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I don't care if you hate Jim Sterling. You should watch the Jimquisition.

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Here's the defensive article on Gamasutra he mentioned:

 

https://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/WilliamGrosso/20170829/304611/8_Questions_About_Dynamic_Pricing.php

 

It's so disgusting I had to leave a comment:

 

Quote

This article is so repulsive I've had to make an account just to object to it in the comments. The key differences between all of the examples from other industries which you have chosen and these are obvious on even the slightest examination. Firstly, in any of the examples you chose, the product is offered for the same value to all customers. That value might change based on various factors, but at any given time all users are being asked for the same amount for the product or service, and when that amount changes it does so for all customers. Uber are not profiling their customers to charge more to those who are more affluent, they are altering their pricing structure across the board in order to take advantage of marketplace conditions, which is completely different from what you're selling here. You've described them both as "dynamic", but you've been extremely loose with what that term means in two entirely different contexts.

 

Secondly, the examples you're citing are not situations where the companies are individually spying on and aggregating data about their consumers in order to attempt to manipulate individual customers into spending more money. You're advocating hiding software on people's phones through games and tracking information about them that the user is not aware is being gathered in order to attempt to manipulate individual users whom you have judged to be more likely to spend more. That is far more "shady" than the majority of the negative examples which you've given, because at least when pharmaceutical companies are price gouging people are easily aware of that. Your company essentially sells spyware, which tracks user data and uses it to attempt to psychologically manipulate people. It's absolutely abhorrent and completely immoral.

 

Ideas like this are what has driven the mobile marketplace to be a race to the bottom, with games making less and less money. Presenting that situation as though it's some kind of natural occurrence that you're heroically fighting is completely ridiculous, when actually insidious practices which have turned mobile games into glorified slot machines marketed at children have destroyed people's faith in these apps, reducing revenue through incessant corporate greed and leading to a situation where mobile development is nowhere near as tenable as it might have been only a few years ago. It is companies like yours and practices like this which lead us to have less and less successful mobile games, and doubling down on these things is not a solution, it's just a further concentration of the problem, which in short is people like you being allowed to do things like this and then being given attention in spaces that are supposed to be for journalism to peddle your corporate sales spiel. You should be deeply and genuinely ashamed of yourself.

 

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Not afraid to admit I couldn't stand this guy for so long but swallowed my pride after the whole loot box thing exploded around BF2/Shadow of War and actually quite like him now. Only really watched a handful of vids he's done recently but they're informative, interesting and should be seen by more who care for games. That sci revenue one posted above is particularly insidious. 

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Tbh I'm kinda hoping he'll eventually go full Marx and just use his reach to preach that these practices are all basically capitalism's fault, and help actually make a difference to the world! :D

 

You can do it, Jim! 

 

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That Scientific Revenue video is complete bullshit. It's just Sterling saying innocuous jargon from a different industry to games in an affected disgusted voice.

 

Data-driven design and discriminatory pricing aren't remotely new or controversial. Stores like Amazon, iTunes and Steam and essentially all online games (F2P or otherwise) have based their business models on tech like this for many many years now.

 

"Uber are not profiling their customers to charge more to those who are more affluent... You're advocating hiding software on people's phones through games and tracking information about them that the user is not aware is being gathered in order to attempt to manipulate individual users whom you have judged to be more likely to spend more..." - Broker you are possibly the naivest person alive. And you definitely shouldn't be relying on YouTube carnival barkers to decide who to send angry letters to - Scientific Revenue are one inconsequential middleware startup in an industry of literally thousands.

 

...

 

Re Loot Boxes in console games: I think it's right that this trend is critically scrutinised and pushed back against, but Jim Sterling isn't interested in that, he just wants to rile up kids to harrass developers if it makes his Patreon payouts bigger. He's nearer Katie Hopkins than Charlie Brooker, and far more transparently cynical than anything he rails against.

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How is scientific revenue a different industry to games when they do IAP adjustments on mobile games. Loot boxes are a direct implementation of the mobile market pay to win model. 

 If it’s a way to increase profit then It won’t be too long before activision/EA/2K will be adopting this model. 

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4 hours ago, Mortis said:

How is scientific revenue a different industry to games when they do IAP adjustments on mobile games. Loot boxes are a direct implementation of the mobile market pay to win model. 

 If it’s a way to increase profit then It won’t be too long before activision/EA/2K will be adopting this model. 

Well Activision own King and EA run FIFA Ultimate Team (etc etc) so I think this prediction may be a bit late...

 

What I meant was, Scientific Revenue's language in their presentation is dry because 1. their tech can be used in apps other than games and 2. it's aimed at live ops staff (spreadsheet jockeys), not game developers or consumers. Sterling fruitily complaining that this language makes customers sound like walking wallets is stupid because yes, that is literally a salespersons' job. There can be a problem when this part of the organisation over-reaches and meddles with the fundamental design of the game (see: Battlefront II), but it's reliant on the game actually being good in the first place - you can't optimise a game nobody wants to stick around in.

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The thing that scares me going forward is adaptive difficulty. Never mind tuning the pricing or whatever, it's when they start dialling up the difficulty we need to worry. Because that's a feature they can hide really, really well.

 

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11 hours ago, SMD said:

 

This is all over the place without any cohesion either in your reply or your understanding of his video.

 

The point he's making is that these companies aren't tuning their pricing to markets, they're tuning their pricing to you. They do that by analysing your habits and trying to tempt you into a sweet spot where you start spending money on IAPs, loot boxes or 'packs' like on Ultimate Team. At the moment this is both unregulated and not clearly communicated to customers.

 

There are two different groups most at risk of these kind of practices - those who have personalities that easily become addicted to gambling and similar kinds of activities; young people/children who may or may not be unsupervised when playing games.

 

The point of the video is to note that gamers are being watched and analysed individually to find the tipping point to get them to fork out. It's easy to baulk at £50 for 100 packs but 50p a pack is a lot easier to digest and wave away as a small purchase. But buy 200 packs a year and suddenly you're in for much more than the bulk option.

So break that concept down to the micro-level. What price per pack or IAP is your sweet spot? Someone creates software to do all that automatically and you're trying to compare it to traditional discriminatory pricing? There's a difference between selling something for x in one market and y in another versus this concept of tuning prices higher and lower to find the point of maximum profit per user.

 

With children, they might not even fully appreciate what gambling is. In their minds it could be casinos or betting on football or whatever. Paying money for packs with a chance of a gold might just seem like a way to make sure that not everyone gets the best players to play Ultimate Team. By getting kids used to the concept, even for free, you make them more susceptible to these practises. Once they think it's perfectly normal to put money in and maybe get a top player once every 50 packs (I have no idea what the odds are) or to complete a costume set in Overwatch, you can put in even more predatory practises later.

 

Also how the fuck is "riling up kids to harass developers to make his Patreon payouts bigger" even a remotely coherent thought? Literally look at Youtube and Patreon to see who the biggest stars are - they're the ones opening packs, streaming games and giving away shit, not trying to hold companies accountable to anti-consumer practises. Take a look at NeoGAFResetEra to see how divisive Sterling is, or Twitter to see how even people who follow him tell him he's boring them.

Being abrasive isn't a money spinner and he goes out of his way to make sure no one harasses individuals in the community.

 

What do you take issue with? Him holding companies accountable for filling TRIPPLE EHH GAAAMES with 'monetisation' so that you have to spend upwards of double the price of the release to get all the 'content'? How about the Steam asset flippers who filled Early Access with Unity cash grabs? Maybe you're upset about how he calls out spurious Content ID claims on Youtube? Is it the episodes about how publishers treat gamers and developers with contempt?

 

If you want, you can Paypal me £1.99 so I can answer those questions for you on your behalf.

 

Sorry if you thought that answer was incoherent, Sterling just boils my piss. His entire schtick is creating faux outrage about an issue, painting one side as a faceless villain and himself as a selfless consumer champion. He's been doing it since Destructoid (where his antics were so unprofessional that he eventually had to start loudly proclaiming that he "wasn't a journalist" when people started calling him out). Using a platform in this profoundly toxic, manipulative way has negative consequences.

 

Doing this kind of half-baked tabloid 'investigative journalism' would be fine if he applied any sort of rigour or did even basic research, he just doesn't though! He just says whatever sounds juiciest. He did a video a few weeks ago where he got so worked up about developers using target renders for game announcements (much screeching of "LIES!") you'd think the development community had shot his dog. He doesn't have the first clue about the realities of making games as a business, and peddles a weird paranoid fantasy narrative that all games are successful, all developers are rich, and anything upsetting the status quo of his youth (AAA games in established genres sold for $60) is being done purely out of greed. He's the worst, most entitled impulses of teenage male gamers amplified, their prejudices validated.

 

Yes, I know how discriminatory pricing works and nowhere did I say doing it algorithmically was the same as the traditional approach. Using it to an extent is simply good business practice (e.g., if you can work out from a player's behaviour that they are NEVER going to spend on microtransactions, it makes sense to stop bugging them to do so, and to ease up the grind a bit to keep them around to provide value in other ways  - i.e. as a multiplayer opponent, or to watch ads, etc.), but yes obviously it can be taken to unethical extremes.

 

I take issue with the idea that optimising a game's economy must ALWAYS be being done to target vulnerable players to spend more than they can afford. I am very much anti-gambling and obviously take massive issue with intentionally extremely addictive, habit-forming, whale-dependent games like FUT and Game of War, but as I see it there's a broad section of the market away from those extremes that fill the space of a casual hobby: Puzzle & Dragons, Clash Royale, Marvel Puzzle Quest, Golf Clash, and I expect Animal Crossing Pocket Park. Leaving kids aside (I think you'd have to have much stricter regulation in place to justify including MTX in games marketed at kids -- and FUT utterly fails to address this), I don't think it's too bad for an adult to spend 100-200 over a year on a game if they're getting entertainment out of it - a lot of players don't own consoles and never got into traditional games.

 

Back to Sterling, what he's doing is what people like Katie Hopkins, Rod Liddle and Richard Littlejohn do. He's not standing up for the little guy, he's filling his impressionable audience's heads with angry paranoid nonsense. There are plenty of YouTube critics who look at real issues insightfully (Super Bunnyhop, Matt Lees, Chris Franklin, etc.), I think Sterling just isn't talented enough to make that sort of content, rather than explicitly foregoing it to make bad hacky work. (As for his audience not being kids, fucking LOL, I guess that's why he dresses up and acts like a pantomime character?)

 

His crusade against shovelware on Steam was a whole cloth invention to allow him to have some mean spiritied fun bullying semi-pro developers. The narrative that Steam is getting drowned in shovelware at the expense of good games is simply not true - you have to actively seek out the kind of games Sterling was so performatively upset about. Laughing at crappy games is fine, dressing it up as consumer advocacy is pathetic.

 

I dunno, I just didn't expect anyone to mount a defence of a cheesy 'influencer'. He maybe doesn't quite plumb the depths of PewDiePie or TotalBiscuit, but sheesh.

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20 minutes ago, MK-1601 said:

 He did a video a few weeks ago where he got so worked up about developers using target renders for game announcements (much screeching of "LIES!") you'd think the development community had shot his dog.

 

This sounds very much like the video where hes actually complaining about developers using footage that is supposed to be actual gameplay and them attempting to pass of as such, which looks no where near the final product.  I didnt spot any time where he was simply complaining that an obvious pre render and something not attempting to be passed off as actual gameplay was used.  I mean, feel free to point it out where he does complain about it, but I didnt spot anything that he "screeched LIES!" about that wasnt something you could actually class as a lie, or at the very least the devs talking out their arses.

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2 minutes ago, deerokus said:

Mk is Randy Pitchford. 

Heh, I was about to reply that he called out Aliens: Colonial Marines correctly, but then just throws out every tenuous example he can think of to bulk out the running time.

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9 minutes ago, MK-1601 said:

 

Sorry if you thought that answer was incoherent, Sterling just boils my piss. His entire schtick is creating faux outrage about an issue, painting one side as a faceless villain and himself as a selfless consumer champion. He's been doing it since Destructoid (where his antics were so unprofessional that he eventually had to start loudly proclaiming that he "wasn't a journalist" when people started calling him out). Using a platform in this profoundly toxic, manipulative way has negative consequences.

 

Doing this kind of half-baked tabloid 'investigative journalism' would be fine if he applied any sort of rigour or did even basic research, he just doesn't though! He just says whatever sounds juiciest. He did a video a few weeks ago where he got so worked up about developers using target renders for game announcements (much screeching of "LIES!") you'd think the development community had shot his dog. He doesn't have the first clue about the realities of making games as a business, and peddles a weird paranoid fantasy narrative that all games are successful, all developers are rich, and anything upsetting the status quo of his youth (AAA games in established genres sold for $60) is being done purely out of greed. He's the worst, most entitled impulses of teenage male gamers amplified, their prejudices validated.

 

Yes, I know how discriminatory pricing works and nowhere did I say doing it algorithmically was the same as the traditional approach. Using it to an extent is simply good business practice (e.g., if you can work out from a player's behaviour that they are NEVER going to spend on microtransactions, it makes sense to stop bugging them to do so, and to ease up the grind a bit to keep them around to provide value in other ways  - i.e. as a multiplayer opponent, or to watch ads, etc.), but yes obviously it can be taken to unethical extremes.

 

I take issue with the idea that optimising a game's economy must ALWAYS be being done to target vulnerable players to spend more than they can afford. I am very much anti-gambling and obviously take massive issue with intentionally extremely addictive, habit-forming, whale-dependent games like FUT and Game of War, but as I see it there's a broad section of the market away from those extremes that fill the space of a casual hobby: Puzzle & Dragons, Clash Royale, Marvel Puzzle Quest, Golf Clash, and I expect Animal Crossing Pocket Park. Leaving kids aside (I think you'd have to have much stricter regulation in place to justify including MTX in games marketed at kids -- and FUT utterly fails to address this), I don't think it's too bad for an adult to spend 100-200 over a year on a game if they're getting entertainment out of it - a lot of players don't own consoles and never got into traditional games.

 

Back to Sterling, what he's doing is what people like Katie Hopkins, Rod Liddle and Richard Littlejohn do. He's not standing up for the little guy, he's filling his impressionable audience's heads with angry paranoid nonsense. There are plenty of YouTube critics who look at real issues insightfully (Super Bunnyhop, Matt Lees, Chris Franklin, etc.), I think Sterling just isn't talented enough to make that sort of content, rather than explicitly foregoing it to make bad hacky work. (As for his audience not being kids, fucking LOL, I guess that's why he dresses up and acts like a pantomime character?)

 

His crusade against shovelware on Steam was a whole cloth invention to allow him to have some mean spiritied fun bullying semi-pro developers. The narrative that Steam is getting drowned in shovelware at the expense of good games is simply not true - you have to actively seek out the kind of games Sterling was so performatively upset about. Laughing at crappy games is fine, dressing it up as consumer advocacy is pathetic.

 

I dunno, I just didn't expect anyone to mount a defence of a cheesy 'influencer'. He maybe doesn't quite plumb the depths of PewDiePie or TotalBiscuit, but sheesh.

 

 

Okay so first of all, even though I disagree with you if you'd posted this first, I probably would've been more on board with your stance. I get that his persona grates and probably the reason I enjoy his videos more than others is that I find it easy to separate his 'character' from who he actually is. I'll leave that to one side for now but happy to talk about that more if you want.

 

I'm still not sure where the faux outrage is, you say you disagree with his opinions and that its not particularly grounded in journalistic research...but I'm not sure where you're coming from, is there some kind of evidence freely available that you're referring to?

You mention his episode about target renders, he specifically refers to the likes of Killzone 2, Watch_Dogs and Aliens: CM as examples. Do you not think he has a point here? I'm not sure what the realities of the development business have to do with games that are blatantly not going to meet the standard initially advertised, there's nothing wrong with optimisation but he was talking about examples that massively oversold titles.

I also don't know where this notion that he thinks all games are successful comes from. I mean, if you watch his videos he'll talk about how many 'aren't' in the sense that publishers have wild expectations for some franchises that either wouldn't be mass market or are diluted from its initial success.

 

I really don't know how you can argue that AAA games have developed for the better in general over the last decade, or even the last 5 years. The way publishers treat developers, gamers and even the games themselves have been increasingly anti-consumer. I know people will defend day one patches and DLC already on the disk but it sucks for people who buy the games and also archivists. This is also a different subject we can talk about later if you want to expand on it.

 

Everything you're mentioning regarding his microtransactions episode are either suppositions on your part or just things you assume. None of this was mentioned in the video he analyses and the Gamasutra article he references, it's about 'recurrent transactions' or whatever the fuck the term is. Activision's patent most certainly isn't about whether or not to bug you, it's the exact opposite.

 

And with respect to your comment on Steam shovelware: http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2016-12-01-new-games-on-steam-up-40-percent-over-last-year

 

I'm not defending Jim Sterling the person, he can do it himself. But so far the issues you've raised, I agree with him for the most part and I think he's entertaining. That's pretty much it and I don't agree with everything he says or does (Zelda was never a 7).

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3 minutes ago, MK-1601 said:

Heh, I was about to reply that he called out Aliens: Colonial Marines correctly, but then just throws out every tenuous example he can think of to bulk out the running time.

 

So you have an example of him complaining about using a target render to announce a game?  Got a link?

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I wish more people in the games press came out against loot boxes the way Jim does.

 

With a Metacritic score in the high 70's, Star Wars Battlefront 2 has hardly had a lynching like I hoped. If only people in the press had the balls to score it low. :( 

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8 hours ago, Stanley said:

The thing that scares me going forward is adaptive difficulty. Never mind tuning the pricing or whatever, it's when they start dialling up the difficulty we need to worry. Because that's a feature they can hide really, really well.

 

What are you talking about? That's been around for ages. Fuck, Resident Evil 4 used it. Don't think it did any damage there. 

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Oh, I know that he winds me up to an irrational degree.

 

There is a topic worth talking about in the Target Renders vid (and some - not all - others), it's just that he just has to beat it to death. These days publishers are pretty open about whether they're showing in-game footage or not, and if a game is months/years from release, journos and viewers are more clued up to figure it out. It's not exactly great but it's not some massive conspiracy.

 

He recently said on Twitter that because certain games have profited from loot boxes, he won't accept the argument that games are expensive to make.

 

I don't think I said games AAA games have gotten better over the last decade, although I'm pretty sure they have? Budgets have increased while audiences have stayed the same size or shrunk, though. Sterling's rage that games are becoming "anti-consumer" is really just a failure to accept that his segment of the market is no longer where the money is.

 

Re: Steam shovelware - I'm not sure what that proves? Steam is the de facto storefront for PC games, the PC is the biggest platform with the lowest barriers to entry. If anything, the only reason the influx has spiked is because it took years and years for Valve to get to the point where they could get rid of Greenlight. iOS has (very roughly) 100x as many games on it, but most of that is just noise that is never seen by someone browsing the store.

Edited by MK-1601
edit: @SMD

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8 minutes ago, APM said:

What are you talking about? That's been around for ages. Fuck, Resident Evil 4 used it. Don't think it did any damage there. 

 

Adaptive difficulty which adjusts on the fly as to whether you suck so you can still make progress or acknowledges when you are flying through things and tightens the challenge is a good thing.

 

Adaptive difficulty that dials itself up to push you towards IAP upgrades in order to continue to make progress probably much less so

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1 hour ago, dreamylittledream said:

 

Adaptive difficulty which adjusts on the fly as to whether you suck so you can still make progress or acknowledges when you are flying through things and tightens the challenge is a good thing.

 

Adaptive difficulty that dials itself up to push you towards IAP upgrades in order to continue to make progress probably much less so

Well of course. But that's not the fault of adaptive difficulty. Like anything, the fault there is with the developers or publishers. Adaptive difficulty can be used brilliantly or terribly, like most aspects of game design.

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2 hours ago, APM said:

What are you talking about? That's been around for ages. Fuck, Resident Evil 4 used it. Don't think it did any damage there. 

Resi 4 wasn't using it to entice you into buying IAP's. 

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6 hours ago, MK-1601 said:

He doesn't have the first clue about the realities of making games as a business, and peddles a weird paranoid fantasy narrative that all games are successful, all developers are rich, and anything upsetting the status quo of his youth (AAA games in established genres sold for $60) is being done purely out of greed.

 

Does he though? The main targets of his loot box ire have been big publishers such as EA, Activision (including Blizzard), Take Two and Ubisoft. Hard to argue that none of those are rich. Also it seems hard to argue, in my opinion, that loot boxes and micro transactions are being done out of anything but greed when it comes to full price titles. What other reason is there other than to make more money? It's certainly not for the 'player choice' crap that they normally come out with in defence of the practice. 

 

6 hours ago, MK-1601 said:

Yes, I know how discriminatory pricing works and nowhere did I say doing it algorithmically was the same as the traditional approach. Using it to an extent is simply good business practice (e.g., if you can work out from a player's behaviour that they are NEVER going to spend on microtransactions, it makes sense to stop bugging them to do so, and to ease up the grind a bit to keep them around to provide value in other ways  - i.e. as a multiplayer opponent, or to watch ads, etc.), but yes obviously it can be taken to unethical extremes.

 

Again this seems disingenuous as your whole argument is that it makes good business practice to target certain players over others but that this isn't unethical. I'm sure it does from a money making perspective but that's kind of the whole point of Jim's complaints. That you are targeting groups of players to make you money over others. It's another way of making extra money and nothing else, pure and simple. Makes sense from a business point of view, but you can't seriously claim that it is in the consumers interests in the slightest.

 

6 hours ago, MK-1601 said:

Back to Sterling, what he's doing is what people like Katie Hopkins, Rod Liddle and Richard Littlejohn do. He's not standing up for the little guy, he's filling his impressionable audience's heads with angry paranoid nonsense.

 

That's clearly not true either. He does more research into his areas than any of those wankers. Yes his style can grate and be very over the top at times, but most of his core arguments come from a solid base. 

 

6 hours ago, MK-1601 said:

His crusade against shovelware on Steam was a whole cloth invention to allow him to have some mean spiritied fun bullying semi-pro developers. The narrative that Steam is getting drowned in shovelware at the expense of good games is simply not true - you have to actively seek out the kind of games Sterling was so performatively upset about. Laughing at crappy games is fine, dressing it up as consumer advocacy is pathetic.

 

The main argument in those videos was that there was no quality control on Steam, which again seems hard to argue against. Most of the games featured were asset flips or buggy, unfinished shite. Greenlight was plagued with this bollocks which is most of the reason why Valve got rid of it, eventually. The main argument was that these games were flooding the new releases pages, pushing actual small developers off of the front pages before they had a chance. It's also worth noting that Jim also did his best of Greenlight videos as well.

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8 minutes ago, keptbybees said:

 

Does he though? The main targets of his loot box ire have been big publishers such as EA, Activision (including Blizzard), Take Two and Ubisoft. Hard to argue that none of those are rich. Also it seems hard to argue, in my opinion, that loot boxes and micro transactions are being done out of anything but greed when it comes to full price titles. What other reason is there other than to make more money? It's certainly not for the 'player choice' crap that they normally come out with in defence of the practice. 

 

 

Like I said, making AAA games has steadily gotten more expensive while the size of the audience buying full price games at launch hasn't grown. This has resulted in various schemes to make up the shortfall (collector's editions, season passes, subscriptions, DLC, and now MTX), and most of the 'middle tier' of big budget games drying up. SquareEnix have been hit quite hard by this, and (I hear) Bethesda's recent releases haven't sold that well.

...

This thread is relevant:

 

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