Spinks recently had a post on EVE's apparent plans to put pretty involved microtransactions into the game. Her response was, well, I can't quite say "common", because it's not the most common response, but perhaps it's the most predictable of the interesting, thoughtful responses. Here's a bit.
One of the main reasons that I think long term players get concerned about some of these microtransaction plans is that there’s a point where you wonder how far game devs are putting profit above making fun games. And if your main concern as a consumer is to buy (and pay for) fun games, you’d probably like THAT to be their main focus. [emphasis mine]
These are interesting distinctions. Is there really a fun vs. profit measurement duality for video game developers? Isn't profit always the primary motivator for, say, Blizzard and CCP Games when they're designing a game? Whose job is motivated and measured only by fun maximization? I wonder about playtesters, but I'm having a hard time arguing they're really primarily about fun; having done that a bit, it's more of a bug finding expedition. In fact, the only game designer I can think of that's really gotten away with "fun" (measured perhaps in unconventional ways) rather than profit is id, where johnc seems to be able to release when he's darned well ready, after the game has whatever techs and features he feels are appropriate. It's the one place where "When it's done" is always the deadline, and if there's no id software release for, well, years, that's also okay. But they only get to ignore profit because they already have plenty [and apparently manage that profit fairly well!]. I think you also have to argue that they changed the mode of production with video game design, or at least added an alternative mode, that of shareware. They could make a game on their own schedule and release, give or take, directly to their market. PopCap has a lot to thank id for pioneering.
Well, I guess there's another prime example of a "game dev" who puts "fun" above profits, and that's Jonathan Blow. Braid was a game that was meant to be completely for "fun", though I believe the term of art is (ironically) an "art" game. Watching what he's doing with The Witness, the currently in-dev Braid follow-up, is also interesting, particularly his undercover demo of the game at the Penny Arcade Expo.
I mean, Blow is a guy who says stuff like, "[My presentation is] about 'best practices' of modern game design that I find unsettling, and the way in which 'social games' and 'gamification' are destructive." Though Braid has been horribly successful and, I think it's safe to assume, a serious moneymaker, he's likely (?) not primarily motivated by profit. Rather, he's at the very least actively interested in (vs. id, who was passively hoping to) redefining the mode of production for video game design and consumption.
Anyone who comments on the state of games should watch Blow's MIGS lecture slides with audio here to see a sort of game developer countculture/alternative.
(There are others who might call themselves academic game developers, but honestly, I'm not sure I've seen anyone more motivated as a group by money, with some exceptionally notable exceptions (he said twice), than academics. Academics [in the humanities and in "hybrid" or interdiscplinary fields that include or originate largely in the humanities; engineering professors, eg, are much more honest about their profit-centric research] money fetish is revealed largely by their obsession with repressing their pursuit of cash, you know, like when they frame funding as "a necessarily evil", but love to wield the power from grants like children on their birthday. I can't consider most of these academic game developers in the same boat with Blow though, again, many are doing good stuff. For example, based on their work that I've seen, I'd like to think Michael Mateas or Nick Montfort is trying, but I don't know either well.)
Let me also mention, just for Google, "singular rhythms" here.
Anyhow, here's the discussion from Spink's blog, copied here in case Spinksville ever goes away (not that it should, it's just that I hate when blogs disappear).
You’re first going to have to show me which games don’t overlap with the “real world”. Some are softballs, like “time”, which is obviously shared. But you also have to think about links between hardware requirements, internet access, and economic status. Think Bot Fighters (a mobile phone game) vs. World of Warcraft. Also think of cultural overlaps — ever seen someone speaking French in game? Fun, isn’t it?
As brief as I can put it: There’s no way I play Sojourn MUD literally for days if I’m not a student in college, you know? I’m not exposed to it, I don’t have the always-on network connection to play, nor the “free” time at 2am to play.
There’s a willful suspension of belief [sic] when someone goes virtual, but virtual is always about potential (sorry to trend Deleuzian here) rather than an alternative to the real.
I guess I would sum by saying, "Games always throw RL in your face, there are just times we've let ourselves get too habitualized to notice it." And it's there that the real politics begin.