This may not be popular, but its how I feel. First, some background and disclaimers. I run a small games company making games for the PC, strategy games with an up front payment. We don’t make ‘free to play’ games or have micro transactions. Also, I’m pretty much a capitalist. I am not a big fan of government regulation in general. I am a ‘get rid of red tape’ kind of guy. I actually oppose tax breaks for game development. I am not a friend of regulation. But nevertheless.

I awake this morning to read about this:

Image1

Some background: Star Citizen is a space game. Its being made by someone who made space games years ago, and they ‘crowd-funded’ the money to make this one. The game is way behind schedule, and is of course, not finished yet. They just passed $100,000,000 in money raised. They can do this because individual ships in the game are for sale, even though you bought the game.  I guess at this point we could just say ‘A fool and his money are soon parted’, but yet we do not do this with gambling addiction. In fact we some countries have extremely strict laws on gambling, precisely because they know addiction is a thing, and that people need to be saved from themselves.

Can spending money on games be a problem? Frankly yes, and its because games marketing and the science of advertising has changed beyond recognition from when games first appeared. Games ads have often been dubious, and tacky, but the problem is that now they are such a huge business, the stakes are higher, people are prepared to go further. On the fringes we have this crap:

taprao

But in the mainstream, even advertised in prime-time TV spots we have this crap:

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And this stuff works. ‘Game of War’ makes a lot of money. That ad campaign cost them $40,000,000. (Source).  Expensive? not when you earn a million dollars A DAY: (Source).

Image2Now if you don’t play games, you might be thinking ‘so what? they must be good games, you are jealous! But no! In fact all the coverage of games like Evony and Game Of War illustrates just how bad they are. They earn so much because the makers of those type of games have an incredibly fine tuned and skillful marketing department bent on psychological manipulation. You think I’m exaggerating? Read this. Some choice quotes:

“We take Facebook stalking to a whole new level. You spend enough money, we will friend you. Not officially, but with a fake account. Maybe it’s a hot girl who shows too much cleavage? That’s us. We learned as much before friending you, but once you let us in, we have the keys to the kingdom.”

Lets think about this for a minute. A company hires people to stalk its customers and befriend them so they can build up a psychological profile of each customer to allow them to extract more money. This is not market research, this is not game design. This is psychological warfare. Lines have been crossed so much we cannot even see them behind us with binoculars. We need to reign this stuff in. Its not just psychological warfare, but warfare where you, the customer, are woefully outgunned, and losing. Some people are losing catastrophically.

You know how much you hate those ads that track you around the internet reminding you of stuff you looked at but didn’t buy? That is amateur hour compared to the crap that some games companies are pulling these days. The problem is, we have NO regulation. AFAIK no law prevents a company stalking its customers on facebook. We live in an age where marketers have already tried using MRI scans on live subjects to test advertising responsiveness. You think you are not manipulated by ads? Get real, read some of the latest books on the topic.We are only a short step away from convincing AI bots that pretend to be our new flirty friends in game that urge us to keep playing, keep upgrading, keep spending.

Modern advertising is so powerful we should be legislating the crap out of this sort of thing. How bad do we let it get before we get some government imposed rules? We are in the early days of mass-population study and manipulation, the days where us, the gamers describe a game as ‘addicting’ as a positive. Maybe it isn’t such a positive after all. Maybe we need to start worrying about if a game is actually good, rather than just ‘addicting’. Maybe we need people to step in and save us from ourselves. We are basically still just hairless apes. We do not possess anything like the self-control or free-will that we think we do.

Like alcohol, gambling, smoking or eating, most of us do not find gaming addictive. Thus we fail to see the problem. it depends how you are wired. See this ‘awards screen’ in company of heroes 2:

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To most of us, thats just silly, and too big, and OTT. But if you suffer from OCD, that can be a BIG BIG problem for you. They KNOW this. Its why it is done. it works. Keep playing kid. keep playing. KEEP PLAYING. This sort of thing doesn’t need to work on everyone. If it works on just 1% and we can get them to spend $1,000 a month on our game (who cares if they can afford it?), then its worth doing.

I hate regulation, but sometimes you need it. Stopping a business dumping waste in a river is a good idea. Stopping companies treating their customers like animals that can be psychologically trapped and exploited is a good idea too. This stuff is too easy. Save us from ourselves.

69 Responses to “Hi, I’m from the games industry. Governments, please stop us.”

  1. Jason says:

    I am with you on Star Citizen. I think it’s getting way out of hand. But check out the circlejerk on Reddit (https://www.reddit.com/r/Games/comments/3wlblt/star_citizen_just_reached_100_million_in_funding/). Seems like everyone’s super happy for Chris Roberts and company. I had expected more outrage, honestly.

    Yeah, sex sells. That’s why we have those ads. Some of these pay-to-win games are just designed to cause psychological pain so people will pay more money. I guess that’s good “game design” in that it makes people throw money at you. I very much am a games purist like you but I think these new business models in the mainstream are here to stay, sadly.

    • Poor quality of debate here says:

      Of course, anyone who disagrees with this article is obviously circle jerking /s. I find it especially ironic that you are saying this about /r/games when in fact /r/games disliked Star Citizen for years. It looks really unintelligent to paint anyone holding a different opinion than you as fanboys or circle jerkers.

  2. mendel says:

    This needs to be more widely known.

    “Free-to-play games aren’t after everyone for a few dollars — they’re after weak people in vulnerable states for hundreds, if not thousands.”
    Source: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/195806/chasing_the_whale_examining_the_.php?print=1

    Anecdote on the same topic: http://notalwaysright.com/just-crushed-her-saga/35799

  3. Vanessa says:

    Thank you for posting this. We need more people like you to speak out against what many “game” companies are doing to exploit their own customers.

  4. Jagerbabomb says:

    I’m with you on this for the most part, but comparing Star Citizen to the some of the big ‘freemium’ heavy-hitters is intellectually dishonest. Yeah, they’ve gotten $100 million, but they’ve done so in such a way that it’s hard to be mad at them for it. The people throwing money at them did so because the product in development legitimately excites them in a big way. RSI has made their money on people’s *enthusiasm*.

    Now compare their $100 million and several dev builds released to something like Candy Crush or, as you pointed out in your article, Game of War. Those games, ostensibly ‘free’, frequently earn the creators upwards of $1 million *a day*. The biggest freemium game devs have earned *billions*. With a ‘b’. And they’re doing it the cynical, manipulative way with very little in the way of an actual fun experience to show for it.

    TL;DR: Don’t compare apples and oranges. It hurts your argument.

    • Colonel Mustard says:

      Star citizen is not a free game, but the comments about addictive behavior relating to ship purchases (in an incomplete game) are a spot on comparison.

      Also take the current misinformation about star citizen development time as an example of disingenuous marketing, right now people in gaming forums around the net are pushing the line that the game has only been in development for 3 years.

      This is seen as a blatant lie when compared to what Chris Roberts himself said about the game’s development time “We’re already one year in” on 18/10/12. This is deliberate disinformation to excuse the current state of the game as being the product of 3 years or development, not the factual (and less impressive) 4.

      Link to original interview
      https://www.themittani.com/features/exclusive-interview-star-citizens-chris-roberts

      • Halcyon says:

        So you are going to fault them for development before they had kickstarter funding? When they were only people working with 7-10 employees from their house, while they had morning jobs? Kickstarter date finished in November 2012 and that is where 3 years of development comes from.

        • Cheshyr says:

          I’m not going to get into the discussion of project schedules, but I agree that the ship purchasing model very much relies on the certain addictive qualities of their marketing.

        • Commentor says:

          They paid them a wage over a year to develop a specific product including artists. You’d need some serious double-think to wish that reality away.

          • Poor quality of debate here says:

            It’s quite frankly illogical to consider 10 people developing a game the same as 200 people developing a game. If that was true, all the indie studios out there would be spending as much capital and manpower as EA, Activision, or any of the huge AAA studio groups.

      • Remper says:

        Keep in mind that since they’ve raised so much money, they’ve significantly expanded the scope of the game compared to the Kickstarter campaign. They’ve done so with the full consent of the backers and release updates on the development status almost every day with podcasts, articles and weekly/monthly reports.

        I really don’t get why people who are not familiar with Star Citizen development process still accuse CIG of anything. It looks like “oh, they’ve got $100m and they are in still in development therefore they just have to be bad”. It is not how it works.

        • Colonel Mustard says:

          I’m aware of all of that and I don’t disagree with some of it, raising more money means the game can expand in scope.

          So say so, “we have raised loads of money and as such will now take longer to create a better game” that’s honest and straightforward and it fits the facts.

          “the games been in development three years” is a blatant lie, it contradicts Chris Roberts version of the games development, and can be easily dis-proven by anyone bothering to read interviews with the chairman.

          By getting caught telling these lies you simply highlight the dodgy nature of the way the games being marketed. You don’t need to tell these lies they ultimately harm the games image.

          Source required for 3 year development claim.

    • Jagerbabomb,

      How can you possibly make that argument? Star citizen “legitimately” excites people?

      Star Citizen is vapourware. It does not exist yet. It has raised $100 million from consumers on the back of promises and excitement. It may turn out to be the most awesome thing ever made. But it doesn’t exist yet.

      Game of War is a game played by millions of people. It’s there. I can download and play it right now. Just because you don’t enjoy it doesn’t mean it doesn’t get people “legitimately” excited.

      Jeez, who appointed you the ultimate decision maker over how I get to have my excitement?

      • Remper says:

        You say that Star Citizen doesn’t exist yet thousands of people playing it every day. They’ve just had a major release by the way. Calling something a “vaporware” without any basis and making up arguments is not a good tactic in the discussion.

        • Dan says:

          If by “playing ” you mean constantly crashing, controls not working and a ridiculous amount of bugs, then sure…

        • Mchin says:

          Its the nebulous definition of their product that makes me extra wary of star citizens approach to development.

          Everything they do can be free of criticism depending on the loose definition of the service CIG is providing and what the backers are paying for.

          Example: CIG offers alpha access for backers. However, I see many posts asking what does one “get”for pledging. Is it a preview? A privilege to help test? A chance to weigh In on the direction of the game? there is a clear misalignment between what CIG offers and what backers believe they are getting

          Another example: people currently criticize the ships available to different tier backers as pay to win. The counter arguments state that this is a non issue as this will not be the case in the final release. However, if the full release is potentially years off, is this still a valid argument? Those higher tier backers have had exclusive access to items for years. Again. The nebulous nature of this development makes this all hard to define

        • Matt says:

          I have yet to hear of a single game critic who was actually able to get the new Star Citizen to run on their computer. Any team can throw together a bunch of assets and algorithms into an engine and come up with flashy promotional videos but I’ve yet to see anything that suggests its not vaporware….or at least very-long-from-being-solid-ware.

  5. Bob says:

    Yup, and while we are asking the government to help stop innovative companies from making good video games, lets ask them to stop Wal-Mart ($130.24 billion PROFIT in 2014) or Apple ($104.88 billion PROFIT) or a video game company, how about Electronic Arts at $3.31 billion PROFIT.

    So someone comes up with an idea for a video game, offers to go independent of major publishers of video games. And people LOVE the idea and throw money at them. At writing this there was $100,080,646 raised and 1,088,999 citizens. That’s only $91.90 per person. That’s not too crazy seeing how Digital Deluxe games or Collector’s Editions go for upwards of $100 from major publishers, and generally those (CoD or BF) are generally reskins of the previous years games. They run on the same engine as they did the year before and are nothing “new” or innovative. $100 million is not out of line for AAA game titles (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_most_expensive_video_games_to_develop)..

    So, I would say that before you call on the government to stem funding from going into an independent company and try to stifle innovation, maybe you should be asking the government to make Apple stop charging a $1000 for the newest iPhone, or ask Wal-Mart to support local manufacturing and not get everything from China.

    • Commentor says:

      You know as well as anyone that the backer number is inflated dramatically by free trial accounts and people with multiple accounts. The number thrown around is ~600,000 actual accounts.

      But that isn’t even the issue. Most accounts only paid the minimum ~$30 for an account leaving the rest of the tab with Exactly the sort of person this article was talking about. The addictives. The OCD. The Completionists.

      This isn’t about run away profits or even expensive products. This is about preying on people with weaknesses.

      • Bill Wattson says:

        You’ll have to actually back this up with a source instead of just saying 600K. Where did you get this number? Or you just made it up?

    • The F2P business model relies on a power law distribution, not a normal or Poisson distribution.

      That means that your average is misleading. My rule of thumb is that if your big spenders are spending an average of around 10x the average. So if the average are spending $91, then big spenders spend an average of $910, and there will be many much higher. The highest reported spend on Star Citizen I’ve seen is $30,000.

      I don’t agree with Cliff, but your argument, based on averages, is fundamentally wrong because that is not how this business model works.

      • Bob says:

        The big spenders spending 10X the average would in turn drive the average down.

        Yes people spend more money than others. I have a 2006 car. Cost me $8000. There are people out there with 5 or 6 $100,000 cars. Why? Because they can afford it.

        Why is it crazy for someone to spend hundreds of thousands on a collectors car, or millions on a piece of art, but someone spends thousands or $30,000 on a video game and they are crazy, or considered in a cult? People spend money on ways that bring them happiness. Whether thats an object they can look at or drive, or fly in a virtual world.

        In the end SC did what other devs can only hope or pray for. They are pulling it off, what happens next is whatever will happen. Go to Reddit and ask there how much you NEED to spend, everyone will tell you “only what you can afford”

  6. Paul says:

    Using Star Citizen and Game of War in the same article about the same shitty practices is really strange to me, especially happening after Roberts and his team just released one of the most ambitious pieces of interactive entertainment ever created (yes I am talking about the alpha 2.0). Game of War and its ilk is pure trash…Star Citizen is marvel of art and engineering.

    • Commentor says:

      The alpha is not great and if that is actually indicative of what the final game will be then it will be in no way innovative. Don’t conflate and extrapolate what isn’t there. There is so much promised and a complete lack of meat for 4 years development.

      You must understand there are space games that were started and have been released since the start of their work. Games that not only have done more but are now more polished and complete.

      • Poor quality of debate here says:

        There’s been 3 years of development since the Kickstarter, I’m not sure where you pulled “4 years from” (no, pre-production doesn’t count and if you think it does you don’t really understand software development). For context, 3 years of development is absurdly little for any MMO. World of Warcraft took 4 years, Guild Wars 2 took 5 years, and Elder Scrolls Online took a whopping 7 years to complete. Star Citizen is a very ambitious MMO, so it’s totally reasonable to expect it to take at least as long as Guild Wars 2.

        • Colonel Mustard says:

          4 years comes direct from the mouth of the chairman Chris Roberts, I posted a link to the interview above.

          It’s absolutely pointless to claim otherwise, those are his words. It just goes against the current claims of the fan’s who are trying to justify the state of the tech demo after 4 years.

          Do you think he was lying, wrong or do you think the interview was fabricated ?.

          • CoreFire says:

            In 2012, ~3 months were spent on the initial design and planning, then another 6 months were spent with 8 people to create a visual demo for the kickstarter. After the kickstarter finished, the prototype was thrown out due to the assets being too low quality to use, and they started from scratch.

            The first studio opened in Feb 2013 with a development team of 20 people, and work on the *actual game* began. That’s where the 3 years come from. Even at the end of 2013, there were only 60 people working on the game. It took till 2015 for the german engineering team to start work and staff count to reach 250.

            Most of the past 2 years has been spent on SQ42/SC game design and core engine work, such as the multi-zone physics grids/64-bit positioning, along with creating the tools required to develop the game. At the same time, a company had to be built and new studios created around the planet.

            They’re now at a technological point where content can be pumped out at a fast rate, and the necessary technical work to create the game is complete.

      • Walltar says:

        You said that they were space games started and finished… Could you tell me which ones? Except for Elite, which finished severely unfinished I do not know any. But I would really like to play some of them.

      • Itamar says:

        Star Citizen may be very late. It has many technical issues, and it may not be what you’re looking for, but “Games that not only have done more but are now more polished and complete.” is ridiculous. SC is the most ambitious game I’ve ever seen (in fact, one of my criticisms is that it is over-ambitious) and I’m not aware of any game that exists that lets you do what SC Alpha 2.0 can.

    • But Game of War is out. While Star Citizen is currently just a machine for monetising promises.

  7. Dave says:

    I generally agree with you that many of the business practices you have raised in your post are abhorrent. Many businesses now feel obliged to use these sorts of tactics in order to compete with other more unscrupulous competitors. This is not a great place to be and I’m pretty sure that it is not healthy for the industry. I don’t think free-to-play is inherently bad. I think as an industry we need to encourage companies to evolve towards a cleaner model that doesn’t require you to have contempt for your customers. Whether regulation is how we get there is uncertain although I’m sure it will be part of a solution moving forward.

    I’m not entirely sure why you keep stating that you are otherwise against regulation. Are you against all forms of regulation on principal? That seems a bit narrow-minded. If it wasn’t for some kind of regulation our society would not be able to function. It is what keeps things fair (at least to some extent). If the banking system had been better regulated we might not be in the post-recession mess we are right now. Just my thoughts.

  8. Snow says:

    Have you read The Space Merchants (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Space_Merchants) .. weaponised advertising

  9. Mori Kopel says:

    “The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.”

  10. Isthisa Joke says:

    “Hi, I’m from the games industry. Governments, please regulate my more successful competitors.”

  11. Derek says:

    As a former blackjack dealer and poker player in the US, I was upset when gambling suddenly became illegal because a former Senate majority leader decided to shove his little pet project through Congress without any debate.

    Compared to what’s happening right now in the mobile market, the gambling seems rather quaint, and less scammy.

  12. Dave Taylor says:

    All good points, but decidedly on the other side of you making a shit ton of money off of Infinity Blade, one of the highest-grossing f2p games to ship on iOS (at the time). How do you feel about that? Do you plan to re-invest some of those winnings in a title to help combat the problem?

    I’d say there are some outlier f2p games that are particularly bad, but the basic issue is that as game developers, we prioritize addiction too much, no matter our monetization method. Whether the player is spending money as he plays or not, the player always, always loses time, and time *is* money.

  13. Satoshi Kamasutra says:

    “I am not a friend of regulation. But nevertheless.”

    Translation: My business shouldn’t be regulated, but other businesses should.

    Yes, these are all sleazy practices, but what makes you think that any form of regulation would be effective and not just another bonanza for trial lawyers? It’s telling the you suggest that regulation these companies is “easy”, but don’t even hint at a suggestion of what kind of regulation you have in mind. If it’s so easy, please tell us what you would have the government do?

    Outlaw companies friending people on Facebook? Require game companies to conduct double-blind tests on people with OCD? What?

  14. Alex says:

    That’s why I never play free to play games. And I’ve never spend a cent on them.

    I’d rather pay a monthly subscription and play a game where they can’t milk players.

    But I don’t do even that.

    Game industry is dead for me from around early 2000s. The only games I buy and play are certain indie games.

  15. Oscarliving says:

    “I don’t know”

  16. Gavin says:

    I have also been following the growing trend of random ‘lotto’ style in game purchases.

    Seeing young people win a crate in a game, then purchase a seemingly cheap key to open that crate, then having a fruit machine type mechanic animate the random gifts they could win stopping on the prize.

    If they dont win what they wanted, they can put all the old items together and trade up to a single ‘better’ item. Seemingly making the system look fair to the gamer.

    Opening these boxes pulls in large numbers on both YouTube and Twitter.

    This IS gambling. It should have all the support info and links next to it, and Steam have the power to easily monitor the activity of its users – it does this anyway, and should be able to serve up help if they spot the well documented symptoms.

    It is great you are proactive to this, and not reactive as Steam and game makers will be in the future. They will fight it to start, as did the gambling sites, but as you said in the article, there are times when individuals need saving from themselves.

  17. yutt says:

    I’ve been concerned about this issue for a while, and you’re right in comparing it to gambling. Worse yet, much of this marketing targets children, which is completely illegal for the gambling industry.

    I made a video earlier this year discussing my concernes with Kim Kardashian: Hollywood being promoted so heavily by both the mainstream media and popular gaming press. That “game” will be a future case study in the evils of early 2000s psychological exploitation.

    I tried to contact research psychiatrists/psychologists experienced in gambling addiction to discussion this issue, but none of them would comment publicly. Basically, there is a ton of research on the psychological effects of gambling, which the gambling industry itself is required to fund, but nothing on the effects of the techniques used in the games industry.

    Here’s my video for any interested:
    The Curious Case of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood – Top Game of 2014

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wL2hQpa4EnU

  18. Dave says:

    I understand your reasoning for putting Star Citizen on here, but I don’t think you fully realize why people are buying into it. Unlike Clash of Clans, Game of War, and other freemium games, Star Citizen is a product that people are buying into because they want to fund the developers to continue to produce an amazing MMO that people have been hoping to have for years now. I view it as something similar like investing in stocks. You don’t quite know if the company is going to fully succeed on delivering on the expectations, but you believe it to be lead by a capable team with a good product. And the more that’s invested, the better the product will be (or at least we hope so).

    However, with freemium games, it is more like a casino environment. You continually pay in small amounts for little to no return and it takes advantage of people’s weaknesses. It’s an effortless way to rake in a ton of cash. Star Citizen did not start out with that mentality. Their hope was to raise a mere $500,000 to develop the game but people loved the idea so much and wanted more out of it that it grew to the crazy amounts you see today. They didn’t exploit on gambling weaknesses, they didn’t force you to pay more money to have a couple more hours of play time because you ran out of energy.

    • mendel says:

      Well, your post illustrates nicely the similarity: gambling is putting money up at a substantial risk in the hopes of getting something good for it — and that’s what most of the Star Citizen backers have been doing. Paying for hope = gambling.

  19. 0day backer of Star Citizen says:

    With some delay, society will react to this. It will react harsh by completely outlawing video games with online functionality. The electorate won’t care about collateral damages.

    Personally I’m having regrets that I accidentally helped to kickstart this scheme, harming thousands of people and the space game genre as a whole.

  20. A little bit inconsistent... says:

    …don´t you think so? You are mentioning some FreeToPlayStuff that are spending 40 Million Dollars on marketing just after you were also talking about a game that doesn´t have a single dollar spent for traditional marketing.

    As stong as I agree with you with everything you said about FreeToPlay-games I disagree with your integration of StarCitizen in this article!
    The only (two) reason(s) I can see why you´ve done it; and I didn´t just analysed them in articles or interviews, but also in open talk to indie devs on conventions:
    Jealousy is the first one—knowing that there own projects are cool stuff as well there are fairly pissed they weren´t granted such a budget as well. And I like Democracy III a lot…

    And the second one is lack of information: Nearly nobody who critizises StarCitizen got enough information about the project. And this is the case here as well—writing a short paragraph dealing with StarCitizen cannot be enough to talk about every aspect of the project!

    Really: You should have talked about StarCitizen at all or ways longer—but nothing in between!

    • Itamar says:

      Oh, come on!
      Can you nit-pick any worse? The point was not about marketing budgets, but practices Cliff sees as abhorrent. While I may disagree with some of what is said regarding SC, I *do* think the constant stream of unplayable (at start) ships is selling dreams and can rightly be criticized.

  21. […] players have spent over $ 30,000 on Star Citizen to-date, and at least one game industry veteran has called for some form of industry regulation or oversight, noting that titles today are […]

  22. Derek Hawkmoon says:

    Hello there!

    I find the idea of comparing games like Clash of clan or other mobile games of the same sort with Star Citizen a bit misleading.

    First of all, Star Citizen is in development and is using the money people donate to them for the game development, not as profit as is instead the case for those mobile games. I think this is a key difference here and, hey, maybe you do not believe in what the Devs say, but they DO say that the business model will change quite drastically once the game release to a Buy to Play model with money purchases limited by weekly and monthly caps, more designed so people with less time and more money can keep up with those with more time and less money.

    Secondly, Game of War is a skinner box, period. You spend money and you are instantly rewarded with some bonus, you succeed a bit, but ah! you need to spend even more money to get a bigger bonus because now you are fighting better opponents and so on and so forth ad infinitum.

    Star Citizen ships are more like real world vehicles or other finite items, you buy one because it serves a purpose in the game, it is a tool. You do not get any immediate bonus, infact most often you cannot even see, touch or fly the ship you purchased as it is not ready yet. Also, like cars, Star Citizen ships have different capabilities and requirements depending what they are designed to do, so yes… you could spend 2500 dollars on a Javelin (A destroyer capital ship) if you so want, but what are you going to do with it? Alone, next to nothing. You will need a lot of friends (see, an organization) to not just crew it but also provide escort to it as such a big ship will attract a lot of pirates armed with much cheaper torpedo bombers or just boarding ships. Clearly these kind of ships are created with a big group in mind and there are other, much cheaper, offers for other kind of play, like a smaller group could buy a Constellation for 200 dollars (seats 4 or 5) or a single person could buy a 300i or an Avenger for some 60 dollars (seats 1).

    Furthermore, Star Citizen does almost no traditional advertisement whatsoever, limited to the game devs showing up in certain conventions like Gameskom or releasing a new trailer for the Game Awards. Once again, advertisement works for ALL sorts of items and I just do not see the psychological abuse you highlighted goes on in these other cases. Yes, they do show shiny new ships every now and then, but isn’t that what everyone does? Is that also to be considered psychological abuse? To have a shiny car driving on a road in an advertisement?

    TL;DR: Star Citizen is not a skinner box and does not use psychological abuse to coerce people to buy their ships, they are more akin a car manufacturer offering new models of car every now and then and who am I to judge what a rich person does with his or her money? If that person spending 30k in Star Citizen would have wasted it on a shiny car, no one would have batted an eye and they are equally useless as he assuredly already had a car of his own.

  23. Azrel Tharon says:

    I am a backer of Star Citizen. I do agree with the article to a certain extent that big developers need to stop sucking $ from their communities.
    Yes CIG has gotten $100M in funding for production. But there are many other games that was funded that amount and some even more. Though a different kind of funding, its still funding.
    World of Warcraft(Vanilla): $200 million
    Star Wars: The Old Republic: $200 – $300 million
    Battlefield 4:$100 million
    The Elder Scrolls Online: $200 Million
    And None of the Post-Release Profits included!

    Star Citizen just reached $100Mil, but with 1million backers in 3years? its only $33 per person per year!Thats nothing compared to the thousands other developers suck in from their community, And way way lesser money average gamers spend on games per annum.

    I do not represent the whole community but I can say that most of us if not all, are giving money to CIG to develop the game, Not to keep servers up, or increase their profits.

    I can justify spending $2.70 on Star Citizen every month for 3 years.Even my mobile phone monthly bill is more than that! Heck, Ive spent more on other games.

    To the Author, please do edit your article and do more research to prove the point you are trying to make. There are plenty of bigger Devs out there that failed to deliver what they promised. CIG is a small developer, just more successful than yours. And fyi, Star Citizen is not Free to play. its Buy to Play. Which means buy once and play till you die. We backers dont “buy” anything form CIG, we support, donate, fund for the games development.

    • Itamar says:

      Please note that stating average sums of money is misleading, as explained in the article and in some comments: The distribution of payments is not uniform, but closer to a hyperbolic function, where the vast majority of people pay the minimum amount (whether that is 0 for F2P games, or 30$ for SC) and very few people pay vast amounts, ostensibly due to self-control issues.

  24. MarkyMark says:

    Guys, grow a brain. This is just marketing. Yes they are using questionable and addicting marketing techniques, but nobody is forcing these people to play these games in the first place! These people that are throwing their money out just need to be smart with their money and not spend so much on worthless things. You say that you are against regulation, and their is no difference here!

    • Xion says:

      The problem isn’t that idiots and marketing puppets are paying into these games; it’s that the cost to profit ratio for these games is massive because of how many whales they catch. No publisher wants to make games that aren’t designed to achieve that same profit margin. Top it off with ‘marketing partners’ also possibly referring to other games in an effort to share poaching a whale that has been identified to get bored with one game quickly. Add in the fact that F2P on mobile is so mainstream Apps and games that have a buy-in get outright ignored. More-over people of this mentality have also been conditioned to WANT to be advertised to; thinking they are staying informed of the latest and greatest. Again it ultimately means no publisher is going to care about anyone outside this demographic to publish anything outside this demographic because the profit to cost ratio is so low by comparison. Which means less apps and games not built around marketing data-mining.

    • Itamar says:

      So…you oppose the regulation of gambling as well, because nobody forces people to spin roulette wheels?

  25. […] players have spent over $30,000 on Star Citizen to-date, and at least one game industry veteran has called for some form of industry regulation or oversight, noting that titles today are […]

  26. Ryubro says:

    This article is so interesting. May I translate it to Korean and publish it to my humble blog?

  27. Yahtzard says:

    Caanon565 on Reddit nailed it for me.

    “3) Aside from an underserved game genre, it is also aiming to be a High quality PC exclusive. So the whole PCMR thing comes in.
    5) Part of it also an “FU” to publishers putting out shallow games that are rehashes with no innovation.”

    I have more disposable income today than I had in my “gaming prime”, also I know where my comfort zone is but still spent about twice as much as I should have.

    In the end the truth is this… The last game I bought was SimCity. It was a major release by a major developer and it was rushed, buggy, unplayable and then abandoned. After I drank the kool-aid, I spent 10x the amount I did on SimCity because I believe that Chris Roberts has enough street credit to deliver the kind of PC games that I dreamed of playing but could not afford when I was younger. These games were console independent and pushed the boundaries of what ordinary gaming rigs could handle.

    Today I maintain a “gaming rig” that’s 2-5 years behind the bleeding edge but for the life of me don’t know why. What else out there is pushing boundaries right now? Buggy x-box ports that have not been optimized for PC’s? For me Star Citizen became an opportunity to vote with my wallet for the kinds and quality of games that I want to see developed.

    Hopefully the gaming industry sees this shot across the bow for what it is… A plea by wealthier, mature gamers for high quality, highly produced, AAA titles that don’t cater to the lowest common denominator.

  28. sb says:

    I was watching The Know’s video “Should Free to Play be Illegal?” and I was thinking to myself “Cliffski sounds very familar” and then I realized Positech made Kudos 2!

    Anyway, I do agree with you that Free to Play games should be regulated because it is very similar to gambling and the companies are predatory. I find Free to Play games similar to Daily Fantasy Sports.

  29. Xion says:

    This and the “We own you.” article you linked to were some major eye-openers for me. After reading both I was compelled to check how much I’ve spent on my go-to F2P game for the last 5 years; a game that has excessive prices for IAP that are largely focused on being chance-manipulators at best. My jaw dropped. My stomach turned. I’ve not felt my gut wrench like that in over a decade. It shames me to no end seeing that total on my calculator, and having to go through so many pages since they’ve made it as hard as possible to really see how much you’ve spent. Damning all my loose ends in that game and all the others I have downloaded for the sake of burning all my bridges; I promptly deleted every single one. Now currently deleting all my profiles, and getting trusted anti-tracking software. I thought I was only poking my head in the rabbit hole, but I was far deeper than I thought. Tearing myself out of it completely is the only viable way to get out. And I thought Windows 10 was bad…

    Thank you, and I thank all your sources as well if they should read this.

  30. Idea guy says:

    From reading that confessional post, I wonder if positive results could be had from simply requiring that ftp games keep a visible ruining total visible when you are about to make a purchase?
    I don’t really agree with the op but it was just a idea I had.

  31. MrPriest says:

    I don’t see the big deal.
    Speaking of people taking advantage of others for quick gains? Does that not exist everywhere?
    The truth of the matter is, if one company does not get someone’s cash, another company will.
    Game companies spying on us? Don’t the SmartTVs, smart phones, and governments do that as well? If you are smart enough to be bothered about it, you probably won’t fall for it.
    I can complain all I want about soccer players getting so much money for chasing balls for an hour and half, while scientists that might be able to solve cancer/world hunger/wars will probably suffer and die with no funding and results, but will it change the nature of things?

    Eventually, it’s no use worrying about others who fall for such schemes, since if not one scheme, they will fall for another.
    So why bother? As long as someone does not swindle (the innocent customer), I don’t mind how he obtains his money.
    Honestly, if I had the heart to do so, I’d even join in on it. I am sure I can make use of that money better than someone that just dumps it on an “unknown hottie with a cleavage that is actually a stalking dude”.