Why good companies can do evil things. (even in gaming) July 3, 2011 cliffski Here is a pet theory. lets say there are two logging companies. Treehugger Corp only cuts down trees in sustainable plantations, and its price per kilo to customers is $20. Bastard Corp cuts down trees where the hell it likes, and it’s price per kilo to customers is $20 too. Customers are happy with the $20 price point. $2/kilo is the ‘normal profit’ that makes the industry a worthwhile endeavour. But… profit / kilo for treehugger is $2. for bastard corp, it’s $4. So what does bastard corp do? It obviously lowers it’s price to $18. It still makes a decent profit margin, but suddenly treehugger corp costs more. 95% of customers don’t look past the PR spin to see which company is really the ‘nice’ company, and thus treehugger desperately loses market share. With falling market share and revenue, it cannot afford to fight back. Soon Bastard corp has the market to itself. cackle cackle, twirl moustache. They probably even raise their prices to $22 later. Here is where my theory kicks in… Lets say there is a third company ‘CleverCorp‘. Clevercorp would like to be like treehugger corp, but once-bitten twice shy. They aren’t going to go-down like TreeHugger corp, but they have the same ‘nice’ goals. When BastardCorp lowers it’s price, CC does the same, and begins to sell unsustainable wood too. At the same time it complains to the government and the press, that this is all wrong, and that the industry needs regulation, pointing to BastardCorp. The problem is, to the cynical public, govt and media, Clever Corp is as bad as Bastard Corp. They are involved in the same shady practices too, and their bleeding-heart PR is just a smokescreen. How can we have any sympathy for Clever Corp? I’m reminded of this phenomena (game theory probably has a nice name for it, if it’s not just a moral race-to-the-bottom?) when I see ‘bullshots’ (mocked-up screenshots) and sexist ads for games. I’ll never release screenshots that were mocked up in photoshop, nor will I stick a semi-naked buxom elf in my games, or my ads. I do, however, realise this puts me at a commercial disadvantage. This is why it’s really good for customers and industry pundits to rail against stuff that is bad, like the aforementioned PR lies and sexism. note also Duke Nukems PR threats to journalists for higher scores, flying journos to the bahamas to review a game, and the old story of how people in gaming are worked to death for shit wages. When that sort of stuff is made unacceptable, it’s not only a welcome kick to the bastard corps, it’s also a change that enables the ‘nice’ corps to stay idealistic, and not go down the understandable-but-still-evil middle route. This coming week is solar week. By friday, it might become OMFGLOOKITSIMAGESOFANEWGAME week.