Loot box legislation

Loot box from Overwatch.Loot boxes are subject to legislation in some countries; other countries are debating legislation.

What is a loot box? Wikipedia states:

In video games, a loot box (sometimes loot crate or prize crate, among other names) is a consumable virtual item which can be redeemed to receive a randomised selection of further virtual items, ranging from simple customization options for a player’s avatar or character, to game-changing equipment such as weapons and armor. A loot box is typically a form of monetisation, with players either buying the boxes directly or receiving the boxes during play and later buying “keys” with which to redeem them.

… Loot boxes are regulated under gambling law in China, Japan, Australia, and the Isle of Man and are the subject of investigations by the gambling regulators of several more countries. They have been criticised as being anti-consumer when implemented in full-priced games. They are a common source of the virtual items used in skin gambling.


Recent news about loot box legislation:

[Image: By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55508954]

The internal economics of a popular Minecraft server

Alice Maz Minecraft above cityAlice Maz writes about how she mastered the economics of Minecraft:

I started on my server with only a rudimentary knowledge of the game itself and ipso facto zero understanding of its economy. Within six months or so, I had perhaps as detailed a mental model of it as one could get. I knew the price ranges of most of the items in the game and everything that all of them were used for. I knew how common they were on the market, who the major sellers were, what their supply chains looked like. I knew how fast they sold through, whether the price was stable or tacking a certain way, and I had tons of theories on ways to play all this to get what I needed and turn a profit while doing it, and nearly all of them were sound. Most of it I didn’t even think about. I didn’t need to contemplate why, for instance, lumber was both cheaper and more common than it should be, such that I could buy it all and hold, force the price up, corner the market, and keep it that way. I just kind of… knew, and did it. It’s a wonderful feeling, weaving a system into your mind so tight that it’s hard to find the stitches after awhile. Highly recommended.


Via Boing Boing:

Alice Maz was part of a small group of players who came to have near-total mastery over the internal economy of a popular Minecraft; Maz describes how her early fascination with the mechanics of complex multiplayer games carried over into an interest in economics and games, and that let her become a virtuoso player, and brilliant thinker, about games and economics.

Maz’s long, fascinating essay about her business ventures in Minecraft are a potted lesson in economics, one that shows where financial engineering actually does something useful (providing liquidity, matching supply and demand) and the places where it becomes nothing more than a predatory drag on the “real economy” of people making amazing things in Minecraft.

[The internal economics of a popular Minecraft server are an object lesson in everything great and terrible about markets]

Top Free-to-Play Monetization Tricks

The Coercive Monetization Model: how to extract money from Free-to-play gamers:

A coercive monetization model depends on the ability to “trick” a person into making a purchase with incomplete information, or by hiding that information Candy Crush: Sweet!such that while it is technically available, the brain of the consumer does not access that information.
… putting even one intermediate currency between the consumer and real money, such as a “game gem” (premium currency), makes the consumer much less adept at assessing the value of the transaction.

… To maximize the efficacy of a coercive monetization model, you must use a premium currency, ideally with the ability to purchase said currency in-app. Making the consumer exit the game to make a purchase gives the target’s brain more time to figure out what you are up to, lowering your chances of a sale.

… A game of skill is one where your ability to make sound decisions primarily determines your success. A money game is one where your ability to spend money is the primary determinant of your success. Consumers far prefer skill games to money games, for obvious reasons. A key skill in deploying a coercive monetization model is to disguise your money game as a skill game.

[Ramin Shokrizade @ Gamasutra]

Go read the full article, it’s brimming with mark-fleecing insight.

Via Boing Boing.

See also:

Dennis Eichhorn: How Sweet It Is

All your gamers are gold

CoinLab: Tapping the GPU mining potential of gamers.


CoinLab Attracts $500,000 in Venture Capital for Bitcoin Projects

Seattle based Bitcoin startup CoinLab secured a $500,000 investment from various investors such as Silicon Valley firm Draper Associates and angel investor Geoff Entress. CoinLab is an emerging umbrella group for cultivating and launching innovative Bitcoin projects.

CEO Vessenes said ‘if there is a currency that can trade around the world, it’s semi-anonymous, it’s instant, it’s not controlled by government or bank, what’s the total value of that currency? The answer to that is, if it works, it’s gotta be in the billions. It just has to be for all the reasons you might want to send money around the world.’

This type of talk is common from Bitcoin enthusiasts but apparently seasoned investors are starting to agree.

Forbes explains the details of their business plan but in short it has to do with tapping the GPU mining potential of gamers, more specifically gamers of free-to-play games. This would add a new revenue stream for online game companies that are trying to provide free games profitably.

The phrase “Forbes explains the details of their business plan but in short it has to do with tapping the GPU mining potential of gamers” evoked this nicely barbed reply from girlintraining (1395911):

So ‘in short’, they’re going to trojan a video game and turn a bunch of PCs into a botnet to generate bitcoins. But because it’s a business doing this, and not some teenager in his mom’s basement, they’re going to make billions instead of go to jail? That sound about right?

If any other kind of software you ran was doing something in the background other than what you wanted to do, it would be called malware.


Point well made: business or malware? Or both?

About Bitcoin:

Bitcoin is a decentralized electronic cash system that uses peer-to-peer networking, digital signatures and cryptographic proof so as to enable users to conduct irreversible transactions without relying on trust. Nodes broadcasttransactions to the network, which records them in a public history, called the blockchain, after validating them with a proof-of-work system. Users make transactions with bitcoins, an alternative, digital currency that the network issues according to predetermined rules. Bitcoins do not have the backing of and do not represent any government-issued currency.

Bitcoin @ Wikipedia

Naturally, anything to do with the power of money — what I might call “using symbols to make real things obey your will” — is divisive, contentious, and far too complicated to summarize in this blog post.

Is Bitcoin a good thing, a bad thing? A revolution in economics, the byproduct of misplaced good intentions, a barefaced scam? Outright lunacy by fogheaded idealists?

All of these have been proposed; I don’t know the truth, and leave it at that for now.

Big money in social betting games

Games and gambling and social media are combining in profitable new ways:
Bet Tycoon

Crowdpark, a startup developer focused on social betting games, today announced investments totaling about $6 million from Target Partners and existing investor Earlybird Venture Capital. This brings the Berlin-based company’s total amount of funding to approximately $8 million. Waldemar Jantz, partner at Target Partners, will also join the board of Crowdpark.

The funding will be used to enhance the technology, develop cross-platform, create new games, and hire more talent in game design and development.

Crowdpark products offer players the opportunity to bet on real life events in sports, entertainment, business, politics and other topics, and to compete against each other in betting events, using virtual currency. Since the game runs in real time, players can change their bet at any time, as the event or news unfolds.

The company said this is made possible by its patented dynamic betting technology that enables forecasts in social gaming in real-time “similar to how people play the stock market.”

Chris Marlowe @ dmwmedia.com

Scurvy Dogs: Pirates and Privateers Sail the Seas

Darren Gendron, who had never designed a board game, has just designed Scurvy Dogs: Pirates and Privateers Sail the Seas.
Darren Gendron, left, Alex Chambers and Ralph Pripstein play Scurvy Dogs
Has the project got sea-legs? It probably does now, thanks to favorable coverage in The Washington Post:

Darren Gendron sees an opportunity — a niche, really — that he believes he can seize. It involves board games. It involves Gendron becoming a part of your Wednesday game night, entering the collective cultural consciousness through the living room. It involves pirates.

… Once the purview of larger game companies, such as Parker Brothers and Hasbro, game design is opening itself up to passionate, niche hobbyists.

Gendron wants to self-publish his game, and he estimates that he’ll need $20,000 to get it off the ground, through a micro­investing site called Kickstarter.

He has one week left to raise the money that might allow him to achieve the dream.

Monica Hesse @ Washington Post

Use Game Mechanics to Reward Your Customers

“Countless start-ups are incorporating game-design strategies, hoping to eventually grow revenue off of consumer data, or by using a combination of data plus game-mechanics to influence consumer behaviors.”

Your customers hoard airline miles and covet their status-symbol black American Express. What was once called “consumer incentives” is now known as “gamification”—and here’s how to integrate it into your company and win consumers’ hearts and minds while you’re at it.

Christine Lagorio @ Inc.com

Career Colleges, Toxic Choices

From a Seattle Times editorial:

For-profit colleges have successfully marketed a compelling story in which they star front and center as benevolent purveyors of the American dream through education and gainful employment.

The reality is the complete opposite. Former students testified before a U.S. Senate oversight committee this month about exorbitant tuition costs and unfulfilled promises of good jobs. One student spoke of completing a program in video-game design and ending up in the video games section of a Toys R Us.

Seattle Times: March 27, 2011

Synergon, the BLARP From Hell

Synergon: “Where dreams come to die”

Synergon was conceived as a satire of office culture and corporate-speak, but expressed in the language of a D&D-style role playing game. What originally started as a joke among employees quickly expanded to include basic rules and longer lists of abilities and skills. Pretty soon it became apparent that it could be made into a fully playable table-top RPG.

Synergon is supposed to simulate BLARPing. LARPers (or Live Action Role Players) are a group of people who get together to act out roles, usually in a vaguely medieval or fantasy setting. You may know them as those-guys-that-hit-each-other-with-foam-swords. BLARPers, on the other hand, are Business Live Action Role Players, and they play make believe every day in the office.

The comparison between LARPers and business people quickly becomes apparent when considering how many people in the business world are just making things up as they go along.


Via BoingBoing.

I believe it’s time for the obligatory Dilbert reference. Let’s see … yes, this will do nicely:

Dilbert: You Stupid Coffee Cup!

Sons of Pong

Sons of Pong

In the beginning was Pong. And in the beginning it stood alone. But not for long ….

In September 1972, Atari’s Nolan Bushnell and Allan Alcorn installed the prototype Pong machine at Andy Capp’s Tavern in Sunnyvale, California. The idea was to make a computer game that was “so simple that any drunk in any bar could play.” And boy, did they ever.

… Atari didn’t have the patent on the technology and very quickly the vast majority in the machines eating quarters around the country were knock-offs. Of course, Pong itself was “inspired” by an electronic ping pong game that was in the Magnavox Odyssey home system. To keep up, Bushnell continued to innovate, as did everyone else. Call it a volley between King Pong and his brethren, while an invasion from space was on its way.

— From Everything You Know is Pong by R. Bennett and E. Horowitz

I’m very fond of Pong. Not that I spend a lot of time playing it; but I like the idea of Pong, I’m pleased that it exists.