hyped for that game anyway. Because it was Shadowrun and ye gods, I'm not an easily duped stooge on an endless quest for NERPs, chummer. Not me. I'm savvy. Almost SINless, you could say.
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  #97  
Old 05-03-2019, 06:26 PM
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I never played it, but I think it was missing the MM part of MMO.

Came out mid-2015, stopped working late 2018
.

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  #98  
Old 05-03-2019, 06:40 PM
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I never played it, but I think it was missing the MM part of MMO.

Came out mid-2015, stopped working late 2018
.
Ah, “turn-based tactical video game”. So the only part of MMORPG it satisfied was the “O”. Uh, and the “G”.

It was an MMORPG the way that Starcraft on Battle.net was an MMORPG.

Now I feel less confused, thanks for the clarification.
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Old 05-03-2019, 08:08 PM
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I read all of it, but I didn't miss the point; you did, by eliding the second and third paragraph of my post that you quoted.
...I didn't miss the point because your second and third paragraph do not materially affect anything I said. No I don't think games companies are charities. Yes I agree that businesses should try to make money. No I'm not talking about "capitalism" as a whole. I'm specifically talking about the gaming industry.

Quote:
Of course the freemium, microtransaction, loot box bullshit might be a losing strategy. I hope it is, because I hate that shit. There's no disagreement there.
We aren't agreeing. Freemium, microtransactions, even loot boxes aren't inherently a "loosing strategy." That's not my point.

Quote:
The disagreement I have is with the implication that it's an immoral strategy, that one can condemn it by pointing out that they're trying to make more money. Even if you want to offer a critique of capitalism as a whole (and I'm probably down with that critique), video games are a luxury item, and I don't care about whatever gross strategies folks are using to get people to buy their luxury items, as long as those strategies aren't in a small subset (preying on children, preying on addictions, leveraging gross stereotypes, etc.)
Again you are missing the point.

Lets forget about the consumer for a minute. Lets talk about the workforce. Lets directly compare two comparable industries: Hollywood and the gaming industry.

Hollywood has a lot of problems. #metoo has shone a giant spotlight on a lot of those problems, from endemic levels of sexual harassment and assault, to systematic racism and sexism that limits opportunities for marginalised peoples.

But Hollywood has one thing that the Games Industry doesn't: the workers below the line have a very very strong union.

If you work overtime on a union movie you get paid for it. If you work additional hours you get paid for it. If you do something extra dangerous you get paid for it. You can't do stunts without a stunt coordinator on set, you can't have children on set beyond a set amount of hours and at certain times unless you get an exception.

In the games industry there is only one section of the industry that has a strong union: and that's the voice actors. And in 2016 they put forward a list of demands, they couldn't come to an agreement with the games companies, so they went on strike. A year later they came to an agreement and the strike ended.

This sort of thing doesn't happen anywhere else in the games industry. You may have heard of crunch. There is no equivalent outside of the games industry. Its a heartless, soul-destroying process that is near-industry standard in the gaming industry. And the practice continues in the gaming industry for one simple reason: because they can. Because games companies don't want to make "more money": they want to make "all of the money." There are very little protections for workers and contractors in the gaming industry. And with so much competition for jobs in the industry workers are disposable.

And here's the thing. It gets fucking worse. Because while Hollywood is still grappling with endemic levels of sexual harassment and assault, to systematic racism and sexism that limits opportunities for marginalised peoples, one could argue that the same thing applies to the gaming industry, except things are an order of magnitude worse. Add a toxic fanbase that run campaigns like goobergate that the industry as a whole did very little to combat and what you get is an environment that is shitty, that is toxic, that needs to fundamentally change.

But again: this is only a piece of the puzzle. Lets look at "games as a live service" again. This is what EA Chief Financial Officer Blake Jorgensen said back in 2017:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Blake Jorgensen
"I think what we're seeing is that people are playing fewer games but they're playing the games they're playing for longer with deeper engagement. And the reality is people love to engage with something they really enjoy, right? If you love soccer, you're going to do everything around soccer: watch it, play it, engage in it, talk about it, and our games allow you to go deep into something you really love"

"But it probably means you're going to buy less games in the year. And if you look at the statistics in the last 10 years, the number of games sold has been fairly flat or slight growth but the dollars have gone up dramatically because the games have much more engagement in them."
https://www.tweaktown.com/news/59990...ist/index.html

I've bolded "engagement" because that word is important. The industry is driven by metrics. And "engagement" has become the latest metric that has guided the industry. More engagement, more revenue, bigger profits. Its the thinking that has shifted the industry away from single-player-stand-alone games and towards the "live service" model.

Except engagement is bullshit. The biggest exemplar of this is the revelation that Facebook had vastly inflated engagement figures and that in part was what prompted many media companies to "pivot to video."

Just read this twitter thread by Aram Zucker-Scharff. Its epic. And it provides the receipts. It shows just how crappy a metric "engagement" can be. The money quote:

"The numbers are all fking fake, the metrics are bullshit, the agencies responsible for enforcing good practices are knowing bullshiters enforcing and profiting off all the fake numbers and none of the models make sense at scale of actual human users".

https://twitter.com/chronotope/statu...200256?lang=en

So how does all of this tie up?

Many video game companies have pivoted their entire business models based on dubious metrics. That pivot resulted in inflated company valuations and huge profit forecasts. The video game companies hit certain metrics that meant directors and CEO's were rewarded with multi-million dollar bonuses. They took in billions of revenue and made billions in profit.

They made more money than they had ever made before. But they don't want to make "more money." They want to make "all the money." They didn't hit some arbitrary profit margin that was formulated on the basis of dubious statistics. They didn't reach their "full potential."

So who got "punished" because they didn't reach their "full potential?" The people that did all the work. The people that spent weeks and months in crunch, often unpaid for all of that extra time. They got laid off despite the parent company making billions of profit because they didn't hit an unreasonable forecast based on dubious statistics which resulted in company shares loosing value so they had to "fire people" to make it look like they were doing something about it.

And its this: not the implementation of "microtransactions" that I find to be immoral. It doesn't have to be this way. Hollywood actively demonstrates it doesn't have to be this way. The labour laws in capitalist New Zealand show that it doesn't have to be this way.


Quote:
There's a decent argument that microtransactions in some cases prey on children or on addictions, and those are good criticisms. But "they're trying to make more money" isn't that criticism.
Again: back to the Jim Sterling quote. "Companies don't want to make money. They want to make ALL of the money." That is the criticism.

Quote:
And Blizzard's downsizing of its workforce is worth examining and criticizing, but not because it's a shitty commercial strategy, because it's a shitty labor practice.
Its all part of the same problem.
  #100  
Old 05-03-2019, 08:41 PM
Left Hand of Dorkness's Avatar
Left Hand of Dorkness is offline
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Join Date: May 1999
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Posts: 40,599
Quote:
Originally Posted by Banquet Bear View Post
We aren't agreeing. Freemium, microtransactions, even loot boxes aren't inherently a "loosing strategy." That's not my point.
What the fuck weirdness is this, I spell the word correctly, and you quote me as misspelling it?

As for the rest of it, what the fuck does anything you're saying have to do with exclusivity deals? It appears to me that I missed your point because I thought you were talking about something vaguely on-topic.

Last edited by Left Hand of Dorkness; 05-03-2019 at 08:44 PM.
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