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Executive Summary

Some major gaming companies are using methods of getting players to pay ridiculous amounts of money just to play a specific game. This is being done through the use of several different methods, all of which are intended to influence the consumer into purchasing more than they originally were required to purchase. DLC, in-app purchasable booster, and especially loot-boxes appeal to different types of people and are potentially dangerous, as they can prompt players to spend more than they should.

Links:

  • The Presentation – https://osu.instructure.com/courses/69176/assignments/1327051/submissions/225040
  • The Best Resource – https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0206767.

 

 

First Draft

It is becoming clearer as time goes on that many video game companies are taking advantage of players through various post initial-purchase mechanics in order to get more and more money out of them, and there are three main ways that this is being accomplished. The first, Downloadable Content (DLC), is able to be bought after a player buys the game and often includes additional content, however now companies are releasing unfinished games and selling the end of the game as DLC to make more money at the expense of the consumer. The second is by Pay-to-Win, which are games that allow you to pay a fee to bypass long and generally more boring portions of a game to advance. Lastly through loot-boxes, which are boxes earned for free through normal game-play but unlocked with real world money. This increase in purchasables shows that many companies are more interested in making a quick buck than respecting the players that are having to pay upwards of $70 to play a full game.

One of the ways companies make money off of a player after the initial purchase of the game is through Downloadable Content (DLC). DLC was originally introduced as a way of both adding more content for players, while the company could still be making money before the next full game release. Often it would include an additional chapter to the story mode, new maps with a unique design, more cosmetic options for a player’s character, or even additional weapons and items. A perfect example of the original intended use of DLC was in the game Rock Band, where the game was released with a large library of songs to play in game, but each week after its initial release they would add more songs that were able to be purchased for $1.99, eventually totaling to 1,244 songs. “Of course, not everyone will download even close to every one of those songs, but the opportunity is still there to spend nearly twenty-five hundred dollars on one game in addition to the initial purchase of software and expensive plastic “instruments.” (Lizardi, 2012). In recent years, however, it has become a problem because some companies are releasing unfinished games for the price of a full game, and advertising DLC that would contain the rest of the game for sometimes ridiculous prices. A player could spend $60 on a “complete” game, only to find out after buying it that in order to play with all the characters or complete the story they would need to spend another $10, $30, or even more. The most well-known example of this happened with EA’s “Star-Wars Battlefront” which released in 2015. After purchasing the game for $59.99, players were expected to also buy the “season pass” which would allow them to download all of the future planned DLC updates. The problem was this pass cost $50. Erik Kain, a writer for Forbes, wrote at the time; “But even if you are going to charge for content, $50 is way too much. It’s likely that each individual DLC will cost around $15, so you save ten bucks, but even still…this means that the ‘complete’ experience will cost gamers $110 plus tax” a sentiment he shared with many others.

Pay-to-Win is a special term that is used most often in mobile gaming to refer to any way you can spend real world money on something in game that will put you farther ahead of the competition. This mechanic has been around for a long time, almost as long as the app store has existed. Almost all mobile games are created for one purpose, and that is to make as much money as possible. One of the ways this is done is by integrating advertisements in to the game-play, for example making the user sit through a 30 second ad at the end of the match or every time they want to speed up the wait time on a certain task. This is where the second money-making technique is used, in the form of in-app purchases. Why would someone sit through a 30 second ad at the end of every game when they can just pay $4.99 to disable them. Often times in-app purchases are used to skip the wait timer that players would otherwise have to sit through, thus giving those who choose to spend a couple dollars on a game an advantage. This has shown to be a very successful method of making money as well, with both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store grossing a combined 71.4 billion dollars in 2018 (Nelson, 2019).

This isn’t shocking information considering how quickly the little “here and there” payments people make can add up, which is exactly what the companies want.

 

loot-boxes are a very common mechanic used in many multiplayer games today. As a player plays games, they will be awarded these loot-boxes, which they will then have to spend real world money to open. They almost always only include a random cosmetic option for the players character or weapons, thus they don’t give players an edge on competitive games, only on how they look. The issue with loot-boxes is that they are considered by many to be a form of gambling. Since video games are not age restricted, and many parents don’t know how to properly monitor their children in online gaming, the problem becomes apparent; loot-boxes are an easy way for children to gamble online. The problem also extends to people that have a gambling addiction. As found in a study done in late 2018, non-problem gamblers spent less money per month on loot-boxes than problem gamblers did, as shown here:

Both of those groups of people are at risk of spending lots of money and becoming addicted to the “rush” of possibly getting a rare item.

 

In conclusion, it is evident that the topics discussed suggest that the consumer is pressured to make payments beyond the initial-purchase of the game, else they miss out on features. DLC is a great tool for the advancement of video games but companies have to be held accountable so as not to release unfinished games and charge for expansions. Pay-to-Win games are unfair to those unwilling to spend money and thus players should be weary of them. Lastly loot-boxes fuel problem gamblers and tempt kids to spend hundreds of dollars while having little in game yield, and thus require a complete rework so as to remove the danger. Each topic is not perfect, but they all can be improved and made into safe, fun, and honest additions to video games in general.

Paper Outline

Intro

It is becoming more clear as time goes on that many video game companies are taking advantage of players through various post initial-purchase mechanics in order to get more and more money out of them, and there are three main ways that this is being accomplished. The first, Downloadable Content (DLC), is able to be bought after a player buys the game and often includes additional content, however now companies are releasing unfinished games and selling the end of the game as DLC to make more money at the expense of the consumer. The second is by Pay-to-Win, which are games that allow you to pay a fee to bypass long and generally more boring portions of a game to advance. Lastly through loot-boxes, which are boxes earned for free through normal game-play, but unlocked with real world money. This increase in purchasables shows that many companies are more interested in making a quick buck than respecting the players that are having to pay upwards of $70 to play a full game.

Argument 1

One of the ways companies make money off of a player after the initial purchase of the game is through Downloadable Content (DLC). DLC was originally introduced as a way of both adding more content for players, while the company could still be making money before the next full game release. Often it would include an additional chapter to the story mode, new maps with a unique design, more cosmetic options for a player’s character, or even additional weapons and items. In recent years, it has become a problem because some companies are beginning to release unfinished games for the price of a full game, and advertising DLC that would contain the rest of the game for sometimes ridiculous prices. A player could spend $60 on a “complete” game, only to find out after buying it that in order to play with all the characters or complete the story they would need to spend another $10 to $30.

Support Information:

  • Lizardi, Ryan. “DLC: Perpetual Commodification of the Video Game.” Democratic Communiqué, vol. 25, no. 1, 18 June 2012, https://journals.flvc.org/demcom/article/view/78739.
  • Kain, Erik. “EA Goes Full Dark Side With $50 ‘Star Wars: Battlefront’ Season Pass.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 12 Oct. 2015, https://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2015/10/12/ea-goes-full-dark-side-with-star-wars-battlefront-50-season-pass/#57678a3435e3.

 

Argument 2

Pay-to-Win is a special term that is used most often in mobile gaming to refer to any way you can spend real world money on something in game that will put you farther ahead of the competition. This mechanic has been around for a long time, almost as long as the app store has existed. Almost all mobile games are created for one purpose, and that is to make as much money as possible. One of the ways this is done is by integrating advertisements in to the game-play, for example making the user sit through a 30 second ad at the end of the match or every time they wants to speed up the wait time on a certain task. This is where the second money-making technique is used, in the form of in-app purchases. Why would someone sit through a 30 second ad at the end of every game when they can just pay $4.99 to disable them. Often times in-app purchases are used to skip the wait timer that players would otherwise have to sit through, thus giving those who choose to spend a couple dollars on a game an advantage. They pay, they win.

Support Information:

  • Iqbal, Mansoor. “App Revenue Statistics (2019).” Business of Apps, Business of Apps, 13 Sept. 2019, https://www.businessofapps.com/data/app-revenues/.
  • Nelson, Randy. “Global App Revenue Grew 23% in 2018 to More Than $71 Billion on IOS and Google Play.” Sensor Tower, SensorTower, 26 Jan. 2019, https://sensortower.com/blog/app-revenue-and-downloads-2018.

Argument 3

loot-boxes are a very common mechanic used in many multiplayer games today. As a player plays games they will be awarded these loot-boxes, which they will then have to spend real world money to open. They almost always only include a random cosmetic option for the players character or weapons, thus they don’t give players an edge on competitive games, only on how they look. The issue with loot-boxes is that they are considered by many to be a form of gambling. Since video games are not age restricted, and many parents don’t know how to properly monitor their children in online gaming, the problem becomes apparent; loot-boxes are an easy way for children to gamble online. The problem also extends to people that have a gambling addiction. Both of those groups of people are at risk of spending lots of money, and becoming addicted to it.

Support Information:

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is evident that the topics discussed suggest that the consumer is pressured to make payments beyond the initial-purchase of the game. DLC, loot-boxes, and Pay-to-Win games are all extremely common methods of companies accomplishing this goal, and they all should be regulated to ensure fairness to the consumers.

Arguments 2 & 3

– Argument 2 –

  • My second argument is that Pay-to-Win is a cash-grab and proves that companies can force consumers that don’t have as much free time to pay extra to compete with those that do.

Pay-to-Win is a special term that is used most often in mobile gaming to refer to any way you can spend real world money on something in game that will put you farther ahead of the competition. This mechanic has been around for a long time, almost as long as the app store has existed. Almost all mobile games are created for one purpose, and that is to make as much money as possible. One of the ways this is done is by integrating advertisements in to the game-play, for example making the user sit through a 30 second ad at the end of the match or every time they wants to speed up the wait time on a certain task. This is where the second money-making technique is used, in the form of in-app purchases. Why would someone sit through a 30 second ad at the end of every game when they can just pay $4.99 to disable them. Often times in-app purchases are used to skip the wait timer that players would otherwise have to sit through, thus giving those who choose to spend a couple dollars on a game an advantage. They pay, they win.

– Argument 3 –

  • My third argument is that the loot-box mechanic is used to manipulated consumers, especially kids, into spending more money by using gambling strategies.

loot-boxes are a very common mechanic used in many multiplayer games today. As a player plays games they will be awarded these loot-boxes, which they will then have to spend real world money to open. They almost always only include a random cosmetic option for the players character or weapons, thus they don’t give players an edge on competitive games, only on how they look. The issue with loot-boxes is that they are considered by many to be a form of gambling. Since video games are not age restricted, and many parents don’t know how to properly monitor their children in online gaming, the problem becomes apparent; loot-boxes are an easy way for children to gamble online. The problem also extends to people that have a gambling addiction. Both of those groups of people are at risk of spending lots of money, and becoming addicted to it.

Laura Fathauer’s Presentation (Reflection)

I found her presentation very interesting. Hearing about her work was quite fascinating, to learn about how text to voice is used and that you can control a web site by scrolling through and having it all read aloud. I have to admit I am a little confused about how the three stories related to each other, however that does not detract from the stories themselves. It was especially cool to see who she mapped out where all the flood photos were taken and superimposed them over a current day map. I will definitely use that at some point in the future, especially since my major is Geology it could come in hand when it comes to mapping out rock beds.

Argument 1

Gaming companies are intentionally releasing unfinished games in order to sell DLC.

One of the ways companies make money off of a player after the initial purchase of the game is through Downloadable Content (DLC). DLC was originally introduced as a way of both adding more content for players, while the company could still be making money before the next full game release. Often it would include an additional chapter to the story mode, new maps with a unique design, more cosmetic options for a players character, or even additional weapons and items. In recent years, it has become a problem because some companies are beginning to release unfinished games for the price of a full game, and advertising DLC that would contain the rest of the game for sometimes ridiculous prices. A player could spend $60 on a “complete” game, only to find out after buying it that in order to play with all the characters or complete the story they would need to spend another $10 to $30.

Annotated Bibliography (3 Entries)

  1. Xiao, Leon Y, and Laura L Henderson. “Towards an Ethical Game Design Solution to Loot Boxes: a Commentary on King and Delfabbro, by Xiao, Leon Y.; Henderson, Laura L.” Ideas, Center for Open Science, 4 Sept. 2019, https://ideas.repec.org/p/osf/lawarx/r6z5a.html.
    1. This source is in response to a source I had cited as #4 in the previous post, it adds examples and critiques some of the “solutions to loot-boxes” that were described in the previous article. It was written by Leon Y. Xiao and Laura L. Henderson, law students at Durham University. I chose this source because it offers a different perspective on another of my sources used, as well as many real examples of the topics discussed. Its recent publication date means its information is up to date and the examples are relevant to gamers today. Found on Google Scholar.
  2. Shieber, Jonathan. “Video Game Revenue Tops $43 Billion in 2018, an 18% Jump from 2017.” TechCrunch, TechCrunch, 22 Jan. 2019, https://techcrunch.com/2019/01/22/video-game-revenue-tops-43-billion-in-2018-an-18-jump-from-2017/.
    1. This source compiles data for video game sales over the past several years. It was written by Jonathan Shieber at TechCrunch, a popular technology news publisher. I chose this source because of the stats used. It was published in 2019 and compares statistics over the past several years, therefore it is relevant to my paper. Found on Google.
  3. Iqbal, Mansoor. “App Revenue Statistics (2019).” Business of Apps, Business of Apps, 13 Sept. 2019, https://www.businessofapps.com/data/app-revenues/.
    1. This source details how much money is spent on the iTunes store and the different ways that it is spent. It is written and compiled by Mansoor Iqbal, a writer for Business of Apps. I chose this article because of the raw data it contains in reference to mobile gaming, as well as the graphics. It is recently published (2019) and contains updated data. Found on Google

TradeMark Gunderson’s Presentation (Reflection)

I liked his presentation, it was genuinely interesting to hear about his ventures with copy claims and use of other people property to make his own. The idea of “its easier to take first and apologize later” is a very interesting concept to me, especially since in many other areas of life this is the exact opposite of what you want to do, although I have to agree with him in this instance it is better to go ahead and make what you want since it is indeed easier to apologize. In the future I will most likely take that to heart when it comes to being creative in whatever aspect I am doing.

Annotated Bibliography (4 Entries)

  1. Lizardi, Ryan. “DLC: Perpetual Commodification of the Video Game.” Democratic Communiqué, vol. 25, no. 1, 18 June 2012, https://journals.flvc.org/demcom/article/view/78739.
    1. This Source talks about how video game downloadable content is a way for businesses to increase the profit between software titles, without needing to add much, if any, new content. The article is by Ryan Lizardi, a Penn state Ph.D graduate in the field of Communications, who now works for the SUNY Institute of Technology. I chose this source because it is very related to my thesis and topic, and because of the attention to detail and research that was done by the author. While the publication date (2012) may render some of the actual statistics inaccurate, most of the points hold true. This is especially true since the gaming industry has not shrunken, but rather grown exponentially. Found with Google Scholar.
  2. Zendle, David, and Paul Cairns. “Video Game Loot Boxes Are Linked to Problem Gambling: Results of a Large-Scale Survey.” PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, 21 Nov. 2018, https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0206767.
    1. This source describes the relationship between video game loot boxes and real world gambling. It is written by David Zendle and Paul Cairns, who both work for the University of York in the computer science department and have written peer reviewed articles for years. I chose this article because it supports on the main arguments in my paper that is loot boxes are essentially gambling. This source is perfect for my needs since it is both relevant and peer reviewed to ensure that the information in it is accurate and up to date. Found with Google Scholar.
  3. Heimo OI, Harviainen JT, Kimppa KK, Mäkilä T. Virtual to Virtuous Money: A Virtue Ethics Perspective on Video Game Business Logic. Journal of Business Ethics. 2018;153(1):95-103. doi:10.1007/s10551-016-3408-z.
    1. This source talks about the ethics of different forms of payment in games, as well as clearly defining the different types. It is written by Olli I. Heimo and Kai K. Kimppa who both are employed at the University of Turku, as well as J. Tuomas Harvianinen who is employed at Tampere University. I chose this source because it talks about the ethical portion of the issue. It was published in 2018, therefore it can be very useful to my finished paper, since the information within, especially statistics, is up to date. Found with The OSU Library Database.
  4. King, Daniel L, and Paul H Delfabbro. “Video Game Monetization (E.g., ‘Loot Boxes’): a Blueprint for Practical Social Responsibility Measures.” SpringerLink, International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, Feb. 2019, https://link-springer-com.proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/article/10.1007/s11469-018-0009-3.
    1. This source explains in detail the different types of lootboxes and DLC, and attempts to offer methods of making them less unfair to the players. It is written by Daniel L. King who is employed at Flinders University and has a Ph.D in Psychology, as well as Paul H. Delfabbro who is employed at the University of Adelaide and also has a Ph.D in Psychology. I chose this source because of the counter measures it offers to the issues of video game payment. Since it was published in 2019, it is a very relevant and up to date paper, therefore the information within will be beneficial.

Thesis

My thesis is that video game companies are taking advantage of players through various post initial-purchase mechanics in order to get more and more money out of them.