Tobold's Blog
Thursday, September 11, 2014
 
Refining the question

Syp is asking whether special editions are getting too pricey. I don't like that sort of question, because the word "too" is always a judgement. And whether something is "too pricey" is not only subjective, but also depends very much on personal disposable income. I'm sure there isn't a special edition anywhere which would be "too pricey" for Bill Gates.

But let's refine that question. Whether a special edition is too pricey depends among other things on what exactly you get for your money. And that quickly gets us to the related question of what game developers can put into a special edition without pissing off the customers of the regular version. Syp mentioned how the $100 Imperial Edition of the Elder Scrolls Online came with a race that regular players couldn't play, which caused some controversy. Imagine the regular edition of a MMORPG came without raid content, and you would need to upgrade to a twice as expensive edition in order for you to be able to participate in the raid content. Good idea on paper, but I doubt it would go down well.

Things that do not provoke any protest are usually physical items, not in-game items. Collectors editions containing CDs with the soundtrack, or books with artwork, are not very controversial. But those items actually cost money to make, so much of the extra income from the collectors edition is then eaten up by the cost of producing that edition. Which is why increasingly the main selling point of special editions is in-game stuff, which is cheap to produce. That stuff is then valuable to the customer *because* the other players in the game don't have it.

Gamers have a strong sense of entitlement. In real life the answer to the question of why your neighbor is driving a nicer car than you is relatively obvious: He paid for it (or got it as part of his job contract). Most people are okay with that in real life. In a massively multiplayer online game many people are not willing to accept that somebody else has nicer stuff because he paid for it. It is one of the principal objections to the Free2Play business model that somebody else might end up with paid-for nicer stuff. And special editions are based on the same tactics of price segmentation that Free2Play games use.

So basically game companies have two option: Either they limit the in-game stuff content of special editions, in which case they will also have to limit the price. Or think of some really great in-game stuff they could pack into special editions (also available as upgrade to the regular edition you bought), and hope that the additional profit is higher than the loss of sales from people who won't play a game like that. My guess is that we will see at least some attempts of the latter.

Comments:
I always figure that people who complain about this sort of thing are mostly all poor people, so I don't have to care about what they think. At least, not until the revolution comes. But then, I'm a white, college-educated male, so I'm pretty sure I'll be first up for the guillotines anyway, whether I care about them or not.
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
Not sure about the "they are poor" theory. Do you know what a serious "gamer" PC costs?
 
Gamers have a strong sense of entitlement.

Is an expectation of parity now considered entitlement?
 
I actually shy away from buying things that I can only get by paying money outside the framework of the game.

When I see people running around on a shiny pony, I don't think "look, a cool pony". I actually think to myself, "what a loser, he has to buy stuff."

It's not about affordability, it's about how I feel about things that I didn't earn.

So when a CE comes out that has in-game items you can 'only get' from the CE, that actually encourages me NOT to buy it. Why? Because I don't want myself or others to see me as a guy who has to "buy stuff."
 
Is an expectation of parity now considered entitlement?

I have never met ANYBODY who expected or even wanted parity in a game. What people want is a system that is skewed towards their strong points. Thus the person who has more available time than money wants a game where you are King of the Hill if you spend the most time in the game. While the person who has more money than time would prefer if he could achieve things by buying them. Neither of the two wants parity.

The reason why expecting game companies to reward time more than money is entitlement thinking is because obviously the game company would much prefer your money over your time.
 
>That stuff is then valuable to the customer *because* the other players in the game don't have it.

I don't like this attitude, really. It promotes a more hostile gaming environment the more your enjoyment comes from your relative position to other players. The best things to buy are those that make you feel awesome, not those that give you a comparative advantage.

Like if you could buy a 5% dps boost, that's kinda dry. People will be annoyed at you if they aren't willing to buy it also because they think it's unfair, and it's small enough that it doesn't really add to your enjoyment by itself. It's a bad thing to buy.

On the other hand, if you could buy a thingie that makes your sword go SCHWOOM SCHWOOM SCHWOOM and leave light trails and be all sparkly, then that just never gets old. Run around killing level 2 wolves just for the pretty light show. That's the sort of thing I want to buy. I don't even care about what other players can see, make it only show up through my client.

That's why I like the CE's that give you skins or pets or whatever. They make things more fun for me, without pissing off other people.
 
Based on my admittedly limited knowledge of Bill gates, I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that he would consider many of these special editions "too pricey". Similarly, Michael's distasteful assumption that "people who complain about this sort of thing are mostly all poor people" doesn't stand up to examination.

Having a lot of money does not make you, by default, unaware of relative value. One of the ways individuals acquire more money than others in their peer group is by making different choices on what to do with what money they do have. Those who are unable to parse relative value are unlikely to move from the latter group to the former.

Personally I could easily afford to buy a $150 CE for an MMO but I would consider doing so an utter waste of money. I have yet to see any special or collectors edition for any MMO ever that I felt was worth more than the basic edition, which is what I always buy. I wouldn't pay an additional $1.00 for most of them, let alone an extra $100.
 
Nailed it on the head with the "entitlement" phrase.

I've said this many times about F2P games that are accused of being "pay2win".

There is no such thing as "pay2win".

There is either "affordable" or "unaffordable". "Expensive" or "cheap".

Either you can afford "parity" or you can't.

No one is entitled to something at the arbitrary point where they personally personally deem it to be "affordable".

Otherwise we would all be demanding Ferrari's.

If you can't afford the price of entry or the price of "parity" then tough luck.

The free market will ultimately resolve the issue and you can't complain if it isn't resolved in your favour.

In that scenario one should stop playing games and instead devote their efforts to personal improvement, career progression and placing themselves closer to the average disposable income in the market.

Or if it is a matter of perceived value as opposed to affordability that is stopping you then you just have to accept that you have niche opinions. If you think your views represent the majority then sit back and watch the price fall as the product sits on shelves gathering dust.

This applies to digital or physical goods.
 
While the person who has more money than time would prefer if he could achieve things by buying them. Neither of the two wants parity.

I have more money than time and I won't play without parity.

As a PvPer, I don't want to win because my wallet is bigger. That's not a win which, if I'm honest, will feed my ego. I want to crush you with you KNOWING that I beat you because I'm better than you.
 
The problem here is that the main selling point of a game is being not real life. However if real life money invades it, this goes away.

The optimal way of playing a pay-to-win game is not playing it, but working in real life and spend your money on it. Which is stupid since why would you pay for not playing?
 
> the main selling point of a game is being not real life

The point of a game is to provide entertainment to the players, often at at the cost of money going to the game producers.

I don't understand the argument. It's like getting upset that some people can afford big screen hdtv's, while others make do with more affordable tv's, and that this difference ruins the tv watching experience for everyone. How dare tv manufacturers bring real money into the movie-watching experience, when it's designed as a purely escapist form of passive entertainment?
 
Understand that time is a form of currency just like money. Many gamers, like myself, are willing to pay with time but unwilling to pay with money.

Tobold's flawed assumption is that willingness to pay with one currency over another is simply one of means. The flaw here is not that this is untrue, is just incomplete.

One can have the means to purchase something and still not be interested in buying it. Why? Because it doesn't hold the same level of value to them.

When it comes to games, I value something more when I earn it by investing time. When I consider something "too grindy" then that means that I don't believe it has sufficient value for my time.

The same economics principles apply to real world money and games with a notable difference. The game dev has an incentive to manipulate the game itself in order to create profit.

That's not to say this doesn't also happen with a subscription game at some level (they want you to stay subscribed) but the degree to which they can exploit the situation is significantly greater when you are paying for XP potions and "iWin" buttons.
 
The reason why expecting game companies to reward time more than money is entitlement thinking is because obviously the game company would much prefer your money over your time.

This is such a bizarre definition of "entitlement" that I don't even know where to start. Or perhaps I should just start here:

What, in your view, isn't entitlement?

Because from where I'm sitting, it sounds as though you are suggesting that any expectation of anything at all - up to and including an even trade of value - is "entitlement." In which case the term has no meaning.

I have never met ANYBODY who expected or even wanted parity in a game.

Hi, I'm Azuriel. It's a pleasure to meet you. I enjoy and expect parity within games, as I am a big fan of consistent rules (which arguably define what games are in the first place).
 
Hi, I'm Azuriel. It's a pleasure to meet you. I enjoy and expect parity within games

Hi, I'm Tobold. It's a pleasure to meet you. Did you ever play a MMORPG? Do you think a typical MMORPG is "parity"?

What, in your view, isn't entitlement?

Thinking that playing a game for X hours entitles you to more consideration from the game company than somebody who paid the same money as you but played less than X hours.

And don't drag up that old strawman of "skill". The reward systems of modern games reward time spent much more than they ever reward skill.
 
You hit the nail on the head. There does seem to be a small percentage of gamers who invest a lot of time in a game and believe this "investment" gives them some kind of stake in the product and a right to influence it's design or pricing system.

Look no further than the official WoW forums where the "armoury police" are in operation and your opinion on matters of design is deemed worthless if you don't have a high level of raid progression.

Despite that this person might have paid just as much in subscription fees and possibly even more than the average player due to purchasing mounts, pets, additional accounts for auction trading etc.

I saw a blog post the other day from a developer discussing the problems these people pose on community sites for your game and how to deal with them. I can't find it now but it would be cool if someone could link it.
 
The disconnect I see here is between games and MMOs. I.e., I don't consider MMOs to be games.

People expect a level of parity on their games. It is the opposite in MMOs. People expect that some combination of time, skill, effort, luck and money will improve their character. As Tobold said, the things people think should improve the character are things they like/succeed in. Try telling an MMO player that a fresh max-level character has the same gear/attributes as someone who has been raiding/arenaing for nine months.

So once you select an MMO, the notion of parity is pretty much over.
 
@Tobold: In a massively multiplayer online game many people are not willing to accept that somebody else has nicer stuff because he paid for it.

Aren't you the one which cares about immersion in a virtual world? What can be more non-immersing that finding the same structure than the real world glued on the virtual one?

Hi, I'm Tobold. It's a pleasure to meet you. Did you ever play a MMORPG? Do you think a typical MMORPG is "parity"?

More or less any subscription-only based MMO has parity. But I'll grant you that there aren't many around.... so it's not your "typical" MMO.

 
And don't drag up that old strawman of "skill". The reward systems of modern games reward time spent much more than they ever reward skill.

Err, what? Plenty of games reward skill much more than time. Unless you're strictly limiting yourself to MMORPGs, I guess, but I would argue the classic super-difficult raid rewards skill over time spent.
 
In real life the answer to the question of why your neighbor is driving a nicer car than you is relatively obvious: He paid for it (or got it as part of his job contract). Most people are okay with that in real life.

I would argue that most people aren't okay with this either. I mean, people in general just want equal opportunities. If your neighbor grew up in a rich home, went to a rich college, and does little but mooch off his inheritance money, I think plenty of people would be down right pissed. Plenty grow up in lower-middle class families, study hard, work hard, and yet barely make stagnating average incomes.

Is it entitlement to seek equal opportunities, both in the real world and the digital world? And if so, does it make it that bad to feel entitled to such a world?
 
Is it entitlement to seek equal opportunities, both in the real world and the digital world?

Okay, let's imagine an equal opportunity MMORPG: Obviously there is a large number of people who can't play more than let's say 2 hours per day. So equal opportunity would mean restricting the game so that you can't play more than 2 hours per day. Or at the very least that after 2 hours you don't earn xp, gold, and loot any more.

Sorry, but most of the time when I hear "equal opportunity" I hear somebody who wants to rig the system in his favor. In the real world people want to redistribute wealth in the name of equal opportunity. But sorry, that kid that comes from a rich home and goes to a good college is probably the result of hard work of his parents, who *deserve* to see their kid go to a good school because they worked so hard for it.
 
Found the link to the article I mentioned about people that are deeply "invested' in games.

It's an interesting read from a devs perspective.

http://askagamedev.tumblr.com/post/96091066151/understanding-the-angry-gamer
 
So once you select an MMO, the notion of parity is pretty much over.

Ridiculous.

Parity isn't about a moment in time in MMOs, it's about equal opportunities.

Can a person, given the same investments in time, obtain equality with another player provided they have the similar skill or ability? If the answer to that is yes, then they have equal opportunity and parity.

In an MMO, it's not necessary for parity to exist at all moments and at all times. It only matters that the starting points are the same and that they have parity in the progression.

Using your argument, a game like Halo could be viewed as not having parity. After all, a player who respawned earlier than you and grabbed a better gun and a couple of power-up is more powerful than you when you respawn.

If that's seems ridiculous (and it is) then realize that it's really no less ridiculous than saying there isn't parity in an MMO because someone else played it longer than you.
 
In an MMO you can be beaten by somebody in PvP who is *less* skilled than you, as long as he grinded more hours than you did. Excluding the time factor from equal opportunity is just an attempt of those who tend to spend the most time in games to protect their advantage.
 
Excluding the time factor from equal opportunity is just an attempt of those who tend to spend the most time in games to protect their advantage.

Why shouldn't someone who spends more time in the game have an advantage?

I have yet to see a sound counter-argument to this other than some form of complaint about other people having more time. How is this any different than complaining that other people have more money than you?

I have more respect for myself and others who put forth the 'time' than those who simply buy their success.

But even more importantly, how about game devs start spending a little more time on making the games "fun to spend time in" and a little less time on how to manipulate game mechanics that I want to avoid for profit?
 
I have yet to see a sound counter-argument to this other than some form of complaint about other people having more time. How is this any different than complaining that other people have more money than you?

But that is exactly my point! It isn't any different! Whether you use more time or more money to advance faster in the game is the same. And thus there is no such thing as "parity" or "equal opportunity".
 
But that is exactly my point! It isn't any different! Whether you use more time or more money to advance faster in the game is the same. And thus there is no such thing as "parity" or "equal opportunity".

I think we differ in what we consider "equal opportunity" but let's set that aside...

The more critical difference is that in the "money" scenario, the motivation for the dev is to maximize profits by altering the game in a way that motivates you to make purchases.

Whereas, in the "time" scenario, the goal is to keep you playing.

I'm not saying that scenario is flawless, but I am more forgiving of a dev who makes something a bit more grindy to keep me subbed than I am to a dev who makes it more grindy so I can spend $1 on a 1/2 hour XP potion.

Why? Because in the former scenario, the dev also has an incentive to make that grind as fun and interesting as possible. Whereas, in the second scenario where he wants me to spend money, he wants it to be as painful as possible without me quitting.
 
You really should inform yourself more about Free2Play game design. Watching the Evil Game Design Challenge would be a good start. Your current ideas are completely wrong, Free2Play game designers have a far greater interest in making the game fun so you keep playing than you think.
 
But that is exactly my point! It isn't any different! Whether you use more time or more money to advance faster in the game is the same. And thus there is no such thing as "parity" or "equal opportunity".

I see the point, but wouldn't then the simple solution to "parity" come from just hitting the right balance between time vs. money? Equal opportunity doesn't mean that each person needs to advance in the same way.

If one person's outcome is determined by a coin flip, and the other by a random vote, and the chances were still 50/50, that'd still be parity.

It's only when one system gets favored too heavily that the complaints start pouring in. On the money side, money-only bonuses that are unobtainable by any other means, and on the time side, grindier korean MMOs that western gamers have no patience nor time for.
 
I've seen the whole video.

I wish I could link that article/write-up I read a while back by a mobile game app dev... can't find it.

But the salient point is that the end goal is to incent purchases. I'll concede there are different models, but I'm a strong proponent that motivation drives behavior -- not just in games, but in real life.

 
> In real life the answer to the question of why your neighbor is driving a nicer car than you is relatively obvious: He paid for it

There is a huge difference. Every car is equally able to drive on todays road. There is no advantage for the owner of the more expensive car because every car can easily reach the speed limit (and if you country doesn't have a speed limit your speed is limited by jams.)

The reason for that is that there are multiple produce of cars. This is not true for in game content, where the game company has a monopoly. If only one company would produce cars I wouldn't be surprised if the cheap models would have a speed limit of 30 kmh and you would have to buy a "DLC" to unlock higher speeds.
 
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