VIDEO GAMES ARE BIG BUSINESS, multi-billion dollar big, but some of the ways in which video game producers and distributers get some of that money from gamers are pretty shady, some might even call them scams. Like I just did. Here are a few of worst:
1. 50-CENT VIDEO ARCADES
The original video game ripoff! Unscrupulous arcade owners would literally double the price of their most popular games and somehow not reduce the line-ups to play them, doubling their profits. Imagine you’re just a regular kid in the ’80s who would drop his allowance at the arcade every week, and one day you find some asshole has gone and stuck a hand-written “Two quarters to play” sign next to the coin slot. Suddenly you’re video game budget only stretches half as far, you’re pissed, but what can you do when the only way to play Pac-Man or Street Fighter is to do it in the arcade? What, are you going to not play video games?
And that’s how they got you, back in the day.
2. MONTHLY SUBSCRIPTIONS
Because why should users only have to pay for the game once? Wouldn’t it be better if they kept paying month after month? Said every greedy game developer. This is one of the worst and most successful scams video game producers have managed to pull. Somehow they’ve got people believing that they should have to pay each month for a game that never really changes.
Time was, developers made a game, advertised the hell out of it and then hoped gamers bought it. Not any more. Game developers are always looking for ways to keep you playing, and paying, like making you repeat to same actions hundreds of time in the name of ‘experience points’ you need to move on to somewhat new game play.
3. IN-GAME PURCHASES/UPGRADES
Whatever happened to the good old days when you earned better equipment and skills by advancing through the game or having a cheat code?
This switch to making people pay for their upgrades is a cash grab plain and simple. And so often the purchase doesn’t really get you anything but items that change the game experience in no way whatsoever!
In many titles, all you get for your money is a different colored shirt, alternate uniforms or outfits, the donning of which affects nothing. In other games you will never really be able to win if you don’t pay to upgrade your weapons or magic or skills, because they are designed to be nearly impossible to beat with the default options—never actually impossible, just so frustratingly difficult that you cave and buy the upgrade.
4. EXPANSION PACKS
Okay, fine some expansion packs do offer some new game play at an affordable price, but too often they are just another level of the same old thing you’ve already paid for when you bought the game. In this way they are a brilliant little moneymaker for game developers and producers: Expansion packs simply recycle the game with a “new” location—which is actually an old one inverted or with an extra bush or two, or maybe an extra villain or two, or an identical level now available for multiplayer play.
It costs developers almost nothing to swing this manoeuvre, and gamers are paying $5 a piece for them.
And just in case you might catch on to the fact that you’re not getting much bang for your buck, and stop buying expansion packs, game producers include free bonus items—again generally little besides a change of clothes—only available to those gamers who have purchased all of the available expansion packs.
5. USE IT OR LOSE IT
Keep playing our game or we will take away things you’ve already earned/paid for. This is the biggest dick move of all, it’s like a company sells you a product, say a power tool, and then when they discover you aren’t using it as much as when you first bought it they start taking away attachments, and when you notice and get upset they offer to sell them back to you.
Pretty soon you learn to keep using your power tool lest you lose it all together. Think FarmVille crops that wither and die and how Trudy in HR is always rushing home to harvest.
Behavioral psychologists call this “avoidance,” but game developers call it a cash cow, because gamers want to avoid the in-game negative consequences so badly they ignore the negative consequences on their wallet.