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Jag

More EA drama

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So there is a ton of drama involving EA and Battlefront right now.  It has gotten so bad that EA has had to remove the pre-order refund link from their website and are forcing people to call and wait on hold before getting to someone who can help them refund.  The drama is really about EA taking the manipulative Skinner model and pushing it too far.  My worry is that they have pushed as far as they can, and will now only slightly reduce the pressure so the limb doesn't die.  Why are there so many FTP games out there?  Why are we in a place now where not only do we have to pay 80$ for a new game, but that 80$ game is using a FTP model after getting people to pay 80$.  This is why:  They are manipulative bastards exploiting basic human psychology.

Have you ever heard of a "Skinner Box"?

In science its known as a "Operant conditioning chamber" and is frequently referred to by the name of its creator, the famous behavioral psychologist B.F.Skinner. It has an "operandum" (also called "response lever" in rat based experiments) that when activated feeds some reward for performing the action, conditioning the organism to continually activate the operandum. A rat presses the response lever and gets a tasty treat.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operant_conditioning_chamber

This thing isn't even about Star Wars or first person shooting, the entire game is created to be just a lure to get you into a virtual Skinner Box where you can be mentally rewarded when you do the digital equivalent of hitting a response lever by feeding money into the microtransaction store.

The entire progression system within these types of games is created to manipulate you into gambling for the social reward of being on the top of the charts and having the most prestigious gear. With endless online leaderboards, ranks, achivements and other digital stickers, you see easily see how the other rats have it so much better than you with better hero, and encourage you to pursue the validation that you get from obtaining these.

It is created to be even more insidious in the way it exploits human psychology, for example its well known within the field of psychology that the most effective form of positive feedback is unpredictable positive feedback. It uses a powerful cognitive quirk described by B.F. Skinner back in the 1950s, what is now called "a variable schedule of rewards". Skinner observed that lab mice responded most voraciously to random rewards. Unlike the mice that received the same treat every time, the mice that received variable rewards seemed to press the lever compulsively.

It uses randomized rewards so that buying a lootbox one time doesn't guarantee the same treat as you might get the next time you press it. By design it incentivizes you to continually put in more money, because you are constantly anticipating that this next time, you just might get a better reward.

Once you do finally get that reward, the cycle begins again. Everyone gets better at the game over time and acquires better loot, so you must continually respond with more money to keep up. There is a new hero, a new weapon, a new bigger flashier skin, a new way to be better at the game and hence get the pleasure of being known as one of the best. All you need to do is just feed that operandum a few more dollars. After all you spend $5 every day on a latte, why not get some mental pleasure of knowing you're the fucking Darth Vader with a super powerful gun as you tower and destroy all those who don't have your loot yet?

This isn't really about EA or Battlefield II. Everyone from 2K Games to Valve to single player developer gods Rockstar is jumping on this because of how lucrative it is. Hell even CDPR isn't immune from the lootbox syndrome.. It is actually Activision and not EA that is on the forefront of this revolution with its new patented matchmaking system to exploit microtransaction, pairing you with stronger opponents to tempt players to buy microtransaction items that improve your character then pairing you with weaker opponents so you feel a sense of reward enforcement (and your opponent himself feels a desire to pay for microtransaction items).

The system may include a microtransaction engine that arranges matches to influence game-related purchases," according to the patent. "For instance, the microtransaction engine may match a more expert/marquee player with a junior player to encourage the junior player to make game-related purchases of items possessed/used by the marquee player. A junior player may wish to emulate the marquee player by obtaining weapons or other items used by the marquee player.

The real actual issue here that this type of digital Skinner Box is not only legal, but completely unregulated. Slots and poker machines are regulated in terms of payoff and their programming so they operate on chance rather than conspiracy. Video game companies on the other hand are allowed to exploit your psychological quirks by committing some very anti-consumer practices. And that goes across the gaming industry.

 

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I did not buy the last battlefront until it was 9.99 for ALL content including the expansions and all that crap.  We played it for a while then moved on and I feel like I got my moneys worth.  I think I would have been incredibly disappointed if I had paid for the game + a season pass.   My new policy for most games is that I only buy game of the year gold yada yada type games that are on sale. 

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They already slashed hero costs.

You hear about development costs.  I would love to see the overall budget for this game.

Its EA ... they made the first game.  If that was not profitable, then why do a 2nd?

They have an existing server infrastructure.  They have an existing code base because they used the engine from the first game.  Otherwise, what could skyrocket the costs?

Has to be marketing, no?

They are expecting it to sell 14 million copies.  Even if it sells for $50 a piece (thats less than the cost) and nobody buys a map pack or a deluxe version or season pass or loot crates or anything else, that is still $700 million dollars.

EA is a bunch of greedy fucks ... and/or we're a bunch of idiots for buying it.

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Smart money doesn't enter a pay-wall Skinner box; stupid money does.  P.T. Barnum was right, as is the old adage, "a fool and his money are soon parted."  The ancient Romans latched onto public entertainment to placate the masses.

There is more (smug) satisfaction watching the rats in a maze than being one.

Recognize the manipulative behavior for what it is, and vote with your wallet to either support or eshew it.  I don't buy these types of pay-to-play games ... especially not from EA.

But then be honest and recognize that all video games are Skinner boxes, many of which you buy only once and enjoy over and again. Not all of them require continued economic participation to get that dopamine release.

Edited by Elovia
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Yeah, its EA, what do you expect?

To be blunt, if I have to pay to play the game then I expect there to be no ingame store to buy skins and crap like that.  You only have the store when its a free to play game, as thats how they make their money.  When I see a game has both,  its a no-go for me and I mark it against the company doing it as it clearly indicates they are a seriously money-grubbing bunch of tosswankers.

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51 minutes ago, Jazz said:

Yeah, its EA, what do you expect?

To be blunt, if I have to pay to play the game then I expect there to be no ingame store to buy skins and crap like that.  You only have the store when its a free to play game, as thats how they make their money.  When I see a game has both,  its a no-go for me and I mark it against the company doing it as it clearly indicates they are a seriously money-grubbing bunch of tosswankers.

But they're not the only ones doing it ... just the most forward of the bunch.  They wouldn't do it if they didn't make money at it ... or more correctly, more money than they would with traditional business models.  The question we need to ask as a community ... where is the line between ethical and unethical behavior?  It is ok to make money.  Is it ok to manipulate children and idiots into giving them money?

Back in the day, when Soupy Sales encouraged children to steal money from their sleeping parents and mail it to him over his broadcast TV show ... did that cross a line?  Yes.

Where is the ethical line in the sand today?  Is it micro-transactions in single-player games?  Not really.

Is it using psychoanalysis-enhanced marketing to indiscriminately manipulate video game players (i.e., children and adults) into wanting to buy/own/possess virtual goods?  Maybe.

Edited by Elovia

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Yes others are doing it, and I consider having an ingame store in a game that is not free to play to be that line.  Unfortunately, I know I'm not going to be the majority, and people will buy this crap and then I will have to deal with it being in every game released afterwards since everyone will be wanting a piece of the pie.  If that happens, I might actually be done with gaming, at least with new big name games.  My PC may wind up being just a porn machine.

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I read up on it. If I'm understanding it right you don't get to play all the heroes from the get go, but have to earn them by playing the game and earn credits. You can also make a short-cut and buy credits. That's all? If so: Big deal. IDC about stuff like that anyway. The medal & skins in BF1 completely pass me by. I won't care about toons in Battlefront2. It's a lot of whining for the sake of whining. Idd, then don't buy the game.

Also, I'm told they never had a pre-order cancel button on their site to begin with.

Edited by Wolphard

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10 minutes ago, Wolphard said:

I read up on it. If I'm understanding it right you don't get to play all the heroes from the get go, but have to earn them by playing the game and earn credits. You can also make a short-cut and buy credits. That's all? If so: Big deal. IDC about stuff like that anyway. The medal & skins in BF1 completely pass me by. I won't care about toons in Battlefront2. It's a lot of whining for the sake of whining. Idd, then don't buy the game.

Also, I'm told they never had a pre-order cancel button on their site to begin with.

I'm with you, skins and unlocking characters do nothing for me. 

The real problem I have with EA and SW2 is Star Cards.  Star Cards are equipped give you PvP performance enhancement via boosts or new abilities.  Those are given in Loot Crates that can be earned or bought.

That is where I have a major problem and what separates them from everyone else (in my experience).

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Origin had a refund button, that would open up a chat window.  Now you can only make a phone call and sit on hold.

3 hours ago, Jazz said:

Yes others are doing it, and I consider having an in game store in a game that is not free to play to be that line.  Unfortunately, I know I'm not going to be the majority, and people will buy this crap and then I will have to deal with it being in every game released afterwards since everyone will be wanting a piece of the pie.  If that happens, I might actually be done with gaming, at least with new big name games.  My PC may wind up being just a porn machine.

With all of these games it is only a matter of time, and there are plenty of great games that don't get the media hype.  Resist the media hype and you win.

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Sorry ... I'm not going to pre-order, subscribe, or buy a season pass.  I don't buy promises, and I avoid free-to-play (ad content) and mandatory online connections for single-player games.  I avoid in-game transactions, and abhor in-game stores and active marketing, especially if they're immersion breaking.  I will only purchase once and I will play as long as I like.  If the game is good, I will support development by purchasing expansions, sequels, or substantive DLC that was not obviously held back at release.  The only interesting thing about my purchase model is the price compared to the content (i.e., the gaming value).  If game publishers are not willing to meet my terms, I won't buy their product ... simple as that.  I have plenty of game titles already in my library just waiting for me to play them for the first time ... or more thoroughly than the sneak peek given when first purchased.

I don't mind unlocking features through game play, and I usually don't mind gear grinds as long as they are not tediously boring.

I consume games; I don't let games consume me.

 

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Here here. 

Only thing i partially disagree with is that there are games out there, which are F2P, which are decent enough. Even with the marketing and store stuff. Here, i am thinking about LOTRO. Heck of a lot of quality content without paying anything.

Edited by Pasanda

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I do occasionally play LOTRO, and I have a lifetime subscription (two actually), so I only paid once. I also use a custom UI that removes the store button (if I want to go there, I have other means via series of actions rather than one-click). With the lifetime subscription, each of my accounts earns Turbine points (or whatever they're called) which I can spend at the store. I used these points to purchase various expansions, a virtual house, and extra storage for my characters. No additional cash outlay required.  LOTRO is one of the few lifetime subs I snapped up and have no regrets about doing so. Long before they were FTP, it made sense not to pay a monthly sub.

And you're right. There are some good FTP games out there. I don't mind the ones that offer microtransactions for cosmetic items; I can ignore them as long as the items are not pay-to-win items. I don't care for the FTP games that support their business by flashing advertisements up on screen or have constant nag reminders.

And I'll readily admit that everyone has their own line in the sand that they try not to cross (but are occasionally tempted in doing so - usually with regret).

 

Edited by Elovia

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2 hours ago, Jag said:

This is also starting to get some mainstream media attention.  Is this all an orchestrated drama to get free pup for EA battlefront?  It is a heck of a launch campaign if so.

The Donald Trump marketing method; suck the oxygen out of the room until you succeed.

Edited by Elovia

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13 hours ago, Elovia said:

The Donald Trump marketing method; suck the oxygen out of the room until you succeed.

Honestly, it would not surprise me if it is a marketing method.  I have been suspecting that they knew this would cause an uproar and deliberately set the price so high so that when they then knocked it down to the real price they intended people would be more likely to accept the price since "Its 75% off" even though the price is still sucky.  I mean, imagine that they tried to sell you a banana for $20.  You complain, so they go "Okay, we'll knock 75% off then!"  Sounds great, I mean 75% off right?  Until you realise that you are still paying $5 for a banana...

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