Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Maybe I shouldn't have taken a bite of that Apple

I spent the latter part of last week at mini-Red #2's university orientation*, and while it was wonderful to look around and enjoy the university atmosphere, I couldn't completely shake work from the back of my mind.

Wrong time of year, perhaps, but there were vistas
like this across campus.
You see, work often means being beset by business terms ("business-speak"), discussions about how to do more with less, and the steady advance of business analytics.

The concept of business analytics isn't exactly new, given that methods of separating customers from their money have been around for millenia. However, computers and electronics have grown to the point where the "Big Data" of business analytics is now a huge business. The "targeted advertising" in the past has yielded to analytics driven methods of optimizing sales.**

Even getting away to a university in a small town hasn't allowed me to escape all of this stuff.


And what, you may be asking, does this have to do with a gaming blog?

Everything, actually.

Why do you think live services, lootboxes, and other in-game purchases are so big (and yet so reviled) with game dev houses right now? Because they do a great job of utilizing analytics to target the gamers who will pay for such things.

There are companies who market toward dev houses to help them maximize their profit. And if you said "Well, of course there are," watching their sales pitch is less about watching a meeting in a dev company and more about watching something that'd have been at home in a traditional corporate boardroom.

Here's a snippet of one, from Jim Sterling's The Jimquisition from back in 2017:

Sorry about adding the 50 second preamble, but I thought it was better to get a sense of the overall situation rather than simply dropping it into a post as-is. And although I do take issue with Jim Sterling at times, this entire episode of The Jimquisition does cover a lot of items that I used to see regularly as a salesperson at Radio Shack back in the early 90s.***


I guess you could say that --as a player of MMOs-- I ought to be inoculated to this sort of monetization, but there are times when it does bother me a lot. Like when I'm walking through a small college town, enjoying the scene, and see something that makes me think "You know, if [pick a storefront, any storefront] knew their customer base better, they could really do well here in town."

It's like being a musician, and not being able to turn your analytical brain off and simply enjoy the music any more, only far far worse.

And I really am concerned that monetization schemes in the gaming industry will become not only more invasive with time, but paradoxically harder to detect. And also I fear that game companies --particularly the major corporate dev houses-- have lost sight of the reason why games truly exist: for fun.

*Although he and I had been at his university twice to visit, my wife hadn't. Therefore, both of us tagged along with him for orientation. The drawback to those extra days off from work is that there was an absolute pile of work to get done when I got back. Yay me.


***Sorry, but the term back then was "Salesmaker", not salesperson. Radio Shack loved their own lingo to no end. And boy, could I tell you stories about life at "Rat Shack".

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