• Welcome to TechPowerUp Forums, Guest! Please check out our forum guidelines for info related to our community.

Some research into exploitative/unethical/anti-consumer monetisation strategies in games

PZRes

New Member
Joined
May 21, 2019
Messages
1 (0.03/day)
Location
London
Hello,

I'm the Research Intern at Parent Zone - a social enterprise specialising in digital family life.

We are carrying out some research into modern gaming business models and any effects they may have on the treatment of gamers, with a particular concern around potential financial exploitation of gamers under 18 years of age. We want to explore the extent to which gamers are being financially exploited in various ways. We are posting in this and other forums to find out what gamers have observed, experienced and how you feel about it.

We are thinking about financial exploitation in a broad sense, we want to leave it open to you to tell us your opinions on any instances of exploitation you may have observed or experienced within modern gaming (across platforms and formats), but it might include issues to do with:

-Loot boxes/crates and keys.
-Other microtransaction purchases of individual items, whether cosmetic or performance-enhancing, including but not limited to: weapons, attachments, perks and skins etc.
-‘Non-microtransaction’ purchases like the initial purchase of a premium game, and the various options/versions and levels of access.
-Early access, or pre-order early access games that just aren’t ready for release (because it’s full of glitches or requires updates, for example).
-DLC.
-Other game elements that may have been designed to push the player to spend money. These elements could include anything - the in-game store system/interface, prompts; purchases needed in order to speed up progression through the game (to avoid grinding), or just give the player a chance of progressing/competing; paywalls/access to a ‘full game’ experience (or even a ‘minimal’ game experience) and opaqueness around how much you will be required to spend in order to progress/compete in the game; limited-time events, misleading/deceptive information, marketing or sales.

We are asking for your help because you are the experts and the people with lived experience. Feel free to tell us about anything of concern to you. Don’t assume we will already know about some instance of exploitation or unethical monetisation strategy, tell us about whatever matters to you.

If for any reason you would prefer not to post your responses in a public thread, please send them to info@parentzone.org.uk, and include 'FAO Research' in the subject.

You can go ahead and start crafting your responses now, or if you want some suggested questions to answer then please continue reading.



Some questions to get you started, but please don’t feel restricted by them...

-Are there any instances of monetisation strategies in games that you feel are unethical or exploitative or disrespectful of those playing the game? This could be to do with in-game purchasing, or the broader ecosystem of monetisation.

-If you were offered the opportunity to make regulatory changes that impact the gaming industry, what would you change and for what reasons?

-Are any particular publishers or games more exploitative or more prone than others to trying to rip gamers off?

-Do you worry for children playing any games that you have expressed concern about?

-Do you think there is an inconsistency between the design values (what makes a ‘good’ or well designed game?) of those creating (or overseeing the creation of) games and the consumer base buying and playing them? If so, please explain, and was it always like this?



Also, remember, feel free to tell us about examples of people in the games industry doing things professionally and respectfully.



Thank you for your time.
 

FreedomEclipse

~Technological Technocrat~
Joined
Apr 20, 2007
Messages
19,288 (4.34/day)
Location
London,UK
System Name Codename: Icarus Mk.IV
Processor Intel 8600k@4.8Ghz
Motherboard Asus ROG Strixx Z370-F
Cooling Corsair H105 {2x Corsair ML 120 Pro}
Memory 16 Corsair Vengeance White LED DDR4 3200Mhz
Video Card(s) Gigabyte 1080Ti Gaming OC|Accelero Xtreme IV
Storage Samsung 970Evo 512GB SSD (Boot)|WD Blue 1TB SSD|2x 3TB Toshiba DT01ACA300
Display(s) Asus PB278Q 27"
Case Corsair 760T (White) {1x Corsair ML120 Pro |3x ML140 Pro}
Audio Device(s) Creative SB Z {AVR:Yamaha RX-V573|Speakers: JBL Control One|Auna 300-CN|Wharfedale Diamond SW150}
Power Supply Corsair AX760
Mouse Logitech G900/G502
Keyboard Duckyshine Dead LED(s) III
Software Windows 10 Pro
Benchmark Scores (ノಠ益ಠ)ノ彡┻━┻
If you really need to ask, then you need to pay particular attention to publishers like EA and Activision and maybe a little at steam because steam kind of started the ball rolling with CS:GO gambling for weapon skins.

while EA saw how much money they could make off it and being the 'main pioneers' of the loot box culture with Activision following suit after seeing how far EA could push the boat out into the water before the tidal wave of negative backlash pushes them back to the shore and they have to dial it down.

Glorified digital one arm bandits & pachinko machines - The publishers put them into the game then hide behind the excuse of 'player choice' and 'games cost a lot of money to make' while raking in massive profits from people where 'player choice' isnt an option because they have addictive personalities and are addicted to gambling and thats not to forget the children who may also play the game, see all the nice skins they could have and put their parents money down on it.

One really great example which really started the great tidal wave of backlash from the community was EA's Battlefront II. They told everyone that the game would crumble if they removed the lootbox system but reluctantly turned it off for two weeks or one month and the game was absolutely fine - it didn't die. But the real kicker is, is that they locked off 'premium characters/heroes' behind paywalls or 'grindwalls' where you would need to play the game or grind excessively (otherwise known as playing the game) to get enough points or in game currency to unlock these special characters. I remember at one point it was said that it took a minimum of 72hrs to unlock one special character while it takes a lot longer for the more prestigious and powerful ones. If youre a casual player or a child who might get 2-3-4hrs total in a week to play games. youre never going to be able to play as one of the special characters for 4 months and once you do, that character's life has been expended and you would need to start grinding again for points/currency to unlock them all over again - its a never ending circle and this obviously pushes people towards taking out their wallets and putting real money into the game so they can get ahead and unlock premium characters faster... Be it in the form of 'boosters' that can double or triple the amount of points earned for a set number of hours or bypassing that and allowing you to straight up buy in game currency to unlock everything you want almost instantly or quicker...

^ this form of monetization is baaaaaaaaad.


Look at EA's FIFA games (possibly NBA games but im not sure if those are monetized to hell. Most likely yes). EA yet again hides behind the excuse of 'player choice' while waving flags, dancing around and saying "we're on the side of the consumer/our loyal fanbase!" - Knowing full well that they are taking advantage of people's passions and their hearts because they all want to have the seasons star players on their team but the only way to get them is via lootboxes but what they dont tell you that the chance of getting them is something like 0.03% chance or less.

Throw in the thing about making the chance to get these players a 'timed promotion' which means for two weeks, everyone who loves the game is going to be throwing their money at the game in the hopes of getting the star players of the season while they most like wont because the chance of getting them is so low and all they get out of the look boxes is just junk... either ingame currency or points towards other stuff they dont need.... Of course they are going to fill it with rubbish because "better luck next time".

you play on people's hearts, hype it up, make it a limited time offer, make it so the only way to obtain what the players want is via lootboxes and wait for people to start offering their first born to you in the place of real currency.

The Industry is rife with behaviour like this from a lot of the big publishers while the less popular ones havent been pushing the ball on loot boxes that hard, they are still doing it but maybe more lowkey about it.

Activision's way is putting you in a lobby with other players where they can watch you opening loot boxes or devising a system that puts you into a game where there are competitors that have weapons that you dont and havent unlocked yet so you end up being killed by them over and over again because maybe the weapon is overpowered... They prey on your desire of wanting a level playing field so you hit those loot boxes and try to get the weapon for yourself.

EA and Activision will try to monitize just about everything. EA have gone on to monitizing game release dates. so you can pay more money or subscribe to their most premium service to get the game 30days early than everyone else, while the less premium service subscribers get it 14days earlier and the folks who arent subscribers get it 10-14days after the lesser premiums do.


Meanwhile if you look back at EAs and Activision's game history you can see a sharp decline where they used to make quality games and what their games have become after getting addicted to making all the money in the world.

There are games being sold as 'live service' models that are being released with not a lot of content to keep people playing, full of bugs that can break or break the game. but the one thing that seems to work without any issues is their in game shop that are full of cosmetic items and other junk for obscene prices.... for example EA/Bioware wanted to sell a Javelin 'armored suit' for $20 before the game was even released.


I know that publishers got to make money - If they were selling cosmetic items for reasonable prices without the need to go all in with loot boxes with a 0.03% chance of getting the one that you wanted out of it then im sure people wouldnt be so mad about it, but the problem with that is it doesnt take advantage of people and get them to spend even more money when they dont get what they want after they have rolled the dice.

You are paying the publisher $60-80 for the right to beta test their games for them or spend more money on them in their ingame shop.


All this money goes to line the pockets of overpaid executives and investors while the developers who are at the ground level are forced to work obscene hours and replaced if they dont.


----


Thats why ive stopped buying games from EA and Activision. Though my boycott of Activision has been in effect since 2009 and EA just after BF1. Of course it sucks as I did really love my battlefield games but their older battlefield games I already own are still very enjoyable to play compared to their more recent motization packed releases. All the content is done for those games. they dont have any lootboxes or exploitative gambling mechanics/features in them and there is still a huge crowd that play them so im never going to stuck trying to find a server to get into.

I do not want to support these publishers anymore.

*EDIT*

Just to correct myself here... EA had their controversial loot crate system on Battlefront 2 turned off for a WHOLE MONTH while they were trying to decide what to do with it after the huge community/PR backlash. They did originally tell reporters and other tech and gaming news channels that removal of the controversial system would BREAK THE GAME
but of course that never happened. They rebalanced the speed/rate at how quickly premium points/currency is earned and also the rewards for said points when a player has completed missions that were available in the game.

Basically they lied all the way through, they first said they couldnt do it, then said it would break the game then did it when more pressure was put on them to remove or rebalance the whole system.



Also im sorry that i didnt approach it from a perspective of a child being exploited by games. but for the most part. the mobile games market has been doing this for a long long time, way before EA and Activision decided to jump on the boat and drag it across land to AAA gaming. They saw how much money the mobile app market was making and they wanted in on it so they brought it over as more of a mainstream thing and kept pushing the boat out to see how far they could pressure and push people into spending more money.

Im not a parent. but I can tell you as someone nearing the age of 33 or 34 (i forget...) that the industry has just succumbed to greed and gone down hill so badly. And Both EA and Activision have no morals when it comes to getting kids to beg their parents for money to spend in game or going as far as having them steal their daddies credit card.

Is that a culture we want the future generations to grow up in?? There are plagues of teenagers in the coming generations already who are brain dead because they stare at a screen all day and neglect their studies... They get drawn into games and other things and their grades suffer. All they want to do is be in their virtual space.

What will happen to these kids when they are 18 and have to go find a job??? but they will have no qualifications or anything because they flunked school. didnt sit or failed their exams all because they wanted to play more games.

Parents need to take some responsibility for their kids too but i know as a person who has a lot of younger nephews and nieces that this can be an almost impossible task.

There should be a way to lock the gambling aspect of games to a certain age range or an option in the settings to lock it out completely.... Only then is it really 'player choice' out of sight, out of mind and not being in peoples faces constantly and goading them into taking out their wallets.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Dec 10, 2017
Messages
187 (0.34/day)
Processor Intel core i5 4590s
Motherboard Asus Z97 Pro Gamer
Cooling Evercool EC115A 915SP Cpu cooler,Coolermaster [200mm (front and top)+140mm rear]
Memory Corsair 16GB(4x4) ddr3 CMZ16GX3M4X1600C9(Ver8.16)(XMP)
Video Card(s) MSI GTX 970 GAMING 4G
Storage Western Digital WDC WD2001FAS 2TB Black, Toshiba DT01ACA100 1TB
Display(s) LG Flatron L177WSB
Case Coolermaster CM Storm Enforcer
Audio Device(s) Creative A550 Speakers 5.1 channel
Power Supply SuperFlower Leadex 2 Gold 650W SF-650F14EG
Mouse PLNK M-740 Optical Mouse
Keyboard ibuypower GKB100 Gaming Keyboard
Software Windows 7 Sp1 64 bit
If you really need to ask, then you need to pay particular attention to publishers like EA and Activision and maybe a little at steam because steam kind of started the ball rolling with CS:GO gambling for weapon skins.

while EA saw how much money they could make off it and being the 'main pioneers' of the loot box culture with Activision following suit after seeing how far EA could push the boat out into the water before the tidal wave of negative backlash pushes them back to the shore and they have to dial it down.

Glorified digital one arm bandits & pachinko machines - The publishers put them into the game then hide behind the excuse of 'player choice' and 'games cost a lot of money to make' while raking in massive profits from people where 'player choice' isnt an option because they have addictive personalities and are addicted to gambling and thats not to forget the children who may also play the game, see all the nice skins they could have and put their parents money down on it.

One really great example which really started the great tidal wave of backlash from the community was EA's Battlefront II. They told everyone that the game would crumble if they removed the lootbox system but reluctantly turned it off for two weeks or one month and the game was absolutely fine - it didn't die. But the real kicker is, is that they locked off 'premium characters/heroes' behind paywalls or 'grindwalls' where you would need to play the game or grind excessively (otherwise known as playing the game) to get enough points or in game currency to unlock these special characters. I remember at one point it was said that it took a minimum of 72hrs to unlock one special character while it takes a lot longer for the more prestigious and powerful ones. If youre a casual player or a child who might get 2-3-4hrs total in a week to play games. youre never going to be able to play as one of the special characters for 4 months and once you do, that character's life has been expended and you would need to start grinding again for points/currency to unlock them all over again - its a never ending circle and this obviously pushes people towards taking out their wallets and putting real money into the game so they can get ahead and unlock premium characters faster... Be it in the form of 'boosters' that can double or triple the amount of points earned for a set number of hours or bypassing that and allowing you to straight up buy in game currency to unlock everything you want almost instantly or quicker...

^ this form of monetization is baaaaaaaaad.


Look at EA's FIFA games (possibly NBA games but im not sure if those are monetized to hell. Most likely yes). EA yet again hides behind the excuse of 'player choice' while waving flags, dancing around and saying "we're on the side of the consumer/our loyal fanbase!" - Knowing full well that they are taking advantage of people's passions and their hearts because they all want to have the seasons star players on their team but the only way to get them is via lootboxes but what they dont tell you that the chance of getting them is something like 0.03% chance or less.

Throw in the thing about making the chance to get these players a 'timed promotion' which means for two weeks, everyone who loves the game is going to be throwing their money at the game in the hopes of getting the star players of the season while they most like wont because the chance of getting them is so low and all they get out of the look boxes is just junk... either ingame currency or points towards other stuff they dont need.... Of course they are going to fill it with rubbish because "better luck next time".

you play on people's hearts, hype it up, make it a limited time offer, make it so the only way to obtain what the players want is via lootboxes and wait for people to start offering their first born to you in the place of real currency.

The Industry is rife with behaviour like this from a lot of the big publishers while the less popular ones havent been pushing the ball on loot boxes that hard, they are still doing it but maybe more lowkey about it.

Activision's way is putting you in a lobby with other players where they can watch you opening loot boxes or devising a system that puts you into a game where there are competitors that have weapons that you dont and havent unlocked yet so you end up being killed by them over and over again because maybe the weapon is overpowered... They prey on your desire of wanting a level playing field so you hit those loot boxes and try to get the weapon for yourself.

EA and Activision will try to monitize just about everything. EA have gone on to monitizing game release dates. so you can pay more money or subscribe to their most premium service to get the game 30days early than everyone else, while the less premium service subscribers get it 14days earlier and the folks who arent subscribers get it 10-14days after the lesser premiums do.


Meanwhile if you look back at EAs and Activision's game history you can see a sharp decline where they used to make quality games and what their games have become after getting addicted to making all the money in the world.

There are games being sold as 'live service' models that are being released with not a lot of content to keep people playing, full of bugs that can break or break the game. but the one thing that seems to work without any issues is their in game shop that are full of cosmetic items and other junk for obscene prices.... for example EA/Bioware wanted to sell a Javelin 'armored suit' for $20 before the game was even released.


I know that publishers got to make money - If they were selling cosmetic items for reasonable prices without the need to go all in with loot boxes with a 0.03% chance of getting the one that you wanted out of it then im sure people wouldnt be so mad about it, but the problem with that is it doesnt take advantage of people and get them to spend even more money when they dont get what they want after they have rolled the dice.

You are paying the publisher $60-80 for the right to beta test their games for them or spend more money on them in their ingame shop.


All this money goes to line the pockets of overpaid executives and investors while the developers who are at the ground level are forced to work obscene hours and replaced if they dont.


----


Thats why ive stopped buying games from EA and Activision. Though my boycott of Activision has been in effect since 2009 and EA just after BF1. Of course it sucks as I did really love my battlefield games but their older battlefield games I already own are still very enjoyable to play compared to their more recent motization packed releases. All the content is done for those games. they dont have any lootboxes or exploitative gambling mechanics/features in them and there is still a huge crowd that play them so im never going to stuck trying to find a server to get into.

I do not want to support these publishers anymore.
thanks for saying that so well I would upvote a thousand times if I could
 
Top