The Guardian's just published my latest column, "Developers still finding that it pays to get in the game," about the increasingly prevalent online game practice of selling items to players, and the parallels this has to the download wars:
Official, game-sponsored exchanges for real-money trades (RMTs) are more than places where players can swap goods for money. Fundamentally, these exchanges act as an honest broker between two extremely different types of player: cash-rich/time-poor players (people with jobs, for the most part) and time-rich/cash-poor players (retirees and young people). Seen through this lens, a "game" is just a bunch of applied psychology that makes kids work long hours to earn virtual gewgaws that adults are trained to desire. In this "Free to play, pay for stuff" world, kids are alienated from the product of their leisure by a marketplace where the game-company skims a piece off of every transaction.
Developers still finding that it pays to get in the game
The psychology of this is fascinating, since it all only works to the extent that the game remains "fun". One key element is that skilled players (eg kids) must not feel like the rich players are able to buy their way into positions of power. Game devs are advised to sell defensive items - shields, armour, dodging spells, but not offensive ones. A skilled player will still be able to clobber a heavily armoured rich player, given enough time (and skilled players have nothing but time, by definition), but may quit in disgust at the thought that some rich wanker is able to equip himself with a mega-powerful sword or blaster that gives him ultimate killing power. No one wants to play in a game where one player has an "I win" button.
For me, the most fascinating thing about this is how it can be seen as the application of the business model that downloaders have been advocating since Napster: "Don't sue the kids who download your music or movies, rather, see them as the marketing that sells the same media to cash-rich adults who lack the time to use P2P software."
Every Ozimal digirabbit in the venerable virtual world Second Life will starve to death (well, permanent hibernation) this week because a legal threat has shut down their food-server, and the virtual pets are designed so that they can only eat DRM-locked food, so the official food server’s shutdown has doomed them all.
Netflix has become one of the main forces for DRM in the world, a driver behind the W3C’s dangerous, web-scale DRM project, and now they’ve announced that their app will no longer run on rooted/bootloader unlocked Android devices, because these devices can run code that overrides Google Widevine DRM (Widevine doesn’t work well under the […]
Today, activists will gather in Cambridge, Mass to march to the offices of W3C Director Tim Berners-Lee to urge him to keep DRM out of the standards for the open web.
Yes, yes there is. The ultraportable Twisty Glass Mini boasts all of the simplicity of its forebear, while fitting just a little bit better in your pocket.The Mini is perfect for casual smokers, and anyone who doesn’t have the patience or fine motor skill for rolling papers. This piece keeps the convenient design of its older […]
Learning to code is a perfect way to grow your technical sophistication, and open up a host of new career options. But since most “learn to code” initiatives focus heavily on web development, it can be tough to find good resources for general-purpose computer science outside of a 4-year degree program. To get a broad […]
While many newer smartphones boast decent water resistance, most of us are still stuck with the kind of handsets that need to spend the night in a bowl of rice when they get wet. If you want to enjoy your favorite podcasts in the shower but are holding out for your next phone upgrade, this […]