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New publisher Modern Wolf declare commitment to “ethical game development” (rockpapershotgun.com)
33 points by danso 59 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 15 comments



I'd say this is more of a feel good announcement than anything as it will have extremely little impact on the gaming industry. There are billions and billions of dollars to be made through MTX, major publishing companies do not care what small time studios have to say. The amount of people who actively stray away from MTX purchases are few in number compared to the people who spend money on in game purchases. You see small boycott attempts on subreddits for games all the time over MTX and they amount to nothing, there's just too many people that spend on cosmetics and in game boosts (when applicable) for game companies to back down from including them.

When done right, MTX options can be fun for players and profitable for the company. The problem is that they are rarely done right, as greed so often takes over. A good example is the last few Call of Duty games. They like to start the loot box system with cosmetics only and assure players that loot box only usable items will never happen. Only for them to be added months later as they realize how much money they can make from it. Sure controversy always ensues but who cares, these decision makers don't have a care in the world for people who complain, they raking in billions.


It's been a while since I played it but Path of Exile did MTX absolutely right. There was only one item you could buy that had any real practical effect on the game and that was extra stash tabs (you start with four), everything else was cosmetics, and they make enough money to keep pumping out new content year over year.


Here's the approach I've thought of for my own game project:

If you want to be on the leader-boards and be a high level competitive player, there's only one micro-transaction you're allowed to have. ($1 monthly membership to "Stellar Exploration Corps.") Meanwhile, on another site like Indiegogo, there would be a number of digital assets offered as rewards for funders. One could pay $25, $75, $200, $1000 dollars to become an interstellar tycoon, alien spy, or a space pirate lord -- basically, you pay money to have a chance to inhabit the world as an important person. These "funder" characters would then have access to a catalog of conventional micro-transactions. In doing so, they would be funding and building content for the competitive player base. Basically, becoming NPCs from the POV of the competitive players.

Naturally, "Stellar Exploration Corps" members wouldn't be allowed to trade items or currency with the other characters. ("Conflict of Interest.")


There is not enough of actual substance here to know if this is anything more than marketing on the publisher's part. The sorts of things that matter most for independent developers - milestone definitions, payment structures, royalty splits, marketing commitments - aren't touched on here and would vary on a contract by contract basis regardless.

Even with industry leading terms, the publisher isn't making the game. The culture and leadership of the development studio will dictate whether and how they crunch, who has a creative voice, and how developers are compensated. There are plenty of publishers and alternative funding sources that allow for good outcomes for developers who want to make games in an ethical way. It's not clear what Modern Wolf's key differentiator is.


I feel like a bit of a wet blanket saying this, but it's roughly equivalent to Google making its motto, "Don't be evil." Gestures are nice; actions better beget true intentions.


Is ethical game development something the market actually respects and informs purchasing decisions?


anecdotal of course but i know me and many of my friends dont buy $60 games with microtransactions (of any kind), or games with lootboxes. we're ok with not playing overwatch or EA/ActiBliz/Ubisofts latest cash-grab at the expense of not feeling like we're being manipulated/shafted 24/7


If the loot boxes or micro-transactions are only for cosmetic items, I don’t mind them. If something is pay to win, I won’t play it.


I wish I could say the same. I seem to be the only one of my friends willing to take a hard stance on these things. They view the situation as it still being better than just not playing a new video game, even though they might be getting screwed over. It’s really frustrating to be honest, because I can tell I’ve ended up ostracizing myself over it.


If an entity can choose to discard ethics because it negatively impacts their bottom line, then they probably had no ethics to begin with.


> Final creative say is grand, but Modern Wolf will still be making the big business decisions.

Hmmm. I would love to know what the difference is. Devs get to define gameplay, but company gets to enforce microtransactions?


I wonder if they will continue the games industry trend of paying developers lower than they would in other industries or not...


While there is still a disparity, it has decreased over time. The comp for senior engineers at the larger studios compares favorably with the broader technology sector, outside of a handful of companies.


Really doubt they could match the salaries that banks and FAANGs pay even if they wanted to.


Question for those philosophy majors out there...

I'm having trouble with the general concept of labeling something "ethical", as thought it were a binary quality akin to "kosher".

My understanding is that "ethics" classically refers to any particular set of moral principles. That would include Mahatma Gandhi's, Adolf Hitler's, and Jeff Bezos'.

So I'm assuming that usages such as "ethical game development" imply adherence to some particular, unstated ethic. But I'm not clear what ethic they're implying.




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