The Daily Grind: Should being an MMO ‘whale’ absolve a player of toxicity or push him to the front of a queue?

    
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Longtime MOP reader Agemyth recently brought to our attention a couple of bits of commentary that disturb at least my own fundamental sense of fairness. In one recent Waypoint piece, an ex-mod for a trading card MMO discusses how he witnessed staff allowing a toxic player to keep on being toxic because he was a whale, spending tons of money in-game. And in a Giant Bomb chat earlier this summer, a former MMO CS rep admitted to fast-tracking requests from big spenders. “When the email comes in, the first thing we see is how much money they’ve spent on the game,” he says. (Based on later comments from the same person referring to a $100 lockbox released in the middle of the Battlefront mess, the second company appears to be Trion. Incidentally, he also says the most money he ever saw stamped on someone’s account was $130,000. Let that sink in.)

Anyway. “It doesn’t surprise me that these practices exist, but actually hearing some details about it can still bring a grimace to my face,” Agemyth says. Mine too. Does this also gross you out? Should you be able to get away with being a toxic jerk as long as you keep the dollars flowing? Should how much you spend determine whether a company answers your help requests in a timely manner? If you look at it from the perspective of the company, does it change your answer?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!

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mysecretid

Should it? No. Does it? Probably.

Most political and socio-economic systems tend to work until they hit circumstances which they can’t adapt to address effectively.

This is one example of where pure capitalism breaks down into something which the majority of participants would not wish it to become.

The answer is not communism, or any other facile anti-capitalist rhetoric. The answer remains elusive, which is why significant elements of capitalism remain problematic.

The system will either find a way to adapt to changing needs and circumstances, or it will break and fail and be replaced by something else, yet unseen.

Hey, you asked for opinions.

My opinions, anyway,

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Mr_Planthead

Have you ever been blocked from exiting an airplane by a flight attendant who was letting the first class people out before you despite the first class people not even being near the door so you stand for 20 seconds while they grab their stuff? I have. Welcome to the world. Letting toxic people get away with things I don’t like but prioritizing help because they spend a ton of money is another, especially if it means I don’t have to pay a sub.
I play a bunch of different MMO’s because they don’t have subs, if I had to pay for each one I wouldn’t be on your site reading about MMOs because I wouldn’t play many

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psytic

Gaming is a microcosm of society rich/famous people / whales or even streamers get away with all sorts of things the average person could never dream of. The same holds true in gaming. It sucks but that’s life. Rich and famous people get away with drunk driving, embezzlement, murder, treating fans like shit, spitting on them, going on racist insane rants generally with a slap on the wrist. The same happens in gaming. The average person/ non whale doesnt get away with any of this.

Vaeris
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Vaeris

The amazing thing is your surprise. You’ve been on planet earth for how long and had access to the internet for how many years?

$130,000 is pocket change to some folks. Precisely one of the major points in why a single monthly subscription is the most fair way to go. All these years has proven no company can make a completely fair and balanced MMO with cash store selling anything outside of cosmetics.

Gaming companies used to be “a bunch of nerds like us” and your friends. Not anymore. They are all about the mighty dollar/Yen/ruble/pound/won/etc. When they talk to gamers their inner monologue is “Smile and nod and figure out what this dolt likes so we can find a way to monetize it” Know that and choose your patronage wisely.

Mewmew
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Mewmew

Like the rest of the people, I’m not that against customer service prioritizing the people who spend more money. Although to me it would be about how much money was involved in their current ticket more than as a whole.

If someone is having an issue with something they spent a few hundred on or so, you seriously need to deal with them before you deal with the free player issues. That’s just the way it goes. Not only do you not want them to stop spending money, but I mean if someones real life cash is involved you simply need to deal with them before the free people because it is more important all around.

Looking up account totals however and having that change how you deal with a current issue, that doesn’t sit too well in my stomach. I know the same thing happens in *many* mobile games but it still isn’t nice to think about.

I had a recent experience with the mobile company Gumi where multiple Whales told me the treatment they experienced and suggested I contact support for a certain issue that I had also experienced. So I did expecting that I’d be treated the way they told me I would, but I was just totally shut down and given a completely different answer than they got. All three of them got their butts kissed and were given great treatment and a perfect resolution, I basically was told to go waddle in my own misery :P

Allowing toxicity because of spending, ouch, I don’t like that one. I guess it reflects our real world pretty well though doesn’t it?

Mewmew
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Mewmew

“the most money he ever saw stamped on someone’s account was $130,000”

That’s for all the people who think they’re a whale for spending a few hundred dollars. A few hundred may be a lot for you, but you’re simply a medium, medium-low or even higher end low spender to these guys – depending on the game. Actual whales spend crazy amounts.

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rafael12104

Time to wade in and the water is a little cold. So, knee-jerk reaction? Oh, hell no! To both, btw.

BUT after having a wee snack and some thinking time the answer is a bit more nuanced isn’t it.

Toxicity? Nope! Can’t have it. Look, you have to look out for what is in the best interest of the game as a whole. After all the game is the means by which money flows in to pay expenses, future content, employees and, dare I say net a little profit. Toxicity compromises a games brand and while it may be a slow float down the toilet, that is where you will go IF you don’t deal with it. Ask Trion and why the turned the page on “emergent gameplay.” No one player or group of players, whales or not, is bigger than the game.

As for whales getting preferential treatment? Well, if it doesn’t compromise the game, then yeah. It is doable and probably preferred. But you have to walk the line there too. Simple things like a priority in a queue or quicker response from tech support, sure (btw, be upfront with the player base about that). That doesn’t negatively impact the game itself. BUT, catering to a whale by changing game mechanics, for example, to suit them is a detriment to the entire enterprise.

So… TL;DR? Toxicity is not a whale’s prerogative. It is bad juju all the time. Special treatment for whales is ok, IF devs are upfront about it, and it doesn’t hurt the game as a whole.

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Rolan Storm

At least they admit it. Also if the company does not want to step in players might want to do something.

packagegrope
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packagegrope

whales also ruin games. a prime example of this is shroud of the avatar. what a lol worthy mess.

Mewmew
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Mewmew

What do Whales get in Shroud of the Avatar other than cosmetic and housing stuff? It’s not actually “power” they buy there, and they certainly haven’t ruined or even affected my experience very much.

I don’t think Shroud of the Avatar really qualifies as a game “whales ruin”. It’s fine to be jealous of people who own land plots with the overpriced housing, but actually if you play a while and build up money it’s not hard to win plots in the plot lottery.

That said, it’s the way a game is set up that ruins it or not, not the whales themselves. It isn’t their fault a game has certain ways about it, it’s the way the game is made. The game is to blame, not the whale.

Again, I don’t see Shroud of the Avatar really counting in that regard. It’s just on games that actually are affected by them, it’s no fault of the whale to follow the way the game was built for them. Whales themselves are just whaling along being speared by the companies :D

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Paul

Clearly a solid no to both questions.

Toxicity is never acceptable in any circumstances.

I’m comfortable with subscribers getting queue priority over f2p players but otherwise not.

Mewmew
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Mewmew

Yes any amount of money spent deserves the same respect and handling when it comes to Customer Service. I get if the issue is something that involves a lot more spent *at a time* you would want to deal with them first. But not their overall account history.