When thinking about creativity within the video game industry, what usually come to mind are either game concepts or technical solutions. The ingenious code of Pitfall (1982), the jaw-dropping particle effects of Max Payne (2001), the dreamlike atmosphere of Braid (2008) or the physics sandbox Portal (2007). These have been the creative milestones that we’ve come to appreciate when thinking about games.

But let’s add revenue models to the mix.

In the recent years we have seen a major change in the traditional business models of gaming. The fierce competition of retail shelf space, games’ short lifespan post-launch and the ever increasing marketing budgets of triple-A games had left smaller titles practically invisible to the basic consumer. If you even had your game released, that is. When you don’t have a name familiar to the masses, it’s very hard to get a publisher. And when you don’t have a publisher, it’s super hard to fund a big development project.  A few years back these challenges had led to the situation that the main discussion in the industry revolved around the newest iteration of the current golden goose. Until the finance department started to play creative too! Let’s take a look at the new(ish) revenue models in gaming and pass little judgement.

Downloadable content (DLC)

  • Quality post-launch DLC that is either free or really adds to the game. (Witcher 1&2, GTA IV)
    APPROVED
     
  • Launch date, semi-relevant DLC (with claims that the content just wasn’t finished in time), sets the player back by 5-10€. (Bioware & co.)
    DISAPPROVED

Playing it rough

  • Hindering the used game market by disabling online features for players unwilling to purchase a 5-10€ online pass. (Battlefield 3, Mass Effect 3)
    GREY AREA 
     
  • Trying to make playing the game illegally impossible by adding harsh digital rights management methods to games. Pirates usually circumvent the DRM in a couple of days, the paying customers on the other hand battle with the ridiculousness indefinitely. (Ubisoft & co.)
    REALLY NOT COOL
The no-brainer (where is one for movies and TV-series??)
  • Digital online stores that have a huge catalogue, offer a great channel for indie developers, bundle games in affordable collections and of course have kick-ass sales during Christmas. (Steam, GOG etc.)
    APPROVED AND CREDIT LIMIT EXCEEDED
The Holy Grails of the future?
  • Free to play games where you can gain an edge by investing real life money for better equipment, attributes and digital swag. (World of Tanks, Lord of the Rings Online etc.)
    INITIATE OPERATION GOLDEN COW
     
  • Pledging money to support  interesting projects started either by talented newcomers or gaming god auteurs like Schafer and Fargo, and the more you pledge the more awesomeness you get in return. (Kickstarter)
    SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY
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Sometimes I like to visualize myself walking in the Internet. Why? I don’t know, maybe I’m trying to romanticize the cold 0’s and 1’s. Or maybe my primate brains are just trying to make sense of this digital pseudo-reality. Anyhow, I do it. And while trying to visualize the web, I have realized that the virtual world does not differ from the real one as much as we perhaps think, except for one tiny detail.

There are shopping malls and niche boutiques, newstands and movie theaters along with billboards and neon lights. There are dark alleys as well as high-end business parks, and the constant buzz of a huge metropolis is always present. In both worlds someone is always trying to sell you something, and if the regular stuff isn’t your taste, it’s easy to find some contraband if you know the right channels. I’ve also learned that pickpockets and other miscreants are a common nuisance in popular places, virtual or not, while some locations haven’t even seen traffic since the 1990’s.

The tiny detail then, you ask?

What is fundamentally different between online and offline are the other inhabitants. It seems that the majority of the Internet population are drooling, gibbering idiots completely incapable of processing concepts more complex than a derp cat. I mean seriously, while wandering the world-wide-web I feel that every other person I encounter can only barely control the urge to slap me in the face, pee on my shoes and run away laughing manically.

Comments, blogs, tweets, emails, IM’s, statuses, pins – a vast amount of noise, mostly static, mostly nonsense, a lot of it offending, a fraction of it murderous. Standing in a busy townsquare in the buzzing virtual world, with my soaking wet shoes and my ears ringing, I often find myself humming a certain song by Agalloch.

“There has never been a silence like this before.”

Don’t worry, I’m not going to link you to 4chan and lock the door behind you, there’s still some decency left in me. Yes, practically every single meme has originated from the notorious image board, but my point here is not to ponder over the obscenities, but rather to cherry-pick the best and think about how they improve digital communications. And yes, I’m serious (well to a certain extent at least).

“A meme is an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture” says Wikipedia. The power of memes is that most web-dwellers have encountered the popular ones countless times, so the meaning is usually at once understood. And when there is no need to explain the used meme, the indications, antics and ironies are defined by the context, ie. the post the meme answers to. Amateurs can spam sites with random memes and cause nothing but ill-mannered, static noise. But the pros can make laughing-stock out of a serious news article with a one well-chosen meme.

The most popular memes are a regular sight in any given message board, but the best ones can go as far as breaking the shackles of digital. The facepalm meme is even used in spoken language, so how could it not improve digital communication if it has already spread beyond it? Plus I bet that the world would be a little sadder place without Luc Picard in disbelief.

I know that many of you hate Internet memes because they ruin forum conversations, and god forbid, ridicule your superior online arguments. I don’t blame you, but let’s look past the filth and play with different scenarios where a meme improves digital communication.

Some digital douche: Star Wars: Phantom Menace is better than any of the originals
You A: Eh, you do realize that what you stated is completely against all settled science?
You B: Go meme!

Some digital tabloid headline: Olympic archery tragedy, gold medalist takes an arrow in the knee.
You A: Oh for the love of…
You B: Meme time!

My dear reader: Reading this blog post was a complete waste of time!
You A: Damn!
You B:  You know it!

Quod erat demonstrandum.

Recent hassle with the terms & conditions, privacy issues and general evilness of big Internet companies has now materialized into this post.

  • Pinterest states that the USERS have to pay any legal fees necessary in case of copyright infringement etc.
  • Google changed their terms & conditions in the beginning of March to better use all the data they’ve collected.
  • Twitter opened their whole tweet history to market research.
  • Facebook… well Facebook is just being Facebook, by for example failing to protect mister Z’s own private photos. You just can’t make this stuff up.

There are ways to battle for your privacy and digital rights of course, but the simplest thing to do is to share less. This is the great controversy. All the social media evangelists are hailing the coming of the all-sharing-era, but the relevant business players are soiling themselves regularly. To worsen the situation these companies are also trying to develop really cool stuff, like social buying and digital wallets. But ask yourself, would you give Google or Facebook access to your credit card data? Well for all we know they already have it, but let’s pretend they don’t. I wouldn’t.

Despite the somewhat questionable business move they just made, at the moment the one social media I kind of trust is Twitter. Facebook and Google simply know too much, and they have made weird choices regarding user privacy. Twitter has huge amounts of data too, but the sharing logic is different. Protecting 140 characters of witty remarks is not my main digital privacy concern.

So my point is that we need to keep in mind that these are companies in the business of making money. We are the products they sell (4$/user on Facebook, ad revenue divided by user count). From a user perspective this sucks. In a perfect world we would be customers and not products. In a perfect world we would have companies with integrity and slogans like “Don’t be evil” or something. Oh what’s that Google? Yes, I’ll bend right over.

I come in peace

1.3.2012

Gazillions of blogs, thousands of tweets per second, hours upon hours of video uploaded every day. So what will make these scribbles worth spending time with? Probably nothing, but hopefully something. I will use this blog as an exhaust valve to blurt out my frustrations and exhilarations, laughs and tears, successes and failures in the digital world. As an Internet native and a digital marketer I just might come up with stuff that someone out there will find amusing. Or awkward enough to eyeball through.

So expect nothing. Read with caution. Don’t be offended. I come in peace.

These are my adventures in a digital world.

 

ps. I write in bad English, because I can’t stand the horrific anglicisms the digital revolution has spawned. So bare with me.