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Business Models

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
dota 2, experiments, gabe newell, pricing, trolls


Valve Tries To Charge People Based On How Likable They Are: Trolls Pay Full Price

from the perhaps-we-should-try-that dept

We've talked plenty of times about unique business models and experiments by Valve Software. it's latest experiment sounds particularly interesting, if perhaps difficult to pull off well. It appears that the company wants to try to charge jerks more -- but let likable people play free (story found via Slashdot). The specifics are a bit vague, but the plan is for the game DOTA 2. Valve's Gabe Newell has hinted at this:
"The issue that we're struggling with quite a bit is something I've kind of talked about before, which is how do you properly value people's contributions to a community?” he said, reflecting on a discussion he had with Develop last year.

Last year Newell told Develop that “the games industry has this broken model, which is one price for everyone. That’s actually a bug, and it’s something that we want to solve through our philosophy of how we create entertainment products".


“An example is – and this is something as an industry we should be doing better – is charging customers based on how much fun they are to play with.

“So, in practice, a really likable person in our community should get Dota 2 for free, because of past behaviour in Team Fortress 2. Now, a real jerk that annoys everyone, they can still play, but a game is full price and they have to pay an extra hundred dollars if they want voice.”
And the latest news is that they are going beyond this crazy idea into seeing what's actually possible:
“We're trying to figure out ways so that people who are more valuable to everybody else [are] recognized and accommodated. We all know people where if they're playing we want to play, and there are other people where if they're playing we would [rather] be on the other side of the planet.

"It's just a question of coming up with mechanisms that recognize and reward people who are doing things that are valuable to other groups of people."
I'm curious as to how exactly this would work. I think there are lots of community-based properties would love to be able to charge trolls more. However, this could be really, really difficult to work in practice, and create some problems, depending on what the overall goals are. It would be nice, of course, if you could come up with a perfect system to get rid of trolls, but distinguishing true trolls can often be much more difficult in practice than in theory.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2012 @ 3:56am


    It is.
    The trolls can band together and break the system, voting each other as good people and voting everyone else as bad people. Trolls can organize, it has happened.
    Eve Online has Goonswarm, a guild of jerks who is so large, they have a lot of influence over the game. Currently they're preventing people from acquiring a special resource (just to tell you how influential they are) and they have elected their leader as the head of the CSM - a committee of players who are supposed to represent the playerbase in front of the game company - simply thanks to their large numbers.
    And think of communities like 4chan and funnyjunk where trolls regularly organize the griefing of games and communities (like they did with the Swastikas in the swimming pool of Habbo Hotel)

    You will probably also see people voting other players as "trolls" for minor stuff: leaving in the middle of a game, beating them at the game, having a minor disagreement, political opinions, not being good at the game, etc.

    It's definitely ripe for abuse and will give Valve more headaches.

    Moreover, it's unfair to judge people based on their likableness and character. Imagine your grocery store giving everyone but you a discount because you don't smile and constantly look upset and thus other shoppers would prefer shopping when you are not in the store.

    I really have a huge issue about their goal of "charging people based on how much fun they are to play with". I'm nice, but not the most interesting person you'll find. I'm not a jerk, but I don't often go out of my way to help others either. So that means I should pay more to enjoy a game? WOW!

    I think I'll leave Valve with the elitist community they want to create, and I'll buy games from other companies. Even EA Games and Ubisoft and their awful DRM don't seem like jerks in comparison.

    And if Valve succeeds in rooting out the jerks, they're in for a surprise: they will find more jerks in their community. Because when you get rid of the trolls who insult people, suddenly players who don't say "hi" when they join a game look like jerks who ruin the experience. Get rid of these and then players who are polite but don't speak much are seen as bad. And so on...

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