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."
Kirby Ferguson, who created the remarkable Everything is a Remix series, has a new podcast hosted by the Recreate Coalition called Copy This and he hosted me on the debut episode (MP3) where we talked about copying, creativity, artists, and the future of the internet (as you might expect!).
James Cawley is a 50 year old Elvis impersonator from Ticonderoga, NY; his friend William Ware Theiss was costume-designer for the original Star Trek series, and left Cawley the blueprints for the original Star Trek Enterprise sets in his will — so Cawley rented out a 13,000 sqft shuttered supermarket and built an exquisite replica […]
In much of the world, copyright ends 50 years after the creator’s death, in some of the rest of the world, it ends 70 years after the creator’s death; in the USA, things have stopped going into the public domain until 2019 (unless America decides to retroactively extend copyright…again!).
The Black Friday Mac Bundle 2.0 is one of the Boing Boing Store’s best-selling Mac bundles yet, and it’s about to come to an end. If you don’t get your copy now, here’s what you’ll be missing:This bundle comes packing 9 top-rated Mac apps in one package, at the hugely discounted price of just $23.99. […]
The Boing Boing Store’s Gift Guide is full of ideas for pretty much anyone in your life like hipster ice cub trays, Xbox controllers, Halo Boards, and even diamond necklaces. As always, all products in the Boing Boing Store come at great discounts, too. Shop by price bucket starting at under $20. Under $20:Bloxx Jumbo Ice Trays […]
Unlike traditional lighters, the SaberLight features an electronic plasma beam that’s both rechargeable and butane-free. This sleek lighter is even approved by TSA, so you’ll never be stuck buying lighters you’ll just have to throw away partially used. For some people, like me, this is a pretty big game-changer. The SaberLight’s beam is actually both hotter and cleaner […]