Over the past decade, how games are monetized has been a hot topic of debate among gamers. We here at Genericide are always looking out for fresh takes on the subject. So when a high-ranking game company exec started rambling their views on Twitter, we knew we just had to give them a platform for that. That's how we ended up on a call with Activision's Assistant VP of Finangling Boondoggles, Chet Smorgasbord. Here's how it went…
Good afternoon Mr. Smorgasbord, it's an honor to speak with you.
"Thank you, it sure is."
This all started a few days ago, when you decided to weigh in on the controversial micro-transactions in Gran Turismo 7, is that right?
"That'd be the start of it, right. I woke up to my timeline just plastered with people outraged that a full-price game could charge $40 for a single digital car model. And that's all well and good but I mean, we've heard it all before right? Blah blah consumers angry, but what I wanna' know is, where's the CEO's opinions, why aren't we giving their voices a place to be heard?"
|"Besides, it's my firm belief anyone angry about the artificial scarcity of prestige cars being re-created with imaginary ones is just mad they didn't think of it first."|
We're happy Genericide could be that place for you.
"You should be. But back to that thread: I'd mentioned that I found the backlash pretty encouraging, and a lot of people seemed interested in that."
It certainly doesn't seem like the response you'd expect from an executive.
"Of course you wouldn't, no one ever considers how the wealthy and powerful feel about these things. So I came here to hash that out, set the record straight. I can't speak for others in management, but I personally love that the public was so upset over GT7. Because it indicates that we might uh, and this is something I've been missing for a while, we might get back one of the best parts of my job: The thrill of the chase!"
…you may need to elaborate on that.
"I'm talking about the thrill, you know? The challenge, the conflict, the struggle for success! We've got game buyers so accustomed to us shoveling any old crap into a product, they just don't have the energy to fight back. And where does that leave guys like me who used to run that battle?"
"It's like, you know the door-in-the-face technique? In this market you feel like a salesman walking up to try it, only to find everyone's removed the doors from their hinges. And they're sitting next to a duffel bag of cash they'll take their eyes off of the second you give them something shiny. And they'll mail you more duffel bags in installments. And instead of giving them something shiny, you can just promise that you might, if they get lucky."
|These days, the $2.50 to buy this armor would go to an experience booster to progress a separately purchased battle pass to access a time-limited event in which you have a 0.5% chance to get the version you actually want.|
You feel that in the past, it took more effort for people in your position to sell new income streams?
"Exactly. Back in the day, you really had to work to pull the wool on people, you know? You've got these trailblazers like Valve and Blizzard, and it's, they really had to play the long game on things. Start a scrappy small business from the ground up, put out quality products for years, become the most trusted names on the platform…they really went the whole nine yards. But that makes the pay-off all the sweeter when you finally cash out, right? When their higher ups wrung loyal customers dry with in-game marketplaces and legalized gambling, then got those same people to run defense for their PR? You can bet they slept well knowing they earned that swindle."
|"We really appreciate when people make thoughtfully crafted, engaging art. It lets us get away with so much shit."|
Do you feel the market has shifted since then?
"Oh it's a totally different ball game today. Our predecessors put so, so much work into wearing down consumer rights until they were normalized, and now? Mission accomplished! Every genre, every market, even demographic of buyer, they're all used to it. It's so baked into culture shows will joke about going for another pull in a game without any of the stigma of the actual slots they are under the hood. Once your stingy old aunt, whose tech knowledge starts and ends with the 'funny yellow pill images' she texts you, popped in her card for another round of Candy Crush? We reached the final frontier."
So you feel that this change is affecting your job satisfaction?
"I won't deny it's a factor. Of course we still get those little pleasures, like indoctrinating HR and exaggerating our growth to share-holders. But well, without those big projects to undermine public self-respect, what's an executive like me gonna' spend time on to keep their sense of drive?"
"Well that goes without saying, but you want some variety in your day."
Then if you feel that the consumer side of the market is stuck in a rut with accepting monetization, do you think we might see more pushback from the development side?
"Oh HELL no! Do you know how many developer talks there have been about monetization models, and how many about the ethics of monetization models? I'll give you a hint: One's a lot more popular. We've made knowledge on psychologically manipulating the vulnerable a cornerstone of your career path. And the new blood, they're already jumping into a completive job market with questionable education paths and 3 years' experience required for every entry-level position. When half their available jobs are manipulative mobile games and the rest are 300-person juggernauts that want to be manipulative mobile games, you really think they're gonna' waltz in and challenge the whole business model?"
|"Note: Pay to win is acceptable in a single player game. Don’t like it? Don’t pay." –Actual quote from the first google result if you search 'candy crush monetization', from an author unaffiliated with Candy Crush, on a popular site for video game job postings, almost a decade ago. I wasn't even trying to look for damning quotes, I just wanted screenshots and literally couldn't avoid them.|
It certainly sounds like monetization culture is here to stay.
"Tell me about it. When I was a kid, I saw a series of portals to impossible worlds of incredible beauty that anyone could experience first-hand. But these days, the crushing reality of our modern market swiftly and ferociously sucked all the magic out of it, and that's such a shame. I wanted to be the one to do that!"
In our parting remarks before Chet had to leave
the call, we asked if he had any interest in entering the NFT market. To which
he grimaced, and before hanging up replied "Seriously? Have some