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The Influence of Revenue Models on Game Design - ICA2013


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This paper examines the link between a game’s procedural rhetoric and the political and economic context of its production. The recent industry turn toward free labor in the digital games has been discussed by critical scholars, and as a result of these rapidly changing markets, the industry has begun to embrace new revenue models which are often “free-to-play” until the consumer opts to partake in a number of “micro transactions.” Diablo 3’s real-money auction house (RMAH) is an excellent example of how companies, like Blizzard Entertainment, implement experimental revenue models within their game design. In this paper I will analyze the politics of the RMAH and the ways that it has influenced the design of the game. This paper hopes to contribute a political and economic perspective to a theoretical understanding of how the capitalist production model is inscribed within the cultural discourse of the video game industry.

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The Influence of Revenue Models on Game Design - ICA2013

  1. 1. How Revenue ModelsInfluence the Design of a Game– A Critical PerspectivePatrick PraxUppsala
  2. 2. ”What is Critical Game Studies?”What role does/should media play in ademocratic society?Social Outcomes and PotentialsHow is it influenced by existing power- andeconomic structures?Cultural Industries
  3. 3. Business Models and GameDesign• “the business model is inherentlyassumed as part of the game design”(Alves and Roque ,2007, p. 662)• I can’t stress it enough. Monetization ispart of game design. It is an inescapablefact of the future. (Extra Creditz, Season5, Ep. 6 - Digital Rentals and the OnlineArcade)
  4. 4. A Marketing Perspective“MMO operators are able to adjust theenvironment in which their products aresold and marketed, and the rulesaccording to which the products are used,not to mention their role in creating theenvironment to begin with[…] businessmodels and service design, including gamedesign, could be integrated and alignedfrom the start.” (Hamari and Lehdonvirtä,2010; emphasis added)
  5. 5. “Arcade Operators care little for richness,depth, and the aesthetic qualities of agame as long as it makes a lot of moneyfor them. This requires some finebalancing. If a game is too hard, peoplewill abandon it in disgust, but if it is tooeasy, they will be able to play a long timewithout outing any more money in.”(Rollings and Adams, 2003)
  6. 6. Theoretical Tool1. Revenue Generation2. Game Design andBusiness Model Integration3. Problematic Game Design
  7. 7. “Despite the popularity and renown of coin-op games like PONG and Pac-Man thecontent of arcade and tavern game islargely irrelevant. Beyond persuadingplayers to insert (more) coins, these typesof video games offer little in the way ofdesign imperatives.” (Bogost, 2007 p. 305).
  8. 8. Method• Analysis of Game Economy(Consalvo & Dutton, 2006)• Structured Analysis of Datafrom Fan Websites (Waern,2010)• Following of CentralCommunity Actors• Blue Tracker
  9. 9. Economy• Item Generation Mechanics• Necessity of the RMAH• Mudflation“MMO operators are able to adjustthe environment” (Hamari andLehdonvirtä, 2010)
  10. 10. The oddsIf all people on earth (6x10^9) farm 100rares a day for their wholelife(365x80years), the chance [to get a perfectchest item]would be.(6x10^9x100x365x80)/(12.4x10^21)=1.41× 10-6 = 0.00000141% chance.(Baboon, poster on the official Diablo 3forums, 09/07/2012)
  11. 11. “… its Blizzards vested interest in the success of the realmoney auction house that undermines confidence in thedesign of the game itself. Blizzard enthusiastically deny thatloot drop rates (which many players complain are toomiserly) are tailored to suit a healthy auction house, but itsclear that a scarcity of decent loot - deliberate or otherwise -drives more players to the auction house and so morerevenue into Blizzards coffers. If this is the case, playerswho dont use the auction house are losing out. “(PCGamesN, a games news website, in an article titledDiablo 3 gold prices continue to fall in auction houses whilegold farmers undercut Blizzard, 16/07/2012)
  12. 12. But the fact that it is in our face nowand the fact that it feels, not that it is,but it feels necessary to progress, thefact that it feels that way as a player, justkills the desire for me to actually play thegame.” (Force, Why I stopped playingDiablo 3, 149,522 views when accessed11/09/2012
  13. 13. Post-Production: Natalya’s Wrath
  14. 14. Natalya’s Wrath“Without set bonus: […] Result: 12s of(near) immunity.With set bonus: […] Result: 20s of (near)immunity. […] .this is WAY more overpowered than SSpre-nerf, come on guys.”(Waggon, poster on Blizzards officialforums for Diablo 3, 22/6/2012)
  15. 15. Smoke Screen Duration reduced to half(Hotfixes to Diablo 3 on 22/5/2012)
  16. 16. Were a bit apprehensive because wereally dont want to keep fiddling withpeoples items, even though this makesthe set quite good. (Bashiok, BlizzardCommunity Manager, 23/06/2012)
  17. 17. More data, pics of SS, nergargumention and WWargumentation
  18. 18. ”For a small fee in America”• 1 USD/EUR or 15% of the final salesprice• 15% cashing-out fee• Maximum price: 250 US Dollars.• Blizzard earns up to 38,50 Dollars fromthe sales of one item, 1 Dollar trade feeand 37,50 Dollars cash-out fee.• This is more than 60% of the retail priceof the game, 60 Dollars.
  19. 19. 39
  20. 20. Change• Diablo is not doingto well• Design Changesthat de-emphasizethe RMAH• EA revoked ”allgames will haveDLC” announcement
  21. 21. How Revenue ModelsInfluence the Design of a Game– A Critical PerspectivePatrick PraxUppsala UniversityPatrick.Prax@im.uu.seThank You!