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Why Microtransactions In Games Are Amoral

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the there-are-good-hats-and-evil-hats dept.

Businesses 209

Sludge writes "Graham Jans, a founder of the Vancouver Design Dojo and designer of Zombie Minesweeper, provides well-thought-out reasons why microtransactions in games are an amoral concept that can be used for good or evil, defying the typical knee-jerk reaction to Zynga-style use of microtransactions as a cynical tool designed to siphon the maximum amount of money from your wallet. Quoting: 'As well, such a thing could be a tool for benevolence. A developer could tune the length between releases to offer just a little more content for the same price, if they felt that was the right thing to do. In fact, most of the factors in microtransactions work this way. The negative reputation these systems have comes from factors that are tuned to maximize profit and abuse players for their money. But that's not an inherent trait in the system; you could just as easily use it to ensure your own bankruptcy!'"

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209 comments

Amoral != Immoral (-1)

Toe, The (545098) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287058)

Just FYI. :)

They're not? (0)

intellitech (1912116) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287180)

Amoral:

amoral/môrl/
Adjective: Lacking a moral sense; unconcerned with the rightness or wrongness of something.

Immoral:

immoral/imôrl/
Adjective: Not conforming to accepted standards of morality.

What exactly am I missing here?

Re:They're not? (2, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287218)

Amoral may or may not conform to accepted standards of morality. An amoral act may be either moral or immoral, the point is you don't care either way.

Re:They're not? (2)

SomePgmr (2021234) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287220)

I don't think you're missing anything. They're different. One is lack-of, one is contra.

Re:They're not? (1)

Atmchicago (555403) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287224)

One is unconcerned with the principle, the other differs from an accepted societal norm. The latter could change depending on the society, the former doesn't care.

Re:They're not? (4, Insightful)

Rhaban (987410) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287274)

To put it in D&D terms:

Chaotic/Neutral/Lawful Good => Moral
Chaotic/Neutral/Lawful Neutral => Amoral
Chaotic/Neutral/Lawful Evil => Immoral

Re:They're not? (2)

PenquinCoder (1431871) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287408)

Ahh, that explains everything in an easy to understand, nerd approved format. I approve.

Re:They're not? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37287470)

No, all of those have a moral sense, at best you might say CN or even TN might be amoral, but even that is a stretch given some of the interpretations of those alignments.

You would be better off going with the example of unintelligent entities as lacking alignment at all.

Re:They're not? (2)

Toe, The (545098) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287506)

You might be on to something... perhaps all journalism should be expressed in D&D terms.

Weather: there is a 2d6 chance of rain today...

Traffic: looks like a car had an unfortunate random encounter with tractor trailer on the...

Sports: X clearly has an advantage in Strength, but Y has a full three points higher Dexterity, which...

The possibilities are limitless!

Re:They're not? (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287684)

I might actually tune the news in instead of tuning it out if it was done in that manner.

Re:They're not? (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287380)

When applied to a moral actor, there is no practical difference between amoral and immoral. A person who chooses their actions without concern as to whether or not they are moral (an amoral person), is unlikely to behave significantly better than a person who conciously chooses immoral actions.
However, when applied to actual actions, there is a world of difference between amoral and immoral. An immoral action is always morally wrong, no matter what the context. An amoral action is neither morally right nor morally wrong, in and of itself. Whether an amoral actions is morally wrong or morally right is determined by the context in which the action is taken.

Re:They're not? (1)

jahudabudy (714731) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287952)

A person who chooses their actions without concern as to whether or not they are moral (an amoral person), is unlikely to behave significantly better than a person who conciously chooses immoral actions.

I doubt there are very many people that choose an immoral action BECAUSE it is immoral. Most immoral actions comes from a combination of amorality (don't care about the moral implications) and greed, anger, laziness, etc. (some characteristic that makes the immoral action more attractive). Example: most people steal b/c they want something and don't care that stealing is immoral. They don't go out and steal specifically in order to be performing an immoral act. There are certainly exceptions to this, but I think it is true of the general masses.

Re:They're not? (1)

milkmage (795746) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287508)

think of it this way.

immoral - "bad"
amoral - don't give a shit.

Botulism doesn't give a shit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37287536)

Botulism doesn't give a shit about if you live or die.

It isn't immoral.

But is it good?

Is it better than if Botulism DID give a shit and decided it WANTED you to die?

Re:Botulism doesn't give a shit (3, Interesting)

_0xd0ad (1974778) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287608)

It is safe to say that botulism doesn't have an opinion. However, it can be used for either evil (infecting people) or good (genetics research, developing cures). That is what "amoral" means.

Re:Botulism doesn't give a shit (1)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287718)

Botulism isn't capable of abstract thought.

Re:They're not? (1)

David Chappell (671429) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287690)

Amoral:

amoral/môrl/
Adjective: Lacking a moral sense; unconcerned with the rightness or wrongness of something.

Immoral:

immoral/imôrl/
Adjective: Not conforming to accepted standards of morality.

What exactly am I missing here?

The difference is that one of them (amoral) refers to a lack of interest in the other (namely the question whether a particular act is moral or not).

It seems though that the original poster is using the word amoral in an extremely non-standard way. I think he is trying to say that providing for in-game transactions is not in and of itself moral or immoral. In other words, the concept is morally neutral.

In standard usage of the word in-game transactions would not be described as amoral because they are not reasoning beings able to consider moral questions.

Describing an act as amoral also implies that there is a plausible moral question which the actor has ignored. The behavior of James Bond is amoral because he goes around violating behavior norms without once asking whether his actions are proper.

Re:They're not? (1)

Forestwalker (2428752) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287782)

Ok whet to a Latin translation Forum , No comments .. Sure I am not a Latin student.. lemme in on the Joke.. what does :: vos nescitis quicquam, nec cogitatis quia expedit nobis ut unus moriatur homo pro populo et non tota gens pereat Mean ? Is it rude or some thing? I think the Latin folks were not interested in helping me figure this out. The Word for Word Latin Translation didn't wash.

Re:They're not? (2)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287840)

moral:
if (option1.morality > option2.morality) choose(option1); else choose(option2);

immoral:
if(option1.morality > option2.morality) choose(option2); else choose(option1);

amoral:
choose(option1);

Re:They're not? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37287884)

Amoral = morality is irrelevant; may violated moral codes or may not but has no consideration of moral codes.

Immoral = violation of accepted moral codes

  As an example inanimate tools such at hammers, swords, and guns are considered to be amoral in nature. Their use however is often immoral depending on the choices of the person wielding them. People can be amoral as well, sometimes committing immoral acts and sometimes committing moral acts but without concern for the morality of the act.

Re:They're not? (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 2 years ago | (#37288112)

Agnostic vs Atheist. Same idea.

Re:They're not? (1)

Hylandr (813770) | more than 2 years ago | (#37288182)

Chaotic Neutral

And making money is amoral too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37287190)

It is ok to charge more for your services than you pay to provide them. It is neither morally lofty, nor evil, to seek profitable ventures. This is simply how our economy works, and how it is supposed to work.

It is economically harmful to prevent competition. Whether or not that is also immoral is up for debate.

But in the face of open competition, there is nothing wrong with grossly overcharging. If people like your service that much more, and are willing to pay for it, then so be it. If not, you will just go out of business. And it is all ok.

It is only cheap bastards who want something for nothing that think charging for stuff is immoral.

Re:Amoral != Immoral (1)

Shoe Puppet (1557239) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287416)

You didn't really expect that to help, did you?

Re:Amoral != Immoral (1)

Forestwalker (2428752) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287496)

Or Correct me if I am wrong.. but the Amoral statement would be Neither Moral or immoral, right ? Isn't that just what the writer says ? Only that it can tend towards Immoral ? 'microtransactions in games are an amoral concept that can be used for good or evil" I am not the educated one.. but I think amoral fits.. read the article may be ?

Microtransactions make me ill (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37287084)

Gated content and microtransactions. First one's always free, etc. etc. This shit is like drug dealing.

Re:Microtransactions make me ill (1)

SomePgmr (2021234) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287364)

Well, except that it's wholly voluntary. I don't see a problem with it really, though I usually choose not to get in to things utilizing that model. With the genuinely nasty drugs, otoh, the seller leverages your addiction... where the buyer has less of a choice in the matter.

In short, Zynga can do whatever they want. I simply choose not to play their shitty games or give them any money. Same for console DLC that doesn't deliver significant value in addition to what I already bought.

Re:Microtransactions make me ill (1)

causality (777677) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287674)

Well, except that it's wholly voluntary. I don't see a problem with it really, though I usually choose not to get in to things utilizing that model. With the genuinely nasty drugs, otoh, the seller leverages your addiction... where the buyer has less of a choice in the matter.

Is there any adult person who doesn't realize things like crack and heroin are addictive? I consider that voluntary too. You choose to put yourself into a position where you have a weakness that can so easily be leveraged. It really gets old watching people play the victim when they do things like this. You really don't want the kind of society and government they would create. Openly stated evil is much easier to recognize and correct than misguided good intentions.

From the summary:

The negative reputation these systems have comes from factors that are tuned to maximize profit and abuse players for their money. But that's not an inherent trait in the system; you could just as easily use it to ensure your own bankruptcy!

You could say that the formation of plutocracies and the concentration of wealth and political influence is not an inherent trait in the system of unregulated or poorly regulated (think: regulatory capture) capitalism. But left unchecked this is exactly what tends to happen. It's repeatable.

The problem with microtransactions in games is they provide so many different ways to milk the customers. There are many more opportunities to do that with this arrangement than there would be with a flat monthly fee.

The question then is how much faith you have in average people to immediately abandon the game, in droves, the moment it starts becoming abusive. That's what you would need, for the first undeniable sign of abuse to be suddenly and severely punished. Otherwise it becomes entrenched and it becomes like government's game of incrementing by tiny little baby steps, each one justified and excused by various mouthpieces.

To continue the analogy to offline commerce ... do companies that abuse their customers worry and live in fear of drastic severe boycotts from masses of people who just aren't going to take it? No, instead the "consumers" (a degrading term) find that it isn't perfectly convenient to maintain a boycott, that they might have to actually go a few days or weeks without some frivolous luxury they don't really need, that no one else is doing it anyway, etc. So companies do more or less whatever they want knowing that people will continue doing business with them.

Re:Microtransactions make me ill (1)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287740)

Well, except that it's wholly voluntary.

So's drug dealing.

Re:Microtransactions make me ill (1)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 2 years ago | (#37288170)

Eh, it doesn't bother me. If anything, I like the current trend towards Free to Play in MMO's supplemented with a cash store. If a game is horribly crippled without a cash purchase, I delete the game and move on. If it's worth playing and I enjoy the game, I have no problem throwing a few dollars at it if it results in the game being more enjoyable to me.

Case in point, Lord of the Rings: Online. It was a cool game, I played the beta years ago, but it just wasn't worth $15 a month to me. They moved to Free to Play with a cash store and I started playing again and ended up giving them about $25 over the course of the 6 months I played, and my account is still sitting there with all my mules if I ever do decide to play again. Champion's Online was worth a good 3 months of entertainment and I never spent a dime on that. I've been playing Global Agenda: Free Agent for a couple months, haven't spent a dime on that, either. I'm willing to give almost any Free to Play game a chance, and if it's worth spending money on, I will.

Now, DLC is a different story, as people are already buying a game up front for a hefty sum ($60 usually, even more in Europe, they seriously get ripped off) and all it does is encourage developers to release 2/3 of a game for full price now and then charge another $10-$15 to put the missing content back in. Modern Warfare 2, for instance, shipped with the first DLC content on the disc itself on launch, a month down the road you paid your $10 and they unlocked it for you. That is fucking bullshit. The way the number of included tracks declined with each subsequent Guitar Hero/Rock Band release after GHIII was more evidence of shady rip-off behavior which is why I stopped buying the games. I'm not a fan of the direction that console games are going as far as that goes, nor am I a fan of the way Steam is applying that console model to the PC.

But in itself I don't have a problem with microtransactions, I have a problem when it's misapplied or used nefariously by allowing people to play most of the game but then slamming down a content wall without warning. In the end, you just have to do your research before you hand over your money. Complaining about it after the fact does next to nothing, and the publishers of these games know that.

Making Money is Immoral? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37287102)

So essentially, making money is immoral?

Maybe we should all work for free, or uss the barter system.

Or maybe we should convert to communism?

Or we can live in caves.

Re:Making Money is Immoral? (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287130)

So essentially, making money is immoral?

No - amoral. That is, neither right nor wrong inherently.

Re:Making Money is Immoral? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37287138)

It said amoral, not immoral. They're different.

Not only that, but it didn't say that making money is amoral. It said that this particular way of doing so is. I doubt you think that every possible way of making money is a good thing.

Re:Making Money is Immoral? (1)

Shoe Puppet (1557239) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287154)

Amoral = doesn't affect morality

Re:Making Money is Immoral? (1)

Toe, The (545098) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287164)

No, it's Amoral.
There's a difference, as noted above [slashdot.org] . Look it up.

Re:Making Money is Immoral? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37287480)

So, essentially, paying less is immoral?
Maybe we should all give all of our money, and get nothing for them?
Or maybe we should convert to communism? (funny, but communism = central planning, exactly what the Fed is doing...)
Actually, better to live in caves, than in paper bags, i mean houses.

Bullshit (1)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287634)

Reducing any moral problem to just whether making money is right or wrong, is, sad to say, bullshit. In fact if that's the only thing that you see relevant in such a discussion, congrats, you might be a sociopath. You may have a successful career in upper management ahead of you.

While nobody says that making money itself is immoral, certain ways of making them ARE. E.g., if you found out that your mayor or the local judge makes some extra money by taking bribes, well, I don't know about you personally, but most people would file that under "immoral."

But generally we have a long tradition of frowning against basically offering to bend the rules in exchange for money. Whether it's in politics or sports or whatever.

If the Superbowl involved officially letting teams pay for the privilege of punching opposite team members, or to get an extra kick at the opposing goal, most people probably wouldn't bother even watching just to see which team spent more money on unfair advantages. Most would also consider it fundamentally contrary to the spirit of sportsmanship or competition.

Ditto if, dunno, the boxing championships started auctioning the right to have a horseshoe in the glove, or if baseball championships started auctioning the right to use a tennis racquet instead of a bat, or if the Olympics started being ok with steroids as long as you buy them from the organizers. At some point any semblance of "may the best sportsman win" becomes "may the guy with the most disposable cash win", and it becomes just a meaningless competition to be the most financially irresponsible loser.

You'll notice that the above are direct equivalents of most micro-transaction schemes in most games. What once at least had some semblance of reflecting relative skill or effort or even just time invested, is becoming a competition in who's insecure enough to blow $1000 on overpowered equipment to finally feel secure to curb-stomp a newbie half his level. And there is no fundamental difference between paying to be allowed to use racquets instead of bats in baseball, vs paying for the Legendary Sword Of Newbie Slaying +9 to use in PvP, or vs blowing some money on whatever else to top some PvE charts either.

So, no, not many of us will frown at making money, but at the way you make them. And if more and more competitions and achievements become rigged to milk money from whoever wants to pay for unfair advantages, don't be surprised if most people don't exactly take that as a positive development.

Re:Bullshit (1)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287890)

Pedantic point: I don't think using a tennis racket in place of a baseball bat would actually lead to any kind of advantage. In fact, I'd probably lean the other way, that using one would make things harder.

The rest of your post is quite spot on. Even if the game is free, it's not going to be any fun if your opponent can just dump a bunch of cash into the machine at the end in order to win. Imagine if Arcade games had this: You're playing Street Fighter against someone, and right as you're about to beat them, they spend some extra tokens for a full health bar and full special meter. Maybe some gloves which do double damage. How would that be fair, or more importantly, fun, in the least?

Re:Making Money is Immoral? (1)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287826)

So essentially, making money is immoral?

Making money, just by itself, is not. However, the ways in which you make money definitely can be. If you are grossly overcharging in the face of no competition, then that is immoral. If you are charging outrageous amounts of interest (usury), then that is immoral.

Microtransactions by themselves are not good or bad. It's how they are used. If you offer some small bits of content, that don't completely alter the way the game is played or balanced, then that's fine. Even things like offering new maps is fine. However, if you use microtransactions for things that completely alter the balance of the game, and essentially allow someone to pay to win, then that is immoral.

I like how Champs Online does it (1, Interesting)

danbuter (2019760) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287104)

You can buy new costume parts, new archetypes, and some in-game bonuses. None are game required, just cool.

Obligatory (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37287148)

EA sells you an advantage... (1)

KreAture (105311) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287150)

BF Heroes is a good example of microtransactions gone ape...
You can buy yourself superior firepower, but most times it doesn't even last. Often you just rent it for a day, week, month...

Re:EA sells you an advantage... (1)

cHiphead (17854) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287418)

That's even worse, you are 'renting' items that expire, where the only work associated is an hour creating the small 3d model and modifying a few lines of text in a config file somewhere that states fire rate, damage, reload time. Its not a Picasso painting or an intensive programming mod. Its a way to siphon money out of people, when its the people themselves that are essentially creating the valuable 'content' of BF Heroes (multiplayer servers require players for the real content of interaction and gameplay, the pretty pictures are actually secondary)

Re:EA sells you an advantage... (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287468)

I never really got the idea why I should bother to play such a game altogether.

If I do not insert money, I play an extra, a mobile, player controlled target for someone who did.

If I do insert money, I get to shoot sitting ducks without a challenge. If I want that, I could just as well play any shooter on lowest level without continuously throwing money at them.

Why the heck should I play that game at all?

Re:EA sells you an advantage... (1)

KreAture (105311) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287832)

Which is why I stopped playing. I played when it was beta and when it was new. Then you could pay for fun stuff, like the ability to wave "haha" to your enemy or a skull and crossbones mask or hat for that added fun when you bested someone. When they started selling insane wepons I logged off for the last time. I've not been on since but I have followed a few rants in some forums to see if they continued down the same path and indeed they appeared to for a while, but now little is happening alltogether.

Dogpile on the premium guy (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287992)

If I do not insert money, I play an extra, a mobile, player controlled target for someone who did.

In a 1 paid hero vs. 100 free mooks situation, you and your free teammates need to think like Tucker's guerrilla kobolds [tuckerskobolds.com] .

Football Superstars (1)

ub3r n3u7r4l1st (1388939) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287226)

Football Superstars [footballsuperstars.com] did that nicely for microtransactions, you can buy XP directly, going from level 1 to level 100 cost may be a little bit less than $300.

Microtransactions are... (1)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287232)

... not amoral since the money you spend is gone and the game company still owns the game. All that money you invest is meaningless the second the one of the higher ups in the game company decides to shut-down the game or it goes out of business. This is the problem with game companies who try to sell 'games as a service'.

This also happens with games that are locked down to a service like Xbox live or their own service (steam sdk multiplayer lockdown some games have - see: supreme commander 2) and certain console games that ran their own server/master server (See: Burnout 3 for Playstation2) which later shut down their servers so you are SOL.

This is what I really hate about the game industry's move to try to enclose their games behind the rather dickish language of "games as as a service" and "microtransations". In the end it's just a neo-feudal model of extracting money from people without giving anything real back in return.

Re:Microtransactions are... (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287276)

In the end it's just a neo-feudal model of extracting money from people without giving anything real back in return.

If you don't count actually making the game as 'anything real'.

I'm not a fan of microtransactions, and if they're poorly implemented they can really harm a game, but ultimately the people who spend that money are the ones paying for the game to exist.

Re:Microtransactions are... (2)

AxemRed (755470) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287572)

People spend money on all kinds of things that don't result in getting something "real" in return. Many of these things do give us something intangible in return though: entertainment.

Re:Microtransactions are... (1)

Riceballsan (816702) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287910)

I can't entirely agree or disagree with you, but for the customer it is a matter of, do they get their moneys worth out of it. Are movie theiters immoral? IMO they are considerably worse, when I buy an item in a game, I get a preview of exactly what it is and what it does. I rarely pay more then $5 for it, and I can roughly estimate how much enjoyment I will get out of having it, no it won't be there forever, but unless the game is on it's last legs it can be safely assumed it will be there for at least a year. Someone going to a movie on opening night, is basing their purchase decision on 15 seconds to 1 minute of out of context footage of the movie, even if enjoyable the movie will be at max 3 hours of enjoyment. Now where in game items can go completely evil, a game starts out free to play, items are mostly cosmetic, as the game progresses, they start leaking in game effecting items, small slight, barely significant, then start either ramping up the difficulty of the enemies, or making PVP a larger part of the game, and then steadilly increasing the power and necesity of the cash shop items. When a game starts out as one thing, then switches half way through when you've already put time/money into it, that is where I find it borderline Immoral. When the terms are clear from the start of the game, that is where I consider it perfectly reasonable.

Re:Microtransactions are... (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#37288074)

When I rent my house, people pay me and I still own the house. Is renting immoral?

If not, what's the difference?

Corporations are the problem (0)

TheReaperD (937405) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287242)

"The negative reputation these systems have comes from factors that are tuned to maximize profit and abuse players for their money."

What they are failing to take into account is that corporations, by law, have to abuse people for profit for their shareholders or face financial and/or legal consequences. So, because of the way the two systems interact, it all but guarantees that it will be abused for profit. Therefore, we should assume that it's bad until someone can prove that their system is benign and can't be changed quickly to catch people off guard and take their money.

Re:Corporations are the problem (0)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287296)

What they are failing to take into account is that corporations, by law, have to abuse people for profit

[citation needed]

I don't believe there's any law that says corporations have to 'abuse people'.

Corporations may have to work to maximise profits, but that's a very different matter. Corporations who 'abuse' their customers tend to find they don't have customers for long, unless they're a government-backed monopoly.

Re:Corporations are the problem (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287388)

Corporations may have to work to maximise profits,

They mostly don't even have to do that, if that's not what their shareholders want. Even in purely economic terms, some shareholders want growth over profit. Some want to stay in a particular location rather than make more money offshore. Some want to address social or environmental concerns. Corporations have to look after the interests of their owners, but that doesn't mean the owner's interests are always "maximize profit".

Re:Corporations are the problem (1)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287944)

Corporations have to look after the interests of their owners, but that doesn't mean the owner's interests are always "maximize profit".

The cases you mentioned are extremely rare. The biggest shareholders in general are banks, hedge funds, and pension funds. They want maximum profit, period. And they hold several dozen orders of magnitude more shares than anyone after what you mentioned.

Re:Corporations are the problem (1)

TheReaperD (937405) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287808)

@0123456 & @MightyYar

I can't believe people still try to argue this point. Here's your citations:

General Rule: Fiduciary Duties owed to Corporation and Shareholders Directors of financially healthy corporations owe fiduciary duties to the corporation itself and its shareholders. See, e.g., Revlon v. MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings Inc., 506 A.2d 173, 179 (Del. 1986). Courts have generally held that directors of such corporations do not owe fiduciary duties to other constituencies, such as creditors, whose rights are purely contractual. See, e.g., Katz v. Oak Indus., 508 A.2d 873, 879 (Del. Ch. 1986). Some states have adopted “other constituencies” statutes which permit directors to consider the interests of non-shareholder constituencies, including creditors, in making corporate decisions. In general, however, these statutes are permissive5 and do not appear to create new fiduciary obligations for directors but merely allow them to consider other constituencies as a factor in determining the best interests of the shareholders; directors of a solvent corporation who favor another constituency over its shareholders may violate their duty of loyalty.

and

CORPORATIONS ACT 2001 - SECT 53 (a) the promotion, formation, membership, control, business, trading, transactions and dealings (whether alone or jointly with any other person or persons and including transactions and dealings as agent, bailee or trustee), property (whether held alone or jointly with any other person or persons and including property held as agent, bailee or trustee), liabilities (including liabilities owed jointly with any other person or persons and liabilities as trustee), profits and other income, receipts, losses, outgoings and expenditure of the body; and

At this point, I'm tired of searching legalese just to prove my point. If you care, you can Google more. Really, you don't have to look any farther than recent events involving GE's international tax evasion strategy (many other companies as well), BP cutting corners leading to plant explosions and multiple major oil leaks, all the patent trolls, the mobile patent wars in general; the list goes on and on. You'd have to have your head in the sand and/or be a Randian libertarian to miss it.

Re:Corporations are the problem (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37288056)

So where does that show:

What they are failing to take into account is that corporations, by law, have to abuse people for profit

Ah, it doesn't, does it?

Are you seriously claiming that there's a law requiring BP to cause oil leaks?

Re:Corporations are the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37287594)

What they are failing to take into account is that corporations, by law, have to abuse people for profit for their shareholders or face financial and/or legal consequences.

I think you'll find that in reality that there is no such law, and in fact, that there are laws explicitly prohibiting them from abusing people.

Unfortunately, they don't get caught and punished enough for those laws to have their desired effect. So I believe that we should enact corporate death penalties. I am undecided whether we kill just the corporation's executives or whether we'll need to apply some retribution upon the shareholders.

It may be necessary to have both options.

Re:Corporations are the problem (1)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287956)

The fact that those laws aren't enforced means that they are free to abuse customers all they want, in the name of maximizing profit.

Re:Corporations are the problem (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37288106)

The fact that those laws aren't enforced means that they are free to abuse customers all they want, in the name of maximizing profit.

The original quote claimed that there's a law forcing companies to abuse customers, not that some companies will do so in the belief that it will increase profits. The government is apparently holding a gun to their heads saying 'YOU WILL ABUSE YOUR CUSTOMERS OR ELSE!'

Except no-one has actually managed to show such a law because it doesn't exist.

Re:Corporations are the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37288166)

Hence the need to exact retribution upon them.

If we'd merely taken 10% of the executives from Wall Street and the finance industry, and hung them in Times Square, then I guarantee the rest would be very very very reluctant to test the will of the people again.

See what folks don't get is that they WERE criminals, and that they still ARE criminals, who have ruined the lives of millions, and are on their way to do it to billions.

At some point, the rest of us have to stop looking up to the scum of the stock markets and realize that we are the heroes, not them.

Re:Corporations are the problem (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287748)

1. I think you are talking about publicly traded corporations. There are also a lot of large Private corporations, that are not covered by such regulation.

2. The rule is in general to show that they are maximizing share holder equity. Or in general if the company goes down the tubes the share holders who have invested their money will get something back. Vs. Running the company with no profit and the investors (who are also anyone who owns stock including average Joe who has a work retirement plan) will be screwed if there is a problem.

3. Companies are not out to abuse their customers. However anyone who has ran a business or has worked with with a small company or is in a high enough position to deal with the Higher Ups know running a company cost more then most people think. Cutting a penny is a big improvement. And you have competition too so you need to keep your prices high enough for you to continue and grow low enough to be on par with your other customers.

The problem is that people don't really know this type of stuff and they push for laws that will hurt the good guys worse then the bad guys.

Raise the taxes on the rich. Well the rich have resources to move money around to make the government see them as poor, so they get away tax free, or if they do pay more taxes then they have the governments ear, as they pay more they will get more. No matter how much democracy goes on. If you pay the government 10 million dollars a year, vs. average Joe who pays $4k. Your opinions will get the ear.

Not abuse (1)

Atmchicago (555403) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287254)

You don't have to play the game. There's a free market of video games out there, and it's large. If a developer uses these transactions and becomes unpopular for it, they'll get a bad reputation and people will stop buying the games.

Re:Not abuse (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287512)

What planet are you living in? There's no real free market, because free markets work on a number of premisses which are unrealistic.

According to wikipedia - Zynga, which is famous for these microtranscations...made $850 million last year and has ~250 million users. That's the free market for you eh.

Re:Not abuse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37287598)

Yes it is, people obviously enjoy their games.

Re:Not abuse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37287640)

Zynga made a lot of money and has a lot of users. Therefore there is no free market. Yes, that makes sense and is not a non-sequitur at all. Also, I am Elvis.

Re:Not abuse (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287810)

"defying the typical knee-jerk reaction to Zynga-style use of microtransactions as a cynical tool designed to siphon the maximum amount of money from your wallet"

This is a negative thing. In the free market (TM) negative things are solved through boycott. Boycotts result in companies suffering until they improve.

Zynga isn't suffering. Zynga isn't improving. .: The free market doesn't exist, through contradiction.

Re:Not abuse (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37288004)

Zynga isn't improving. .: The free market doesn't exist, through contradiction.

Zynga is selling things that hundreds of millions of people want and making a lot of money. That you don't like the things they do is irrelevant.

Re:Not abuse (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287654)

What planet are you living in? There's no real free market, because free markets work on a number of premisses which are unrealistic.

The free market is just what people do when no-one is holding a gun to their head forcing them to do something different.

Unfortunately we live in a world where there are millions of people with guns telling others what to do all the time.

Re:Not abuse (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287856)

Not really, not just. Free market depends on the concept of "Perfect Competition".

To give a good example - assume I dislike car company's lack of care for the enivornment. The free market would tell me that I should enter the market myself, and my superior ways will draw others away and the problem will be solved. I can't however realistically pull a car factory, and all the technology to compete out of thin air. Free market works when you have a bunch of farmers selling produce and there's no communication between them.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perfect_competition [wikipedia.org]

See how many unrealistic premisses you can spot.

Re:Not abuse (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287990)

Not really, not just. Free market depends on the concept of "Perfect Competition".

No it doesn't. It just depends on you and me being able to freely agree on what price we sell to each other for (or whether we refuse to sell).

The free market says nothing about whether anyone will give a crap about your environmental views; merely that if people do want to 'save then environment' then they'll choose to do so, and if they don't then they won't. In the real world very few people give a crap about 'the environment' in the abstract, and most would rather save $10,000 next time they buy a car than save any endangered bug.

Re:Not abuse (1)

Machtyn (759119) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287866)

What planet are you living in? Zynga made $850 million last year, not because they were holding their users hostage, not because of a lack of choice or information, not because of some mandate, and not because Zynga holds a monopoly on online games with micro-transactions. In fact, a person can play a Zynga game without spending a dime (time and personal information not-withstanding).

Free Market: an economic system in which prices and wages are determined by unrestricted competition between businesses, without government regulation or fear of monopolies.

Re:Not abuse (1)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287984)

At the same time, this kind of behavior needs to be nipped in the bud, otherwise it will spread. Cell phone providers used to not charge for text messages. Now they all do. They also used to not have restrictions on data plan usage. Now they all do, in some form or another. Saying "You don't have to play the game!" doesn't work once the vast majority of games are engaging in that behavior.

Amoral, immoral, hypocrisy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37287262)

From the summary:

'As well, such a thing could be a tool for benevolence. A developer could tune the length between releases to offer just a little more content for the same price, if they felt that was the right thing to do.

So he's basically defending microtransactions for what should be in ... euh... the patches?

Reminds me of a scene in Lolita (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37287292)

... when Lolita asks Humbert Humbert for something (presumably money?) while they are mid-coitus, and he grows angry and says she can't ask him for things while they are in the middle of it, that it's not fair.

I think in the old days of strip tease they'd call it a blow-off; get the crowd riled up, and make them pay even more to see what they had thought they had already paid for.

I disagree (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287306)

I find them immoral for most cases. I don't know whether DLC counts as microtransactions or not, so I'll leave it out.

The problem is that they are common in multiplayer games. Most multiplayer games involve some sort of competition between players. People play games to 'win', and to feel good about it. Now most multiplayer games I saw which have MT end up letting people who buy MT get a huge advantage. Then its not fun for the other players, because you can just buy victory.

Now some games DO keep it down low or don't confer that much of an advantage (TF2 comes to mind), however in the end you need to dangle something in front of the donkey to make it move, and if its a bonus you can only buy, then it'll be popular.

The sad part is that pretty much all the online games I ever played went like this:

Donation -> Basic cosmetic MT -> "Equal to skill" MT -> Overpowered MT -> Seriously if you're not buying you're going to suck -> Game dies.

*facepalm* (1)

_0xd0ad (1974778) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287316)

You mean to tell me that selling stuff is neither inherently moral nor inherently immoral but it can be used for either purpose?

No fucking way...

Re:*facepalm* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37287898)

You mean to tell me that selling stuff is neither inherently moral nor inherently immoral but it can be used for either purpose?

No fucking way...

You seem sarcastic, but given Slashdot's usual userbase, it's entirely possible most of the more vocal people here can't comprehend that the act of giving their precious, precious money to anyone for any reason is anything less than the work of a tangible incarnation of ultimate and absolute evil.

EVE? (1)

Chas (5144) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287340)

Ensure your own bankruptcy

Leave the $70 monocle alone!

LEAVE IT ALONE!

*Emoweep*

What are "Zynga-style microtransactions"? (1)

jfengel (409917) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287372)

I'm one of those luddites whose cell phones makes phone calls, and I'm antisocial, so I'm kind of behind the curve here. Zynga's the guys behind Farmville, right? How do microtransactions come into it?

Are they basically trying to rent you the game by the minute? Or is it that they're trying to actually sell you in-game stuff with real money? I've never understood the point of their games. It's no worse than Solitaire in terms of pointlessness, I suppose, but I'm not exactly excited about Solitaire.

Re:What are "Zynga-style microtransactions"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37287422)

It solitaire that you can get cards from a friend's deck.

Re:What are "Zynga-style microtransactions"? (3, Informative)

robthebloke (1308483) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287432)

The basic premise for all Zynga games is something like this:

* Game is free to play
* Game lets you click on something (to buy, attack, build, whatever) once every N minutes of hours.
* After a number of days of clicking, you win some new item
* You can bypass the whole thing by simply coffing up some cash in the ingame shop.

Re:What are "Zynga-style microtransactions"? (1)

Omegawar (1314051) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287978)

The basic premise for all Zynga games is something like this: * Game is free to play * Game lets you click on something (to buy, attack, build, whatever) once every N minutes of hours. * After a number of days of clicking, you win some new item * You can bypass the whole thing by simply coffing up some cash in the ingame shop.

For the most part this is correct. However, you can also buy enhanced versions of items. For example in Farmville you can by a red tractor that plows a 3X3 square and uses 1/4 can of fuel for 100,000 gold coins. (Gold coins are the ingame money, earned by selling crops, harvesting animals, etc.) But for 25 green coins (currency only obtained through cash transactions) you can get a golden tractor that plows 4X4 square and uses 1/8 can of fuel.

Re:What are "Zynga-style microtransactions"? (2)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287494)

Zynga games are really not games. They're Skinner boxes. You unlock more stuff by performing many repetitive actions (clicking different areas on the areas for 5 minutes, for example). The more repetitive actions you perform, the more pictures and widgets you unlock. Nothing of what you unlock changes the game in any significant fashion. But people keep clicking, because that's how we work. And Zynga has figured out that some people are willing to pay money to not have to click so much, and still unlock stuff. So they have many, many things that can be unlocked for just a few dollars here and there; none of which changes the game, but just lets you get stuff faster.

In essence, Zynga games ask you to pay to not play them. The author of this article argues that that's just one way of doing microtransactions, and that there are many other ways: TF2-style cosmetic changes, BF Heroes-style game-breaking changes, etc.

Re:What are "Zynga-style microtransactions"? (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287574)

Zynga games are really not games. They're Skinner boxes. You unlock more stuff by performing many repetitive actions (clicking different areas on the areas for 5 minutes, for example). The more repetitive actions you perform, the more pictures and widgets you unlock. Nothing of what you unlock changes the game in any significant fashion.

You just described pretty much every MMOG I've ever tried.

Re:What are "Zynga-style microtransactions"? (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287868)

Kinda. But at least MMOGs provide fun ways to hang out with friends, and game mechanics similar to regular single-player games. The good ones even have a good story. Zynga games have none of that.

who'd a thunk it (1)

chaos.squirrel (1085995) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287446)

technology can be used for good or evil...

moving on...

Micro Transactions are OK... when micro... (1)

eepok (545733) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287448)

I hated when they brought "micro-transaction" to Everquest. I wouldn't mind paying a dollar here or 50 cents there... but they offered $10 items from day one... and the prices only went higher. Sure, there were deals, promotions, and the like, but I resented it.

And then I learned that the EQ engine is SO old and cobbled together that they would need extra revenue to justify the expense of creating newer prettier items. I began to accept it then, but would only actively participate in their micro-transaction system when there were charity drives.

They really could have suckered me into emptying out my wallet, in retrospect, had they just asked for less money.

Crack MMORPGs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37287460)

Sadly...

People dislike being baited by money per-incident. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37287478)

The problem with microtransactions is that every incident of someone holding something up and telling someone "you probably will enjoy this but do you want to pay my price for it?" causes displeasure in the potential buyer. This on a per-incident basis. More incidents equals more displeasure. The displeasure is smaller if the active tempting is smaller.

For example, if your game has "premium features" that make it easier to win, and you're playing a PVP game, and there's an active indicator that says whenever someone who beats you uses a premium feature, many would get pissed off. If every time you lost there was a big popup saying "If you paid $1 for this you might have won" many would also get pissed off. Take hence e.g. World of Tanks, where you can actually pay to win, but the difference isn't enormous, there is no indication to the loser, and it's hidden away in a separate section.

You could make a hotel where everything cost a tiny bit of money but the average expenditure for the basics added up to the average cost of a room. You could then charge for things like: taking a shower, having hot water in the shower, access to toiletries, access to towels, heating the room at night, watching TV, etc. You could do this with some kind of swipe card system. Would people enjoy staying in a hotel like that? Probably not.

Re:People dislike being baited by money per-incide (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287610)

You could make a hotel where everything cost a tiny bit of money but the average expenditure for the basics added up to the average cost of a room. You could then charge for things like: taking a shower, having hot water in the shower, access to toiletries, access to towels, heating the room at night, watching TV, etc. You could do this with some kind of swipe card system. Would people enjoy staying in a hotel like that? Probably not.

Apparently some Retirement homes work that way in this country. Just wanted to point that out.

What's the problem? (1)

MaWeiTao (908546) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287604)

I don't have an inherent problem with games that feature microtransactions. Provided, however, that the core game is free and that the game isn't specifically designed to be so tedious as to require those purchases to make the game playable.

I personally can't stand games with microtransactions. That's why I don't play them. I don't really understand what's so difficult to figure out here... A game is not a necessity. It's not like food, insurance or fossil fuels. Don't like it, don't play the damn game. If everyone followed this mantra microtransactions would go away. But a lot of people obviously don't care or are not principled enough to do something about it. So it gets forced on the rest of us, who evidently are in the minority.

Amoral or immoral? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37287630)

See subject.

Whatever happened to shareware? (1)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 2 years ago | (#37287970)

Twenty years ago, this was a major paradigm in PC gaming. You get the introductory set of levels free, you get the rest when you cough up the dough.

What happened? Why is this paradigm now evil?

Re:Whatever happened to shareware? (1)

ub3r n3u7r4l1st (1388939) | more than 2 years ago | (#37288090)

because nobody wants to spend anything when the economy is in trouble.

Locked content (1)

Andtalath (1074376) | more than 2 years ago | (#37288026)

In MMOs, it's really annoying when they actually lock content.
What that means is that if you want to play a certain area with your friends and one of you doesn't own that area, he will be left out unless he buys it.

Makes a game become the lowest common denominator.

Aka, boring.

Sounds like indie bullshit to me. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37288044)

So, micro transactions are only evil when used explicitly to maximise profits.

and I'm indie which is so not evil that I can use micro transactions and still be totally cool.

Correct, but (2)

fa2k (881632) | more than 2 years ago | (#37288078)

Sure, there isn't even a real moral dilemma-- people can choose which games they play, and there is practically an infinite supply of them. -- But:It's lame if the rich kids get to "own" the fantasy worlds of games. It's not like they don't have enough shiny toys IRL. Micropayments just create an uncomfortable tie-in between real life and games, removing the "magic" from it. Games are actually a bastion of fairness and equal opportunity in a world that seems less than fair to some people.

Extra Credit (1)

ludwigf (1208730) | more than 2 years ago | (#37288246)

Extra Credit is a great show about games and their development. I'm into game development myself and please, everyone who is too do as I - watch their shows. Think about what they have to say.

They also got a video about microtransactions and one about the skinner box. They don't talk about moral though. So here for those interested in the topic but to lazy to RTFA. Its a video, just lean back and watch. Kinda entertaining as well.

Their video's are currently hard to find because they got apart from their old home "the escapist" and the videos there all just 404.

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