Wednesday, July 6, 2011

It's Not Personal, It's Business...Final Part III

Just a few more thoughts on the business of games and the business of business. I caution myself first, then anyone else that reads this, to not be too harsh in our judgements of the decisions businesses make for the sake of profits. It's very difficult to truly know the motives in the hearts of people who run any business, Blizzard included. Actions do speak volumes, and we have the right to study those actions and applaud or criticize them. I just don't want to jump to too many damning conclusions where I am not part of that decision making process.

I worked at a mortgage company once, and we literally went out of business overnight. Better said, we were told one day that we might be out of business the next day, but things had been brewing for a long time before. To defend my fellow accounting/finance co-workers, we flagged many things long in advance and yet ownership continued to make choices to boost short-term profitability. But they failed to see the long-term consequences of their choices. Hence, the apparent over-night shutdown and loss of over 1,000 jobs. Tragedy.

Whether it be Blizzard (ATVI), Trion, or any other game developer out there, decisions are made for both short-term profit and long-term viability. At the same time, there is an effort (which is often the subject of criticism) to make MMORPG's that people enjoy and have long-term viability. I think as a business, Blizzard does things that are ethical and fair, for they were the ones who created World of Warcraft. They created what has become the world's most successful MMO, so at some point in time they did something that gamers enjoyed. I believe they also include things in WoW that are time-consumingly addictive, and take away from my personal definition of enjoyment (such as daily quest grinding, etc). It's a bit manipulative, but it's also an accepted practice within the industry, and from a business point of view is acceptable but can be construed by some outsiders/consumers as leaning towards the unethical.

The way I see it, we're all greedy. Sure, I guess we can sit here and say that all these businesses want is to squeeze us for all we got, but we can't blame any corporation (MMO developer or other) for our choices to purchase and consume the product(s) being offered. Gamers are greedy too. It seems that we want the "perfect" game, and if not perfect, then at least on the path to exceptional.

Webster's defines greed as: "A selfish and excessive desire for more of something (as money) than is needed."

What is need? I guarantee you that there are currently 6 billion different definition of this word on planet earth. When somebody outside of ourselves exceeds some imaginary limit that we place on need, we label them greedy. Is it not possible that the person making money has a different idea of what "need" is? But often we don't care about that, because when our own personal threshold is exceeded, in our minds we classify the excess as greed, and we take it personally.

I don't need games in my life, but I enjoy them. Enough to pay for them. Enough to place value in them because I choose to spend part of my life playing them. I have my reasons, and I think they are good enough. Others may disagree with me and think I'm greedy for wanting to play games when I could be feeding the homeless. Well I sure don't want people judging me for my supposed greed; this is why I am careful at casually labeling business people, and especially MMO and other gaming companies as greedy, because I'm sure that there are good people at these companies who really do want to just make a good game, and to be judged harshly by people who don't know what's in my heart would seem to me unfair.

I don't think I'll ever write again on the business of game developers. Unless, of course, they try the crap that Blizzard tried with revealing my real name or something like that. I think it's fair to criticize the products these developers are sending to the market. It's fair to bash them if they suck, and praise them for the good they offer. I think it's fair to complain when and if we discover that a company will pursue a policy that leads to profit when they openly and knowingly (internally) are manipulating people with addictive material (like the tobacco companies).

But I think we need to understand when to separate the business from the personal. People conduct business, it's how most of the world survives and thrives, because somebody started a business. So the concept of business should not be demonized. But it's our right as consumers to monitor businesses, to demand that they follow the laws of the land governing them, and to hope for good products to consume. It's also our right as consumers to NOT consume them, if the product isn't to our satisfaction. Remember, they don't make money if we don't pay. If nobody bought the Sparkle Pony, they wouldn't keep selling them or other vanity mounts and items.

We have the power to change the industry we consume. Keep using your voice, or your imagination, or knowledge, and even expectations to change the game. Don't buy into those things that you view as manipulative or out to get more from your pocket out of "greed". Don't rush to judgement, unless you're willing to be judged unfaily yourself. Even though there is greed, there is also honest dealings by good business people, and it would be in all of our best interest to find and support those developers who have good intentions, who we are willing to support by spending our hard earned money on their products.

After all, business is not just's personal!

No comments: