Voting with your wallet
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 28 June 2013, 4:33 am
I love games. Or more specifically I love certain types of games. I would be happy if more of the games I like would be made, and sad if games I like got shut down (which for online games means I couldn't play them any more). If only there was a way in which I could influence what kinds of games are being made and which of them survive! But of course there is: Money. Games are either created with the goal of making money, or even in the most altruistic of cases money is helping to keep games alive. What I spend my money on does have an influence on what games are made and survive. Individually, because I'm not Bill Gates, my contribution might be small. But collectively it is big enough to be the determining influence.

A few years back when business models for games were easier, that influence of your money was something that happened without you having to think much about it. If you wanted to play a game, you had to pay for it (unless you were willing to steal it). If you wanted to keep playing an online game, you had to keep paying a subscription fee.

Today the situation has gotten a lot more complicated. On the one side we now have Kickstarter, and a way to vote with your wallet BEFORE a game is even made. On the other side we have Free2Play games offering the possibility to not pay anything for a game you totally love. So Kickstarter enables you to send a much stronger signal about your game preferences with your money, but can backfire with outright frauds or simple cases of people overpromising and underdelivering. And Free2Play games enable you to play without having a positive impact on the financial survival of a game at all.

I believe that the production of games, like the production of pretty much everything else, is following a pork cycle leading to cyclical bouts of overproduction followed by crashes. And with new sources of funding and new ways of digital distribution, I think we are approaching a peak of the cycle. There are too many games chasing too few customers, which will lead to more and more layoffs and game studios closing. And that will mean some games disappearing, or not getting developed.

Thus I do believe that if I buy an item in a virtual shop in a Free2Play game, I am not just buying pixels. I am expressing a preference in the only way that matters, with money. I am contributing to the survival of a game I like, and make it more likely that the sort of game I like is regarded as financially successful and worth producing more of. If I only bought virtual items when a game forced me to do so to continue playing, I would send out a bad signal: I wouldn't signal what games I like best, and I would signal that I like paywalls, which isn't really the case. By voluntarily spending money on my favorite games even if I feel that it isn't absolutely necessary in gameplay terms, I vote with my wallet for the games I like.
Tobold's Blog

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