The Exploitative Push For Social Networking In Games (The Jimquisition)

The Exploitative Push For Social Networking In Games (The Jimquisition)



♪ Memories. ♪ ♪ We're born different ♪ ♪ We're born innocent ♪ ♪ We're born perfect ♪ ♪ I'm not like you ♪ ♪ I'm a born lover ♪ ♪ Born living ♪ ♪ And I know I'm ♪ ♪ I'm not like you ♪ ♪ I was born clever ♪ ♪ Born knowledgeable ♪ ♪ Oh yeah ♪ ♪ Oh yeah ♪ ♪ Oh yeah ♪ ♪ Ooh beautiful ♪ – Goddamn sexy thick Venom. It's no secret by now that the so-called Triple A industry is all in on socially charged gaming experiences, the unsustainably saturated
live service marketplace that has given us such award-winning triumphs in excellence
as Anthem, Fallout 76, and The Culling 2, has brought with it the expectation that we're not supposed to just enjoy and play
video games on our own. And as for playing any
of this shit offline? You're havin' a laugh, ain't ya? We're supposed to enjoy them with other people around the world, constantly connected, whether
we like people or not. People have been playing video games with and against each other
for decades, of course. The concept of multiplayer is nothing new. But we're beyond simple
multiplayer these days. We're expected to interact with each other on a more casual, albeit more
pervasive and complex levels. The rise of social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook means we're more connected than ever, more exposed to each other's bullshit, and video games wants
a slice of that action. If you were to ask Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson about it, it's something we're all begging for. In a so-called candid interview with the uncannily robotic executive, Wilson justified his company's push toward more social experiences as something the market demands, and he pushes this angle hard. The word social comes up no less than nine times in the interview, as Android Wilson deploys his narrative. "Once you get to the point
where social interaction "is really, really
important, then you discover "that network effect
in the context of games "is as important as it is for Facebook, "or Snapchat, or Twitter, "or any of these other
social grounds," he said. "Once you come to terms with that, "what you understand is that people "will come together to
consume this content together, "and they will want to stay and continue "to consume that content "and fuel those relationships
as part of that. "The reality is that is going
to mean games as service "is going to be
foundational to our industry "because that is how you will fulfill "the motivations of players
who have social interaction "at the very core of why
many of them play games "for much of the time they play." Wilson is saying social networking is just as important in a video game as it is on Facebook, which
is one hell of a bold take. Now, there seems to be no real evidence for his belief that it's that important. Outside of financial reasons,
but we'll get to that. He just states it like
it's a given, a fact, something we've all already accepted. Personally, I'd love to know who he asked to reach this conclusion, a conclusion he's already treating as something obvious,
something irrefutable, something we've all got to acknowledge. I'd love to know which video game players are going around saying,
"I really love Fallout, "but I wish it were more like Twitter." Actually, I'd love to meet anyone who wishes something was
more like fucking Twitter. I've certainly never
been asked, and frankly, if I were, I'd answer
with a resounding fuck no. Fuck no do I need exposure
to more human beings when I decide to play a video game. If anything, the existence
of Twitter and Facebook should be an argument for
less social interaction in our escapist entertainment, where the key word is escape. I'd much rather get lost
in my own solo experience after dealing with fucking
people all day long. We've got social interaction
coming out our asses, and it's becoming more and more evident through the prevalence
of social networking and the horror it brings
that the biggest mistake humanity ever made was
getting to know itself better. I expect Wilson and game
industry executives like him to increasingly lean on the idea that we, the people, demand more social
interactions in our games. In a recent interview,
Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot beamed about how tech
advancements for game hardware offer "more intelligent game worlds "with deeper systems, the ability
to play with more friends, "and have more social interactions." Wahoo! Similar to the ways in which the industry pushed the whole single player
games are dead bullshit, the industry is gonna work overtime to sell this idea that
video games must be, in their own twisted way,
social media platforms. (groaning) And while there is and always will be plenty of room in the marketplace for social interaction, multiplayer, and live service games, I fully believe there's a reason why
cyborgs like Andrew Wilson are yelling the word social
at any given opportunity, normalizing the idea that
it's an expected feature of pretty much every
mainstream game churned out. The reason is, of course, money. More specifically, money
from so-called whales, the customers prized by gamemakers for their willingness to spend large amounts of money
on in-game purchases. Yep, it all comes down, once again, to flogging micro-transactions. And if we take a look
at a little talk given by Jussi Laakkonen, Laakkonen? Jussi, Jussi? Metal Gear? Anyway, if you take a look at this talk, it'll show exactly why publishers are so interested in social networking. – The moniker on how you make revenue off free-to-play games,
you've got non-payers, you've got monetary payers,
and you've got heavy payers, and you've got even what
we call super whales. What makes these people tick and how do you attract them,
the people who spend money? How do whales find your game? What is engagement to these people? What makes them tick? And how do they share? So, primarily try to complete the loop. How do these people find,
how do they get stuck, and how do they bring more
people into your game? – [Jim] How do they get stuck? Something tells me that wasn't the optimal choice of words,
and yet, it reveals so much. In a prior video, we looked at how addiction-based gameplay is
allowing the game industry to make money from vulnerable players, and we looked at a gloating presentation given by a mobile studio
CEO, Torulf Jernstrom, who explained in shocking
and disgusting detail how in-game purchases
psychologically trick people into spending money. Laakkonen's talk, titled
"Getting inside the heads "of F2P players who
spend 50 bucks a month," is less despicable in comparison, but it's nonetheless an eye-opener in relation to this push
for social networking that we've seen in games. The talk broadens the concept of whales to differentiate between heavy spenders who spend around 10
bucks a month on a game and what Laakkonen calls super whales, the most desirable sort,
who can be expected to spend upwards of $50 a month. – How does social play into this? Because in our server, we're
primarily interested in how does social affect whales? And there is not a huge
amount of difference, when you think about this. Social features are
important for everybody. We didn't see a huge differential when we added into heavy
payers and the super whales. But fundamentally, what's interesting is, we think about whales being somehow psychologically sick
people who just play alone and they don't have any life, but clearly, more interested into getting involved in the social features. The social features help in retention. It reinforces that, when
you go into the game and start spending money, you wanna engage with other people. This is really interesting. Making new in-game
friends, in-game chatting, and responding to
challenges, and these things are really standing out. So, in the last slide, everybody was roughly equal
on the social spectrum, slight more for the super whales, then when we start really looking at specific features, the
whales are really starting, the super whales are really
starting to stand apart. – [Jim] Here the whale hunter discusses that social networking is something whales of all stripes love. He also tries to push back on the idea that whale hunting is problematic and targets the psychologically vulnerable because whales have friends, which isn't really a justification. Many problem gamblers and
shopping addicts have friends. In fact, social media
addiction is itself a thing. Just being social
doesn't mean you can't be unethically targeted by
predatory monetization. But I digress. The point is, social interaction isn't so attractive to the industry because we're all
necessarily demanding it, but it's sure as hell
important to the industry because the whales seemingly like it. And as always, I'd like to take a moment just to point out how dehumanizing I think the term whales is. I'm just surprised that the industry hasn't dropped the veil over its contempt and just started calling them cattle. – Whether it be things like Clash of Clans providing clan system where you can buddy up with other people or
with your existing friends, or may be the new mobile type of games that are coming along, they're all tapping into this feature, which
are about playing together or playing against somebody,
and to me, that's something. If you're working towards
a free-to-play game that really, you have
to think about whales, I think you really need to
start thinking about social as a key driver for these people. – [Jim] If we look at
the mobile game industry as a testing ground for monetization that makes its way to
Triple A video games, as it seems to be, then
it's not hard to see why Android Wilson has such
a massive fuck-off boner for social gaming right now. This talk, where super whales were named as retained and driven
by social interaction, was delivered in 2014, not too long before mainstream companies jumped aboard the live service bandwagon in droves. Games like Clash of Clans have long been an obsession for big
budget game publishers who see the mountains of cash they make and want to replicate that financial decadence for themselves. In fact, it was in 2014 that
I published a video titled "The Unholy Trinity of
Blind Greedy Bastards," where I discussed how game publishers only see and care about three games: Call of Duty, Candy Crush,
and of course, Clash of Clans. I learned this from talks with
folks within the industry, and in the years since I've published it, it's only become more and more clear that these games are indeed the most influential games of their time for all the wrong reasons. Incidentally, Clash of Clans
is one of several games mentioned in a recent BBC report about kids being tricked into spending hundreds of thousands of
pounds of their parents' money on video games aimed
specifically at children. And also, totally incidentally,
we're seeing ever more so-called Triple A games
doing the same thing, especially FIFA, which is
rated as suitable for kids aged three and up, yet
thanks to in-game gambling now needs more parental supervision than fucking Doom ever did. Social networking also brings
with it social pressure. For many years, people have argued micro-transactions and loot boxes are okay if the items are just cosmetic, and I've pushed back against
that defense the whole time. Cosmetics are particularly insidious, because they create a
haves and have-nots economy where people are pressured into spending to keep up with their friends. Quite a few people called me an idiot for arguing this back in the day, but now we're in an age
where kids at school are being bullied for not having any premium skins in Fortnite, where default has become a derogatory term for those who don't
spend on in-game items. And all this time, men
like Torulf Jernstrom were explicitly instructing developers on how to use peer pressure
to their financial advantage. – We are herd animals, we tend to do what all of the others do. You all sit quiet listening to me because that's what all
of the other guys do here. So, especially when people are
similar to our herd, to us, this means that you should
have the socially accepted way of behaving in your game should be paying. You want to tell people, for instance, when a clan member of
theirs spends IAP money, you want the whole clan to know, because then that becomes
the socially acceptable way of behaving. You absolutely do not want to tell them that the majority of people in your game never spend money. That's poison. Never tell them that. – Yeah, who's the fucking idiot now? Of course, the ability
for social interaction to coax money out of people
is a fairly old concept. It's how some of the most evil names in the game industry got their start. In 2009, 10 years ago, FarmVille
arrived to ruin the world, a seductively addictive
farm management sim. Much of what micro-transaction
fueled games are known for were popularized, maybe not invented, but entirely popularized, by Zynga's Facebook-based agriculture. Premium currencies,
frustrating wait periods on activities, purchasable items. It was a classic free-to-play structure that would mutate into the fucked up addiction-based economies that now rake in billions and billions of dollars for companies like EA and Activision. And of course, FarmVille was inherently social in its structure, being housed most famously on Facebook and utilizing Facebook's own features to spread knowledge of the game to everyone on the network. Players were encouraged to spam
their friends with requests and with game rewards for
helping each other out. It kept people playing, it had them keeping up with each other, and naturally, it made a shit ton of cash in the process. At its peak, FarmVille boasted 83.76 million active users a month, and while its popularity
declined sharply after 2011, the legacy it left behind with the lessons it taught the industry
are stronger than ever. Its addictive gameplay loop of repetitive busywork and chores has been replicated
thousands of times over in the intervening decade,
taken to new peaks of audacity with mindlessly cyclical
premium games like Anthem, which unmistakably share huge
amounts of DNA with FarmVille. Many, if not most of these
modern live service games are just FarmVille writ large. They might have combat added in, more shit to do, and a bit of
narrative draped around it, but the philosophy is the same. When micro-transactions
game to Dead Space 3, Visceral's John Calhoun
notoriously tried to justify them by saying mobile gamers expected them, so they were added to the
distinctly non-mobile game. "There's a lot of players out there, "especially players
coming from mobile games, "who are accustom to
micro-transactions," Calhoun told CBG. "They're like, I need
this now, I want this now. "They need instant gratification, "so we included that option
to attract those players, "so that if they're 5000
Tungsten short of this upgrade, "they can have it." Ironically, as we all
know, EA CEO Android Wilson needs tungsten to live. At the time, this
statement from an EA thrall was mocked and laughed at. Why on Earth would you
put something in there for mobile players, who
are called mobile players because they play on
fucking mobile systems? Looking back, however, and seeing how insidiously woven into
the fabric of the market micro-transactions have become, what Calhoun says now
takes on a darker tone. It was a portent of things to come, as well as a candid glimpse into what these executives were thinking. Because in the context of today's market, perhaps what he said
wasn't all that stupid. I mean, they got what
they wanted, didn't they? They wanted to emulate
the avaricious economies of mobile games where knee-jerk purchases, addictive spending, and
social pressure make billions. So they did. They did copy these things. You wouldn't see them be that
blunt about it these days, but back then, what Calhoun said was a bit of honesty. They were just copying the successful shit they saw in mobile games to make money. Naturally, this honesty
is still dressed up in a bunch of insincere bullshit, but the nucleus of truth is plain as day. Calhoun, way back in
2013, the Year of Luigi, outlined exactly, exactly how
they expected to make money by frustrating players and
exploiting their frayed patience. I need this now, I want this now, he says. I need this now, I want this now. I shouldn't have laughed
at that mobile players line back in 2013, because right
now in 2019, it's not a joke, it's just the way things are. And while all this is going on, we have mobile game executives delivering their little presentations about how you should trick players into spending for instant gratification, how peer pressure should
be used to make spending the socially acceptable norm,
and how these super whales love social interactivity
more than anyone else, just like when the game industry told you that you don't like linear, story-driven, single player games, the game
industry wants to tell you that you want all your games to be social, that it's as important to
your experience in a game as it is to Twitter,
Facebook, and Snapchat, and it's a crock of shit. Social gaming has its
place, but its mass adoption by the Triple A game industry
is a fucking scam, a long con, yet another way, on top of the by now absurd number of ways in
which video game publishers plan to swindle, trick,
and seduce cash out of you. And just to reiterate the
most important aspect, I don't like people. Who fucking does? As we firmly established over the years, game publishers don't produce things simply because people want them. Obviously they do do things
there's a market for, but the sole reason, the primary reason, is not because people want stuff. If they produced things just
because people wanted them, there wouldn't be so many Kickstarters for things people want. No, no, no, they do
things because they sense an opportunity to make
extreme amounts of money. Not just a good amount of money, a moderate amount of money, even an impressive amount of money. As we have talked about for
many years on this show, game publishers don't just want money, they want all of the money in the world. That's why we can't
just have whales anymore for these people. They don't just have whales,
they have their heavy spenders and their super whales,
because they've hit the limit, I guess, on just focusing
on all of the whales. Now they need to find out
how to finely tune themselves to get their psychological hooks in people who are even more willing to spend money than the people who were already willing to spend loads of money. There is no end to what they do. There is no limit to what they want. That's why monetization has gotten worse, and worse, and worse. And I've asked on this show
before, where does it end? Where does it end when
we have a game coming out and we have a game with
multiple delux editions, silver editions, gold editions, half a dozen different
collector's editions, micro-transactions, season passes, sponsored tie-ins with energy drinks, and of course, loot boxes as an evolution of the micro-transactions,
because simply making perpetual money off people wasn't enough. While multiplayer and
social networking, even, in games does have a place, it's becoming quite
clear that these things are mass-adopted not
because they have a place, but because they can be used to displace what video games are in
order to trick and swindle more and more money out of people. This whole social networking
approach to video games, while not widely adopted,
while not so deeply baked into games yet, it's
something I think is coming. It's something these publishers definitely are keeping their eye on. When you have Andrew Wilson
saying that social networking is just as important in games as it is on actual social media platforms, you can sort of smell
where the wind is blowing. And yes, I meant to say smell
which way the wind is blowing, because the moment the wind
blows in your direction, you can just pick up the hint
of shit from the horizon, because that's what big,
massive game publishers are doing right now, shit. Utter, outright shit. Anyway, thank you to the people in Alabama who came out, Jimquisition
fans who came out to the Piedmont show in Alabama, where Sterling appeared
for ProSouth Wrestling. If you're in Pittsburgh August
3rd at the Rise Stronghold, why not come and check it out? It'll probably maybe be good. And you can all, whether
you're there or not, thank God for me. Wouldn't that be nice for you, hmm? Goddamn thick Venom. (intense jazzy music) ♪ Yeah everybody's thinkin' about me ♪

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