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Posts Tagged ‘value’

Apparently Facebook doesn’t like Tobold.  Google+ probably doesn’t like him either.  Zuckerberg thinks it has to do with integrity. I say it’s about revenue, and “integrity” is just a pretty facade to hide behind.  It’s harder to monetize a handle (yes, I wrote about this before, just in a different setting).

In a world where we still judge someone by what they look like instead of what they do, and where appeals to authority are more persuasive than logic, and prejudice fuels hate crimes, face value is a… flexible thing.  Identity is similarly flexible.  Choosing what face you present to the world seems to me to be something best left to the individual.  Until Wikileaks takes an interest in you, anyway, all in the name of “disclosure”, another pretty euphemism with delightfully Patriotic overtones to browbeat dissent.  Because really, only the bad guys have information to hide, right?

If nothing else, even the “circles” design of G+ stands as testament to letting the user control the flow of information, though their iteration of RealID doesn’t (link to an excellent article, by the way).  Certain conversations and information simply isn’t meant for everyone; even if it isn’t really sensitive and “private” (and not really belonging online anyway), different circles of acquaintances won’t care about everything the same way those in other circles will.  That said, G+ is about revenue as well, even though they talk a good game about trying to keep discourse civil because, hey, who can object to civility?  They market information.  The services need to be monetized somehow.  Of course your identity has value, and they will tap that as well as they can.  You can’t complain much about a scorpion, after all.  Maybe that’s “lazy nihilism” to recognize that fact, but I prefer to call it pragmatism.  Much like you can’t realistically expect a politician to refrain from lying (though they might call it “discretion”), you can’t expect a business to operate as a charity.  Charities operate just fine, but businesses are different things.  (Not that profit itself is a bad thing, to be sure.  There are good businesses out there.)

In the meantime, though, for those like Samuel Clemens, Lady Gaga or even J. K. Rowling, the best solution seems to be to avoid those channels where your choice in identity is ignored.  Certainly those of the faceless masses with petty prejudices won’t mind if you simply step out of the flow of society; you’re easier to ignore that way.

I’m idly curious about transgendered people… how do they fit in?  What about the girl with the obviously Muslim or Jewish name?  What about the guy who can’t seem to escape the melanin in his face?  What part does choice have to play in identity, and are some choices more approved than others?  It always seems to me that these social paragons have suspiciously squishy standards.  Massaging the message by silencing certain undesirables that don’t share your worldview is certainly the prerogative of an information broker, but that doesn’t say much about “integrity” in conversation.

But then, this never really was about integrity.  It’s about the value your face has, and who gets to control that value.

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One of the arguments I see often in favor of the subscription model is that it’s “affordable”.  This is often paired with an argument that a movie and a dinner is more expensive, or that a $50 game has a mere six hours of gameplay, and that MMOs offer more than either of those options for a lesser price.

That may be true for some, but not as a universal constant.

The trouble is that “value” is a variable.  More than that, it’s a derived variable, a function of cost, time and personal preference.

See, I can afford 15 dollars a month for gaming on the whole.  I’m not rich by American standards (though by worldwide standards I’m most certainly above the median), but I am blessed sufficiently to make enough to take care of my family, prepare for the future and have a little left over.  Some in my position spend that money on fishing or hunting or some other hobby, some spend it on booze, I choose to spend it on games.  A bit of discretionary spending is a luxury I’m grateful for… though it might be noted that I have enough games to keep me entertained for a lifetime already, given the replayability of many games, both digital and traditional.  I need not spend more money on games, and indeed, as I spend more and more time creating games, the balance shifts further.

However, according to some loan sharks, I can also afford a new car and a $300,000 house.  Though I can afford those luxuries according to some calculations, there is little wisdom in making purchasing decisions based on what I can afford.  That’s a rather nasty trend that has had significantly negative repercussions for the national and world economy.  I prefer to look at value.

I happily pay for things I can use when I please, for as long as I please.  I’ll even pay a premium for that right.  It’s why I bought my car outright (used, of course) rather than lease.  Yes, it cost me $3200 up front, which might be a year or so worth of a lease on a comparable (if newer) vehicle, but I own that car.  I need not finance it further (other than feeding and care, of course).  I intend to drive it to the ground, and in the long run, I will get a great deal of value out of that purchase.  Even counting inevitable repairs (and ignoring feeding costs since a new or leased car would eat just as much), that car will cost me less than purchasing a new car or leasing a car for the duration of time that I’ll be using it.

…and that’s the key behind why MMO subscriptions are of very low value to me.  They are a price for access granted for a chunk of time.  I do not get many hours of MMO play in a month.  Some do, and for them, certainly, the price per unit of play approaches nicely low numbers to give a sense of value for their purchase.  For me, however, when I can spend $15 on something like Recettear that gives me easily 40 solid hours of play or more, which is naturally spread out over perhaps six months, a subscription doesn’t even come close to comparing.  World of Goo, a game I purchased on sale for $5, has given me and my family hundreds of hours of play over more than a year.

Yes, it could easily be argued that those are different games, but then I look at Guild Wars, also purchased for $5 on sale, and note that I have gotten dozens of MMO-ish gaming hours over a year, and at no further recurring cost.  In many ways, I even consider Guild Wars to be a superior game when compared to something like WoW or LOTRO.

So while I can technically afford a subscription to something like WoW, LOTRO or EVE (the three most likely games I’d sub to), such a purchase would not give me good value for my money.  Undoubtedly some do get good value out of a sub, but I do not.

I believe that the further splintering of the MMO industry into various business models is a Good Thing for the continued health of these games, as the demand curve is padded out and more customers bring in revenue that would not be captured at a single price point.  The business model inevitably affects the game, and just as item shop games have warts, sub games have warts… they are just different ones.  No game will be a perfect fit for everyone, but if the market on the whole has sufficient variety, nearly everyone can find something they like and are willing to pay for.  Smart devs will find niches that aren’t served well and make a fair living.  That’s a healthy market.  A smart game will diversify itself across that demand curve, like Puzzle Pirates or Wizard 101 do.

I think that the MMO industry cannot afford not to diversify.  We’re seeing it already.  Doubtless we’ll see more. Just as the actual game design has to keep changing, the business has to keep changing.  It has to reach out to the spectrum of valuation and affordability, rather than try to shoehorn everyone into the same mold.  Individual games would also be well served by spreading out across the demand curve.  Arguably, that’s what DDO did, and did well with, and LOTRO and EQ2X are angling for the same dynamic.

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For less than the $25 WoW Sparklelord pony, you could spend a bit of cash this weekend and get all of the following, rent-free:

Civilization IV Complete

Civilization III

Master of Orion 1&2

Master of Magic

Value is a… flexible thing, but for me and my house, I find more value in these games than anything Blizzard has to offer.  Apples to oranges, perhaps, but when it’s a question of how I spend my money, this is the sort of deal that I look for.  The value/cost equations make me happy.

…and if you’ve never played Master of Magic, you’re running out of excuses.  If nothing else, call it research.  I hear the Cub Scouts appreciate that sort of thing.  You might also appreciate what Stardock is trying to do with Elemental, a spiritual successor to the MoM magic that has lied fallow for years.

Happy Mothers’ Day weekend!

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