Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Money Makes The Gaming World Go Round

Originally posted on Forces Of Geek Thursday 4th June 2015. Obviously, despite what I wrote...there was a Fallout 4 game announced - I wrote this before it went live on Forces of Geek and decided not to edit it so close to my deadline. Aaaaanyway...I have watched the Fallout 4 trailer repeatedly for days, so should you. Once you've read this, I think you should go and watch it. In the words of Shia LaBoeuf or sports brand Nike (I don't know anymore); JUST DO IT.



As a lover of RPGs, in both table top and video game form, I have been eagerly anticipating Elder Scrolls Online for my Xbox One console, this is because my computer lacks the right equipment to run PC games and also because in my youth, I kind of sucked at dual wielding a keyboard and a mouse. My lacklustre PC gaming history aside, naturally I have been super psyched up about ESO, only to discover last month that not only will I have to pay £45 for the game but in order to play I will also need to adhere to a monthly subscription charge of £15!

Understandably, I was pissed off. Why should I have to pay an additional £15 on top of the price of a game? Not only that, I'm also an Xbox Live Gold member so I already pay for online gaming services. I understand that ESO is an MMO like World of Warcraft and I understand subscription fees but what really twists the dagger already buried deep within my flesh is fact that Playstation Network members do not have to pay the subscription charge.

I was as angry as these guys...
The Gods of Tamriel must be shining down on me however, as more recent announcements have stated that the subscription fee plans have been ditched and despite being a huge sigh of relief I still feel the pain in my side from the betrayal because there still exists an optional subscription fee where players are able to reap the benefits of 10% bonus to experience point gain, cheaper items, extra gold acquisition and any additional content.

As I'm writing this, Bethesda have released advanced news of a pending Fallout game (as I said, this is as I'm writing, it could be massive hoax...again. I'll believe it when I see it!), if these trends continue and companies can't help but syphon additional funds from consumers, there is more than a chance that the second Fallout 4 announcement could be subscription fee based or involve in-game purchases.



If people, myself included, get this excited over an on-screen counter page which only counts down to an announcement, then of course companies like Bethesda will want to find a way to make more money from Fallout fans. Some of you will remember that time that Bethesda sold protective armour for your horse in Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, it wasn't overly expensive but the armour had no actual effect (well, other than making your horse look badass).

Oblivion: Pimp My Horse Edition
Of course, players were less than impressed and Bethesda received mass complaints, to which they responded with later releasing extra quests and characters for the same price. That was back in 2006, when most companies were beginning to trial DLC, so they can be forgiven...if they don't announce Fallout 4 though, I don't think I'll be quite so forgiving.

To draw on an example from the cinematic world, it poses a similar danger to post 3D conversion. Even directors who flat out opposed filming in 3D (like one of my favourite directors, Guillermo Del Toro) can be persuaded to adopt their films and hinder their artistic integrity for the additional funds that 3D brings.

And if you're thinking, Ubisoft would never...Valve would never...Bethesda would never...etc. you have to remember that we are dealing with companies here and at the end of the day entertainment is a byproduct and revenue is paramount. If they're not monetising their product to the maximum then as a business, they are failing. If you're under the impression any one company is above this then their games would all be free.

Contemporary games have been exploiting gamers with DLC and map-packs for years. These optional costs don't hinder your gaming experience that much, although having tried to play Titanfall online without having purchased the season pass or certain map packs I discovered that my time in the lobby was greatly increased because everyone else on the servers wanted to play the newer maps, and who can blame them? I certainly didn't cave in and buy the season pass (I totally did...In my defence though, it was on offer!).

We're very quick to attack freemium games with their hidden extra costs. Mobile games like Clash of Clans remain popular because people playing those games are often happy to spend extra money (or have stolen their parents credit card information) but before we berate these games for ruining the games industry, let's not forget that they were all spawned from contemporary gaming models.

Erm....okay then...

..wait....WHAT?!
It's precisely because there are gamers who are willing to pay extra for special items and avid fans of franchises who have no problem spending additional money on new maps or game modes that freemium games exist. Freemium games took the model of paying for in-game perks or DLC from the very companies we love.

Without micro-transactions and extra paid for content, most games will make enough to cover the cost of their creation and the wages of everyone involved, whilst making a pretty decent profit on top. However consider this, a few years ago EA's DLC revenue was higher than its physical sales...yes, you read that correctly, they made more money on DLC than they did on physical copies of the games they made.

I miss those days when you only had to make a single purchase for a whole game. Single purchases aren't enough anymore, companies want consumers to keep buying like addicts. There's potential money to be made in DLC and this also extends to sequels and spin-offs so not offering these things is akin to losing money. The Holy Grail of continuous revenue is the stream payment of things like FIFA packs. According to Wikipedia (so, who knows if this actually true);
"Players and other items are acquired in the form of cards, which are obtained through buying packs... packs can be purchased with coins, which are earned through playing FIFA Ultimate Team matches or with FIFA points, which must be purchased with real world money."

The EA store is so kind that it even let's you buy 12,000 FIFA points for the completely reasonable and not at all insane price of £71.99! You only need to look on YouTube to find a whole barrage of videos featuring screaming nutbags freaking out over what they've received in a digital card game that they've paid hard-earned money for - WHERE ARE MY BLUE CARDS?!

While the words 'exclusive content' might sound good, those two words can actually damage the original game. They suggest that games bought on release day are somehow incomplete to begin with and many players who don't buy additional DLC or content are left feeling cheated, like that time all your friends went out without you because you couldn't afford to socialise due to an unexpected bill.

Sure, you feel boring for refusing to come out and play and despite being a responsible adult and doing the sensible thing (being good with finances is a virtue, damn it!), you can't help but feel that pang of sadness when a million pictures of your friends having the best time start to appear all over your social media feeds.

At least you can drown your sorrows and play a video game though right? Except...ah, bugger.

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