EA’s lost the Battlefront but will win the war

If you play games and don’t live under a rock you’ll likely know that EA’s flagship Star Wars property Battlefront 2 launches November 17th. If you know that, you’ll also know that EA has been under fire from the gaming community because of it.

Firstly, EA got community backlash over their decision to put all progression into a loot box mechanic. Meaning, you’ll progress but your rewards are down to luck. EA have made changes to this but in early reviews, the progression system is widely considered the worst part of the game.

Secondly, EA made hero characters Luke Skywalker and Darth Vadar cost 60,000 credits to unlock. Based on the time it takes to earn credits, if you purchased nothing else, it would take 40 hours to unlock just one of the two. The gaming community applied pressure and the heroes now cost 15,000 credits.

So two wins for the community, but is it?

What bamboozles me, as a gamer, is why do EA continue to mask the real reasons for their progression decisions? They don’t need to come out with PR reasons. Gamers KNOW why they are using loot boxes.

Loot boxes aren’t fun per se. They are addicting. EA knows it. Gamers know it. EA also knows by controlling the % chance of rewards and the time needed to earn a loot box they can extend Battlefront 2’s lifetime value. Meaning, the longer you keep someone playing and the more appealing the carrot (on the end of the stick), the more likely they’ll crack and spend real money due to a whole host of psychology traits people have.

In all honesty, EA could come out and say “we know loot boxes, grind times and sexy rewards will earn us $$$”.  It won’t stop people buying the game and it won’t stop people playing it.  You could put the Star Wars brand on a stick you find in the woods and someone would buy it. It’s STAR WARS!

The fact EA (and others) don’t just say the truth is because of player motivation.  Saying the above will make gamers give up in the grind.  Yet EA could come out with a robust and honest reason to build trust otherwise it leads to other questions like…

Launching with heroes at 60,000 credits and then reducing to 15,000 looks like a calculated move. A means to say to the community “look we’re listening”. It’s the same tactic as in stores. When a sale approaches the prices go up and the following sale price then looks more appealing. The fact gamer’s see a 45,000 credit decrease makes it all seem reasonable but it just highlights these giant carrots dangling on the end of very long sticks.  It’s marketing.  Just consider this…

It is estimated via Star Wars Strategies that it will take 4,528 hours to unlock everything via the loot box progression or $2100. If this data is accurate, EA will definitely win the war as winning a battle means nothing in the long run.

 

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Everything is fuelled by big data

The title may sound extreme but all businesses thrive on knowing their customer. Well, they did. It’s now only about what the data shows.

This puts data scientists at the forefront of customer services as they are the ones extracting via extensive consumer tracking. This scares the living sh*t out of me as the logic-minded number crunchers aren’t really into service with a smile. They like facts and digging deeper.

So as you press yes on that interface, they get a chunk of info, but likely want to know more, so everything is now digging that bit deeper. This started decades ago and now there is so much big data that Amazon knows what you order, when you order it and the price you’re willing to pay, at that moment in time. You are in the matrix, so to speak. Well, your actions are at least.

So while those pretty interfaces that data scientists use look friendly and informative, it’s actually your life in a pie chart. A pie chart that every technology company can buy, utilize and take advantage of to make a profit.

You’d think because big data has taken the burden of knowing your customer that things like quality, innovation, challenge and fun would become the focus, it hasn’t. Mostly because each is too reliant on an individuals personality. This is why addiction, explosions, sex, shock value and other “pushing the boundaries” have become the norm. It grabs attention, holds attention and we engage. There is little choice involved.

Don’t consider the above as sarcasm. It’s fact but is it scary?

The collection of data isn’t scary. Data is good as it could lead to the curing of Cancer. The showing and sharing of non-personal data isn’t scary either. If your names not on it, does it matter if they know 27% of people love walking around their home nude in the day?

There will be big questions for big data and Artificial Intelligence ahead. It’s just whether we end up in an Idiocracy-style world before hand.  You should only worry if you don’t trust big corporations or your government…

Oh sh*t!

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Hyprotransactions and next level profiteering

While some of us struggle to give our games away, some manage to achieve the next level of profiteering. From Player Unknowns Battleground to <insert any major AAA here>, it’s rife and it’s tiring gamers out.

So what is exactly rife?

* Selling a season pass without showing what it includes.
* Adding microtransactions to $60+ Buy-2-Play games.
* Holding content to one side and selling it as microtransactions.

Why are these a problem?

Ten years ago this kind of profiteering wouldn’t have been considered but the spiraling cost of development, the internet and use of data across all facets of a games release has made it all into a science. A science which takes advantage of the psychology of gamers by preying on consumer traits (or frailties).

What this means is that publishers know gamers want to be #1, to be the best or have the fullest, completest experience. So they can sell useless items as part of a deluxe edition as it links into that part of a consumers psychological traits. A publisher knows that it’s easier to sell the season pass before a game launches because they still control the hype, and reality compared to hype is often less enthralling.

It’s not a crime but it’s manipulation. Which is exactly what consumerism is. However, will consumer protection laws revisit these practices, or will the digital, gambling era never be encapsulated?

Only time will tell.

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Wrong about VR

Last week I said Virtual Reality (VR) wasn’t the future.

I was wrong.

VR is an experience. Imagine watching Star Wars: The Last Jedi in VR?

The scenes and story unfolding around you. With 3D sound and crystal clear fidelity. It would be unlike any experience… That could be the future of VR. Epic, but sporadic.

My perspective changed while experiencing Everest VR. My mind flipped. VR isn’t for the day-to-day. It’s not going to overtake gaming, or education, or training. It’s just a branch of our digital future.

VR will forever be held back by price, complexity, and fidelity. For sure, these factors will improve but that curve, to achieve mainstream will forever put VR behind Augmented Reality (AR).

However, where AR is for the day-to-day mundane. VR is for the epic moments.

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Everything is getting political

The NFL is under a political spotlight and it’s fragmenting an audience who wants sport.

This is the crescendo of a scenario bubbling up since Colin Kaepernick kneeled last season for the 49ers. This is a reaction to President Trump’s speech not a melding of minds and opinion.

Most NFL teams thought they could ignore this like they ignored signing Kaepernick in the offseason. Let this sink in, “no one signed him because of the inevitable political media spotlight that would follow…”

Ironically, they are all now in that spotlight due to President Trump’s speech.

This is where media agenda takes control.

While in the spotlight it’s very easy for the media to spin your actions positively or negatively, it’s dealers (media) choice. They have the news feeds, they have the social media reach and work together to share talking points (fact). Get on the wrong side and it’s pretty much game over.

So, how is this relevant to gaming?

The gaming media is biased, driven by revenue and popularity. Remember, during GamerGate, we saw just how broken some of the gaming media was, perhaps (and probably) still is.

This is relevant because, in the next 3-5 years, it will likely be revealed how many gaming companies are using gambling mechanics to addict and manipulate those below the legal age of gambling, without warnings.

When this revelation grips the west, specifically parents of kids who are glued to their iPhones and iPads everything will explode. The entire gaming industry will be put under a spotlight.

The question is, when the gaming media has already proven itself to be biased, all about revenue and popularity, is it wise leaving the spotlight shining to them?

It’s kind of like when the NFL investigated the entire concussion scenario…

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Come on Indies, think it through

Sometimes, success should be kept under your hats indies. In particular, the success you’re having on Switch.

You may not realize this but every blog or article wrote saying “Switch rocks! Our games selling amazing, best of all platforms!” is another bat light being turned on, calling every developer to the party. Generous but ultimately suicidal.

You may take solace in the openness you have shown.  Yet, that solace will turn to burning hate as the publishers arrive.  Publishers whose solitary goal is to milk Switch users like big fat cows until empty, and you’ve just sent out the bat signal calling them… Bravo!

Those words even whispered will cause a thousand publishers ears prick up and singularly think (as there is only one brain) “let’s put our sh*t on Switch!”

So like on the Wii, Steam or XBox 360, where Indies initially thrived before the mass arrival of shovelware, clones and x.1 iteration culture. Oversaturation is now likely.  Meaning consumers get the TL: DR list of releases and ultimately gloss over before going to play whatever their friends are, what YouTubers have pushed or whatever IGN said was cool.

And so another avenue becomes clogged like an artery full of developers, marketers, and hacks.

Well done Indies.

Next up to be completely blocked like a public toilet will be AR.  At least that is what my spidey senses are saying (it’s a tingle more than a say).  Take care and muchos gracias.

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A summary of Mayweather versus McGregor for gamers

If I was to compare the big fight to a game it would be easy.

Just think No Mans Sky.

Lots of hype followed by the realization, it was all bullsh*t.

The only real difference is that Hello Games offered a refund and have been working hard to put right what they completely misrepresented during their runaway hype train.

The big difference is that, Hello Games had their feet held to the fire by consumers, there will be no such reaction by fight fans.

The media are already spinning it into a valiant effort by McGregor but they must have watched a different fight as a UFC champ should not be out of breath by the third round, nor should the fight be an exchange of love taps with a smiling Mayweather.  Especially after all the talk.  Would you gamers be okay with that?

It would be like the gaming media coming out in full support of No Mans Sky after its launch.  Giving it 9/10’s and hailing it as a valiant effort to create the game they had promised via all the hype. The gaming media would be held to the fire.  It’s not happening by fight fans.

Perhaps you gamers have more principles, or are more consumer savvy than fight fans? It’s plausible.

So while you pushed Hello Games into making their product better, these promotion and fighter charlatans have literally lied their way into hundreds of millions of dollars. Anyone would think they were bankers…

The only question that lingers now is whether the fight has done damage to the brands of boxing and UFC?

For Hello Games and No Mans Sky, if they didn’t yield to consumers their brand would have wilted and died.

Yet…

McGregor will return to the UFC with the same swagger and KO’s. Everyone will forget the Great McMayweather consumer robbery because no one has the balls to stand up.  Fight fans need some tips from gamers it seems.

 

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Originality RIP 2017

It’s over.

Originality gave up and the gaming audience were the ones to unplug it unceremoniously.

Twenty years ago everything was a 1.0. We had new ideas everywhere and consumers were inquisitive about them.

Ten years ago everything was a 2.0. Not new, but with enough gimmicks to feel different(ish).

Now, we’re in an era of rehashed, pre-cooked, repeats and ready meals. Just look at Hollywood and the music industry. They’re on a hamster wheel going nowhere and gaming has followed.

We see, hear and play the same things with the same gimmicks over and over, ad infinitum. The only difference between each is whether Game X is backed by Influencer Y and what art style is used.

The gaming industry, like the other entertainment industries, have at best, become focused on what makes money. At worst, it’s an industry who learned how to manipulate the consumers to purely focus on what addicts, not entertains.

From the inside looking out, all is well and creating “game 3.0” based on “game 2.0” makes sense because it was successful and people loved it.

These 3.0 creators go on tour in conferences talking about the “magic” they have created and turn developer heads so that they make 4.0, which was the same as 2.0 and 1.0.

We now have 2,000,000 x “Game 37.0” on the market and still, the gaming market grows.

This proves addicts JUST want gratification in a color scheme they like.  If that wasn’t true, the market or revenue within the market would have shrunk.

The same is true for Hollywood and music. If originality was profitable it would be what the corporations chased. It doesn’t.

Familiarity gratifies addictions and it requires little effort from the creators.

Right now successful games exist where NOT PLAYING the game rewards you. So no matter what you do, you’re a winner!

Where can the industry honestly go now that users demand gratification which is easy and constant?

You don’t have time for originality, or even anything interesting or different.  You literally have seconds to hook or the user moves on.

This is why originality has died, and why interesting, intelligent, different and all the other good stuff which made gaming an art will slowly be sacrificed in the name of immediate gratification.

Just look at Hollywood and the music industry for where it’s all heading…

Boy bands, singing the same songs, doing the same dances, at the same time or…

<Add super hero name here>: Revenge of the <villain who was killed off but as we’ve reset the franchise last week we’ll use them again as the audience has ZERO connection to reality and just want to get their rocks off without firing up a single synapse in the brain>.

/Rant over.

 

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Click here to find 5 extreme marketing blah blah blah

If you’ve clicked here actually looking for 5 extreme marketing blah blah blah’s, there is no help for you. Go away.

If you’ve come here to see a person coming to a realization via the land of Oz then “this be the place Captain!”

I am officially giving up on the marketing nonsense.

Everyone is happy to pump out their marketing tips but having spent the best part of 2 years trying to put almost all of them into action I’ve come to the conclusion. They are all full of **it!

“Ye travelers on the interwebz be too savvy for the old ways Captain…”

And by this I mean, people don’t give a damn about your 50% scroll popups, exit-intent call-to-actions or the video ads you’re pumping out flooding the borders and baselines of every website willing to take your money.

Remember the days when all you needed was a big rounded edged button saying “BUY NOW MOFO!” and it worked? Funny right.

Marketing is no longer about getting the attention with a snazzy button, popups, freebies, prizes, (add an infinite amount of items here).

This is the only marketing tip you need. You ready?

Your content is your marketing.

BOOM. Your head spins, explodes and brain matter splatters on all four walls right?

Why couldn’t these marketing “experts” (term used loosely) just say that and save me 2 years?

Forget everything, focus on your content because THAT is the only way to get peoples attention.

I’ve come to consider marketing like this…

I am watching the game on TV. An ad break starts. My attention goes to my phone or tablet, whichever is nearest. Or the bathroom if no technology is nearby (grabbing tech on my way of course). I look at what is being said about the game online and as the ads end, I go back to the game.

I don’t want my marketing to be the ads in this scenario. I want my marketing to be the game.

So rather than trying to ram a sales pitch down some average Joe’s throat via ads, pop-ups and other “please look at me” avenues try to turn your sales pitch into content your target audience wants to invest their eyeballs into.

This doesn’t mean stop buying exposure. It just means making sure what you’re exposing doesn’t turn people off. Like that one time you… with the jacket… in the park… the court case…  remember?

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The illusion of sales

All present and future game developers know this.

Consumers wait for sales.

Unless you are a big swinging… pendulum of a developer, or have a well marketed… media darling of a… sleeping with Gabe Newell kind of game, you’ll be sucking on the sales nipple from launch to living in your parent’s basement.

This is not a slight. Needs must.

It’s a consumer driven market and every Tom, Dick and Harry have lined up to shuffle craptastic shizzola onto every App store because “look Ma’ I’z got a job, so I canz liv in da basement.”

/Sarcasm

Anyway, to the point.

These sales you’ll be hoping to live off are not actual sales. They are “calls-to-action” done by platforms to draw in consumers who have been trained to expect massive reductions and free sh*t.

So here’s a reality check.

The price your game is at, during a sale is the true reflection of product value on the market. So, as every other mother flicker is putting the peddle down to F2P even your $0.99 price point is looked at with the “hmmm, should I buy a can of diabetes OR a 20-hour single player game” hesitation.

/Metaphor.

The platforms are the guards, and games are the inmates. The guards dictate when you can get a conjugal visit and because only so many inmates can have bang bang at once, you’ll have to wait your turn.

What this means is that you either stick at full price RRP and hope for the best or succumb to the guards and fragrantly wave the %OFF flag in an inmates circle jerk.

The irony here is that the circle jerk will get you a better return. Sleeping with Gabe Newell ain’t sounding so bad now, is it?

So, as a developer, you’ll likely be hoping the handful of major sales during the year can make up for the vast majority of the time your little sweetheart is stuck at full price.

/The punchline.

Consumers know the only time to buy is when your game is on sale, or in a bundle, or F2P. It sucks right?

The only exception, you are the big swinging… orangutan on a rope tire and can make gaming media dance so you get the exposure needed.

So go sleep with Gabe Newell quick.

We should have, as right now we’re stuck doing the inmate circle jerk.

It’s probably why they say the games industry is a messy business.

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