The Easy Way Out

Gordon has a spectacular idea – get rid of the goldsellers by getting rid of the gold.

It’s a nice idea, but it won’t work.

Not because of some huge failing in his logic, no.  It’s a finely thought-out plan.  The reason it will fail is that the goldsellers, despite everything we like to think, are not actually the problem.

The problem is the Game Genie.

For those of you who didn’t grow up during the 80s, the Game Genie was a charming device that allowed you to enter secret special codes that… aw, screw it.  It was a hex editor for the game that attached to your NES and had a cumbersome pixelated interface for entering codes which would then allow you some crazy permutation on the game’s actual playstyle.  While the codes could be used to make the game more difficult, you can bet that wasn’t what they used to advertise the product.

“Infinite lives!  Infinite power-ups!  No timer!”

You can imagine how well the little dongle sold.  I believe hotcakes are a frequently-used comparison.  I owned one that went to the console graveyard in the sky many years ago, as a particularly well-loved Christmas present.  And it did everything it advertised and more, allowing me to systematically strip anything challenging out of a game and then lose interest in it shortly thereafter.  I quickly relegated it to rentals that I wasn’t going to get to come back to, and when it came to normal games I would mostly leave it alone.

But there were games I couldn’t beat.  And I was a kid, and I wanted to win, and so I’d hook it up and then I’d beat the game!  Hey, the game didn’t know I’d cheated.

I am not alone.

That eight-year-old impulse exists in pretty much all of us.  And there are people who play games, online and off, who want the reward without the hard work.  They want to be able to buy awesome things off the auction house without even stopping to consider the price.  Give them the opportunity to skip ahead in power level, and they’ll take it.

Remove currency, they’ll look for other breaking points.  As long as there is some way to get ahead without working for it, they’ll jump on it.

Getting rid of gold sellers is fighting a war on human nature.  Human nature tends to win those fights.

About expostninja

I've been playing video games and MMOs for years, I read a great deal of design articles, and I work for a news site. This, of course, means that I want to spend more time talking about them. I am not a ninja.

One response to “The Easy Way Out”

  1. We Fly Spitfires says :

    Ahh I remember the Game Genie 😀 I had one too 🙂

    And yeah, I agree that human nature will find a way… if there’s a reason for it. Although I doubt gold selling could ever be removed completely, it could be sufficiently diminished if the need for it decreased. If they made everything easy enough to obtain then there would be no need to buy gold because the cost of doing so would be inefficient and silly.

    Of course, it would probably kill the game but you can’t make an omelete without breaking a few eggs 😀

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