Do you remember the first time you gambled? It’s funny, most of us can remember every detail of our first alcoholic beverage yet the other is seemingly impossible to pinpoint. The reason behind which is quite alarming because for anyone born from the early 90s onwards, there’s been a silent killer. May I present to you, the modern videogame.
Think about it: Videogames at their very core have all the necessities of an addictive gambling machine. They are visually stunning, sound incredible and have just that super-addicting interactive element of chance that just keeps you coming back. Already there are horror stories of kids racking up thousands in debt on their parents credit cards.
But are we really at the brink of impending doom?
Now I know what your thinking, this only seems like a fairly new problem, we can just fix it now. But see, for the most part, the ground work for the practice has been slowly ramping up year by year.
The practice itself is called a “micro-transaction” (abbreviated as MTX) and is a fairly common mainstay it free-to-play mobile games such as “Clash of Clans” or “Candy Crush.”
It essentially allows the game designers to create a revenue stream whilst still allowing players to play the game for free. In fact, it’s a practice that now pretty much the entire videogame industry must do in order to keep up with its competition.
The practice has plagued savvy gamers for the better part this decade however there has recently been a rather exciting development in the case against MTXs.
In late 2017, Electronic Arts became the poster-child for evil game publishers with their highly anticipated release of Star Wars: Battlefront II.
As a quick rundown of the incident; Electronic Arts (EA) made the decision to tie in-game progression (e.g. character level, abilities & weapons) to a completely randomised loot-box system.
Now you might put on your monocle and top hat and say “oh well that’s a common thing nowadays, its only good business.” But unfortunately, they chose to do this to one of the beloved media franchises of the last few decades.
This may come as a shock, but the news did not go down so well with fans.
Forums blasted EA to the point that their response to the outcry became the most down-voted Reddit comment of all time.
Eventually after seeing this, they pulled all micro-transactions from the game with less than 24 hours to its release.
This of course also spawned a glorious slew of memes:
Battlefront II’s sales absolutely tanked and the game reached eternal infamy as a ‘what-not-to-do’ case study.
But it didn’t stop there.
Not only did EA wipe $3 billion dollars off its share value, but it also caused US state legislators to propose regulating microtransactions under gambling acts.
But its not like games developers necessarily want this? Right?
No the reasoning behind this practice is actually a very unfortunate love triangle.
Firstly, we’ll look at a publisher’s perspective. Quite simply put, they are a company. A company’s primary objective is (usually) to maximise profits. Microtransactions and random chance systems have proven to do this. It is therefore appealing to them.
Next, we have the consumer who, well, wants a good game that is worth their money. Many people have treasured memories playing good games with good friends and want this to continue.
Lastly is the game developers themselves. These people are passionate about their jobs, they want to make good games because they know that people enjoy them. The only thing is, publishing a game is very, very expensive. So you need a publisher! Yay.
If this is a little hard to follow, below is a beautifully constructed diagram of the video-game love triangle.
So here we are, stuck between a rock and a hard place.
As a gamer myself, I want to be optimistic, that there is light at the end of the tunnel, that one day, things will go back to how they were. However for the time being, down the rabbit hole we go.
In part 2 of the ‘Electronic Arts’ series we will look at CGI in cinema and how its all getting a little too real. Think bringing back people from the dead kind of real.