The Soapbox: The long tail of game development isn’t an excuse for gouging

Don’t be too mad at Star Wars: Battlefront II. It’s a symptom of a problem, not the cause. I mean, be mad at people dumb enough to put the blame for negative reactions on the press, that’s just plain stupid. But at the heart of the matter is a problem that’s actually choking through game development all the way down the line.

Because while people are talking about “well, maybe games need to cost more” (and that aforementioned none-too-wise comment of an analyst does precisely that), the reality is that this would still be happening no matter what. The problem is not a matter of Battlefront II costing too little money to pay for its development. The problem is that design and budgets are broken, the market is a mess, and microtransactions are being used as a bludgeon instead of a tool.

And all of this is exacerbated by the fact that every single publisher wants to pretend that everything is peachy.

One of the things that I’ve long been an advocate for is the idea that publishers exist to make money. On the face of it, this is a good thing, because you cannot make a game funded by pixie giggles and unicorn farts. You need someone whose only interest in the game is the money side of things, because that’s how you make enough money to continue making games.

The problem, of course, is when the publishing side of things realizes that there are ways to break the system to make more money off of nothing. Everything I discussed in my Overthinking response last week is still true – games cost more and more to make and have longer and longer tails in terms of support – but the problem is not simply that these facros combine to mean that games are now money losers. The problem is that when you then inflate the marketing cost, the profit margin starts to diminish.

I do not know how much this cost. There isn't a price tag where it justifies other things, though.

It doesn’t help when the upper management wants to make the game ever bigger and ever more expensive. And the programmers and art staff don’t wind up seeing much, if anything, from these incresed profit margins, still being subjected to an awful volume of crunch time and demanding workloads with ever-growing headcounts.

The thing is, trying to get some extra money out of these games is not inherently a bad thing. There’s a great piece from Ask A Game Dev about why DLC exists, and it’s a wonderful thing to read because it shines a light on the reality of design and content. Games are expensive, and DLC means that you can, in theory, add stuff to the game that had to be cut from the default retail release due to time and circumstance.

But what we’re talking about here isn’t DLC. It’s a feature of the game that had numbers tweaked to essentially hold part of the designed game as a hostage. Battlefront II is a symptom of the whole mess. There’s no actual way to prevent a game from advertising something and then requiring you to pay to access it after you’ve already paid for the game. And if this already didn’t seem fun enough, it’s worth pointing out that there’s an entire segment of the enthusiast press that has actually made this worse by referring to any DLC as a blatant cash grab.

Something about this IP makes for a perfect chance to see what you're willing to pay, huh.A blatant cash grab, for the record, looks like Battlefront II. It looks like the game selling you something as part of the game and then forcing you to wait forever to get it… or letting you pay money right out of the gate to bypass it. It’s a gross example of trying to abuse that long tail of games to force players into a situation where you have to pay more money to get something you were told you get as part of the entry price.

Gamers, as an aggregate, are a bit guilty of not understanding how the sausage is made. But in this particular analogy, the sausage factory has roving death squads preventing anyone from seeing that the sausage is being made at all, much less the process.

This, then, is why the system is just plain broken at this point. We’re unwilling to pay more for games than we already do, in many cases preferring “not paying anything” as an entry price. Publishers, meanwhile, are willing to keep inflating budgets for things like marketing and graphics, and when that eats into profit it can eat right into the game. And the people making these games aren’t seeing any benefit from all of these increases; salaries aren’t going up except for the people at the top end.

Someone was bound to go this route eventually. It just happened now with a game that the publisher thought was immune to being spot-checked for these decisions, because at face value Star Wars: Battlefront II should be an enormous hit. What’s damaging it is entirely the fact that it has a set of predatory decisions made to make sure that players have to buy the game, then buy more of the game or crawl along. It’s a downright nasty free-to-play model in a game that is not, in fact, free-to-play.

(If it were, this would be a very different discussion. The business model still wouldn’t be very good, but it would have the excuse of asking you nothing up-front. But I digress.)

And none of this is new this year. We already saw titles early in the year experiment with lockboxes in single-player AAA games. As we’ve accepted the mechanic in various online titles, it’s becoming more and more palatable to add the mechanic to games where it really doesn’t belong, where there’s no online component or shared world to justify a constant rolling income.

This is just where the stupid stars aligned in the right place. And it’s the point where I would think, as a publisher, it’s time to take a step back and look at the Pyrrhic victories bringing you to this point. If you exhaust your market, you go down to making zero dollars an hour, and while the prices of games haven’t risen as fast as the price of making them, a lot of that is due to the non-stop race to add in the newest and greatest graphical flair to a title when it really doesn’t need it.

Cash shops are not the enemy, DLC is not the enemy, and even lockboxes aren’t the enemy. It’s entirely possible to implement lockboxes in such a way that they’re welcome; Overwatch and Hearthstone are both fine examples here. For all the issues I have with those games, they make a strong effort to let players feel like you pay a bit for convenience rather than need, and there’s at least the appearance of developers trying hard to make sure that each purchase feels worthwhile even if you don’t get what you want.

So what can we do, on our end? I think there is something we can do, and ironically, it involves not looking at the price tag at all. It involves looking at time.

The issues for the game have to do with depth, viability, and being locked in place, not with the business model.

At the end of the day, what makes the model of Battlefront II so nasty and predatory is that there is, theoretically, a way to earn this stuff in-game… at a miserably slow and laborious pace. If you buy the game on the basis of “I can play as Darth Vader” and then have to spend a couple of months earning your way to playing as Darth Vader, you are essentially having the game you want held hostage. Even if the rest of the game is fun, it’s tainted by the fact that the thing you want is so painfully, unpleasantly slow along the way.

By contrast, if you’re having fun in Overwatch and really want a specific skin for D. Va, you’re still going to be having fun with D. Va until you get it. If you really want to try a specific character in League of Legends, you can wait for them to come around to the free rotation. And if you really want a specific card in Hearthstone, you will eventually be able to craft that card by getting random packs; it’s cheaper and faster to just get it right away, but every pack is a step toward your goal just the same.

One of the bits of advice Kurt Vonnegut offered about writing was that a story should use the time of a complete stranger in such a way that it does not feel wasted. The same is true of games.

If you had to play an hour of Battlefront II a night for a couple of days to unlock Darth Vader reliably, it’d be a mild irritation at best; you couldn’t just jump in and start at the top, but you wouldn’t feel like it was being held hostage. That is a sense of pride and accomplishment. Finishing out my “Commander of Argus” achievement in World of Warcraft gave me a sense of pride and accomplishment, because it took time but also felt rewarding and fun along the way. It wasn’t just a matter of tediously grinding for hours every day and knowing that money would just finish it.

At the end of the day, yes, we’re going to have to accept that games cost money and sometimes the things you really want cost money for various reasons. Developers need to eat and all that. But we don’t need to accept that part of the price we pay is “don’t have fun until you pay up,” and we don’t need to prop up tentpole releases with the expectation that they’ll sell even with nasty, abusive practices.

Everyone has opinions, and The Soapbox is how we indulge ours. Join the Massively OP writers as we take turns atop our very own soapbox to deliver unfettered editorials a bit outside our normal purviews (and not necessarily shared across the staff). Think we’re spot on — or out of our minds? Let us know in the comments!
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70 Comments on "The Soapbox: The long tail of game development isn’t an excuse for gouging"

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Alex Malone

For me, its all about value for money. If a game looks like good value for money, I’ll buy it. If it doesn’t, I won’t.

The problem I have (and I expect many other older gamers have) is that I’ve simply been around too long. I’m only 32, but I’ve been gaming since I was 5. I’ve seen some truly astonishing games, as well as some utterly worthless ones. This means every time a new game is released, I am judging it against 27 years worth of experience and trying to determine whether I’ll get value for money.

So, SWBF2….when I look at this game, released late 2017, I compare it to other online shooters I’ve played. Even if I simply compared it to previous series entries, the game doesn’t stand up well. The original SWBF2 from 2005 had basically the exact same mechanics and game modes, except nothing was locked and everything available on day 1. So, why would I pay lots of money in 2017 for a game that I basically already played in 2005? Even worse, when I compare the new SWBF2 to other online shooters from the last decade, you can see that it hasn’t kept pace at all and the actual gameplay is almost archaic.

And this is what happens whenever I buy a game. Most of the AAA releases are just rehashes of games we’ve seen 100 times before, just with updated graphics or a slightly different IP. Why would I pay top money for that? I’ve already played that game, I’m not gonna pay you money to play it again. I’ll spend my money on something that actually pushes the genre forwards. I’ll spend my money on a genre I don’t know. Hell, I’ll just spend my money on 4 entire games from 2 years ago in a steam sale because 2 years of graphical improvements mean shit to me.

miol
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miol

Myth busted: Overall costs (which includes labour, and is inflation corrected) are not going up, but down!
For years!

It’s only because of the dramatic reduction of overall games per year (between -50% and -80%)! Which is why the perception gets so distorted, if all the ressources are only used by a fifth or half so many games per year!

costs5.jpg
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Sally Bowls

I don’t understand what is the myth being busted? If it costs about the same money to make about half as many games, then haven’t the cost per game doubled and thus wouldn’t you expect the price per game to also double? What am I missing?

miol
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miol

Dividing it by time! And the revenue by “services”, i.e.:. microtransactions, gamblingboxes,… that only costs half as much than actual content!

miol
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miol
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miol

Sorry. I digress! /bow

You’re also missingng the overall decline of costs, regardless of how many games done, shown by the very first comment!

[I wish, the comment with the games per year chart, would have stayed together… :( ]

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Sally Bowls

Remember when there were new games to talk about not new monetizations?

From Fan Favorite SuperData
https://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/310372/PC_freetoplay_revenue_has_doubled_since_2012.php

The report suggests future game monetization may even mean triple-A publishers completely doing away with $60 products in favor of “product ecosystems.”

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Sally Bowls

I am so puzzled to see “cost” come up much. Just how often do you buy items that are priced based on costs? If an item is a Walmart store brand, then they are ruthlessly and constantly trying to reduce the cost. reduce the thickness of the material? cheaper components? make the packaging smaller? … But selling a commodity item where nothing matters but price is a tough business and most companies prefer to be in better markets and try to add some value. Most things I don’t buy is because I don’t want it that much. Of the things I do buy outside of Walmart, my guess is their price is driven by the competition more than by the cost to produce it.

Long term, things are never going to sell for less than production cost nor are they going to sell for more than the price the customer thinks a competitor’s substitute is a better value. Within those bounds, why shouldn’t prices rise to about the value the average customer regards the product? If the average homeowner thinks it is worth $10 to get their driveway shoveled, then shouldn’t the kids be charging about $10? Is some gamer going to try to find the cost of their shoveling and say the difference between that cost of production and $10 is gouging? If the average customer thinks NetFlix is worth $12/month, then why shouldn’t NetFlix price it about that? Why does the cost of production matter? I would rather pay more money for a game I loved that was cheap to produce than a game that cost a lot of money to make that I only kinda like. What is the fixation in the comments with cost?

And FFS if discussing cost, at least acknowledge that the predominant cost is the salaries, not the boxes.

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SirUrza

Games costs more but EA isn’t spending more. For the last 5 years, year after year, EA has spent less money developing games then the previous year. If games costs more they should be spending more, but they’re not. What they are doing is ruining games.

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McGuffn

That’s a great video. What gets me is they took one mode of the FIFA and decided to make it the only mode of a star wars game.

I haven’t played it but I was intrigued by the PC Gamer review that stated that one of the better ways to play Star Wars BF2 is to suicide yourself until you get to spawn as a better character.

I also wonder if that’s a leftover of taking elements of the battlefield gameplay where everyone is more or less a soldier and shoehorning it into a franchise where those characters are killed in one hit in the movies and most everyone wants to play as the iconic characters.

Solaris
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Solaris

It’s a damn shame, because DICE could have just put out the single player campaign without any controversial crap and people would be going gaga over BFII. The singly player campaign is fing amazing! I’d gladly spend $60 for DICE to do a single player Star Wars adventure FPS, with paid installments for new content. Seriously well done.

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Dug From The Earth

Its not just the grind to unlock darth vader. its the grind to unlock EVERYTHING.

Ive been playing for a solid 15+ hours now. Ive been putting all my play into the officer class, as to advance one class as much as I can.

Since playing those 15+ hours, ive unlocked a total of 3 different starcards for the officer class. 2 of which were the lowest tier, 1 was blue (3 out of 4 tiers). The blue one is one of the more worthless cards (life back on melee kill). One of the other cards replaces my grenade ability, with a worse ability (homing shot.. which was nerfed to hell and back).

I do need to point out that ive actually gotten 5 starcards for the officer, but 2 of them were duplicates, which grants currency instead (boxes cost 4000 to open, and duplicates gave me 150 in return. JOY!)

Meaning, of the 3 cards ive gotten for the officer class, only 1 is really worth using. I slot the melee one, because ive got the slot to do so, and nothing better to put in it.

Ive only managed to unlock 1 of the addition 3 officer weapons too. Just 1. And have only unlocked 1 (out of 3) mods for that weapon.

Its just soooooo horribly slow paced. Even the stuff that unlocks from achievements (ie: kill 500 enemies with XYZ weapon). Starcards are by far the worst though because its based on the time to grind the currency to buy them, and then, its 100% RNG.

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Jack Kerras

…Have you done any crafting? For 15 hours’ work, you should easily have enough crafting materials to unlock whichever abilities you want and level them up some. I’m 30 hours in with Vader, Chewy, and Iden unlocked, as well as the Assault and the Heavy using ONLY blue cards, and the three blue cards (actually four in the case of the Heavy, I like Explosive and Supercharged Sentry) are the ones that I use the most. Because I crafted and upgraded them after crafting lots of cheap white cards and figuring out which ones I feel best with.

Also, if you play a little Blast, you can help get over the hump when it comes to weapon unlocks and such; the TL-50 was a long road with three Heavy guns I wasn’t that fond of, and then unlocking its secondary fire was a bit of a bear to boot, since it required TL-50 kills instead of just Heavy kills; I get a lot of kills with Sentry. Same deal with Assault, I get lots of Vanguard kills.

Any road: just curious, since I’ve got double the time in that you do, zero purchases made, and I’m blued out with purples on the way plus two major hero unlocks.

Alfredo Garcia
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Alfredo Garcia

“That’s no moon… It’s a sausage factory!”

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Nascent Visions

Also, does anyone have any compelling evidence that skyrocketing marketing costs are contributing to this because I’m not seeing it. EA’s 10K filed for 2017 lists is marketing budgets as $673 in 2017, 622 for 2016, and 647 for 2015 (millions of dollars). That’s a 4% difference between 2015 and 2017 and an 8% difference between 2016 and 2017. Yes, those are millions of dollars and that’s a lot, but as a percentage of costs it’s pretty tame, especially for a company the size of EA. It’s definitely not enough to make me think “EA is implementing brutal lock box systems in part to cover the cost of marketing their games.”

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Nascent Visions

“Finishing out my “Commander of Argus” achievement in World of Warcraft gave me a sense of pride and accomplishment, because it took time but also felt rewarding and fun along the way. It wasn’t just a matter of tediously grinding for hours every day and knowing that money would just finish it.”

From an ROI perspective, I think this is the heart of it. Making interesting content that’s fun to play and gives the player a meaningful reward or sense of achievement is hard. And you only have to pay once to earn it. Designing and implementing lock boxes to rake in tons of cash is stupid easy and cheap by comparison and people will buy them over and over and over again. I think it’s part of the reason you’ve seen MOBAs proliferate. It cuts the cost of developing and maintaining PvE systems, content, and AI out of the equation entirely.

Skoryy
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Skoryy

This has been yet another moment of ‘What Eliot Said.’

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Utakata

And one I am not sure I can entirely agree with though. Not sure what it is I disagree with…

…perhaps it something to with the given that lockboxes and DLC’s are accepted as the norm without little questioning. And without really exploring less exploitive and more proactive ways of generating overhead. I am also getting a bit tired of hearing “games are made to make money” rolled as an excuse that we all have to accept repugnant monetization. Especially in the wake of the collapsing subscription models.

But then again, my pigtails are not made of economically libertarian thinking – they’re opposed to it. Thusly I am always seeking better ways around this where we can all win. What those ways are I have yet to fully have an answer for. This is why I am so torn about this, but can’t ultimately agree with Mr. Eliot on this. Sorry. :(

Skoryy
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Skoryy

…perhaps it something to with the given that lockboxes and DLC’s are accepted as the norm without little questioning.

I think the gaming community bombed that bridge when we readily accepted free-to-play. Once we tore out the floor on the gaming market because we decided some people could play for free while others covered the bills, well, those bills still had to be covered.

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Utakata

I never did accept the F2P model. I much prefer subscriptions, or even B2P. I know, I was blowing a kazoo in windstorm. :(

But I also never denied the bills need to be paid. I just think there are better ways out there of doing that if one ventures into F2P, IMO.

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Serrenity

To be fair, the free-conomy existed well before games went F2P in droves. Not saying it’s not a problem, just that we weren’t the first and the problems we are having were pretty much a given at some point.

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forcecomdr

I would just like to point out that these Hero characters that everyone is getting all pissed off about are NOT a base class, they are basically temporary power ups.

Of the 35 available characters and ships. only a handful are locked at the start of the game.

I have only played casually since launch and i already have every gun i want and half the mods for it. I have all the star cards i desire and have leveled a few up. I could have already purchased
a couple of the locked heroes if i wanted to and i don’t even play that much. Nor have i done the campaign which gives enough credits alone to unlock one hero.

I don’t recall any posts or advertising saying “play as every hero you want right from the start”

This all feels like a case of entitled snowflakes crying because they didn’t get everything they want when they want it. “How DARE you make me work for anything! I want it NOW!”
Reminds me of the spoiled girl in Willy Wonka.

I have not spent a dime on loot boxes and have enjoyed myself thoroughly, nor do i feel like i need to buy them to be competitive. If you just have fun and (/gasp) play the game… the unlocks will come.

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rafael12104

Ah, but your playing the game post lootbox cash grab. They took out lootboxes progression, for now. So, yup. You aren’t going to see it.

Also, there is this. According to reddit, and I will have to go find you the link, but essentially to unlock everything would cost you thousands of hours or 2 thousand more dollars. That’s $2000.00.

So if the games was launched as intended, you would pay your 60 dollars, be nerfed to hell and need 40 more hours or your cold hard cash to see the SW heros of a Star Wars game.

This isn’t a “we want to see it now” argument. This is a pay to win argument. This is predatory practice argument. Because while you might not partake their are plenty of kiddies that will, over and over and over again until they’ve broken their parents bank, or much worse, they have developed a taste for rolling the dice no matter the cost.

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traja

Using the the word “work” seems odd to me when we are talking about entertainment. I will just replace it with “time” for your benefit.

The problem is not that it takes time to unlock things. The problem is that the amount of time required is specifically designed for one purpose: To motivate you to take part in the gambling system to ease the burden.

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forcecomdr

There are those with more time then money, and others with more money then time.
I see nothing wrong with a company offering an option for the latter group.

It’s kinda like paying for parking. You can either park for free 3 blocks away and walk, or you can pay the $5 and park right there. But don’t get mad at them for offering valet parking.

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athiev

If you don’t have time to play a game you want to play, that’s a shame. The real world allows you to trade money for time by hiring people to do stuff for you. When games “let” you pay money to skip design elements, we fall into a terrible equilibrium of paying developers for their creative invention of boredom. How is this not a threat to the entire medium?

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Armsbend

When you pay for parking does the attendant wheel out a box, and three folded card and then start juggling them around…and you pick one? If you don’t get the card you want does he park your car out in the rain with the window down? If you get the middle card he farts in before he hands you back the keys? Or the last card he washes and waxes it for you?

Or do you pay him and he does what you pay him for?

mizusyu
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mizusyu

I agree, but that’s the point. You already bought the game. So, to get more you have to pay more for the convenience. It’s not an already free experience like many moba’s, where btw many time moba’s offer the chance to pay a flat rate, and get every other character that will ever be released. You can also look to the fighting genre of games like Tekken 7; where they give you every character from the start, the content you’re paying for isn’t DLC it’s already part of the base package that you bought. They are in essence paying you to play with part of a toy you already bought.

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Sally Bowls

What is gouging for a luxury good? (there is an ethical component to the price of life-saving pharmaceuticals or the price you sell gas to people fleeing a hurricane.)

Should a really bad and really good video game have to charge the same price? A mediocre game might be worth $1 on SteamSale and a better-than-existing game might be worth $120.

Is there any video game price that is gouging?????? I think $120 for GW2 mounts is quite high. But I don’t see a moral issue here; I don’t buy them. If a company does that to me enough times for things I want, then I walk away. I may be grumpy; I may disparage them on social media. But I don’t think this is an ethical issue.

It is not gouging that the most desirable Broadway tickets are approaching $1,000
https://hbr.org/2016/06/hamiltons-849-tickets-are-priced-too-low

I am very sad I am priced out of the market, but it is not gouging that 50-yard line seats to the SEC championship are on StubHub for $1600.

What EA did was wrong, stupid and insulting to the customers. Too aggressively and incompetently going for more money is going to cost them money. But IMO it would not be gouging if they charged twice as much; merely even stupider.

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Zora

Hmm comparing goods that are limited in quantity like a seat at a theater (and thus aimed at the highest bidder as demand/offer dictates) and digital goods that can be infinitely replicated at no cost might not be the best way to put it, but I do agree it’s not really about ethic as more about… being business savvy.

But are they not in fact? When you can sell as many licenses of your virtual good as you wish you are aiming at quantity of sales, but if people keep buying and ethic is not a required trait, why would they stop double dipping?

We are enabling them to, at most expect companies to better mask their practices, but stop altogether?

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traja

I’m not really sure why you view Hearthstone in such a positive light in this article. Getting a significant collection together without buying packs is nigh impossible for a new player, and the cost of keeping up has only been going up. The average competitive deck today costs as much to craft as the most expensive deck did in vanilla Hearthstone.

If regulations involving loot boxes really happen they will most certainly hit Hearthstone, and deservedly so. The only thing that it has over BF2 is the fact that it is f2p, but the game is marketed even more to children with having an emote only communication system and all. If I was a politician I would use Hearthstone as my example case.

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rafael12104

Well, where to begin here without repeating myself… it may not be possible.

So first, excellent article Eliot. It’s like grandmothers nightshirt, it seems to cover it all.

The mantra by EA, Activision and others would be more convincing if they were more transparent. From my brief assessment it is still a black box type of production.

Some costs are counted as capital investments and some are not. Some are “sunk” and some are not. The net-net is that the costs look great on Statement of Net Worth as they prop up the company for investors. And simultaneously, they are the evil behind what they deem are necessary measures to meet their financial obligations. But how they are counted is all based on the statement! TL;DR? It’s all bullshit.

So, millions of sales world wide. That’s millions of units moved every year. Additional money earned from DLC and expacs known as season passes which are only layers on top of a base game. Additional money earned by accessories, licensing, and merchandising their own IPs. And additional acquisitions and revenue streams by buying out competitors. And EA is doing us a favor by keeping prices down? LOL!!!

It’s fast becoming the day that music died for them. And, well, lets see what happens. I don’t want to jinx it. They should take a little time and reflect on fixing this situation before it is fixed for them.

TL;DR all of that either? It’s ok. Take a look the vid below, it will make you happy. It made me happy.

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Armsbend

” It’s like grandmothers nightshirt, it seems to cover it all.”

WTF??? I love the analogy!

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rafael12104

Lol. Can’t take credit. Old saying around here. My father was particularly fond of it.
“It’s like grandmothers nightshirt. It covers everything.”

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Armsbend

well I enjoyed it.

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Witches

You can’t compare a lockbox that gives you a different look from the default one in OW to another than gives you a power boost or unlocks a popular character.

The default look of any character in OW is supposed to be good, hero design isn’t deliberately bad to make the skins more desirable, MMO outfits on the other hand are ugly to make the cash shop ones desirable.

Let’s say you can play Vader right away but you use a blaster or you can’t use force choke, a lightsaber and force choke are part of what makes Vader popular, stripping these means you are not really playing him, on the other hand if you make a variant Vader with a purple lightsaber, some people will play extra to get it, but you’re not robbing people of playing as Darth Vader.

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McGuffn

If you think about it George Lucas is ultimately to blame because he didn’t have Vader change outfits before every cool scene in the movies. They can still make Beach Resort Vader and Christmas Cheer Vader skins, but are they really the same if they’re not canon? Would it have killed Lucas and Kasdan to have him storm the Hoth base with a santa hat on?

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Vincent Clark

Are we still basing some of this argument on the belief that it costs more to develop games these days? Isn’t it the other way around??

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ozzie

I’ve seen arguments of “I paid $60 for a game a long time ago, and I still pay $60 now, so games should cost more.”

And that doesn’t hold up because the market penetration of games is exponentially larger than back then, which is why costs are lowered and profits up (plus digital distribution).

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forcecomdr

Except for the fact of.. you know… inflation. Salaries are more, advertising is more, renting a building is more, electricity is more … need i go on?

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ozzie

You don’t need to go on, because the collective number crunching is vastly outpaced by the sheer volume of new sales.

Inflation and operating costs only account for so much when you now sell more in the first week than you did before with the entire lifespan of a game.

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Armsbend

Salaries are less. Inflation has been all but stagnant the past decade. Distribution costs are a small fraction of their previous levels. Only Marketing has gotten noticeably larger.

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Zora

The amusing side of that stance is how compartmentalized that entire line of thought is… if the industry (like mommy!) always knows best, consumer electronics giants must be crazy or a charity to let us purchase a LCD screen now for a fraction of what it costed at the turn of the century.

I don’t think that to be the case so, please publishers, shoulder yourselves the cost of your development choices and tone down the expenses if they are above what you can afford to invest for the price range you cannot afford to get past before the market shrinks, ok? /love, mum

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Peregrine Falcon

“I paid $60 for a game a long time ago, and I still pay $60 now, so games should cost more.”

That’s a ridiculous argument. (I realize these aren’t your words Ozzie. I’m attacking the argument, not you.)

I remember when games cost $19.99, and then $24.95, and then $29.95, then they jumped to $49.99 and they stayed there for a good long while. The price of video games has gone up. Just because you’re 12 and don’t remember the days of the $19.99 video game doesn’t mean the price hasn’t gone up.

There are numerous videos by people smarter than me explaining how the cost of making video games has actually gone down over the last decade or so. That doesn’t mean that selling DLC is bad. There’s nothing wrong with a company charging for DLC or cosmetic items to offset server costs and salaries, the ‘long tail’ if that’s what you want to call it, but hiring psychologists to help them design the most addicting lootboxes they can isn’t just exploitative it’s downright evil.

Eliot’s right. Star Wars: Battlefront II isn’t the problem. EA is the problem.

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forcecomdr

I too remember when games were that price. I also remember that once a game was out, it was done.
There were no more costs for the developers. If your box sales were higher then your cost of making it, it was a success.

Now days everything is online, there are server costs, maintenance costs, salaries of the people who maintain the aforementioned, and so on.

Developers need some way to pay for the ongoing costs of a game.

Don’t get me wrong, i’m not a fan of the loot box system, but to call them evil is intellectually dishonest.
No one is forcing you to buy anything. I’ve played many games with them and haven’t spent a dime.

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Kevin Smith

Part of what you seem to be missing is that the cost of hosting a server today vs. 10 years is way down. So yeah even though they are hosting servers and games the cost for them to do that today is not what it once was. If the cost was the same or higher yes it would be a valid argument but it is not. What they paid 10 years ago will host a server for multiple years now.

As far as the lootboxes go as long as it is cosmetic items like clothing or mounts who cares, you don’t need them to progress it is just vanity. Now if the lootboxes have something that you need to actually progress in the game then yeah they are in the wrong. I would much rather see straight out pricing for items in a cash instead of gambling and not getting what you wanted myself. But you make a shit ton more giving players items they didn’t want so they try again. The issue is more of gambling addiction is a real thing and they are hoping to prey on those people with these practices.

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StonerMk2

And no one is forcing developers to make games as a service. All those always online features are features they started slapping onto everything to try and nickle and dime customers to death with DLC and MTX. No one asked for every single AAA release to be always online.

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life_isnt_just_dank_memes

Someone needs to try and find who the person was that did the ” RNG Loot Box” at GDC and got all the people in the industry on board with this as the de facto biz model.

I have a lot of fun playing BF2, but man, the progression system in that game is actively against me playing anymore of it. It’s an unmitigated disaster of a system.

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Sorenthaz

“But it’s not gouging, it’s charging!”

miol
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miol

I hope it’s ok that I keep mentioning this Feature Creep Video, you first shared in the EA analyst article!
I just can’t stop being avid about it! /bow

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Sorenthaz

Yeah of course, I’d be doing it otherwise :p It’s good to pass that stuff around; I found it on the Star Wars Battlefront Reddit awhile ago and thought it was good information to have.

miol
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miol

Yeah, it really flipped the burden of proof for me, since publishers tend to not disclose anything, so they can keep having it easier to steer this crucial conversation into their favor!

miol
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miol

Time is actually also a good tool to look into development and how much a game costs to produce and for what amount of shelf life is that game designed for!

If Rockstar for instance goes from publishing one game every single year to a +5 years gap now with GTA5/Online until Red Dead Redmeption 2 finally comes out, of course is the investment for a game with +5 years shelf life way higher than a game with a half-life of a single year!

Of course does a game, designed with a higher grade of services and way longer support and longer shelf lives, asks for more expensive marketing, since a studio is relying on less games, which all simply costs more, but that was the studios’ decision to make a more expensive game, not some “market specific cost inflation” since distribution, costs of good sold and the technical side are on an allt ime low!

They have chosen so, because there is less risk in having a constant stream of revenue from less games, than risking it every time with so many more games.

And we players are at fault to have proven that fact, with our blind constant purchases in the mobile/social media games sector!

You can also see how indies can do awesome games with great motion capture and newest graphics, like Hellblade, without the need of those supposedly big budgests! They trimmed the fat of possible services and marketing and only concentrated on content!

That’s all better explained in more detail here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qq6HcKj59Q

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Zora

I’ll confess, despite liking to argue about latest (gaming) news with my usual victims as every jane, I have lost taste in debating this specific argument when, as Elliot pointed out, we are carefully denied by publishers the parameters that would allow us to form what civilized people define as an “informed opinion”.

The result is always a “but we don’t really know” and that lead to realize I just wasted the time I invested arguing.

What I do find comfort into is that “knowing” is relevant to me as a enlightened being but not as a consumer sheeple. The only thing I care as a consumer is not the truth of fact or the real value of the goods but the perception of it. Consumers don’t need to be right, nor win any argument. They just decide whether the price is worth the product, either in terms of money or time invested, and they keep the wallet shut if they so decide.

Prove me wrong all you like, market… wallet still is mine.

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camelotcrusade

But but but… arguing about things we don’t really know is the raison d’etre of Internet commenting. Having said that, I couldn’t agree more that we need a foundation of empirical data and published insights to inform our debates, it’s a shame there isn’t a robust secondary industry to serve up the data and analytics we need.

I work in the research industry and in many other consumer industries it’s a given that solid analytics help you make better decisions–analytics which companies are willing to pay for as the risks and rewards get higher. That spawns an industry which gathers, analyzes and sells the insights these companies need, and which also drives think tanks to publish learning to educate the industry and to justify its own relevance.

David
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David

If you want an example of a good way to implement lockboxes, look at Guild Wars 2. Yes, they drop a ton of lockboxes. And yes, they charge money to open them. But for completing certain story quests (usually at a major point in the story, like finishing a story quest thread), they give you a free key.

This allows the player to see what you can get in the box for themselves (not just what some marketing drone writes about what’s in the box) and decide if it’s worth it to pay money for keys or not.

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Armsbend

Wow a free key. Impressive. Almost like giving our free drinks in casinos.

David
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David

Better than getting no keys at all. Which is the way every other game I play does it.

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Armsbend

better they are just gone.

David
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David

Granted, but the odds of that are somewhat less than the odds of lions becoming vegetarians.

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Armsbend

Unless a major NA, EU, AUS government tell you can’t sell them or you are breaking the law.

David
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David

Well, now you’re entering a realm of even more fantasy than Guild Wars 2, so I shall leave you to your flights of fancy.

Good day.

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Utakata

That’s an odd assertion. So how is that?

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athiev

People somehow don’t believe that governments routinely regulate emergent trends in industries.

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Armsbend

I think the problem with using Blizzard as an example is this: they have some of the biggest talent in the industry – talent most developers will never have. Because of this talent they aren’t nearly as lazy or uninspired so they will make a game that fun before they make a game where the lockbox is the central driving force.

Knowing this the solution is to keep putting on the pressure and hope that a good majority of the bad developers all lose their jobs. Guys like that Evan trash analyst being chased away from the hobby completely so he can go ruin something else in life. Like a lobbyist or something.

By the by I use harsh language like trash and lazy in the hopes some of the trash reads this and feels discouraged. Sad enough where they just give up and quit. Maybe do something they were born to do. Like move to Jamaica and try to swindle old midwestern widows from their inheritances or something. Cheers!

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Sorenthaz

I think another thing with Blizzard is that they rarely ever rush content out. BF2 looks rushed in pretty obvious areas for example because EA wants that shit out a month before The Last Jedi to bank as much $$$ as possible off of the Star Wars hype train.

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Zora

Not entirely an unseen occurrence, SWTOR was rushed out unfinished to ride the xmas sale rush and back then there was not even an external hype train from a revitalized franchise to hop onto… star wars was running on fumes and inertia at that point :P

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McGuffn

One of the great recent ones was assassins creed unity. Rushed out for xmas and to be in all those holiday console bundles.

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Sorenthaz

Yeah and TOR in particular was riding off the coattails of a 2003 RPG that Bioware made.

wpDiscuz