Dumb Things Fanboys Say: ‘Companies Exist to Make Money’


(This is another edition of /RANT, a weekly opinion piece column on GameFront. Check back every week for more. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not reflect those of GameFront.)

Regular readers of my column or viewers of Jimquisition will know by now what I think of publishers in the mainstream retail game industry. In case you ever felt like I’ve been ambiguous, I’ll say it plain — I think the vast majority of them act like complete and utter pricks. I despise business models built on adversarial competition with the consumer, where the aim is to psychologically beat them into submission, treat them like criminals, and focus on punishing those who aren’t being loyal enough over rewarding those who are. Be it DRM, excessive DLC, microtransactions in $60 games, online passes, or the constant desire to provide less content for more money, there is so much afflicting the business side of the game industry that it’s making it more difficult to appreciate the art side. However, through it all, there’s one type of person who manages to dismay me more than any of the executives in any of the publishers — those customers so enthralled, so utterly defeated, that they stick up for these degenerate shits with some of the limpest logic imaginable.

I am, more specifically, singling out the “Companies exist to make money” crowd.

Here is how the argument goes: Companies exist to make money. Sorry, were you expecting a more nuanced rebuttal than that? It doesn’t get more nuanced, unfortunately. For some, the reason for something’s existence is justification enough for whatever it does to get there. It’s the ultimate “ends justify the means” assertion, except where that argument is usually applied to some noble goal achieved through dubious methods, there’s no nobility. It is, instead, an argument used to validate base avarice. Electronic Arts is not curing cancer. Ubisoft is not ending famine. Why the fuck, then, is their desire to make money considered a good reason for the things they do? It really, truly isn’t. The basic statement may be true — these companies may consider themselves nothing but money vacuums, and they may not care where the cash comes from or how it’s sucked up, but just because they have a goal in mind, it doesn’t protect them from criticism.

Many things have goals. Many things exist for a single purpose. Heroin exists to make money in the same way corporations do. Does that means people are supposed to be okay with the fact it makes such money by creating a chemical dependence and destroying the lives of not only those addicted to it, but their families? A computer virus exists solely to replicate and infect your computer, so does that mean we can’t be angry at them when they do? The “it exists to do something” argument only works when it’s on a topic you personally don’t think is a big deal, but more than likely can be used to dismiss any subject that does rile you up. It’s such a universal statement, and it says so little, that it’s an utterly pointless one to make. Yet people do so — constantly.

You might not be mad at a game’s atmosphere being punctured by reminders to buy DLC or check out the microtransactions. You might not think it’s a big deal to fuck around with inputting online pass codes when you want to get into some multiplayer. You know what? That’s fine. It’s absolutely fine if you choose to be the consumer that doesn’t care about it — so long as you’re happy with a given situation, that’s absolutely cool. Happy consumers are fine by me. But when those happy consumers suggest less happy consumers need to march in step with them, because it’s a company’s job to make money and we’re not allowed to question the means of doing so, that’s when I think bounds are overstepped. I’m not telling you that you definitely have to be mad over something — but don’t tell others they can’t be.

It’s just not a valid excuse to say, “It’s their job.” Valve’s job is exactly the same as EA’s. As a company, its ultimate goal is to also make money, but it’s managed to do so in a way that’s not made savvy consumers completely fucked off with it. By treating the customer with respect, by protecting  digital rights in ways that reward them rather than punishing them, in fostering a community and reaching out for feedback, Valve has made money without being a total piece of shit. Then we have Xbox Live versus PlayStation Plus. Both exist to make money through subscriptions, but where the former did it by taking features away from non-paying users, the latter gave stuff to them. There’s a way to make money while respecting customers and treating them with the same loyalty you want out of them, and there’s a way to do it with prejudice and spite. Acting like any company has to do the things EA’s done over the years is off-base, illogical, and evidently not true.

Yeah, companies exist to make money.

They don’t exist to be fucksticks.

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40 Comments on Dumb Things Fanboys Say: ‘Companies Exist to Make Money’

Mr Hamz

On January 30, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Well said, Jimothy. A recent proponent of this fatuous, intellectually lazy belief system is the user ‘magnetite’, who had posted three or four comments on the old “Mass Effect 3 Ending – Five Reasons the Fans are Right” article basically saying that BioWare and EA have free reign to do whatever deable rubbish they want to, and anyone who expects to be treated with respect or at least like a human being instead of an infinite revenue stream is ‘entitled’. Another moron who uses this line is repeat offender ‘lol’. He’s so blinkered that he even defended the Nuketown debacle. And don’t even get me started on the hacks in the mainstream press – Official Playstation Magazine UK hires so many deluded industry fanboys that it’s become a running joke.

Fanboys are a cancer to the industry’s growth, they are no more than enablers of creative and ethical freefall. I don’t agree with everything Jim says but we’re definitely on the same wavelength with this one.

lol

On January 30, 2013 at 1:44 pm

“It’s just not a valid excuse to say, “It’s their job.” Valve’s job is exactly the same as EA’s. As a company, its ultimate goal is to also make money, but it’s managed to do so in a way that’s not made savvy consumers completely ed off with it. By treating the customer with respect, by protecting digital rights in ways that reward them rather than punishing them, in fostering a community and reaching out for feedback, Valve has made money without being a total piece of . ”

That’s totally your opinion. Steam was created as an anti-cheat for counterstrike, Steam eventually ed the whole PC community by requiring a Steam account and one time use CD keys and all of that , other companies followed as a result because it was A GREAT WAY TO MAKE AND SAVE MONEY.

Steam destroyed the PC community, this is why everyone went over and bought an Xbox or a PS2 and later on a Xbox 360 and PS3 instead of sticking with the PC platform.

Valve has their great share of ups, nobody reports on it because they are too busy sucking on Gaben’s teats. Mass bans for accessing the console for certain games, allowing people to sell used PC games on Ebay and even major retailers such as Best Buy (that are one time use for games that REQUIRE STEAM), not offering proper support for any titles other than Valve Games, OH and not to mention they have a little picture of a guy on their support site with a headset for support but DONT have a phone number LOL.

There’s a reason why EA and Activision/Bliz are number one, they make money, they know how to keep people buying their stuff. THEY ARE BUSINESSES.

You think video games are made on hopes and dreams? 10 or 15 years ago maybe, now not so much.

Axetwin

On January 30, 2013 at 1:51 pm

To be honest Jim, I would say a company’s first and foremost “job” is to provide a product. THAT to me, is why companies exist. Now I understand that products require money to make which is why companies often charge for said product. Its called business, Ill even go as far to say Capitolism.

When someone says “companies exist to make money”, my first question is, is this company a bank? No? Then theyre just being greedy. Here in the gaming world, if a company exists only to make money, then they are a greedy company.

Lets look at the examples. If you were to ask EA or Ubisoft why they exist, they’ll tell you its to make money. Now, if you were to ask Valve or Gearbox, two companies that have made a lot of money with their games, why they exist, they’ll tell you its so they can provide quality video games to gamers. See the difference?

Damon

On January 30, 2013 at 1:52 pm

‘lol’ – sorry, you’re not a part of this discussion. Too much trolling/corporate -sucking for your humorously uninformed opinions to carry any weight.

lol wut?

On January 30, 2013 at 1:54 pm

@LOL

“There’s a reason why EA and Activision/Bliz are number one, they make money, they know how to keep people buying their stuff. THEY ARE BUSINESSES.”

So your rebuttal to an entire article about companies existing to make money is that…….companies are exist to make money…..

Good job son.

Seth Macy

On January 30, 2013 at 2:39 pm

The way anyone makes money is by providing products or services people find desirable. The majority of people find EAs products desirable and so they throw mountains of money at EA.

Kris Overstreet

On January 30, 2013 at 2:50 pm

I think you’ve completely misunderstood. “Companies exist to make money” isn’t an excuse for their behavior. It’s an explanation why complaining about their ery does nothing to change that behavior. The bigger a corporation is, the more it acts like a classic sociopath, caring about nothing but its own well-being. You have to understand and accept that fact- that the only thing a company cares about is money- before you can enact any strategy that will convince said company to change its ways. In other words, don’t slap them in the face, kick ‘em in the wallet.

Farter

On January 30, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Seth Macy – aside from the ‘majority of people’ line (since gamers themselves are a minority of people) you’re sadly right. The majority are happy enough to pay any amount of money and accept any amount of bulls*** if they like something enough. Stockholm syndrome rings a bell.

JK

On January 30, 2013 at 4:04 pm

This particular defence is rooted in a wider economic obsession with the most efficient use of resources.

It’s the typical free-market argument – that by being as greedy as possible, companies are being as efficient as possible with resources.

It’s a much wider argument I have on a regular basis with people – that profit is not the only goal that any company should have, that they serve a wider purpose than just the generation of revenue. But then I’d be disagreeing with Friedman, and therefore a traitorous socialist.

eezstreet

On January 30, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Companies DO exist to make money. It’s just unfortunate that the large majority of the money being made is being made because a ravenous horde of Call of Duty and Battlefield fanboys decide to purchase goods. EA, like most ‘successful’ companies these days, thrives off of misinforming the masses into believing that the next great thing is Battlefield or The Sims 4 or whatever. It’s kinda comparable to popular music. It’s almost always bad, but it sells well and that’s what makes it successful.

Another example I’m going to toss at ya: Apple vs. all other mobile devices. Apple has thrived off of a simple sleek design for years, while adding little features to the actual iPhone itself, and continues to make money. Now compare that to the Windows Phone, which has a lot more features, and is a lot /better/ of a phone if you ask me (well, aside from apps). You’ll note that Apple has almost 50% of the mobile phone share, while Android hold about the same margin, and WP and Blackberry squabble over the other portions. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but it’s just a weird phenomenon of today that bad things generally sell well if they’re marketed enough.

S

On January 30, 2013 at 4:41 pm

“Steam destroyed the PC community, this is why everyone went over and bought an Xbox or a PS2 and later on a Xbox 360 and PS3 instead of sticking with the PC platform. ”

What? I’m in the process of building my very first gaming PC because of Steam.

R.J.

On January 30, 2013 at 5:06 pm

I have to agree with Jim. If people are happy with what is going on, that’s fine for them, but it in no way means that I have to like it. Yes, these companies exist to make money, but they do so by making products that I enjoy, and there are various methods that I don’t like, hence reducing my enjoyment and incentive to help them make money. It doesn’t make any sense to say that I should just be happy to get anything when Capcom charges extra money for characters that are already on the disc for MvC2. It’s incredibly disturbing that a much touted company like Bioware has defended day one DLC by saying that gamers will “just have to get used to it.” EA might exist to make money, but charging full-price for Dead Space 3 and then inserting microtransactions for resources looks like the start of a bad trend. Sure, I can still get those resources without paying, but how long before I can’t? And let’s not pretend that seeing an advertisement for DLC at the ME3 wasn’t insulting. Heck, Bioware changed that part because even they realized that it was in poor taste.

Kore

On January 30, 2013 at 7:05 pm

- Some of Valve’s games have Micro-Transactions, like many other publisher’s games
- Valve has DLC, like many other publisher’s games
- Steam has DRM, like many other publisher’s games

When Valve provides free product they aren’t doing it because they love you, they are doing it because it brings consumers to Steam where Valve makes about 30% on all future purchases from that consumer.

I always find this mentality amusing. It’s like saying the grocery store shouldn’t put chocolate bars near the checkout or like a mechanic charging for time only and not the oil he puts in your car. I assume most of the people complaining have jobs, maybe even their own business, do you think they give things away for free or work for no money.

I won’t argue that some games have poorly implemented their business model in crass and clumsy ways, while others are better at aligning their revenue stream into their consumer desires. That doesn’t change the fact that all of them REQUIRE costs be covered at the very least otherwise there will be no more games from that company and without PROFIT there can be no new IP’s or improvements.

No one is forcing you to buy extra stuff, it doesn’t diminish the game if you don’t have it. Most metacritic reviews and marketing are done without the DLC or micro-transaction content in mind, so what’s your problem? You see something you want and don’t want to pay for it? Tough , I want the luxury leather seat upgrade on my car and i want to fly first class everywhere too…

daphny

On January 30, 2013 at 7:56 pm

hey jim this is me DAPHAKNEE the awful awful person who yelled about you on her ty livejournal

this is ON POINT AS and i want to give you knucks
i am so excited by how on point this is that i want to give you KNUCKS IN REAL LIFE

are you coming to gdc this year? is there a way we can ACTUALLLLLLLLLLLY SAY HI IN THE FLESH

if not, NO PRESSURE i just think its a brilliant photo opportunity

i will probbaly forget about replies to this comment so if you wanna contact me please do so though EMAIL or TWITTER wait i need to unblock you hold on OH I ALREADY UNBLOCKED YOU HURR im stupid

anyway GOD I RAMBLE

im asking politely to open a discourse with you in private or public, your choice

OKAY

AndyJacks

On January 30, 2013 at 8:09 pm

There’s a pretty major jump in logic. The entire argument isn’t that companies exist to make money. That’s not even the important part. Follow that line with, “and it’s our duty as consumers to decide what makes money.” You don’t have to like the practices used, nor do you have to support ANY of it. I don’t agree with TSA screening on flights. I feel strongly enough that my safety is no better than without it that I choose not to fly unless there’s no other option.

And brother, in gaming there are so many options. Don’t like $15 CoD map packs? Play Team Fortress. Don’t like Mass Effect 3′s DLC? Simply don’t buy it and your experience is still complete. Heck, if you think $60 is too much for a game you have hundreds of indie titles to buy cheaply.

What I can tell you doesn’t work is telling a company making millions upon millions a year that you don’t like the things making them money. I sell food for a living (mass quantity, not like a market stall) and I’ve had potential customers rip me for selling chicken or for having fried tortillas on our burrito line. That’s fine, and I’ll remember that. BUT the kicker is my bills are paid and the company is afloat. If that changes, we change. Because your moral code is yours. The only way you make it our policy is hurting the only thing we as a company collectively have no debate about. Money.

And being on a self righteous crusade about how DRM is draconian (misuse of that word is a spit in the face of victims of truly draconian practices) or saying DLC is corrupt and only feeds greed is frankly ignorant to the point of being dismissed by most intelligent consumers. EA is not putting babies on pikes with your money. Activision isn’t conning you to spend rent money for your fix. When games go from a product we desire to a product we require, then you can make all those arguments. And ifyou feel so strongly, the solution is as simple as not buying. But the modern sentiment is to lash out at those who see no problem or accept it. Who the hell are you to tell me what my money is good enough for? Even you, Jim, as a reviewer your job is to give an opinion and let us decide how your concerns impact our buying choices. Read that again. Buying CHOICES. I choose to buy new games, with pass codes, with day 1 DLC. I do this because 1) I have the money and can 2) I don’t consider gaming to be hurt by their inclusion.

Or is my right as a consumer to say a company is there to make money not as worthy as your stance? Who exactly is more anti consumer? The product maker that has never once told me I had to pay more than $60 for any game unless I want to, or the holy warriors for good that call me stupid for not getting behind their cause that I don’t support?

kingderpsalot

On January 30, 2013 at 9:26 pm

Dear lol,

As the leader of the PC Master Race, Gaben’s teats express pure ambrosia. Therefore I will continue sucking upon them while you dirty unwashed console peasants continue using outdated hardware to play your games at half quality.

But hey, go ahead and suck the teats of the publisher who had the amazing idea to charge Battlefield players $0.99 for an extra ammo clip when they ran out.

Luther

On January 30, 2013 at 10:02 pm

The only people making video games without the high expectations of making money are indie developers.

Company’s have operation costs so the number one rule is to make money, but that is not a bad thing it is actually a vary good thing since that means there is a chance your favorite developer will be around for a long time, that isn’t the same as bad business practice like day one dlc so the real issue here comes down to the people making really poor decisions on adding micro-transactions and other, and I bet you its not the company’s idea but the investors the people that invested a lot of money but don’t play games and never will.

Blizzard is a perfect example, a bunch of gamers who love making games with a high standard and quality for a single simple fee, but now that blizzard is owned by activision and under the demands of investors the quality has sharply dropped, its like having a boss who has never played a video game in a gaming company and that leads to aggressive business practices.

Vote with your wallet!

Videogamez

On January 31, 2013 at 12:25 am

Valve is a private company. They can make their own decisions and guide their own destiny. EA is a public company. They are a slave to the demands of their stockholders. If enough customers complain about anti-consumer business practices, they will be forced to change them, or risk their bottom line. In a weird way, EA might be GLAD when customers force them to make better games. EA is not The Empire. EA is Darth Vader. And the shareholders are The Emperor. Think about it.

Fernando

On January 31, 2013 at 2:19 am

I’ll stop using it when people stop calling a company evil, greedy. Companies exist to make money is used in a context that makes sense. Such as when someone says “OMG Activision is making another CoD sequel they’re so greedy” or “M$”.

What I say is don’t bring greed or morality into a conversation about video game companies unless said company actually did something evil, like killing orphans or whatever. And don’t compare video games to heroin, that’s trivializing drug addiction, drug dealing.

A good argument would be actually pointing out what is bad about on disc DLC, DRM, criticizing their marketing strategy, etc or anything thoughtful at all instead of clinging on to some worldview based on good and evil. Saying a company is greedy is just silly because the goal of most company’s is to maximize their profits. Some do it smartly, such as Valve, others not so much. They’re all “greedy”.

Feel free to call a company dumb or smart, but as soon as you bring “greed” into the argument you’re going to sound naive.

Swaggerpants

On January 31, 2013 at 2:47 am

I just want to pop in a few legal obstacles here, that muddy the waters a bit, possibly explaining why my tolerance might be seen as apologism.

First, although companies have a recognised legal identity, they aren’t people. They have no nefarious motives or capitalist aspirations. A ‘company’ is basically a legal status given to certain qualifying organisations. Once that status is granted, the officers of that company are legally obliged to make the company, as a business, as profitable as possible. ‘Legally obliged’ as in ‘if they don’t maximise profits then their shareholders have a perfectly watertight basis on which to sue them’.
This means that companies, which at a fundamental level DO exist to make money by imposing those obligations, cannot in and of themselves be ‘responsible’ for the actions of their executives. Responsibility lies with the choices of the executives. I think treating your consumers like crap is therefore completely viable as a method of short term profit maximisation, but a horrendously flawed strategy. Our problem is that gamers continuously show that we’ll suffer this behaviour. We keep buying capcom and ea games even if we do object, so the executives cannot honestly argue that maximising consumer satisfaction for long term profit would be in any way more effective. We keep taking the stick with a smile, so those same executives would be liable in a court for offering us the carrot.
The issue therefore is either with legislation that forces executives to manage businesses without a sense of moral responsibility, or with our own habits. If a company engages in ty strategies, you must boycott it. That is the only way to damage profits and give those executives the freedom to engage in a more consumer friendly strategy. Until then, we really are just as much to blame.

Before I get flamed, Jim is pretty much my favourite journalist. I think this article is awesome for bringing these issues up, but also thought it might benefit from a devil’s advocate argument.

Lake

On January 31, 2013 at 4:15 am

Fernando – so what you’re saying is that greed itself isn’t inherent in their profits-at-all-costs business models. A sentiment more naive than anything you’ve attempted to address.

kingderpsalot – ‘dirty unwashed console peasants’, eh? Yeah, you certainly don’t have an agenda. Anything you were trying to convey in that comment is immediately invalidated by that ridiculous prejudiced generalisation.

Fernando

On January 31, 2013 at 4:53 am

Yeah, Lake, I’m saying that taking greed into account is naive. When you say a company is greedy you’re also implying that other companies are nice, which they aren’t. I’m saying don’t look at companies under that light, as in nice or bad, greedy or generous. Let’s all assume every company is “greedy” because they all want to make as much money as they can. So greed is pointless, and using the word greed itself in this case is what’s so naive.

They’re either smart or dumb. Some have clever ways to get us to spend our money, others want our money right now. Or do you think Valve gives us free stuff because they are so nice?

quicktooth

On January 31, 2013 at 5:04 am

I’m very glad someone’s saying this. It’s all true, and I’m sick of people saying that everyone should bend over and take in the ass anyhing anyone ever does.

Lake

On January 31, 2013 at 5:26 am

Fernando – that doesn’t hold water at all. You can’t describe a business model like EA’s – in which their prime, stated directive is ‘make as much money as we can, as quickly as we can’ – as being ‘dumb’. It’s greed, pure and simple.

And I take offence to the idea that companies ‘have’ to be that way, because they don’t. There are plenty of developers who are far more considerate and far more intensive than EA or Activision, who are in the market because they want to make high-quality games. They need money to make the games and pay the staff, obviously, but the money itself is secondary to the creation of the games. The cashflow is a necessity instead of the overarching goal. In the case of EA, Activision, Ubisoft, Square and a couple of others, the games are a means to an end, a way of making money, when anyone with a serious love of videogames would see it as the other way around. That’s the difference, and the difficulty people like yourself exhibit of separating one ideology from the other is what’s damaging the industry.

BioWare started off wanting to make games. Now, they’re in the business to make money. It’s entirely fair and just to describe the latter as being a greedy philosophy, because it is.

CK20XX

On January 31, 2013 at 6:13 am

Actually companies DO NOT exist to make money. They exist to provide services to people. If they make money while they’re at it, it may be because they’ve found enough people that want their service. Some companies are shrewder or more conniving than others, seeking out customers that will want to buy from them if only because said customers don’t know or don’t care that they could be getting much better service elsewhere. Whenever a company does not provide their services well though, the people they service, and even the people they could be servicing in the future, have a right to complain.

Fernando

On January 31, 2013 at 6:31 am

That’s the thing I was talking about, calling a company considerate, thinking there are companies that are in it for the games, specially when talking about major companies. I’ll say smaller companies, devs, maybe, but even in that case people still need to make money to survive.

There are certainly people who are passionate about games in the industry, but in order to continue making them they need money. And these people also work on EA, Ubisoft, Square, Activision. See, this is exactly why I say not to look at companies under that light.

You seem to almost paint some companies as villains while others as the good guys. That prevents people from seeing clearly, from seeing “considerate” things done by major companies as well as “evil” things done by smaller devs. Then you say I can’t separate ideology from what’s going on here.

So always assume that money is the goal, and there’s nothing wrong with that, it is a business. And I can describe something as dumb or clever, I don’t know why I couldn’t do that.

For an instance, throwing on disc DLC CAN be dumb in the long run because a lot of people feel like it is a move and might avoid games that have that in the future. To really know if it is dumb or not we need to know if it works. Giving free DLC can be clever because it adds value to the game.

Every strategy has its pros and cons, a smart strategy can balance that well. Maybe draconian DRM and day one DLC actually work better than free DLC and no DRM, maybe not. Who knows? Point is, companies aren’t villains, aren’t good guys, they are companies and they need money to stay afloat.

Bioware wasn’t all about the games and now Bioware isn’t all about the money. Bioware was a company with people passionate about games that figured a way to make money from that. They wouldn’t be making the games they did if they didn’t have a way to profit from it. They didn’t do things to be nice, they did things because they believed it was the best way to profit with the skills, inclinations and resources they had at hand.

Would you donate your time and money to some random middle class gamer kid you don’t even know? Because that’s what it means for a company to be nice and considerate.

t1ckles

On January 31, 2013 at 7:34 am

Well … I guess I agree with you, on a few things.

The one thing I don’t understand is this; since when does a company have to do what you (or I, or him, or them) want them to do? Aren’t they entitled to do what they want? If you don’t like it, you can, well, go someplace else?

Yes, some companies are there to make money, others are there to help people (non-profits?), some; well some of them we don’t really know why they’re around.

I think that ‘it’s their job’ to do what they want in the best interest of themselves, after all, you and I are no different, right? You wrote this article for a purely selfish purpose (even if that selfish purpose was to bring attempt to dumb fanboys, which is a good purpose, in my opinion), is it so wrong for companies out there to do what they want to? Yeah, they should listen to their fans, but they aren’t obligated to, are they?

Lake

On January 31, 2013 at 7:34 am

Fernando – This all still comes down to one thing. You just take it as a given that companies ‘must’ be like that in order to succeed. That’s a disingenuous paradigm. People shouldn’t just accept that companies are going to screw them over like that. You talk about this as if there are somehow shades of grey in a business strategy that has its foundations based on squeezing its customers for every cent it can, monopolising the market to prevent competition, and attempting to force measures on console manufacturers and even the state to make sure people not only can’t buy games pre-owned or sell them on when they’re finished, but won’t even legally own their property. That’s not something with any ambiguity around it. These companies exist for one reason – to make as much money as possible while spending as little as possible. Whether or not you consider them ‘villains’ is irrelevant. If you can’t see the problem with this then you’re not looking hard enough.

Goner

On January 31, 2013 at 8:00 am

Someone said “E=mc2.”
Someone else said” Quality is inversely proportional to quantity.”
Take anything you want, mix it with stockholder, billion tired household kid’s,and the too formula up there.
And you got the meal of your century,the game of your decade, and the people of tomorrow.
But companies gonna have to change if they don’t want to face the same fate than the big music major’s.
Because i got high x3, na na na na na na…

Fernando

On January 31, 2013 at 9:01 am

Well, Lake, the issue is that you assume that trying to make profit means screwing the customer over. Valve hasn’t screwed me over and has made a lot of profit from me. Google hasn’t screwed me over (entirely), has given me free stuff and has made a profit from me.

You say something like this:”These companies exist for one reason – to make as much money as possible while spending as little as possible” as if that’s bad or unreasonable. As if companies should be trying to please you regardless of costs.

You misunderstand what I’m saying as apologizing, justifying, accepting all of the bull some companies pull. I keep saying the same thing here: it isn’t about good, evil, nice, bad, as long as you focus on that you won’t get what I’m saying.

There’s nothing wrong with profit. There are many ways to profit. DRM, used game blocks, day one DLC, microtransactions, etc and so on, none of that is evil, none of it is inherently good, bad, effective, ineffective. They will be pleasant or unpleasant depending on how they’re used.

You can dislike all that stuff I mentioned and NOT think of it in terms of good or evil. You don’t have to condemn the companies for trying to make money, which is the entire problem of this article, saying it is okay to condemn a company for making money. You should condemn a company for doing it in a stupid way that backfires and actually pisses you off. Because every company out there is out to make money, fact.

Fernando

On January 31, 2013 at 9:02 am

Oh, and that part where you mentioned shades of grey. Tell me your opinion on Origin and Steam.

Larry

On January 31, 2013 at 9:17 am

I think that your article is very frustrating. You see an argument that is so often repeated by fanboys, so you assume that it does not have intellectual legs to stand on. But I think that the argument “Companies exist to make money” is a very valid point and much more nuanced than people think, even people who espouse the argument regularly.

Companies, in the US, are legally required to make a profit for their owners. In addition, in the wake of Enron, the leadership in a company can be held legally responsible for many of the decisions made by the company. While this usually applies to outright fraud and abuse of power, there is a strong push to hold the people in charge of a company responsible to shareholders and owners for the actions of the company. As a result, they are often more cautious or they try to find “safe” forms of revenue.

Why is this relevant? Well, video games as a market is huge and it is constantly evolving. Companies are struggling to keep up with indie developers where cheaper but novel concepts win out. Combine this with the rising cost of top tier games and you have a situation where the profit margin is quickly shrinking. To combat this, companies have to find a way to offer a return on an investment made by shareholders that justifies people investing the company. Otherwise they would put the money in a bank or other stocks. Large companies could try various strategies to make this work. Nintendo, with the Wii, tried to adopt a “blue ocean” strategy where it went for potential gamers that were outside of the video game market. But not every company can manipulate there hardware to do so.

So how does a company like EA try to increase profit margins? Any rational company executive would agree with DLC, which allows for additional profits off of games with large (and costly) development cycles. And why not also try to put that content already on the disc if possible to save money in potential internet costs? These are rational BUSINESS decisions, likely made to increase profit. They are not content decisions. As is methods to fight piracy. Again, these are rational business decisions.

To bring it together this argument over the content and future of video games cannot exist without understanding that these companies have to turn a profit in a market that is increasingly becoming unpredictable. The budgets for larger games need to be justified and if that means squeezing more out of a game that is well received or fighting piracy, so be it.

All this has to be balanced with the fact that companies still have to produce a product that people want to purchase. In truth, they are largely doing this. The minor frustrations exist largely BECAUSE people want to play the game. It is natural to resent the fact that you merely want to play a game but because of DRM or anti-piracy measures you are in some way hampered from doing so. But fundamentally, you are complaining about profit-increasing mechanisms built into a game you really want to play. Otherwise you would ignore the hassle or avoid the game entirely. So you problem is, fundamentally, a problem with a corporation trying to make additional money off of a product that is expensive to create. The high upfront costs make the idea of skimming low risk, high reward profits off of a successful title is a completely rational decision.

It is built on the premise that companies exist to make money.

Lake

On January 31, 2013 at 9:49 am

Fernando – you make a good case in your last post, and I don’t have a lot to add. I would agree that terms like ‘evil’ are too emotional in this discussion, though I stand by the term ‘greed’ in certain cases.

Daniel Friedman (@DanFriedman81)

On January 31, 2013 at 9:52 am

I believe that good art is good business, and that mediocrity is immoral. The worst thing a game developer can do is release a bad game. I can filter games for quality more easily than I can filter books or movies or music, because I don’t play a huge number of games.

I consider myself a fairly serious gamer, but I can completely occupy my gaming time playing only games that earn a consensus 9.0 or higher, as rated by critics. I would rather see a publisher do any or even all of the things you mention above if the alternative is shipping an incomplete product or adopting a business model that is not centered around producing excellent software.

If you begin with the assumption that a game is excellent and I want to play it, then I have to decide whether any issues I have with this other stuff changes that calculus, and overwhelmingly, it does not. If a developer makes games I want to play, I am willing to tolerate the business stuff they do around the margins, which might be necessary to make excellent games possible in today’s market.

No matter how bad EA gets, as long as they’re making games like Mass Effect and Dead Space, they’re a million times better than Zynga.

Specifically:

1. Online passes and single-use codes: I understand these completely. No other creative industry has to deal with a retail partner as parasitic as Gamestop. This shady chain of pawn-shops has carved off a big chunk of the market and funneled it into its used-game ecosystem. These players now almost never make royalty-paying purchases.

I don’t understand why the game industry is so beholden to Gamestop. Barnes and Noble does not sell used books because major publishers generally don’t ship new product to used bookstores, and used CDs and movies were never the huge business that used games have become. I completely understand why game publishers would view this as a problem.

I’d like them to see publishers respond by acting against Gamestop rather than punishing gamers, but ultimately, I don’t buy used games, and I don’t sell my games to Gamestop, so I’m not going to change my behavior out of solidarity for a pawn shop I kind of despise.

And people who buy used games are not customers of game publishers in any meaningful way, since these sales generate zero revenue, so I am not sure why they consider themselves loyal or expect loyalty or respect from publishers.

You mention Valve as an ideal, but Valve distributes most of its games digitally, which means they can’t be resold. Ultimately digital distribution will kill the used game market, but until then, game publishers will do what they feel they need to do to protect themselves.

2.) Diablo 3 DRM/Online requirement: I thought this was whining over nothing. I haven’t played a PC game while disconnected from the Internet in years, and nobody has LAN parties anymore. If this interfered with the way I played games, I might care, but it doesn’t so I don’t.

I also understand how big a problem piracy is for PC games. Diablo was a PC-only title, so I can see why this protection was necessary.

3.) Microtransactions: I obviously haven’t played Dead Space 3, since it isn’t out yet. I’m not thrilled with the fact that they’re putting microtransactions into full-priced games, but how it’s implemented matters. If the crafting system is designed in a way to push people toward the cash store, as most free-to-play games are, then EA has ruined the game and nobody should buy it.

If the boxed product stands perfectly on its own, and the microtransactions are essentially a mechanism that lets people pay real money to cheat at the game, then that’s fine.

Frankly, I’ll take this a step further: game publishers have been trying to exploit the superfans and the hardcore gamers for years by releasing special limited edition versions of every game that cost significantly more money for extra packaging and cheap plastic toys. The Internet exploded this week with complaints from people who couldn’t pay an extra $50 for the version of “Ni No Kuni” that comes with a print manual and a beanie baby. If people want the beanie baby so bad, Bandai should just make it available for whatever a beanie baby costs, instead of making it “limited edition” and trying to get people to pay $50 for it. That’s just mean.

Personally, I think it’s worse to bilk the fanboys who will buy $50 beanie babies than it is to sell cheats and shortcuts for single-player games to the audience that will pay for that, as long as the integrity of the boxed product without the microtransactions is not a compromised experience.

Russ

On January 31, 2013 at 11:01 am

You talk about “nuance” then treat this issue in the most un-nuanced fashion possible. No money coming in = no company. The saying is not that companies exist _only_ to make money or that companies should do anything possible to make money or any of the other misconceptions mentioned here and/or in the comments. People who start companies do so for a plethora of reasons: curiosity, pride, pleasure, to work with like-minded folks, etc. etc. The only point of the saying you decry is that if a company fails to make money, it will fail to exist for very long. Your article is a straw man fallacy, distorting reality and then attacking the distortion rather than what is actually going on.

David

On January 31, 2013 at 11:46 am

It may seem dumb to you argue that ‘Companies Exist to Make Money’, but it’s nevertheless true. More precisely, companies exist to maximize value for the shareholders, or–in the case of non-stock companies–the partners or the sole proprietor.

I also note that some seem to want to distinguish between smaller companies and corporations. Well, corporations were all small once: none of them sprang up full-grown like Athena from the brow of Zeus. I’m old enough to remember when Electronic Arts was “just” another company, and a pretty successful one (populous, powermonger, and others that I’ve forgotten).

Furthermore, I don’t ever see any of this misdirected outrage going to companies like BioWare. Nobody pointed a gun to the heads of BioWare’s owners and made them sell out to EA, thereby mortgaging their creative future to the whims of the larger corporation. But they did it anyhow, presumably–at least in part–for the money.

Sure, it would be nice if companies spent as much money as was needed to cater to their adoring public’s every whim. The graveyards are littered with the corpses of companies that tried to do just that: Penn Central, Pan Am, WordPerfect…the list goes on and on: after all, any idiot off the street can run a company at a loss.

And it would be nice if Cindy Crawford or someone very like her served me my coffee every morning before giving me a full-body hot-oil rubdown.

I expect the latter to happen before the former.

Luther

On January 31, 2013 at 1:46 pm

You made me laugh david, man I used to have the biggest crush on cindy.

MPSewell

On February 1, 2013 at 5:40 am

David, if you’ve never heard this rage directed at the cesspit of Bioware, then you’re intentionally ignoring the almost universal and lambasting criticism leveled at them.

All of these companies are behaving precisely as any company will: maximizing profit by creating a monopoly situation in which they can screw customers and anything else that gets near htem to the maximum degree possible to save every dime they can. This isn’t a good thing. This is not laudable.

Alterego 9

On February 1, 2013 at 9:11 am

There is a major difference between a publicly traded company, and a privately held one.

EA only exists to make money, because no one is owning it, only the public, through stocks. People who don’t know anything about the gaming industry, and even people who don’t actually know what stocks they actually own at the moment, only set up an algorithm to buy and sell at the right time.

John Riccitiello is just an employee of that system, and his job description is literally to increase the stock value as much as he can. If he wouldn’t want to, for example if he would start to decide that he used to like old-schol RTSes and he wants to breathe air into that genre, because that would be awesome, he could get fired for ignoring the stockholders’ best interest.

Compared to that, Valve is a privately held company, that is owned by Gabe Newell and some of his personal collegues. It’s purpose is literally to let Gabe do whatever the hell he wants to do with it. Of course it still needs to make a profit to stay afloat, but if Gabe feels more fulfillment from releasing the Steambox and saving the open platform, or from leading the realization of Virtual Reality goggles, he can do that, even if these are fully expected to lead to a worse investment/profit ratio than making free-to-pay mobile games.

Milhouse

On February 1, 2013 at 9:46 am

Agree with MPSewell, I don’t know what type of stuff David was smoking when he said nobody was blaming BioWare – ESPECIALLY in a comment on Gamefront of all places, just about the only mainstream games site that isn’t still sucking BioWare’s .