Friday Bullet Points – Names and Prices and Gambling

It is Friday and, while I have posts that I could put up today, I wanted to cover a few small items that popped up this week, if only to write them down for discussion later.  As usual, just marking the dates with a bullet point post.

King of the Kill Dethroned

In a surprise move… to me at least… Daybreak announced that their battle royale game H1Z1: King of the Kill, already under pressure from hot new contenders like PlayerUnknown’s Battleground and Fortnite, decided that one of the things it needed to do was simplify the games name.

So they cut one side of the colon.  The side with what I sort of considered the actual name.

The game is now simply called H1Z1.

H1Z1 – October 2017 logo

Back where we started in 2015 when there was only one game with two modes and a single name.   Only the other mode is now Just Survive.

H1Z1 2015 Logo

Daybreak gives a several dubious sounding reasons for the change, ending on what was likely the real answer”

…having the word ‘Kill’ in the name of the game can be limiting with some global audiences…

I have to admit that I cannot, off the cuff, come up with a widely successful game with “Kill” in its name.  Maybe they’re right.

Of course, none of that changes the fact that the two titles mentioned above are eat H1Z1’s lunch, that the game is still in Early Access after saying it would be released last year, and the planned console port is still just a wink and a promise.

Oculus Price Cut

Facebook announced a price cut for the Oculus Rift.  The unit, which started off at $599 back in the day, will now be $399 and include the Touch controllers as well, at one time additional cost items.

That is a better price, though I am still in the boat of having to upgrade my PC first to be able to support their VR implementation.  I am at the very minimum spec for the Oculus Rift, and we now how well minimum specs work out.  And there still isn’t a must-have game or app out there to push me forward.

Facebook also announced the Oculus Go, priced at $199, but then didn’t say much about what the hell it actually was.  According to the Game Informer post linked above, the Go unit is stand alone and comes with one controller and a lot of promises.  So I am not sure what that even means.  Can I watch movies on it?

Empires of Kunark Still Half Price

Back to Daybreak, where the Norrath titles are in the middle of their annual expansion run up.  I’ll probably compare and contrast the pre-order offers at a later date.

But as part of that both EverQuest and EverQuest II put last year’s expansion up for sale at half off the original price for a limited time.

Empires of Kunark – Half Price through Tuesday

If you wanted to get all of the goodies that came with the more expensive packages… well… they are less expensive now, though you don’t get any price credit for having bought the base package it seems.

Half Price Pricing, Buy or Upgrade

As usual, being a subscriber gets you an additional ten percent discount.

Lockboxes and Gambling

This has been going around due to a petition to the UK government to declare lockboxes a form of gambling.  This seems silly to me as lockboxes do not meet the required win/lose scenario of gambling.  You always get a prize.  That it is not the prize you wanted is irrelevant and you don’t get to claim that virtual good have no value if you only mean the ones you don’t like.

Anyway, fellow bloggers have weighed in on this:

The above doesn’t mean I like lockboxes, and I certainly don’t spend my money on them.  I think they are a predatory device that plays to the same weaknesses that gambling does.  They just aren’t gambling any more than Pokemon cards or the gumball machine at the grocery store.  Chance alone does not make something gambling.

Meanwhile devs offer responses as to why they use lockboxes.  Spoiler: They have families to feed, so are apparently absolved of any moral issues.

Meanwhile, Activision has patented a system to punish you for not paying to win, which can include buying lockboxes, so welcome to reality.  Good luck playing for sympathy with that on your side.

13 thoughts on “Friday Bullet Points – Names and Prices and Gambling

  1. Bhagpuss

    The thing that annoys me most about the whole lockbox debate is the mangling of the language. I completely agree with your interpretation.

    I actually used to *make* lockboxes. Real world ones. Just out of college, I worked in a comic shop for a year. We had a lot of comics no-one wanted to buy. I would put six comics in a see-through plastic bag. Facing outwards on each side I would put a comic of fair-to-middling interest – something newish with Spiderman or The X-Men on the cover, for example. Between those two, where you couldn’t see what they were, I would put four comics that had been in stock forever. I would then price the bag at a little more than the two visible comics would sell for on their own and seal it.

    Those bags sold better than just about anything in the shop. People loved them. No-one ever complained that the other four comics weren’t as good as the visible ones. Sometimes people actually liked the hidden ones better, or so they said.

    My comic lockboxes weren’t “gambling”. If you buy a GW2 lockbox it tells you upfront what one of the items is, just like you could see those two comics. There are probably people who actually buy them for those items. That’s not gambling, either.

    Even if you can’t see what any of the items are, it’s still not “gambling” in the meaning of the term being bandied about. It’s buying a pig in a poke. It’s like buying one of those crates of “miscellaneous” items at auction. It’s like the lucky dip at the fairground. You pay a set fee, you get a set amount of stuff. Not knowing exactly what it is that you’re buying makes it a gamble but it doesn’t make it gambling.

    Anyway, this one is going to run and run. And if the anti-lockbox faction get their way and the real regulatory authorities can be persuaded to take a genuine and lasting interest in the internal economics of MMOs, then boy are we all going to be sorry! That’s a can of worms you really don’t want to see opened…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. SynCaine

    The Activision thing isn’t a huge deal IMO. LoL already does a lot of open ladder manipulation, be it putting toxic accounts together into games, or identifies smurf accounts and boosts them through the rankings, or stacking the deck slightly in your favor when you are at zero points at the lowest ranking in a tier. Most everyone is aware of all that, and it doesn’t matter because in the long run players that are learning and improving move up the ranks, while those that don’t stay where they belong. Plus it’s not like gamers aren’t good at inventing make-believe systems anyway, be it ‘ELO hell’ or any other pants-head conspiracy to try to explain why their actual rank doesn’t match with perceived ability level.

    Plus you have games like WoT (prior to the removal of gold ammo), where its pretty obvious and upfront that spending gives you power. Worst case here is a game that isn’t up front about the manipulation, and said manipulation favors spending, but players will catch on to that quickly like people did with D3 originally, and either the game fades away, or the devs change it. I can’t name a single non-asian game that was successful long-term with aggressive money=power systems that also focused around player competition/ladders.

    As for successful games with ‘kill’ in the title, Killer Instincts count?

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  3. Gankatron

    “I think they [lock boxes] are a predatory device that plays to the same weaknesses that gambling does.

    I believe that is the key concept supporters of lock box regulation would argue, as oppose to whether the purchaser gets something minimal with every purchase and therefore technically doesn’t fit a specific restrictive definition of gambling.

    From a semantic POV, the first listed definition of gambling in the free online dictionary is “The activity of playing a game for stakes or betting on an uncertain outcome”, which lock boxes do fit into, as people are likely to be spending real money for the chance to score a premium item, versus for the minimum payout with an unlikely premium payout as icing on the top.

    Of course state definitions are somewhat arbitrary, outlawing many forms of gambling, but aggressively supporting similar activities where the government takes a cut, such as lotteries.

    Perhaps some of the arguments could be parsed into at least two categories, one whether the activity fits a specific restrictive definition of gambling versus whether the activity preys upon those with gambling addiction?

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  4. NoGuff

    There is a growing consensus that if a player knowingly plays a game, such as World of Tanks, that offers P2W advantages such as the gold ammo, that by virtue of playing said game they are, by default, “consenting” to the imbalances or unfairness the developers have designed into the game. So doesn’t this all go back to the age old adage of “voting with your wallet” if you don’t like or agree with something?

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  5. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @SynCaine – The Activision thing is more or a “nice timing!” sort of event, though if you’ve gone so far as to patent a system that does what players suspect you’ve been doing anyway, you’re also sending a pretty overt message. The fig leaf of plausible deniability has fallen by the wayside and left Activision fully exposed.

    I suppose the Killer Instinct series might count, though I had to look it up to see that it was, in fact, a video game series.

    @NoGuff – Where is this consensus growing? You aren’t confusing that with some mildew in the shower are you?

    Yes, if you bitch about lockboxes or P2W in games and then go out and buy into them yourself, you are clearly part of the problem. Do you have to avoid such games completely though? That doesn’t leave a lot of options in some genres… well, a lot of good options. There is an endless supply of derivative crap on Steam, but I am not inclined to reward that either.

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  6. NoGuff

    @Wilhelm

    Plenty of bloggers and mainstream media types as of late(the rolling stone article being one) are indicating that “consent” is aimed at the free players. The question is, is it informed consent? And are gamers “required” to do homework on the inner workings of how every game works to find out if they are being psychologically manipulated on purpose to spend money? Shouldn’t it be enough for a gamer to see the F2P moniker and just stay away from it at all costs?

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  7. Shintar

    I’m glad to see a few more people pushing back against the “lockboxes are gambling” thing; it’s just so inane.

    Fun fact: When I read the line “having the word ‘Kill’ in the name of the game” I wondered for a moment just what they were talking about… turns out I have been misreading the name the entire time, always thinking it was King of the Hill.

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  8. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Gankatron – Your comment got caught in the spam filter. You’re lucky I was feeling like reviewing it today. Sometimes when a thousand show up I just flush the whole lot.

    The thing is, this whole argument was brought up because some people want the government to step in and stop lockboxes. But the government doesn’t define them as gambling, so it doesn’t really matter what the dictionary says or how people feel about it, the government isn’t going to go there. But that is probably a good thing.

    @NoGuff – The thing is that your statements about consensus run smack dab into a “who care?” issue. A group of bloggers, myself included, coming to a consensus about anything is like the Model UN in your local school district weighing in on nuclear weapons or climate change. It’s cute and all, but it isn’t like we have the power to change anything. It isn’t like we represent anything but a set of over-invested outliers who like to talk about our hobby. If lockboxes or pay to win make money, that is all that matters.

    As for journalists, there are a couple. But the editorial line at any big site like GameSpot or Game Informer is always going to be completely conciliatory towards whatever the game developers do because they are completely dependent on the big developers to give them nuggets of info that they can turn into headlines. So whatever Sony, EA, Microsoft, Activision, or Nintendo do, the worse that they will ever face is maybe a brief “tut tut” before the return to cheer leading.

    I’m past eleven years of this and on enough press release mailing lists to know who cares about what bloggers say. While I get the occasional insider email correcting me on something (which I then usually can’t write about), the only people interested in bloggers are small indy devs who just want to use us to get the word out about whatever game they are working on. And you can tell they don’t actually look at any of the blogs, they just have a list of gaming blog email addresses they bought, so half the time I get requests to talk about games on consoles I don’t own.

    None of which is going to stop me from blogging. I do it for me. But I try not to buy into the illusion that anything I write will ever be read, much less considered, by anybody who could affect any change in even smallest way.

    @Shintar – I could see making that mistake myself. That is the phrase they are clearly riffing on. However, it is in some common usage that I doubt they could trademark, copyright, or otherwise control the name, so they had to come up with something different lest others benefit from their fame.

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  9. Gankatron

    I was wondering why my comment didn’t show up, although I have no idea why such a low volume emailer and poster such as me would be filtered.

    The governmental regulation of addictive devices is a sticky matter to be sure, as one person’s vice is another’s pleasure, so something needs to be pretty universally accepted as severely detrimental to society before it is banned, and lock boxes are highly unlikely to fit such a criterion.

    I would be happy if real money lock boxes were banned, as I find P2W monetization parasitic and purposefully unbalancing in order to foster “fun pain”, and most particularly unscrupulous when included on top of a premium box purchase, but I wouldn’t push for abolishment of such practices on a political front, choosing to instead go the free market vote with your wallet approach.

    I feel if one pays for a premium box that has P2W mechanics inflicted upon it, they are validating a piggish trend where devs are seeing just how far they can push such predatory monetization schemes.

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  10. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Gankatron – Akismet can be capricious in its filtering. It has it in for Brain “Psychochild” Green and dumps his comments in the spam bucket every time despite my having dug them out and approved them repeatedly.

    It is funny that you should mention “real money lock boxes.” I was thinking about that last night. Most of the games I think of when these things get mentioned make you buy their virtual currency first, and it is with that you then can purchase the lockbox. That puts it one more level removed from gambling so far as the government is concerned I am sure. You’ve already give the company some cash for their play money. If you then straight up gamble with it after that, since you cannot cash it out, I think the argument is closed. It is essentially the same at that point as betting with in-game gold, which I know some games let you do. EverQuest II, for example, has a goblin lottery. But since it is all play money, nobody is going to regulate that.

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  11. NoGuff

    @Wilhelm

    “the thing is that your statements about consensus run smack dab into a “who care?” issue.”

    Except that consent is an important issue and can’t be hand waved away with a “who cares” attitude, especially since, you know, there are children playing a majority of these titles.

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  12. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @NoGuff – You stopped reading right there, didn’t you? You got right to the end of that quote and felt you had read enough and had to reply. Because you clearly did not get what I wrote. Even that quote, which was about consensus and not consent, makes me think you didn’t read any of it.

    I am saying the group that says that consent needs to be considered, which you seem to be claiming to represent (something that always puts my back up), is a non-entity that nobody cares about. You, me, other bloggers, we’re an obscure and minuscule debating society, a bunch of dilettantes arguing over the number of angels that can dance on the top of a lockbox, and of divided opinion at that. Any relevance we think we have is either accidental or illusory.

    So us deciding that consent needs to be considered to apportion blame for lockboxes is like us deciding that having a post-graduate degree needs to be considered for fitness to hold the office of President. If it actually becomes a thing, it won’t have been because of anything we said.

    You bringing the issue up to me doesn’t even begin to raise it to the level where hand waving is even required to dismiss it. It, so far as the greater gaming population is concerned, doesn’t even exist because we don’t exist in their world.

    And then you had to run with a “won’t somebody think of the children?” argument as a rejoinder. That is almost a non-sequitur. Are you claiming that minors have the ability to consent, legally or otherwise, to anything? If you’re saying lockboxes are bad and we need to protect children from them, then you’ve done a poor job expressing that by mixing that sentiment into a sentence that started off referencing the importance of the concept of consent.

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