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Baffled By the Obsession With Pretend-Business Games 252

Posted by timothy
from the consensual-insanity dept.
theodp writes "Newsweek's Daniel Lyons confesses to being mystified by all the people tending to their virtual farms and virtual pets on Facebook. Even stranger, he says, is their willingness to spend real money to buy virtual products, like pretend guns and fertilizer, to gain advantage in these Web-based games. Pretend products are a serious business, estimated to grow to $1.6B next year, and have captured the attention of economists and academics who view the virtual economy as a lab for modeling behavior in the real world. Still, Lyons can't help but question whether the kind of people who spend hours online taking care of imaginary pets are representative of the rest of the population. 'The data might be "perfect" and "complete,"' says Lyons, 'but the world from which it's gathered is anything but that.'"
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Baffled By the Obsession With Pretend-Business Games

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  • Business Games (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sopssa (1498795) <sopssa@email.com> on Saturday March 20, 2010 @01:52PM (#31551064) Journal

    I was more surprised by the title, and then summary disappointed me with Farmville and other crap. Where have the actual business games gone? We had titles like Capitalism II [wikipedia.org], all the different kinds of tycoon, simulators... Where are those now?

    • by Shrike82 (1471633)

      ...the different kinds of tycoon, simulators... Where are those now?

      On Steam, wrapped in DOSBox and still as good as ever. I suggest we all ignore this story and go buy Railroad Tycoon!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MattGWU (86623)

      Went to Second Life, for the most part! Can be Land Tycoon, Mall Tycoon, BDSM Gear Tycoon, whatever you want! You'll need a store, products, a marketing plan, heck, servers! A lot of the concerns and requirements of a real business are present in the SL enterprise, if on a smaller scale. For a 'business sim', it's pretty complete, and the money is real!

    • Re:Business Games (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @02:12PM (#31551260)

      They went out of fashion together with adventures. The times of "brainy" games are gone. Since games got mainstream and the average IQ of the average gamer dropped below room temperature, what's left is twitch games. Hell, even RTS games are more twitch than planning these days.

      Yeah, mod me flamebait all you want, you know it's true.

      • by Velodra (1443121) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @03:49PM (#31551960)

        the average IQ of the average gamer dropped below room temperature

        The average IQ of the average gamer has always been less than room temperature (assuming a room temperature of about 293 K).

      • by Moraelin (679338) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @04:55PM (#31552482) Journal

        Actually, I would disagree.

        1. The notions that adventure games disappeared because people are dumb, was false all the time. The adventure games market was actually a growing market when it got dumped by the publishers. There never was as much as a dip in sales, it went up each year... then nearly went extinct.

        I'm serious. Read some interviews with the Sierra people. Their last adventure game actually sold a lot more units than any of their previous adventure games.

        What nearly killed adventures was... 3D. In the 90's, when the tools were in their infancy, the complex scripting and animation that adventure games needed, cost a lot more to do in 3D than 2D. An adventure game suddenly became 10 times more expensive to make. And it sold more units than last year's 2D adventure game... but not 10 times more.

        2. Why the FPS nearly killed them is the opposite: early FPS were mindless affairs and dirt-cheap to make. You just needed to license a 3D engine, make some random maps and a couple of models, and you were all set.

        Probably most FPS actually sold less units than some adventure games from the same age. But, think of it this way: if it sold half as many units, but cost 4 times less to make, you'd actually make more profit with a FPS. (Or just you'd make a profit at all with a FPS.)

        People getting dumber simply wasn't the issue. Bang per buck, FPS in the 90's was simply the better investment of a publisher's money. (Somewhat like why nowadays every publisher wants a slice of the MMO market.)

        3. The adventure genre has been actually making a comeback in force. Which kinda disputes the claim that people got dumber.

        4. I dunno, economic games don't seem to me quite that dead either. There have been a lot of "tycoon" wannabe games released in the last decade, hotel simulators, restaurant simulators, mall simulators, etc. Including the occasional major title like The Guild 2.

        So on the whole, while I won't mod you "flamebait" (and just blew my mod points for this thread by answering instead), I have to wonder if you're seriously into the genres you mourn. I find it hard that someone would be apparently so hard at decrying their loss... but somehow miss all the titles that have been released lately. Are you really a fan of those genres, or, no offense, just wanted to whine about other people's IQ?

        • by ultranova (717540) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @05:49PM (#31552924)

          1. The notions that adventure games disappeared because people are dumb, was false all the time. The adventure games market was actually a growing market when it got dumped by the publishers. There never was as much as a dip in sales, it went up each year... then nearly went extinct.

          Adventure games went extinct because they are, to put it bluntly, a horrible game format. At each and every point of the game you're trying to guess how the adventure maker wants this puzzle to be solved. You (usually) can't use common sense, you (usually) can't use real-world problem-solving, you (never) can't use creativity; you simply have to guess what to do in order for the game to process.

          Some of these new-fangled physics simulators might allow adventure games to become big again, but I suspect it'll take real strong AI that can model the results of unpredictable player actions in order to really happen. Then again, that shouldn't be more than a few years away...

          • by Moraelin (679338) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @09:06PM (#31554376) Journal

            But that's not the point. People were buying them anyway, and buying more boxes each year. There was no point at which the buyers rejected them.

            There was a point where the _publishers_ rejected them, because bang per buck another genre offered comparable sales for a lot less buck. But that's not nearly the same issue.

            Basically blaming their supposed loss of popularity on anything (low IQ, bad format, gameplay, etc) before establishing if such a loss of popularity actually existed (and, again, check out Sierra's own statements: it didn't exist) is simply what's called "tooth fairy science." You know, the kind where you build a whole theory about the tooth fairy, and which teeth are in higher demand, and whatnot, before you have any support or evidence for the existence of a tooth fairy at all.

      • Twitch games require skill and fast reaction times. But many games don't even do that anymore. FPS now reincarnate you with weapons and health near where you died just so that you can continue, and they'll overlay an arrow or give you verbal instructions on where to go so that you don't get lost and don't have to figure things out for yourself. Forget about having to have any kind of plan or strategy to get past the baddies. Forget about having to figure out a level.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by selven (1556643)

      You missed the big one: World of Warcraft. Many people don't realize this, but it's quite possible to make hundreds of gold just by sitting around and buying and selling stuff.

      • by Korin43 (881732)
        That's what I did. Buy all of an expensive product off the auction house, put all of it back up at 10x the price. Made like 100 G a day (at level 20).
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Transport Tycoon was rewritten, and is now open source -> www.openttd.org, hast multiplayer with up to 255 clients, bots, custom graphics packs and a lot lot more.

    • by hitmark (640295)

      these games make heavy use of a mouse, game consoles do not have a mouse pr default.

    • Capitalism? Wow, that brings back memories... I was hooked on the original, beta tested the Plus version, and even got my picture in the game as one of the characters!

    • Umm, I dunno, did business games actually go anywhere? The expansion pack for Anno 1404 just got released, and that's mainly a late medieval trading and economic game, with some city building thrown in.

  • by eddy (18759) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @01:56PM (#31551094) Homepage Journal

    Just saying, maybe [google.com] we should take that into account.

    • by zappepcs (820751) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @02:50PM (#31551546) Journal

      Not only that but ... ermmmm DUH!
      In a world of reality tv, real housewives, and shopping networks etc. why should anyone be _surprised_ that real vegetables will spend real money and real time trying to grow virtual vegetables?

      We used to smirk at stamp collectors and train spotters. Now we have virtual farmers and others. The world has not changed, we simply have an easier way to collect data about people with odd hobbies, like stupid lawsuits, stupid patents, karaoke, leg warmer collecting, virtual farming, and many more.

      Or maybe they are just bored at work?

  • Not surprised (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bmo (77928) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @01:57PM (#31551106)

    Dan "Lyin'" Lyons is mystified by many things.

    He's still mystified why SCOX.PK hasn't buried IBM.

    --
    BMO

  • by EdIII (1114411) * on Saturday March 20, 2010 @01:57PM (#31551116)

    So reading between the lines Mr. Lyon's comment is basically, "Am I really surrounded by Assholes and Morons and am I also their King (intellectual superior)?"

    Dannny...... The average Slashdotter has that thought 45 times a day dealing with other people. Watch Idiocracy some time and then tell me with a straight face it is not a documentary of the future.

    • Future? I'm sorry, are you from the past?

    • "King" is not the most adequate expression. The only ones who are actually getting to rule anything are the FarmMafia developers and managers.

  • Bell Curve Appeal (Score:3, Interesting)

    by stewbacca (1033764) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @01:58PM (#31551120)

    These games appeal to the 50th percentile. More "serious" video games require more time investment and interest, which is out of the realm of possibility for most normal folks.

    The same reason is why we have so many bland US and Japanese brand sedans, and unexciting light fixtures, and bland music, and beige computers (less, these days though). By definition, there are more people in the 50th percentile, thus we will always have woefully average stuff.

    • Re:Bell Curve Appeal (Score:5, Interesting)

      by thetoadwarrior (1268702) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @02:17PM (#31551306) Homepage
      That's false. Most people I know spend *way* more time on Farmville than I've spend on, for instance, Contra 4 or Dead Space.

      I spend more time on casual games, like Sim Tower, than "hardcore" games. Casual people just tell themselves they spend less time on games because to say you spend loads of time on a game apparently makes you a dork and a loser
    • by Carewolf (581105)

      These games appeal to the 50th percentile. More "serious" video games require more time investment and interest, which is out of the realm of possibility for most normal folks.

      50th percentile? That is kind of an insulting term for "Women", because these games appeal to woman, who have different gaming habbits than men.

    • there are more people in the 50th percentile, thus we will always have woefully average stuff.

      No, you'll always have average stuff because when you have a population of *anything*, the middle of that population is always by definition, average. It has nothing to do with how many of them there are.

       

      • Sheesh, everyone is criticizing my 50% comment as if they've never heard of normal distribution. Distribution is not even from the 1 to 100th percentile (as one reply states), and contrary to your post, it has EVERYTHING to do with how many there are. By definition, on a normal distribution, there are the most people at the 50th percentile and 68% of everyone in a normal distribution will fall within 1 standard deviation of the mean. Sure, it doesn't matter if there are 500 or 5,000,000 (if that's what you

        • by Colin Smith (2679)

          1 2 3 4 5

          The mean is 3 the median is 3. The average is 3. There are no more threes than any other number. The three has no better nor worse quality than any other number because it happens to be the average. Average does not define quality.

          The average has nothing to do with bell curves, normal distributions or other kinds of distribution. These distributions do have average values, but only because as I said, any population or set of numbers has by definition, a set of average values.

          The other thing is. "Th

      • I was rethinking your post and maybe this helps clarify.

        The middle of anything is, by definition, average. I was connecting the mathematical term "average" with the subjective word "average" as in, "this product is neither good nor bad..it's average."

        The propensity of average people to be attracted to average stuff is not a mathematical phenomena, rather a social one, is all I'm saying. Toyota builds boring Camry's in boring colors because that appeals to the middle of the bell curve, which has more potent

        • by Colin Smith (2679)

          So perhaps what you meant was "mediocre". An adjective denoting the relative quality of something.

          On that, I happen to disagree. You think paint colour defines the mediocrity of a vehicle? That sounds more like mediocrity of thought. Japanese cars; Honda, Toyota have quality records that put all the European and American manufacturers to shame. How could a Toyota Prius (or Honda Insight) be called mediocre or middle of the bell curve? The premier military vehicle in the world? Not the Hummvee, but the Toyot

  • by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @01:59PM (#31551128) Homepage

    I think this is an indicator that a lot of people would like to own/operate a business, and have an entrepreneurial spirit, but are too bogged by the realities of risk and especially legal burden to carry out their entrepreneurial instinct in real life. Imagine how many jobs we could create if people felt safe enough to be able to play these games in the real world.

    • by Skidborg (1585365) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @02:05PM (#31551168)
      You forget that real businesses require real work, and are a whole lot harder to progress in than a game that is engineered to let you slowly creep up the ladder of success no matter how inept you are.
      • by Machtyn (759119) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @02:28PM (#31551400) Homepage Journal
        Taking Farmville for example, you don't have bugs, worms, critters to kill your crop. You don't have excessive heat or frost to kill your crop. You have a definitive timeline when your 100% yield occurs. You have 100% sales on all your items with no waste. This isn't really a business simulator more than it is something to do to pass time and share with friends.

        The real cash comes in to play because some people are even more impatient and want the absolute best of everything, even if it doesn't really matter. Fortunately, my wife is of the opinion that she can wait for her FV coins to build up and not even worry about the FV dollars.
      • by EdIII (1114411) *

        You forget that real businesses require real work, and are a whole lot harder to progress in than a game that is engineered to let you slowly creep up the ladder of success no matter how inept you are.

        I have not laughed that fucking hard in a long time. There is no ineptitude at the top? Nepotism? Favoritism?

        None of us have had a superior so stupid, ignorant, and helpless in their responsibilities that it is a miracle every day the department is still around? Yet they STILL get promoted and handed more c

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Skidborg (1585365)
          GP's original point was trying to apply this to a small business startup attempt, not working your way through a gigantic corporation that is already massively successful.
      • by Crudely_Indecent (739699) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @02:46PM (#31551524) Journal

        My wife and daughters play these stupid games. Superpokepets and Farm[town|ville] consume hours of their day.

        My daughters, not so much, but my wife thinks that all computer oriented activities are game-play. She doesn't regard what I do as "work" because the only activities she participates in on a computer are games, therefore all computer activities are games. I'll admit that a few times a year I'll indulge in a game of Civilization, but I'm a bit more focused on my work because I actually enjoy it.

        Occasionally I'll remind her that only a few hours of my work on a computer pays our cell phone bill while a few hours of her playing games costs in electricity usage. The concept of computers being tools for business still escapes her, so I'm in the doghouse most of the time for "playing" on the computer.

        Thankfully, she's obeyed my mandate that no actual money be spent on these games.

        • by redJag (662818) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @04:29PM (#31552274)
          I hope your wife is a fucking knock-out hottie because I can't imagine even talking to someone that can't comprehend a difference between work on a computer and FarmVille. I don't expect my girlfriend to understand exactly what I do, but she grasps the basic concept of programming.
          • by Corporate Troll (537873) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @08:08PM (#31553996) Homepage Journal

            Obviously you never have to deal with complete computer illiterate people. My wife has a very hard time understanding what I do and that what I do in the day isn't the same as what I do on my computer in the evening. To her it ALL looks the same. Sure, I can tell her what I do, but essentially it becomes a phrase she tells people when they ask her what I do. It has no significance at all to her (and to most people, in fact).

            Same with my mom (but it became better over the years). I distinctly remember, back in my teenage years (that's a very long time ago), that I showed her a sorting algorithm I invented (years later, I got to know it as "Bubble Sort" and that in fact it is horrible, but how would a young teen know?). Her reaction was in the lines of "You spent so many hours on the computer for /this/?". Utterly devastating for me, but I don't blame her. This simply isn't part of her world.

            Even today, I see so many people of my generation, actively avoiding computers. My younger sisters generation is better and she had the big advantage of having computers around her for all the time she remembers, mainly because of me and my dad (who is a proto-geek). She's just 5 years younger, but it makes a difference.

            So, yes, I can totally see people equating "playing computers" with "using computers". If that's the only problem the guy has with his wife, he's lucky. Believe me, I have many more problems with my wife... *sigh*

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Bodhammer (559311)
      I don't play these games. As far as starting a business, I would love to own my own business. I'm more concerned about the governments (local, state, federal) and the IRS than I am about my competition and legal concerns. The progressives are hell-bent at destroying and redistributing wealth, they are dangerous, clueless, and evil.
      • by nedlohs (1335013)

        the government and IRS is exactly what "legal burden" is.

        But if the legal burders of the early 2000s were too much for you, you aren't ever starting that business.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by DogDude (805747)
        As far as starting a business, I would love to own my own business. I'm more concerned about the governments (local, state, federal) and the IRS than I am about my competition and legal concerns.

        You're a liar. Turn off the Fox news. There's very little paperwork involved with starting your own business.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Bodhammer (559311)
          I'm a liar for expressing my personal concerns? Wow... The progressive groupthink virus has struck here.

          You convinced me with your cogent argument. I turned off FN and now I believe all government activity is benevolent and good. Thanks!

          Proof please of the very little paperwork statement? You have no idea about what I might do or how I might do it. Before you shoot off your mouth about things you know nothing about and state it as fact you might want to do a little research. Do you know what is
    • I think this is an indicator that a lot of people would like to own/operate a business, and have an entrepreneurial spirit, but are too bogged by the realities of risk and especially legal burden to carry out their entrepreneurial instinct in real life. Imagine how many jobs we could create if people felt safe enough to be able to play these games in the real world.

      People are working on just that. For some inspiration, watch this irresistible TED talk: Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world [youtube.com] (20min).

    • Imagine how many jobs we could create if people felt safe enough to be able to play these games in the real world.

      A real free market requires a real socalist safety net. If you need to lie and work at a job you hate just so that you and yours can eat and have clothes on your back, then you don't have the freedom to attempt anything entrepreneurial at all -- and your employer will hesitant to fire you for the same reason you hesitant to quit, because you literally need that job to survive.

      Eliminate the risk of death due to failure, and you will have a lot more folk attempt something new. (And while you're at it, toss

  • Really. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Skidborg (1585365) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @02:00PM (#31551138)
    After Eve proved that people were willing to play spreadsheets with graphics, it was obvious that the next step was to remove most of the graphics.
    • by game kid (805301)

      Fortunately, people who still use Facebook can't even spell "spreadsheet", so we're safe for now.

      If they achieve sentience and Microsoft Excel literacy, though, then pile the sandbags, man the machine guns, and prepare to hunt the zombies. Otherwise, they will spam their Twilight-themed sheets through email and we will be doomed.

      --but seriously, now that I think of it, a Twilight-themed Excel file would nauseate me to no end.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Dahamma (304068)

      Actually, I think this trend was clear way back in Ultima Online days.

      Wander by a "mountainside" and there would be dozens of players just standing there "mining" ore, which they would haul back and smelt to iron, which they would use it to make some crappy item, which they would sell to a shopkeeper for some and then wander off to the mines for another day of hard work...

  • MMORPGS. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 20, 2010 @02:06PM (#31551180)

    Last night I got drunk.

    In my stupor, I decided to play a Korean MMORPG that consumed about 4 years of my life. I went through a cached version of the fansite forums. 300 posts by myself. Did I really type like that?

    At any rate, I fired up the client and connected to a private server. Instantly, I felt my right wrist seizing up a bit... as if it was anticipating the pain from the click-fest (I broke several LMBs playing this game). I remembered how much this game sucked. The game is just a glorified treadmill. Getting to maxlevel (110) doesn't net you any special reward. It was really pointless.

    What does this have to do with the current topic? The Social. The social aspect is the only reason I played for so long. It could have been a korean mmo game, it could have been a farm simulation, it could have been an online poker site, it could have been a tower defense game. It didn't matter. It was always about the social. Thats the only reason I played that stupid game for so long.

    And that's why a lot of people on the social networking sites play those socially networked games. Not because they are economic simulators, but because everyone else plays them and it's a way to pass the time. Nothing too deep from my pov.

    • by Yaa 101 (664725)

      You are not that far off, most players only play to be able to talk about it the next day at work or school, it used to be television that fulfilled that role, increasingly it's online stuff.

      So yes, it's about social.

    • Re:MMORPGS. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Tromad (1741656) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @02:33PM (#31551432)

      Yes but these "social" games don't really have any social aspect apart from spamming your friends for new items. My mom convinced me to try a popular facebook game, and the only social aspect was me having to spam everyone else that I either have extra crap or I want their extra crap. In general there is no interaction apart from "give me", and even that is based on preset buttons rather than conversation. I probably have more social interaction with a 1 minute conversation with the clerk at the convenience store than I would in hours of playing these shitty social media games. In your case it is different, as you were on an MMO, but these social casual games are much more limited in interaction.

  • achievement porn (Score:5, Interesting)

    by merreborn (853723) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @02:06PM (#31551190) Journal

    The people who play these games are, as a blogger recently put it, addicted to fake achievement [pixelpoppers.com]. They want to fill the bar [penny-arcade.com] over and over again, level up, and unlock the next item.

    It's really not that baffling. People like winning. The actual value of the "win" is often unimportant.

    • by jroysdon (201893)

      Too true. I wonder what the ratio is of addicted flash-game players like this is to un/under-employed folks?

    • by Sethumme (1313479)
      Welcome to the Tamagotchi Generation. We pay for virtual entertainment, not real entertainment.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Care to enlighten us as to the difference between real and virtual entertainment? It sounds like a distinction solely for the sake of looking down on entertainment forms you don't share in personally.

    • by CODiNE (27417)

      Yeah I used to spend days playing whatever new game I was into, until I realized that I was spending hours just to flip a few bits in a memory card somewhere. It wasn't even an important memory card, just the one in my cartridge. Pointless.

    • by hitmark (640295)

      i wonder if it can be linked to the statement about shopping i once encountered, that linked it to the hunter/gather reflexes. That is, returning home with the bags from a shopping round triggers much the same activity in the brain as finding a rich fruit supply or taking down some big beast.

    • by Chicken_Kickers (1062164) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @06:03PM (#31553080)
      An how is this different from "traditional sports"? Strip all the fluff and trappings of sports such as football (soccer to you Yanks) for example, it is just 22 grown men running around kicking an inanimate spherical rubber object. These men get paid millions of dollars per season for what they do and looking at it baldly, it is just plain ridiculous. It is more ridiculous that people identify themselves with the teams and pay real hard-earned money to watch the sports. What's more, unlike say Farmville or WoW, the real-world sports fans don't even get anything tangible from the sports, other than vicariously sharing the ups and downs of "their" teams. Yet it is deemed by society as "normal". Why not for virtual social games such as Farmville?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ukyoCE (106879)

        Arguably, sports confer real-world physical advantages, and this is why they were invented.

        But you could equally argue that modern video games confer real-world mental advantages.

        Meanwhile both can cause injury in their given area by overdoing it - physical injuries, or screwing up your priorities, respectively.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Lunzo (1065904)

          The person you replied to wasn't talking about playing sports. I doubt the GP would have a problem with playing sport. Participating in sport requires you to develop good qualities e.g. the discipline required to get fit and improve your skills, actual teamwork and communication skills.

          The GP was talking about spectator sports. And I think he was right. Fans of a team - the hardcore ones who go to every game and watch re-runs on DVD - are living vicariously through their team. It doesn't require any investm

  • Not everyone has a good life or one they enjoy. Some people are bored and/or want something better. Virtual places and items offer an escape we may never have otherwise. When life's Skinner box doesn't give us enough pellets or pellets we like, we look elsewhere for pellets we can enjoy. Some people think outside the box and make a profit off our needs and the rest of us forever stay in the box.
  • by the saltydog (450856) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @02:09PM (#31551214) Homepage

    This is the same rent-a-rant tool* that shouted at the top of his lungs on what a great case The SCO Group had against IBM - and who consequently jumped off of the pro-SCO shill bandwagon so fast, he almost broke both ankles, when it became apparent that the whole thing was an extortion scam... it's interesting to me since The SCO Group doesn't really have real products anymore, and the bankruptcy trustee currently in charge has stated that the only thing he finds of value in the company is the litigation they're involved in.

    Dan can't understand something that makes money, that Microsoft didn't invent - world points, laughs. Dan is worse than a has-been... he's a never-was.

    *Not to be confused with another worthless tech "analyst", Rob "Rent-A-Rant" Enderle, who has never met a Microsoft check he didn't like.

  • Just like MMORPGs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Max Romantschuk (132276) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Saturday March 20, 2010 @02:10PM (#31551234) Homepage

    So how, exactly, is this any different from spending money on WOW? Not everyone likes the same kind of games.

    Just because the average Joe doesn't like Farmwille, WOW, curling or knitting that doesn't mean it's not worth the investment in time and/or money to someone else.

    To each his own.

  • It mystifies me (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HangingChad (677530) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @02:17PM (#31551310) Homepage

    Even stranger, he says, is their willingness to spend real money to buy virtual products

    If people put a fraction of the time they spend on fake farms into a real business, they'd be rich. So much effort goes into collecting fake gold and going on quests to kill monsters that are nothing but a collection of 1's and 0's. It just seems like such a waste. If we could harness a small amount of that effort and put it toward something productive, it would be astonishing what could be accomplished.

    • Yeah, because we all know that it is that easy....

      Look, even people who A) are qualified B) want to work C) will be good at the job. Still can't get hired. Until we get rid of the 2 parties plaguing the US congress and get a halfway decent president, it isn't going to be much better.

      As for starting a business? Forget about it. Even -established- businesses have a hard time getting credit, let alone someone starting a business.

      Plus, it is a lot easier to get out of bed, stumble over to the deskto
    • Re:It mystifies me (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Datamonstar (845886) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @03:37PM (#31551886)
      Starting a business is a great thing to do! However, unlike how the conservative, pro-consumerism people who propose starting a business as the simple solution to your each and every economic woe will tell you, it is a very difficult thing to do and you will likely spend a large amount of time and energy making it profitable in the first place. If you don't have money in the first place, then forget it. If you can't live for a while without your normal steady income, then forget it. Basically, unless you're really lucky and are able to get funding to start, or you come up with some brilliant money-making idea that requires $0 start-up you're in for a long ride till your first real profit.

      In real life people have jobs because they either cannot or do not want to start their own business, so simply saying "if you would have invested x amount of time doing y then you'd" whatever is just making a big assumption without really considering what you're saying. Go ask a successful business manager how much more he could accomplish if he spent less time on the golf course (assuming he golfs). I'm sure he would not take it well.
      • Or you start small, as a hobby in your spare time, and only quit your full time job once you know that you can make a success of your business.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Reziac (43301) *

        "However, unlike how the conservative, pro-consumerism people who propose starting a business as the simple solution to your each and every economic woe will tell you, it is a very difficult thing to do and you will likely spend a large amount of time and energy making it profitable in the first place."

        Funny thing, it's the liberal micromanage-everyone's-life types who made it this difficult to succeed at building a business. After all, the best road to a classless society is to make sure no one can do bett

    • by DesScorp (410532)

      "If people put a fraction of the time they spend on fake farms into a real business, they'd be rich. So much effort goes into collecting fake gold and going on quests to kill monsters that are nothing but a collection of 1's and 0's. It just seems like such a waste"

      This is pretty much how I look at gambling and lotteries. I've never understood people that enjoy losing money in Vegas or at their state lottery. You've got a better chance of being hit by lightning several times than you do winning your state l

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Rary (566291)

      If people put a fraction of the time they spend on fake farms into a real business, they'd be rich.

      There's a limited number of real-world businesses that can be successful. There's an unlimited number of virtual businesses that can be successful.

      Also, starting an unsuccessful real-world business can mess up your life. Starting an unsuccessful virtual business wastes nothing but a few hours of your time.

  • sounds like a good way to do money laundering just put it in to a game.

    How fast will this just drop if the us had on line betting and poker that was not bared by us law?

    • I doubt it will drop fast. Why? Because a lot of people don't like gambling. When you buy -virtual item- you know you are getting -virtual item- that can do -insert description here-. When you gamble, you -might- get more money, chances are you will have 3 minutes of entertainment then the money goes away from you.
  • that people spend $50 to buy a video game for their xbox?

    Or spend $400 for a ticket to watch a UFC fight.

    Or go to Vegas and spend money to play roulette.

    He might (and I do) find the idea boring as all hell, but other people find it fun (maybe the activity itself, maybe the "beating" other people to something part, maybe the socialization that comes from a common activity, etc).

  • Stupidity (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DaMattster (977781) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @02:29PM (#31551402)
    This is a shame that people have become so stupid as to purchase virtual pets and virtual things to get ahead in a role playing game. I have to say it, people need to get out more often. The fact that this has become a 1.6bn business is really, really sad. What ever happened to buying old cars and restoring them or going on bike rides or outdoor activites?
    • Re:Stupidity (Score:4, Insightful)

      by pydev (1683904) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @05:42PM (#31552868)

      What ever happened to buying old cars and restoring them

      And that's different... how? People don't restore some arbitrary car, they restore a 1966 Mustang or a 1960 Corvette. Why? Those cars are objectively not very good for transportation. They restore those because of their virtual attributes: branding, styling, nostalgia.

      or going on bike rides or outdoor activites?

      If you do those things by yourself, you're weird. What gives meaning to those activities is that they're social activities. And you can engage in the same kind of social activities in many other contexts. And to many urbanites, the idea of socializing during outdoor activities has always been preposterous anyway; why would you want to put up with bug bites and broken bones?

  • Really, he's no better than "Pretenderlee" Enderlee or MoGTroll Maureen O'Gara. His opinion and $5 will buy you a $2 coffee (you take a minus $3 hit for being an obvious n00b even to the cashier).
  • really i dunno but after running it thru my wetware a few times a few "thinks" came up... my first time in Tokyo i was introduced to Pachinko [wikipedia.org] and immediately began to wonder how such a people could have accomplished anything let alone what the Japanese have done, but after a few minutes playing i was strangely hooked and played for about 3 hours, but only played the one time. it reminded me of the kind of fun, mindless calibrating kids can do for hours, getting closer and closer to something meaningless in
  • by future assassin (639396) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @02:47PM (#31551532) Homepage
    I don't think its surprising to find out that someone stupid enough to spend half of their day on Facebook giving out personal info for enjoyment would be stupid enough to spend money on their Facebook habbit.
  • > 'The data might be "perfect" and "complete,"' says Lyons, 'but the world from which it's gathered is anything but that.'"

    Exactly, he gave the reason himself. Escapism. Not one I care for at all now, but when I was longer I played a lot of MUD. Does he hate such books and movies too?
  • Well (Score:4, Insightful)

    by stonecypher (118140) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {rehpycenots}> on Saturday March 20, 2010 @03:27PM (#31551802) Homepage Journal

    It's a Skinner Box. It doesn't just apply to humans; it applies to most animals. It's the same effect that makes rats press levers for food, and that underlies Pavlov's Dog and standard drug dealer techniques.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skinner_Box [wikipedia.org]

    Farmville short-circuits the reward relationship in a number of psychologically sophisticated ways. It's essentially a hoarding generator with addiction back-off.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by TheNarrator (200498)

      So you're saying this is essentially a mechanism that allows people to avoid the pain of cognitive dissonance? [wikipedia.org] People can't be rich or succeed at anything so they pretend to on-line in order to avoid admitting to themselves that they've lived a wasted pathetic life?

  • Even if you buy physical goods, most of the money goes into branding and identity. Nike sneakers, organic produce, green energy, BMW luxury sedan, diamond rings--none of that is necessary or rational, but it's the "virtual" attributes that make people pay extra for it. It's how you show off to your friends, or some other attribute unconnected to the physical good that makes you happy.

  • by Angst Badger (8636) on Saturday March 20, 2010 @08:26PM (#31554144)

    The idea that imaginary or virtual products are new is really only true in the US Patent Office sense, that is, they are new... on a computer. The truth is that we've been buying virtual products all along. When someone buys an article of clothing from a manufacturer whose products are fashionable, yes, they are buying something real -- shoes, a shirt, a jacket, whatever -- but they are also buying the associated fashionability, which is purely imaginary. People buy all kinds of things for reasons that make the physical object itself a secondary concern. The only thing that has changed is that computers and the Internet have made it possible to dispense with the inessential -- the object -- and directly purchase the intangible benefit.

    Looked at another way, buying game-related virtual products is not really any different from a lot of entertainment purchases. When you buy tickets to a concert, what tangible thing are you purchasing? Absolutely nothing. You're paying for an experience. The difference between a musician and a stored value in a game server is, from the point of view of the customer, quite irrelevant: in both cases, the customer is paying to be entertained.

    If anything is new here, it's just the introduction of a new medium for entertainment and -- as Apple's recent success amply demonstrates -- brand-based social status contests. That may very well be interesting in its own right, but it doesn't represent anything novel as far as market economics are concerned.

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