Blog Post on Loot Boxes and Making Money from Games

Blog Post on Loot Boxes and Making Money from Games

Postby Jastiv » 22 Jul 2019, 03:44

So, I decided to post here, what is already on my blog here https://wogralddev.blogspot.com/ I left some things out in the forum post, in an effort to make it shorter and more to the point.

Game developers have families. They should be able to support them solely with their game development efforts. Hence, games need some way to monetize, that is to make money. Game developers should not depend on handouts from family members who do not even like gaming, such as grandma who doesn’t play games. Instead they should make money from those who do play games, but who have decided that they would rather do other things with their time, and find other ways of making money, other than in the development of games. If game developers are the only ones who support other game developers, you end up with a situation, that is much like the sad situation in life coaching, where the so called big money is in what is known as coach coaching. The people who could really benefit from the service are ignored, in favor of people of think they need the service, but probably don’t.

So, first of all, we need to remind people that this is just game data, your character, your characters stuff, and statistics stored in some remote location on the internet. It isn’t all this personal information about you, the person, but rather some avatar completely abstracted from the person playing it. Secondly, we need to remind people that online games do have benefits not achieved in single player games, benefits of dynamic content and social interactions. This does not mean that every game can, or should be an online game. Some games are single player, and should just stay that way, paid for in advance by people who want it developed, rather than collecting royalties for every copy sold. But for those multi-player games, server hosting is a perfectly ethical way to make a living.

Now, just setting up a server does not make a game developer rich, in fact it cost money, both in hardware and hosting, so all the more reason to justify charging users for using it. But users are loath to pay money for something if they don’t even know if it is any good. Hence many servers give out something like cheap trial memberships, with a limited set of features enabled for free accounts, while paid accounts get more features enabled. This is a great way for game developers to make money.

Sometimes, this is not enough, and naturally game developers want to make as much money as they can make from developing games. So, game developers came up with the idea of loot boxes. These are random items that may or may not enhance game play, either by allowing characters to progress further in the game faster, allowing them to do things they could not otherwise do, or by changing a characters appearance.

First let us discuss the idea of progressing in a game faster. Some people like to spend money on games to progress faster because they have a real job and not a lot of time to play games. They want to keep up with all the kids who have stupid jobs, and no families and come home and play games for hours on end, not to mention the no lifers who have some kind of disability and spend almost all their waking hours on the game. Hence, the need to sell faster progression in a game to users so they can be competitive with those who have too much time to waste on the game. The mechanism of spending real life money to go faster in a game only makes logical sense, and does not ruin anyone elses game play of spending hours grinding for in game currency.

The second idea, adding items that allow characters to do things in game they could not otherwise, is almost always a terrible idea, especially if it is a limited time thing that gives people advantages over others who did not get the item. If the item is always available, it isn’t much of a problem unless it is insanely expensive. As far as things they could not otherwise do, this is only acceptable if it is a minor thing that has little direct effect on game play, say opening a hidden chest with extra gold in it. If it becomes a major game changing item, then it amounts to problems. All the not rich players will quit, and the rich players will quit because the game got boring since they have no one to play with anymore, and playing on an empty server got boring.

The third idea is a purely cosmetic item. This has the least impact on game play, and even if these are limited time items, it still has limited impact on game play. In spite of the fact people love to dress up their paper doll cutouts, pets and houses, cosmetic items are relatively non-controversial in games. That doesn’t mean it is without controversy, only that it causes much less issues. Cosmetic items can also be given out for special supporters of the game, such as people that did things like testing, bug reporting, or even in the case of a free software game, actual development.

In addition to the concern about game unbalance changes, there is a concern that the randomness of loot boxes promotes gambling, and lures underage kids into wasting thousands of dollars on a parents credit card, because they don’t know what they will get on a random loot spin. Many games made the goodies random because it encourages the spending of more money in hopes of getting the good item that the player wanted to get.

While I admit I haven't made up my mind on whether random loot boxes should be allowed in games, I will qualify it with the idea that making a game proprietary software is far worse than loot-boxes. If players don’t like the loot boxes and think they are unfair in a free software game, they can take the feature out and run their own servers. Perhaps they are fine idea for some games, and wildly inappropriate for others. Personally, I do not think they belong in Wograld because the game mechanics in Wograld are simplistic enough for a younger audience to enjoy so, it would probably be better to leave them out and avoid the controversy.
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Re: Blog Post on Loot Boxes and Making Money from Games

Postby dulsi » 22 Jul 2019, 13:24

If you are trying to persuade people, try not to insult people. Maybe the commentary on life coaching was meant to be a funny aside but it doesn't read that way. "Kids who have stupid jobs" and "no lifers" show a lack of respect to people and therefore give people a reason to disregard your argument. Your ending in particular gives people a good reason to simply ignore your whole argument. Instead of criticizing proprietary software, just explain the advantage open source has in that you can remove the features the developers added that you don't like. Otherwise you get to the end and the person just says well this is just some one who is against paid software so they ignore the whole explanation.

Even if you aren't trying to persuade people and just want talk about Wograld development, the insults don't help promote your game. A player sees your game and checks out your blog. Maybe he/she spends a lot of time playing games. Even if they aren't spending too much time playing games, they could think you are calling them "no lifers". Now they turn away to find another game.
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Re: Blog Post on Loot Boxes and Making Money from Games

Postby fluffrabbit » 22 Jul 2019, 14:11

Maybe the commentary on life coaching was meant to be a funny aside but it doesn't read that way.

It does read that way for me. The "coach coach" phenomenon is an over-education epidemic symptomatic of endemic unemployment, and it applies to most fields I have had an interest in. It seems like there are more people selling hot dog stands than hot dogs.

Otherwise you get to the end and the person just says well this is just some one who is against paid software so they ignore the whole explanation.

Not even. It reads to me like Jastiv is against proprietary software. Full stop. Because proprietary software is just as important to me as free software, I have no illusions about Jastiv's neutrality.

Even if you aren't trying to persuade people and just want talk about Wograld development, the insults don't help promote your game. A player sees your game and checks out your blog. Maybe he/she spends a lot of time playing games. Even if they aren't spending too much time playing games, they could think you are calling them "no lifers". Now they turn away to find another game.

Kek. Half of the no-lifers play WoW, and the other half form tech startups selling full stack integrated solutions to nonexistent problems. I hate the nerds as much as anybody. Are you personally offended?
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Re: Blog Post on Loot Boxes and Making Money from Games

Postby dulsi » 22 Jul 2019, 23:51

fluffrabbit {l Wrote}:Are you personally offended?

No. I generally don't care what people on the internet say. I'd prefer not to try to antagonize people and instead contribute more to open source/free software game development. For example I went back an looked at your initial post a while ago to see how that game jam you were doing went but you removed the link. It would have been nice to have a write up of what you did, what worked, what didn't, etc but that's alright.
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Re: Blog Post on Loot Boxes and Making Money from Games

Postby fluffrabbit » 23 Jul 2019, 00:15

dulsi {l Wrote}:
fluffrabbit {l Wrote}:Are you personally offended?

No. I generally don't care what people on the internet say. I'd prefer not to try to antagonize people and instead contribute more to open source/free software game development. For example I went back an looked at your initial post a while ago to see how that game jam you were doing went but you removed the link. It would have been nice to have a write up of what you did, what worked, what didn't, etc but that's alright.

I don't see how that's related, but I was planning on writing a post-mortem, and I would love to talk about it with you guys, and why I dropped out of the jam. That's what I'm here for, man. The politics distract from that, but we're all developers here, and since you reminded me, I will make that thread today. :heart:
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Re: Blog Post on Loot Boxes and Making Money from Games

Postby Wuzzy » 25 Jul 2019, 13:03

The problem I have with so-called “microtransactions” (which are rarely “micro” these days anymore) is that they often directly pollute the integrity of the game. If the #1 goal is to make money instead of making a good game, then the game quality will suffer. Another problem is that “microtransactions” are very often manipulative.

1) Progressing in the game: This is a well-known tactic. An efficient (and evil) way to make money is to make the base game as tedious as possible. The trick is to make the game just barely fun. Fun enough to keep the player going, but annyoing enough to psychologically manipulate the player to force them to fork over money.

This tactic almost certainly DEMANDS you to make the base game (i.e. not-paid part of the game) makes it kinda painful to play. You basically have to make the game kind of grindy to play (but not TOO grindy) and at the same time sell the players the “solution” to skip all the grind. It's a big scam.

It also shines a really bad light on you as a game designer because you basically admit your game is poorly designed.

2) Exclusive paid-for features: As for advantages, this is a clear red line. I argue, whenever you sell ANY advantage over another player, no matter how small, your game is pay-to-win and thus automatically garbabe. Now by introducing paid-for advantages, you are essentially selling cheats. That's absolutely unacceptable for a multiplayer game and from a purely game design perspective its also a complete failure.

The great thing about multiplayer games is that they can be equalizers, in some sense. Multiplayer games don't care about your gender, social background, skin color, eye color, etc. They only care about your skill. At least that's what multiplayer games SHOULD be like. Pay-to-win destroys all of that.

3) Cosmetics: Yeah, that's also a very common excuse. The argument “it's only cosmetics” is a classic argument from corporate shills and is complete bullshit. There is nothing optional about them, especially in a multiplayer game. There is no choice to not have so-called microtransaction bullshit in the game. If every player just refuses to pay anything, then everyone would just have the free default skin and the game would be pretty boring. When people introduce so-called microtransactions, they absolutely want players to fork over cash. “free-to-play” is an illusion.
Cosmetics in multiplayer can be especially sinister if the default skins are intentionally low-quality or there is just a tiny amount of default skins to begin with.
Case in point: In the game Fortnite, young children are already mocking and bullying other children for having free “default skins”, imlying they should pressure their parents to fork over more cash for some pixels. “Default skin” is used as a deragatory term.

4) Lootboxes: They are basically gambling and turn the game into a casino, except that minors are allowed. They are already illegal in Belgium.

https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-48925623
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-48908766

Most of what I wrote are basically talking points from Jim Sterling …

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVJKKQSE3Eg
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7S-DGTBZU14
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5lT8f67oZ30


The need for money does not justify unethical business practices. The fact that your software is “free software” does not excuse other unethical feature you might add in software.
I like bitcoins: 17fsUywHxeMHKG41UFfu34F1rAxZcrVoqH :-)
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Re: Blog Post on Loot Boxes and Making Money from Games

Postby Jastiv » 25 Jul 2019, 17:52

You should realize that prior to the micro transaction model, multi-player server based games often relied upon subscriptions. The problem is, that basically, wealth has gotten more and more unequal, with some people having a lot of money to waste, and others barely getting by. Rich people are not enough not fill up the server and make it interesting, so they have resorted to a more or less pay what you want model. You should look at the rise in micro transactions along with the rise in wealth disparity in general. If you think it about it, it makes sense.
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Re: Blog Post on Loot Boxes and Making Money from Games

Postby Julius » 25 Jul 2019, 18:09

That is one way to look at it. But actually the real story likely is that a lot of poor people got rich enough to be interested in computer games (outside the previous main markets in th US and western EU), and companies tried to cater to that as well.
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