December 07, 2015 | Filed under: Uncategorized008
There is an economic concept called a Veblen good. This is a product which is desired *because* it is expensive. Like a rolls royce, or a gold plated apple smartwatch, or other frippery. Its ‘utility’ if it can still be described as such, is a price signal to other people. Its basically the same as a hat that says ‘I have lots of money’, and in a more primitive way, its a peacock, or one of those monkeys that shows its buttocks at potential mates. Its purpose is external, to tell other people about your worth.
Most goods, thankfully are not Veblen goods, but goods that provide utility. My keyboard provides the utility of letting me communicate. It has a logo on it, but frankly nobody is going to have sex with me because I own a corsair keyboard, so its primarily being sold for what it can do.
This subject occurs to me today because in my various musings about DLC and micro-transactions I realize that what I hate is ‘Veblen DLC’. In other words, if your micro-transaction gives me some convenience feature, or some new content, the ability to play on new maps etc, I’m cool with that, but if its just a vanity purchase then…I kinda hate that. I noticed it when browsing the in-game ‘store’ for company of heroes 2. I’d happily buy new maps and some new tanks etc, if available, but the focus seems to be on silliness like different textures for my tanks, or even a gold-plated ‘faceplate’ for my stats banner. I am not short of cash, but the idea that I’d pay money to announce this to some random person over the internet through the proxy of a different ‘faceplate’ texture is kinda sad.
And yet… the gold-plated apple watch. This is a real thing. And ultimately, its all peacock feathers. Big companies, worth real billions of dollars put together marketing plans to persuade us (subconsciously) that members of the opposite sex will throw themselves at us if we have high status, and this high status can only be achieved through this car/handbag/sunglasses.
Although its less clearly about sex, groups of males together competing to be the best are ultimately competing to show dominance and strength to attract a mate. Ultimately, unless conflict and competition is about food, its probably subconsciously about sex. This is no different to what all animals do, its just with humans, some of us ‘monetized it’, presumably so we can earn higher salaries and do the same thing ourselves. That £1.59 faceplate is actually a peacock feather, a way for a sexually frustrated young gamer to show they are the alpha male.
So next time you see someone wearing a gold apple watch, remember. its just a monkey showing their buttocks.