Monday, 12 September 2011

What are they doing with OUR money?

Anyone who haunts MMO blogs and forums sees some variation of these words a lot. The devs are "neglecting" the game, they've stopped caring, they're developing (gasp) different games (which is an infidelity like cheating on a marriage).

I actually don't like the idea at all that MMOs are an investment and we are somehow buying ownership of them.

Imagine if you did it when you bought a beer. "Hey buddy, are you going to re-invest those $3 in new brewing technology? You better not be wasting my money or I'll stop drinking and make all my friends stop drinking too."

But Eve in particular is full of people who do precisely that, most notably of late The Mittani.

I think you should buy games like you'd buy a newspaper or an ice cream. Is the value of the item in excess of the value of the money you could save by not buying it?

Of course it's a means of exerting player power and as such it's even getting meta-gamed. However in the long run it's not healthy, players don't make sound holistic decisions that improve the game for everyone else and it generates an emotional knot that has people rage-quitting over the most irrational reasons. How many long standing Eve fans will never play Eve again after a monocle they would never have bought became available in a cash shop they would never look at?

It's just plain daft.


  1. I was toying with the idea of ownership in MMOs, and what might happen if a shared ownership model was more common. (I bet player-owners would start caring about newbies getting griefed, for example.) Ultimately it would get very political very fast, but the example you're giving here shows really well what can happen when a player is SO invested in a game that they feel they have more of a stake in it than the actual owners/ devs. (See: JK Rowling fanbeings complaining that she didn't write their favourite character 'properly'.)

  2. Ha ha Harry Potter fans scare me. I met a girl in a Harry Potter fan band (which is called Wizard Rock and is apparently quite big). She told me she almost started a riot by singing a pro-Hagrid song as many fans are vehemently anti-Hagrid.

    I do like the sound of a players' cooperative MMO though. Hasta la revolucion, sister.

  3. Do we pay for the status quo of a game we're playing or its future?

  4. It's not a simple choice.

    I'm playing Eve. I am paying for the game as is, for the expectation that the game will still be around when my long term plans and skill training comes to fruition and that they will from time to time add something interesting.

    It's a little more competitive than say Vanguard where they will never add anything because they've stopped working on it.

    So the future is part of the product.

    What I don't think I'm buying is the right to tell the company to sack some of the people working on their new products and hire more people for the Eve Live team.

  5. Where I'm subscribing to a game, I'm paying $15 based on the current state of the game, in the expectation that the game will entertain me for the next month. It's entirely up to the company what they do with that money... but they have a much better chance of getting future payments of $15 if they spend some of it on improving the game in ways that I like.

    On the flip side, if I don't like what they're doing, the only impact it has on the company is they lose out on $15 a month, which is not a lot of money. I'm not egotistical enough to believe that every other player shares my likes and dislikes, and that if I go so will everyone else and the game will die. There seem to be quite a few people who don't share that perspective, though :)

  6. Personally, I find it bizarre to NOT expect Blizzard to sell you the game each month.

    It is easy to poo-poo the "It's my $15 a month" people, but their only sin is phrasing the argument poorly. I have an extra $15 laying around... if Blizzard (or whoever) wants it, they are going to have to offer me X, Y, and Z in exchange. The source of all the forum ire usually stems from Blizzard being the only game in town offering X & Y, but not Z. Like a car with an unidentifiable rattling sound, it is way better than nothing but frustrating nonetheless.

    I mean, really, why should people NOT complain about getting less value for their money? Quality drops, price is the same. If you would not subsidize AT&T in this way, why would you do so for Blizzard?

  7. If my favorite brewer changed the recipe for my favorite beer, and if I thought I had any hope at all in convincing them to reverse their decision, then of course I would attempt to do so.

    If I felt that ranting on forums, or publicly trying to convince a large number of people to boycott the brewery were effective tools, then of course I would engage in such activities.

    Customer behavior designed to manipulate the developers into focusing their efforts on activities preferred by the customer is not daft at all.

  8. Hmmm. Beer is a poor analogy for Eve, the latter being a highly intricate one-off product and the former an easily replicated comestible. While there are other MMOs, Eve is something of an n of 1.

    Even allowing the simple comestible analogy, if there were as few beer substitutes as there are Eve substitutes, and the drink were wildly popular, the manufacturer could find themselves on the receiving end of the torches and pitchforks treatment.

    Remember "new" Coke?

  9. The games company is both service and referee. By emphasising the service role the MMO players are de-emphasising the referee role.

    So when players demand buff paladins or I leave customer service logic suggest the companies should buff paladins.

    This is deeply unhealthy for the long-term fun of a game.

    It's particularly bad for gameplay elements with subtle benefits. MMOs tend to have peaks and troughs, times of excitement and times where things are slower. This is good and keeps things interesting. If you leave it to the players they will advocate all excitement all the time.

  10. If ALL (or even most) of your players demand that you buff paladins, by all means buff paladins. If one player, no matter how vocal or internet-famous he may be, demands that you buff paladins, then buffing paladins might keep his $15 and lose a thousand other players. A smart game company is looking for the greatest long-term good for the greatest number of players. A lot of players just aren't capable of seeing that, and even the otnes who do tensd to ignore it and advocate what's good for themselves personally.

    To relate it back to the current tantrum by the Goons, maybe CCP have good info that there are a lot more "walking in stations" players than hardcore PvP captains, and it makes good sense for them to concentrate on turning the game into Second Life in space. LOsing the pleasure of the Mittani's company in return for a couple of huindred thousand extra subscribers might be a trade-off they're willing to make :)

  11. I think their vision is of a fully featured virtual world where almost anything that can be imagined in a sci fi story can be played out in the game.

    It's a majestic ambitious vision that will take years to implement and is very grand.

    It's also a plan that relies on not listening to players as there is almost no player buy-in. If we accept that players have an inalienable right to trash any game experience not immediately gratifying then it's the sort of thing we lose.

  12. "A smart game company is looking for the greatest long-term good for the greatest number of players."

    For a game company, the better long-term strategy is to develop another game which increases the number of players available to them overall.

    From the MMO player perspective, we want OUR game to grow and improve. Taking money from OUR game to develop ANOTHER game is considered neglect. Taking money from OUR game to create ANOTHER game that competes with OUR game - sacrilege! (Cryptic springs to mind here.)

    But from a game studio point of view, it is near certain death to have all your revenue come in off one product. Someone like Paragon Studios might make themselves popular with players by focusing only on CoH/V, but as that player base dwindles they have less and less revenue coming in (and in that case are going F2P to open up that player base again).

    Assuming that MMOs hang around for 5 or so years, if a game studio wants to survive they need to be planning a whole range of games well ahead of the curve and working on them. This might not make their current players happy, but that's a short-term pain for longer-term survival.

  13. Game developers should be able to direct resources based on opportunity costs and cost/benefit analysis. If a game is worth spending money on to develop more content then so be it. In a pay per month MMO it is advantagous to develop new content as long as subscriptions outweigh the cost of developing the new content.

    From a player's perspective, if I were playing an MMO and my focus was endgame content, I would want to know what a company's long term plan for end-game is. For instance, lets say I find out a developer is going to stop adding new content for a game 2 months from now. If I am looking for a game that will keep me entertained for a year or more, then this may not be the game for me. I as the consumer need to do my own cost/benefit analysis. A developer's long term commitment to adding new content to a game a year from now may be a contributing factor in making me want to play and establish myself in an MMO today in anticipation of this new content.

    In short, as a paying MMO customer I would expect the company to be honest about their long term commitments for the game. This way I can make an informed decision on whether their product/service is right for me.