Extra Credits on how to win, lose, and measure gamer trust

How does a “great series get driven into the ground,” eroding player trust? That’s precisely the subject tackled in a recent edition of the always-awesome Extra Credits. EC argues that a quality video game with solid sales is frequently followed up by a lower-quality game with solid word-of-mouth and heavier marketing, that tramples its much-deserved criticism with stronger box sales and strong profits. Rinse and repeat that process enough and the playerbase loses faith in the developer. Sound familiar?

“Now obviously, not all franchises are going to see that sort of linear decline in quality, but in this scenario where review scores are slowly falling despite rising profits, if you only look at the things that you have hard data for – skimming the surface level of [those] data rather than aggressively digging down into all of [their] root causes – you won’t see the real damage that diminishing quality is doing until it’s too late.”

In other words, EC argues, in the short term, doing things like, oh I dunno, shoving a ton of gross microtransactions into a game will make a ton of money, but over the long-term, player trust erodes to the point that people won’t buy the next one. And true to form, EC suggests that soft data – like simply asking players how much they trust a company intermittently – can help game studios see more clearly when their short-term development and business actions are gearing up for long-term doom.

The whole episode’s below!

Source: Extra Credits. Thanks, Tanek!
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25 Comments on "Extra Credits on how to win, lose, and measure gamer trust"

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Cypher

Egosoft!
Oh and Kerberos too!

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Alex Malone

One other thing to remember is the artistic talent behind video games.

That first game in a franchise may have been the brainchild of a designer who’s been thinking about it for years. They’re highly motivated and have a very clear vision for what they want to achieve.

But sequels….their timescales are shorter, the original designer might have burnt out or moved on. The circumstances surrounding a sequel are very different so I imagine in a lot of cases it simply isn’t possible to reach the same standards.

That doesn’t excuse the mistakes and excessive monetisation of course, but might explain the drop in quality of storylines / world building etc. The same happens in music and television too: first album or first series are great, but sequels quickly drop in quality and it’s hard to keep a franchise fresh and exciting for extended periods of time.

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CasualSlacks

Note: Extra Credits is definitely worth following even if you don’t always disagree with their conclusions. I especially like their Extra History videos which are completely unrelated to games.

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Utakata

Soft data…something Republican tax bills should use. But I digress… o.O

…great vid! Kinda reminds me of the many decisions that developers rolled out other than just business ones, that could of used other metrics as opposed to just hard data in making it work. Whether it was class balances, game direction and/or new fangled mechanics…to which some of those had obviously not taken in the human/player factor. As those decisions seem to go over like a lead balloon with the playerbase in the end.

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rafael12104

Hmm. I have much to say about this. But I will keep it in check and manage my anger. Lol.

Dumbass corporate executives perpetually live in a bubble, but get reminded every now and again that they aren’t immune to vagaries of a free market. They talk about shaping demand, and don’t realize what the fuck that means until it is too late. They love their investors but don’t respect their customers and are in shock when a market shifts away.

I’ve seen this first hand in my line of work. I’ve been in meetings where decisions are made to ship a faulty product with no regard for customer loyalty. I’ve seen cost benefit analytics on shipping shit because it is more profitable. I’ve seen proposals of imaginative ways to force customers to return again and again and again to the same shit.

Heh. I better stop there.

Like a few others here, I am now convinced that the only way to stop the type of mentality I describe above in the video game industry is a crash. A hard one with explosions and aftershocks.

I’d love for loot boxes to be that lynch pin.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

It’s estimated that 21% of CEOs are psychopaths. I could link, but there’s way too many articles about this. Psychopaths feel no remorse and can’t form attachments. Hence, it is easy for them to ship shitty stuff and not care about customer loyalty. It might even be their goal.

It’s way too easy to assume people making decisions have normal personalities, when some of the time this is simply not true. If their company did crash and burn, they wouldn’t give a hoot. Psychopaths are a particularly charming lot and have no trouble getting others to trust them. Rinse and repeat.

That aside, companies used to be very interested in the long-term. They made their decisions to invest in infrastructure and produced outstanding products based on the idea that they wanted to be around in 10-20 years. Customer loyalty was extremely important in such an environment.

Nowadays, nobody thinks past the next quarter or the current fiscal year. It’s all about how much you can get in the shortest possible time and then sell off your company and make millions. There’s absolutely no point in building or maintaining customer loyalty under these circumstances.

For myself, my turd radar has gone way up. I don’t trust any developers or publishers any longer. It doesn’t matter who they are, or were. Doesn’t matter how excellent their past games were. With very few exceptions they have all fallen prey to “publish now, maybe patch later” and carving out sections of their games to sell as over-priced DLC, sometimes on release day.

As a result, I’m actually a lot happier as a gamer. I have zero expectations and am never disappointed.

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Schmidt.Capela

It’s estimated that 21% of CEOs are psychopaths. I could link, but there’s way too many articles about this. Psychopaths feel no remorse and can’t form attachments. Hence, it is easy for them to ship shitty stuff and not care about customer loyalty. It might even be their goal.

In large part that is because the kind of decision a CEO has to make, and in particular the required actions to save a company that isn’t exactly healthy, are extremely painful for empaths.

Imagine if you had to fire a really nice employee, one whose family depends on the money he brings, in order to save a company. Would you be able to sleep at night? What about if it were a hundred employees? Worse yet, what if you were forced to do that not to save the company, but to increase the bottom line, because otherwise the board would fire you and find someone else who would show even less compassion?

Empaths have a really hard time with that. Sociopaths and psychopaths have it far easier.

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rafael12104

Yup. I don’t know the data on the CEO psychopaths, lol. But I agree with you. My problem is that now and then I find a game worth the bullshit. And I see what can be done. There were several games in other genres released this very year that show that games can be great and profitable without the bullshit.

Cuphead, Nier: Automata, Horizon Zero Dawn, Zelda, etc. etc. It is a long list. None of them include loot boxes. None of those games include lying to players. None of them are defeatured to sell a DLC.

And so it goes. Zero expectations? Is that what it has come too? You might be right.

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ozzie

Yup, but not every game can be great unfortunately. Those games you mentioned were made with the simple assumption that a quality game will sell. Often the games with loot boxes are from publishers who can’t make a quality game, or are afraid and want a cushion in case they fail, or just don’t care. Loot boxes seem to be simply a way to prop up mediocre or bad games, allowing the publisher to still make money (Blizz the exception of course).

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Zen Dadaist

The hinted-at names and recent situations are visible in the subtitles ;)

Buuuuut yeah. Wonder if anyone from Trion will forward this one up the chain…

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Sray

They posted this a couple weeks ago. Given their production time they either rushed it, or it’s actually a coincidence that it came out less than a week after SWBF2. Either way, it’s a fantastic burn on EA (and AAA publishers in general) without ever mentioning names.

miol
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miol

It is not worthwhile to try to keep history from repeating itself, for man’s character will always make the preventing of the repetitions impossible.-Mark Twain

If devs/studios/publishers continue to refuse to learn from their own industry’s past mistakes… ;P

For anyone else, who wants to learn from history what is bound to happen, if the industry keeps on refusing to acknowledge their original nature, to finally be able to veer off of it:

http://thedoteaters.com/?bitstory=the-great-video-game-crash&all=1

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Armsbend

I’m hoping 2018 is the year. It seems to be a perfect storm of events. Lockbox drama. Crowdfunding legal drama and endless delays. Lack of innovation and quality. And more importantly, when putting your future fortunes into the casual, fickle market of mobile – a people who can become bored quickly or chase any number of other fads – then the potential for failure is large.

All it takes is for income to dry up – not necessarily go away. If people content themselves spending a few hundred a year, versus the industry desire of $1000s then there will be a bloodletting. I’m hoping for pools and pools of developer blood.

Figuratively. Seriously, not real blood. That’s gross and sadistic.

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rafael12104

I’m right there with you. It sounds drastic, but, what else is there? Honestly, the lesson has to be learned, and you know, I’m sure it will be forgotten in time. Nevertheless, they industry has to correct itself or suffer. So far, it seems, aside from a few developers there is little appetite for correction.

It wasn’t always like this. Jacobs and a few other devs remember the old days and what that was like, more of a partnership between dev and player. We need each other, so to speak. Lol. Now, it’s us versus them. And yeah, EA had a lot to do with that over the years.

There is still a glimmer of hope with CU, Project Gorgon, and even companies like Square Enix. They understand brand. That, how you do something is just as important as what you do. That the perception of who you are as dev or company is extremely valuable. And, most importantly, that if you things the right way, your profit windfall will be assured in the future with customer loyalty.

Square, as I mentioned, and Nintendo both know this lesson well as far as AAA’s go why can’t others clue in?

Meh, crash it. Nuke it from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

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Sray

Arms… maybe a couple paper cuts?

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Armsbend

So EC is talking about fan’s losing trust in a brand over time because of falling quality in sequels of a hit. You can just as easily say consumers simply tire of the same brand over time. COD 4 came out 11 years ago. Any consumer is going to stray after 11 separate titles over 11 years – it doesn’t matter what the quality is.

And frankly, why would any developer care? If you sell 10-20M units every year for 10 years does it matter if fans stray? Of course not, you’ve made more money on one brand with as little work as possible that you can simply toss away the husk.

It really only matters on sports titles – because you can have the license yanked if you don’t perform. And there is only one company that makes sports titles – EA – and their data shows that everything they do is a massive success.

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Fenryr Grey

Unless the straying or very angry gamers today will have children down the road.

And btw. CoD’s peak was 2011 with 36M units sold and 2015 it’s 25M units sold. The trend shows downwards for 4 subsequent years. (Don’t have the data for 2016 and 2017) Maybe they should care but I hope they don’t ;)

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Armsbend

36M units. Good heavens that is a lot.

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Fenryr Grey

oh shit, I just realised that I’m fake news. it’s 30.6M in 2011 and not 36M. Still a lot tho.

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Cosmic Cleric

Fenryr Grey
oh shit, I just realised that I’m fake news. it’s 30.6M in 2011 and not 36M. Still a lot tho.

If you were fake news you would not have corrected yourself.

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Sray

There’s also 2K Games. They’re pretty big, and they just took the piss all over player trust with NBA 2K18.

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Armsbend

Before EA sucked up all the exclusive rights there used to be fantastic competition in sports titles. Anyone remember the ESPN sports games? They were pretty good at the time. Another reason to hate EA – killing competition. It is the only way they can succeed.

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Nick

Taking out the competition entirely is an all too common business tactic.

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Schmidt.Capela

Which is why EA didn’t bother to use many of the franchises they purchased. Their intent wasn’t to make money by producing new games in those franchises, but to kill competitors to their already existing franchises.

This is one of the reasons I have a very dim view of exclusivity deals. Without proof of the contrary I always assume any game born under such a deal to be a shitty cash grab, regardless of the studio or the marketing budget.

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Armsbend

Good point. Buy your competitors, suck down the IPs and then toss away the carcass.

wpDiscuz