Magic Duels 5

Just yesterday in the MMOBomb Skype — while Magicman was anguishing over not being able to find the Final Fantasy TCG in his area — I jokingly referred to CCGs as “doing pay-to-win random lootboxes and courting whales since 1993.”

1993, of course, was the year Magic: The Gathering was released, and, if you stop to think about it, its random, multiple-rarity schemes are the exact sort of thing that modern video game players hate in their free-to-play games. Still, they’ve gone on for over 20 years — and sports cards for much longer, with similar “random rarity.”

So today I discovered a manifesto by no less than the creator of Magic: The Gathering himself, Richard Garfield, who weighs in on the abusive nature of cash shops in gaming. Written a few weeks ago, Garfield’s screed covers ground that is mostly familiar to long-time gamers: how many games, especially free-to-play games are thinly concealed Skinner boxes designed to extract the most possible money from a tiny percentage of players looking for that adrenaline rush of unpackaging that newest goodie. He draws a few broad comparisons, to alcoholism and gambling, and says that the biggest whales were “people who couldn’t afford to be spending that sort of money” without much evidence to back them up, but the general sentiment is something we’ve heard plenty of times before.

Garfield doesn’t condemn free-to-play games or cash shops entirely. Instead, he lays out a notion of how they could be fair and how that could be baked into the game design. He also brings up the notion of a “hard spending cap,” something I’ve explored, and seen as not the greatest idea when put into practice. And, of course, he comes up with an explanation as to how CCGs can fall under the category of a “fair” gaming experience.

In the end, he vows not to invest any more time or money into games he considers abusive in their monetization practices and urges other players to do the same — while recognizing that the people likely to buy into that way of thinking are probably not the ones who will have any kind of significant impact on a game’s bottom line.

In any case, it’s an interesting read from a notable voice in gaming’s history, even if it doesn’t cover much in the way of new ground. Give Richard Garfield’s manifesto a look and see if you agree with it.

the author

Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.

6 Readers Commented

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  1. MasterOF on October 6, 2016

    I wish that someone would point how how cash shops in video games are gambling with zero control over what kind of RNG code is used.

    The whole gaming industry is just a scam. Only solution is to stop playing games completely.
    Developers and publishers are lowest life form and things are only going to become worse with time.

    • ASD on October 6, 2016

      Agreed. Kinda why I gave up console gaming. Don’t get me wrong I love console games but the current generation consoles give me a distaste when they sell me the console and the game then try charging me to access the online multiplayer. It’s why I play PC games and funny part is PC games can’t be charged for online since it’s open sourced microsoft can try but we can say no thanks and goto another person so it’s why I switched to PC gaming but I do play single console games. And yeah cash shops is stupid I know a indie developer who is abusing the heck out of the cash shops and they been poor as heck past 5 years because they got very small workforce and a large volunteerforce and they got lots of problems with the volunteers and they laid off their best paid staff and they got 500,000 players for their open beta which is heavily paid 2 win well not sure but it looks like it from the pages. And I played their older games their staff are horrible and I got bad experiences with their support team and so on so yeah…./

  2. Razer on October 6, 2016

    I’ve been saying this for years. It’s an abusive business model and it negatively impacts the quality of games.

    A far more ethical business model would be one that relies on more reasonably-priced and complete purchase options for a wider part of the audience instead of extorting huge sums from a small number of vulnerable people.

  3. Hellsworth on October 5, 2016

    I also believe that if you have a “cap” set in game per account/character things will even out (that used to be the whole level up to 60 idea) but nowadays it’s only seen as the starting point of everything else. But alas not all games can be made into a “recurring” loop of expansions and seasonal competition as the CCGs or can they (insert PoE and Diablo)?

  4. Tio_Z on October 5, 2016

    So he is sad that people migrated from his cash shop to virtual ones?

    • Phaedros on October 6, 2016

      Not really, MtG still blows everything else out of the water, especially when you include MtG:O and Magic Duels. O.o

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