So the abominable Tobold speaks again. The mmo blogging equivalent of Seinfeld’s Uncle Leo, a person who occasionally has brief moments of insight but that are largely wrapped in a layer of antiquated crazy…. Not me, that’s a modern kind of crazy.
Ok so just let me exude a large sigh and we’ll continue with the actual reply.
Ok, so first off I just wanted to make it clear that I don’t see anything inherently wrong with the free to play model. I have supported it in the past; about $60 on hearthstone so far, $50 on Firefall, another 50 on gw2 and that not including the box. $30 on Hawken, a bit more on TSW, and then there are a plethora of other games where I’ve dropped small amounts. I will readily support these types of games when I don’t feel I am being exploited and when, like many, if I find the game fun.
Often I find though that the Monetisation mechanics inhibit on that fun, example Archeage. They will get nothing. Mobile titles often fall in this demographic as have a lot of recent ftp games and even those going buy the box.
Next let’s move on to the argument at hand and just how wrong it is. The crux was that marketing towards whales is ok because it mostly involves wealthy professionals spending what they can actually afford. This was referenced in an interview he linked about some clash of clans whales.
Now I’m just wondering when the outliers of a demographic somehow became representative of it because I didn’t get that memo from my bullshit daily subscription. From what I understand, of course there are a few high income individuals regularly spending huge sums of money but from most reports, and accounts from players many of the larger purchases are more one off bills, or larger sporadic payments. And yes, these do mostly come from the middle to lower class spectrum.
The data does indeed show that the median market for these games is in the 30’s but I’m wondering when, or how it was determined that a higher median age meant a much higher overall income. The median is greater yes but based on market research its the younger demographics that have a higher median disposable income. The older you get the more shit you have to pay; mortage, car loans, kids education and just random daily sucky things.
LOOK MA, I can link to random internet articles too!!
Gamasutra I think did the largest survey of the players who are spending to much on free to play games and yes, it seemed the vast majority of accounts were people spending more than they could possibly afford. Rent, food budgets and quality of life purchases. It is their livelihood that is effectively being flushed down the mobile markets Mystic Forge.
The myth of only those with high income getting involved is a myth, and at the very best an outlier
The other article article used by Tobold from Game Industry is with a couple developers from Ghost Recon online. For Tobold this is used to show that not only are whales all wealthy, their purchases are mostly rational. *insert laughter here*. If you do actually read the article rather than peruse the heading it goes on to say that the monetisation of this game is vastly different than the usual, and more dangerous mobile titles. The developers talk about how different their audience is, the strategies they’ve employed and, what the data from purchases within this game shows. So yeh, another outlier. Well done Tobold that’s 2 for 2 so far.
Most of the Data and theories around the mobile market about effectively siphoning out the cash of players actually tries to avoid rational purchases. There are a number of mechanics used to manipulate understanding and that utilise strong psychological practices. Virtual currencies are a popular thing, used in casinos for the precise fact that people don’t associate it, as much, with real money and thus elements of guilt, regret and caution aren’t as present. This means more overall risk taking behaviours.
Their are a range of other practices too. Cognitive Psycholgy techniques like operant conditioning have been used for decades now to change normal behaviour just because of how damn effective it is. They manipulate the feelings of skill and mastery, a technique often used in brain washing as it lower feelings of self efficacy and self worth. Something that makes players more vulnerable to the many other suggestive elements within that basically say “BUY NOW YOU HOPELESS SHITHEAD!!”. Of course there is that moment of elation when the funnel of cash is open that serves as a reinforcer, as well as a nice big hit of Dopamine (you know, the chemical in a brain that activates when you get high).
So no, it’s far from being rational and more trending towards the manipulative.
Cash Cow Kids
And then there is the elements of these games that are specifically targeted towards kids; be they the mechanics, visuals or marketing. The issues with this is widely reported with some absolutely extremely high cases showing up from time to time as well as wealth of smaller but still large charges. These luckily are still regulated with charge backs being common and even full class lawsuits against these companies because, even a blind justice system in the pockets of corporations knows this shit is wrong.
Oh, and lets not forget how the wording within these online market places had to be changed away from free lately due to how manipulative it was. Yeh… these practices are the model of decent and ethical practices.
Can I stop now?
As for Tobolds third link that looked at the actually demographics of the mobile market, apart from the news that woman are the superior species here with not being suckered in as much it is mostly inconsequential. Well, inconsequential apart from debunking Tobolds argument entirely. One of the points he had, and those in the comments was that many mmo’s can be just as manipulative too, which is true, but this is mostly focused on time. Therefore you have two customer resource each being marketed towards although, this isn’t exactly true either as it’s not a zero sum game, it isn’t one or the other for the mobile market. Yes there are those spending vast amounts of money but going by the data he linked, those spending a lot of money are ALSO spending a lot of time. So not only are they going to waste all their money, they are going to waste a lot of their precious time as well.
And seriously, are we forgetting a couple years ago when the Zynga stock price crashed. That is the sort of thing we have to look forward to if these companies continue to erode customer confidence. I do wonder if things don’t shape up, and they continue with these practices if we will have a new industry crash to look forward to like happened in the 80’s. You peddle your shitty shovelware and eventually the house of cards collapses. Those that get in early are probably happy with the piles of cash but where does that leave everyone else?
Now can I please go back to ignoring him again. I promise I still won’t be good.