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."
One of the music industry’s dumbest, most pernicious talking-points is the “value gap” (AKA the “value recognition right”) which is code for, “Online platforms should employ an army of copyright lawyers to assess everything that users share for copyright compliance.”
In 2011, the Canadian Conservative government rammed through Bill C-11, Canada’s answer to the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, in which the property rights of Canadians were gutted in order to ensure that corporations could use DRM to control how they used their property — like its US cousin, the Canadian law banned breaking DRM, […]
Ten years ago, a group of engineers and media executives sat down to decide what was, and was not, a real family. The results were predictably terrible.
Maybe it’s entirely because of podcast ads, but drag-and-drop tools like Squarespace have gotten immensely popular in recent years. While it’s definitely a great tool for any non-coders who want to get a small website up and running quickly, managing content with a primarily visual interface can become a pain once you have more than […]
When you can’t wait for the world’s longest meeting to end, the mindless leg bouncing makes your boredom obvious and just annoys everybody else. Everyone knows the TPS reports need the damn cover sheet, but some sadistic colleague keeps forgetting, probably on purpose just to eat into your lunch hour. Enough is enough!While serving a […]
What could be more fun than a slingshot that shoots tiny airplanes? A slingshot that shoots tiny glowing airplanes of course! These toy planes are outfitted with ultra-bright LEDs, so you can fly all night without losing them in the trees.Whether you are a regular-sized child, or an overgrown adult one, these light-up flyers offer […]