The staged approach: How video game companies get your money

White Man Behind A Desk is the work of satirist Robbie Nicol and playwright Finnius Teppett.

SATIRE: Kia ora! My title is Robbie and I’m one other white man behind a desk! In case you missed it, in November of 2021, supervillain and sizzling sauce promoter Mark Zuckerberg introduced that Facebook was changing its company name to Meta. It might need appeared like easy brand-washing.

In any case, everyone knows now that Fb and Instagram knowingly make teenage ladies really feel dangerous about themselves and platform Nazis for revenue. And when the general public finds out about that kind of factor – that’s when it’s time to do the correct factor and alter your title.

However the title ‘Meta’ additionally instructed what Fb had deliberate for the long run! A pivot to ‘The Metaverse’. Ooh, aah, the metaverse. Like ‘the cloud’ earlier than it, ‘the Metaverse’ is mainly only a fancy new phrase for the web.

The metaverse is any digital area the place you spend time with different folks, and due to Covid most of us are fairly used to that. Whether or not it’s becoming a member of a digital pub quiz on-line, celebrating a birthday together with your whānau in Google Hangout, or making an attempt to schedule your month-to-month orgy over Zoom, which is trickier than you may assume.

* Your meta-idea might sound OK Mark Zuckerberg, but I just don’t trust you with it
* What’s going on with Facebook’s new Meta rebrand and why should we care?
* Facebook looks to new Horizons as Mark Zuckerberg plans rebrand
* The Fortnite black hole has closed and the game’s new world is here
* One year of phenomenal success for Fortnite

Fb’s imaginative and prescient of the metaverse appears, frankly, horrible, and also you is perhaps pondering, ‘Isn’t this identical to Second Life? That sport that launched in 2003? One million folks play that sport, which is sort of a couple of, but it surely hardly modified the world. Why is Fb betting on a brand new model of Second Life?’ And the reply to that query is Roblox – a solution that’s simply as complicated because the query.

For these of you who aren’t seven, you may not have heard of Roblox. It launched in 2006, however its person base elevated significantly over the past 5 years, and actually took off due to Covid-19.

Children had been caught inside, however they nonetheless needed to hang around with their buddies, so that they turned to Roblox. As of 2021, over half of all youngsters aged beneath 16 in the USA are on board.

The sport platform has over 164 million month-to-month energetic customers. And even supposing Roblox graphics appear like they had been designed on the machine Turing used to crack the Enigma code, this yr the Roblox Company was valued at US$41.9 billion (NZ$63.44b).

Satirist Robbie Nicol AKA White Man Behind A Desk details how game companies take your money.


Satirist Robbie Nicol AKA White Man Behind A Desk particulars how sport firms take your cash.

With that in thoughts, it doesn’t appear so wild that Fb may need to seize that market as soon as they’re too outdated for Roblox. It seems a number of individuals are hanging out in digital areas completely managed by companies with the intent of milking money out of these folks as effectively as potential. What great information.

So, with Fb’s metaverse looming on the horizon, listed here are among the ways in which digital areas like Roblox extract cash from their customers.

Half one: Apply all of the strain you possibly can

Video games was video games. You’ll get your pockets out, purchase the sport, put your pockets away, and play the sport. Easy. That’s now not the case. In 2012, the US firm Epic Video games – presumably named by a fourteen yr outdated who wears his cap backwards and thinks liking bacon makes him humorous – made a cope with the Chinese language firm Tencent. Tencent are consultants in Video games as a Service or GaaS. Video games as a Service are sometimes low-cost or free, however they’re not very enjoyable when you don’t pay for a subscription or purchase stuff inside the sport.

When Epic Video games pivoted to a GaaS mannequin, a number of excessive profile employees left the corporate, as a result of they’re idiots who like ‘making artwork’ as a substitute of ‘manipulating youngsters to take their money.’ What a bunch of cowards.

For instance, within the Epic game Fortnite – and I imply Epic the company, not the adjective – you begin with some free emotes. For instance your character can wave, or wave extra enthusiastically to a good friend. Wow. Cool. Spectacular.

Robbie Nicol has written a comedy column for the next edition of the Forever Project magazine.

David White/Stuff

Robbie Nicol has written a comedy column for the subsequent version of the Eternally Undertaking journal.

So, as Folding Concepts identified in his video on Fortnite, when greater than 10 million folks attend a live performance by DJ Marshmello and he says, “Let me see your favorite emote! Let me see what you bought!” How do you assume you’ll really feel when all you are able to do is wave since you didn’t fork out actual cash for cool dance strikes? As somebody who was as soon as a 13 yr outdated boy, I can let you know that you just’ll in all probability really feel like a povo loser that no person will ever need to have intercourse with. And that’s totally the purpose.

Should you’re enjoying Fortnite and not using a Battle Go subscription, Epic Video games will take each alternative to point out you what you’re lacking. The thrilling stuff behind the paywall glints at you and the free stuff finally runs out, leaving you to stare longingly on the huge vibrant lovely button labelled ‘PURCHASE’.

And this fixed strain on younger folks works. In 2018 and 2019, Fortnite was the world’s most worthwhile sport, till it was knocked off the top-ten altogether by a bunch of free-to-play video games, lots of that are owned by Tencent.

Analysis has proven that some adults are susceptible to strain from these free-to-play video games too. The corporate Swrve (spelt with out the e, as a result of tech) found that so-called free-to-play cell video games earn 50 per cent of their income from 0.15 per cent of their gamers. These susceptible individuals are identified within the business as ‘whales’, and identical to actual whales, they are not doing properly.

Roblox and Fortnite each depend on peer pressuring youngsters to make financial institution. If you signal as much as Roblox, the very first thing you’re prone to do is hit the large button on the backside of your display screen that invitations you to design your avatar. You begin clicking round and selecting what to put on, and really rapidly the clothes objects with the phrase ‘FREE’ beneath begin to run out. If you wish to look cool, you must purchase some Robux.

Which brings us to the second approach these companies earn cash. They’ve all obtained their very own foreign money.

Half two: In-game currencies

Fortnite has V-Bucks, Roblox has Robux, Bathosphere has Bathobux, Entropia Universe has Undertaking Entropia {Dollars} or PEDs, Second Life has Linden {dollars}, Minecraft has Minecoins, and solely a type of was made up. Should you’re making an attempt to get cash from folks in your digital world, there are many causes it’s a good suggestion to create your individual foreign money.

Firstly, identical to adults in a on line casino, individuals are extra prone to spend cash in the event that they’re utilizing tokens that don’t really feel like actual money. It’s because people are silly.

Sadly, in contrast to a on line casino, these video games make it laborious to money out. In Entropia Universe, you should purchase PEDs with actual money and also you’ll obtain them in a couple of days. Nonetheless, if you wish to money out, it could possibly take months to promote your whole in-game belongings, and when you’ve carried out that it could possibly take months extra to really get that money deposited in your account.

“Firstly, just like adults in a casino, people are more likely to spend money if they’re using tokens that don’t feel like real cash. This is because humans are stupid.”


“Firstly, identical to adults in a on line casino, individuals are extra prone to spend cash in the event that they’re utilizing tokens that don’t really feel like actual money. It’s because people are silly.”

Not solely that, there’s additionally a minimal amount of cash you could withdraw. In Entropia that minimal is about at 1000 PED or US$100. In Second Life it’s at US$10, as a result of Second Life is cool. And in Roblox that determine is about at roughly US$1000, for no obvious cause apart from making it laborious so that you can take cash out of Roblox.

As Quintin Smith factors out in his wonderful video on Roblox at Folks Make Video games, this implies you could earn US$999 in Roblox, and also you’re entitled to zero US {dollars} and nil cents. Which is an actual kick within the enamel for individuals who make video games for Roblox and are paid in Robux.

Which brings us to the third approach these firms maximise quarterly earnings.

Half three: Baby labour

Baby labour is a powerful time period, and probably a libellous one. Or slanderous, when you’re watching the video. Welcome. Thanks. So let me break down what I imply.

A variety of software program firms have the same mannequin – they create an area the place folks could make and share content material, they then monetise that content material, share a share of that cash with creators to encourage them to make extra content material, then they develop their firm as quick as potential with out losing cash on pesky issues like ‘moderation’ or ‘paying creators the minimal wage’.

Roblox claims to pay its creators 24.5 per cent of any cash they will strain youngsters to spend of their sport, which is already decrease than YouTube for instance, which pays creators 55 per cent of advert earnings. Nonetheless, as we’ve beforehand mentioned, they don’t pay the creators in actual world cash, they pay them in Robux.

Not solely that, it’s vital to do not forget that in contrast to YouTube, Roblox is, firstly, by and for kids. 50 per cent of Roblox customers are beneath the age of 12.

That signifies that this publicly traded firm value greater than US$40billion overtly makes cash by taking the labour of kids and placing it in entrance of different youngsters within the hopes that the kid labour will make different youngsters really feel pressured to spend their money within the little one labour after which Roblox will take at the very least 75.5 per cent of the cash that the kid labour earns. What an exquisite system. Make investments now.

And whereas Roblox creates a way that any little one could make some huge cash making a enjoyable sport, the easiest way to really get folks to play your sport is to purchase adverts to your sport in Roblox utilizing, you guessed it, Robux.

If you’re playing Fortnite without a Battle Pass subscription, Epic Games will take every opportunity to show you what you’re missing. (File photo)


Should you’re enjoying Fortnite and not using a Battle Go subscription, Epic Video games will take each alternative to point out you what you’re lacking. (File photograph)

And all of this has actual world penalties. Whereas I used to be researching this subject, I tweeted about it and acquired this direct message:

“I don’t need to admit this on Twitter (for kiddo’s sake as a lot as my very own), however throughout lockdown final yr my then 8-year outdated memorised my bank card particulars and spent $60 on Roblox.

She’s by no means carried out something remotely like that earlier than or since and after we caught her and stated she couldn’t play it anymore (and needed to pay us again) she stated she by no means needed to see that sport ever once more. I feel her behaviour truly scared her. I’m not normally one for ethical panics – however I feel there’s one thing in a few of these video games that messes with children’ psyches. I’ve by no means seen her so ashamed or upset”.

Nicely, that doesn’t sound just like the behaviour of a child having a enjoyable time. It sounds just like the behaviour of a shame-filled gambler. Oh that’s proper! It’s half 4!

Half 4: Playing

Okay, right here’s the fourth and remaining approach that digital worlds take cash from their customers, and it’s fairly simple: be a on line casino.

Most clearly, video games have loot containers you could purchase, and also you don’t know what’s in them. It may very well be good and it may very well be dangerous. You’re taking a threat once you purchase a loot field, and if it’s like a Kinder egg and the prize isn’t value something – no person actually cares. However the objects you win in video video games could be value critical real-world cash.

Regardless of that, online game objects aren’t lined in New Zealand beneath the Playing Act of 2003. There’s no good cause for that, it’s simply that, like lots of the issues I’ve talked about to this point, it simply isn’t lined as a result of it occurs on-line and legislators haven’t caught up.

In addition to casino-style playing, there’s additionally Wall Road-style hypothesis, which I’ve been instructed many occasions is technically totally different. Roblox has a secondary market the place you possibly can resell belongings you’ve purchased within the sport, which sounds positive.

Till you do not forget that it’s actual cash and also you see the Wall Road-style graph monitoring the rising and falling worth of merchandise and also you do not forget that Roblox takes a 30 per cent reduce of any transaction and the entire thing begins to really feel like an insane factor to let youngsters do.

Roblox launched in 2006, but its user base increased considerably over the last five years, and really took off because of Covid-19.


Roblox launched in 2006, however its person base elevated significantly over the past 5 years, and actually took off due to Covid-19.

Fortunately, once you seek for Roblox on Apple Arcade, you possibly can see a useful information, which incorporates this recommendation:

Earlier than agreeing to commerce an merchandise, take into account its rarity (indicated by color in lots of video games), how hooked up you’re to it and whether or not you’re getting one thing equally precious in return… don’t hesitate to renegotiate or cancel a deal you’re not snug with.

So, clearly; drawback solved. Each 7-year-old might perceive that. There’s no approach they’re going to get confused or scammed.

Half 5: What ought to we do?

So, what ought to we do? First issues first, the only strategy can be to ban in-game transactions for any sport or ‘metaverse expertise’ marketed to youngsters.

In case your children had been enjoying soccer in a park and there was a man standing round who often took the ball away and requested for 5 bucks, you’d inform that man to depart your children alone. In a super world, it might even be free to go play in that park, however within the model of the web we’ve constructed, there aren’t any public playgrounds – there’s solely Disneyland charging a big payment on the gate.

The federal government might put money into native builders to construct free video games, however, you realize, they might additionally simply finish poverty so children might afford to purchase the brand new enjoyable model of Fortnite the place in-game purchases don’t exist as a result of they’re unlawful now.

For adults, it’s a bit extra sophisticated. Fb has already acknowledged the anticipated backlash. In a weblog submit by vice presidents Andrew Bosworth and Nick Clegg, Fb stated they had been going to speculate US$50 million into collaborating with “business companions, civil rights teams, governments, non-profits and tutorial establishments to find out methods to construct these applied sciences responsibly.” And if the merchandise Fb and Instagram are something to go by, the whole lot’s going to be positive, and we’ve got nothing to worry.

Identical to social media, legislating round these on-line sport/metaverse areas is sophisticated and tough, and I don’t envy legislators making an attempt to determine it out (besides for his or her salaries, that are huge.)

Firms are constructing new worlds with the only real perform of taking cash from the individuals who go to them. It’s essential that governments exert management in these areas to guard folks, however that’s simpler stated than carried out.

So… good luck, I assume. I’m gonna go play some video video games with no in-app purchases. I hope to see you there.

White Man Behind A Desk is the work of satirist Robbie Nicol and playwright Finnius Teppett. See extra at

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