Dead Space In Your Face: Gaming and Rent-Seeking

Well, that was quick.

Last week I was discussing how monetization was going to be an issue in your gaming career – since there were many options that would obviously affect how you get paid.  Or if you get paid.  Or if you have any hope in hell of success.  Well, now I’m still talking about it – along with my current obsession of analyzing game careers, of course.

One of my inspirations for that post, by the way, was the weird news in Dead Space 3 about how one could purchase quicker collection of crafting materials.  Yes, a big console game that just happens to let you act like you’re in a typical free-to-play game, in a way that seemed kinda obvious.

EA was appropriately and mercilessly skewered by Penny Arcade, as was appropriate.  However they were also skewered by resource collecting bugs that made the micro transaction thing a null issue.

I’m wondering if they’ll patch it or not.

Here we see another risk to gaming – and a factor to take into any gaming career you may want to have.

Notice that this is a purely profit-increasing motive.  It’s in exchange for a service to accelerate parts of a game that one already paid for.  I’ll be brutally honest – it seems pointless as what you get in exchange is nothing more than accelerating game mechanics (which I suppose you could do with a difficulty setting).

In short, it’s rent-seeking, more or less.

I’m fine with good DLC, I’m fine with extras.  Borderlands 2, for instance, really delivers value in appropriately-sized chunks and I can’t complain about a dollar I spent on it.  In Dungeon Fighter, despite some seriously insane options (like how much bonus for how long does my new hair give me), the game is not only fun but I felt it was worth the money I spent because I felt vaguely guilty.

But buying a rather expensive game then modifying gameplay for more money seems damned cheap to me.

Unfortunately, people working in gaming have to deal with this.  I’m hoping this little fiasco ends rent-seeking.  Somehow I’m not sure it will.

Here’s my concerns as to why we’ll see it:

  1. Pure rent-seeking, as opposed to a good good/money exchange or a pay-while-free, is obviously exploitative.  However as we’ve witnessed some boneheadedness in the gaming industry, I can see others trying it.
  2. The Rent-seeking is also built into a lot of culture, as anyone who’s witnessed legal battles over properties can attest too.  This makes it hard for companies to pull away from it as an option, even if it appears to be an option taking them over a reputitional cliff.
  3. Gaming is often seen as a captive audience.  It’s not, with so many options, but .  .. well you get the idea.

So I can’t believe EA’s plans are going to go away, despite Gabe And Tycho using urination metaphors.  In turn I think this can backfire on gaming . .

  1. People hate this behavior, so I’m concerned in turn that attempts to do it despite all common sense, will damage the gaming industry, especially on the higher-end.
  2. This damage can trickle down to other companies and independents – who damn well need the money.
  3. It will be harder to monetize because various monetization schemes may seem scammy, even when not, or not on a certain level.
  4. This further destabilizes the gaming market, which is already pretty confusing.

I’d love to sum this up, but it’s “rent-seeking is a bad thing and can muck up gaming.”  Well, wait, there I summed it up.

One more thing to worry about in your gaming career.

You’re . . . welcome?  I think?

(And sad note? I hear the game is pretty good.  It’s a shame this affects what sound like a good product)

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, nerd and geek culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at