One simple principle that hasn’t seemed so simple recently is that you should only buy a product if you want (or truly need) it. Don’t like a specific brand? Just go with the competition. Don’t like something new, even if it’s from your favorite company? Don’t buy it. In most cases, it’s pretty easy to avoid buying something you don’t really want, but there are situations where it is not actually so simple. At the end of the day, big companies care about your money first, and your opinion second. It’s not that the customer does not matter, but if something is profitable, why change it? I’m not here to tell you how to spend your money, but if you genuinely dislike a company’s practices, there is a good way and a bad way to go about voicing your opinion.
Experience and Beliefs
See more: Speak with your wallet
About a year ago I decided to log into my Electronic Arts account, at which point I was promptly notified that I had been banned from all Electronic Arts services. I was confused, to say the least, so I looked into the issue and found out why I had been banned. The cause of my ban was actually not at all my fault, rather it was an issue by EA and I contacted customer service to resolve it. The process of being un-banned was rather tedious, which was rather irritating because I had done nothing wrong. After completing the un-ban process I still had lingering issues that were not resolved. Rather than resolving the remaining conflicts, I simply uninstalled all Electronic Arts games and services I owned and took my business elsewhere. It was clear in the way EA handled my individual case that there was little effort to go above and beyond to help me out; I had already payed for EA’s products and that was clearly all that mattered to them. What I would say about the company really didn’t matter. But why is this important?
It was clear that no matter what I said, nothing about Electronic Arts would change, and why should it? I was just one guy complaining. Instead of ranting about how much I disliked the company while still buying their games I simply stopped buying from EA to voice my opinion in that way. In my opinion, this was (and still is) the best way to speak to any company about dissatisfaction. Let’s say, for example, the next iPhone is released and it is pretty unanimously disliked (again, just for example, I don’t actually expect this to happen). If people would continue to buy the iPhone anyway and complain about it how bad it is, then what would be the point of even complaining? Apple employees would see the sales and say “looks good, keep it up,” and nothing would change, even though people are clearly upset. I know too many people that have actually said to me “I don’t really like my iPhone but I’ll probably get the new one.” Saying you dislike something and proceeding to purchase it anyway is the absolute worst way to voice your concerns. In buying the product that you expressively dislike you are voicing two very different opinions, a vocal one that will not be heard, and a monetary one that will be heard loud-and-clear. In most cases, money is the absolute loudest voice we have as customers. In the bad new iPhone example, the only way to fix the iPhone is to simply not buy it. In that case, Apple employees would again check the sales, but instead see that clearly something is wrong. In hopes of retaining customers, the company would then proceed to listen to actual opinions to see what went wrong, and that is when customers can voice their concerns and actually be heard.
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The Current State of Gaming
This next section pertains entirely to console and mobile gaming. If you have no interest in either, feel free to skip to the end. Otherwise, please read on.
The word “microtransaction” is thrown around all too often with gamers. A microtransaction in gaming is any small transaction that yields a small, often randomized, chunk of in game content. The received content often acts as a time saver, effectively requiring less play time to progress in game. The topic of microtransactions seems to be one of the most polarizing in all of gaming. For free games, in-app purchases / microtransactions are a way to pay developers for their efforts. For payed games, however, microtransactions are a point of conflict for many players. In the case of games such as League of Legends and Counter-Strike microtransactions are completely optional and it is possible to avoid paying any money to experience the full game. One game series that has angered many fans recently is the Call of Duty franchise.
The most recent game in the Call of Duty series, Black Ops III, has been a very hot topic lately. Not only is Black Ops III a full price game at $59.99, but it also features extra content for $49.99, effectively making it a $110 game if you want everything. On top of that, however, it also features a system of microtransactions known as the “Black Market” which raises the cost of owning all content in the game even higher. To restate what I have already said, if you don’t like these microtransactions then the best way to express dissatisfaction is to simply not purchase.
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That said, there has recently been a movement to essentially boycott the Black Market, and while I understand the novelty, the movement is incredibly hypocritical. Several YouTube channels with upwards of a few million subscribers have stopped using the Black Market in order to reduce sales and hopefully have the system changed or removed. While it is perhaps a good solution to fixing the system as these channels certainly have an influence on their viewers, none of the channels have acknowledged that they are responsible for creating the system as it is today. Many of said channels purchased 100’s, if not 1000’s of dollars worth of microtransactions in the last game, Advanced Warfare, and in the current Black Market and uploaded videos of these purchases to YouTube. In paying large amounts of money, these channels told Activision* that they were okay with the system and were willing to buy into it, effectively propelling the system forward to what it is now. These channels are in no position to say that Activision is ruining the game with microtransactions, as they have done their fair part in allowing Activision to ruin it as well.
If you see any issue at all with the microtransaction system in any game, do not buy into it. Buying into the system voices support to game publishers and developers, and the only way to fix the system is to stop supporting it.
There is no better way to voice your concern than with the money in your wallet. In buying any product, you are showing support for a company, whether you actually like that company or not. You can complain all you want about a product, but as long as you buy it, your complaints will likely never be heard. It’s not that companies ignore feedback, but they will be far less likely to look into customer opinions if a product is selling well. Obviously the money of just one customer does not change the future of a company. But, if there is any good way for customers to see change to something, it is simply to speak with their wallets, because often times actions speak louder than words.
* Activision is the publisher of the Call of Duty series, as well as many other successful game franchises. While Activision is the publisher, the developer of each game varies. Although each developer creates the content of the game, it is believed that Activision is directly responsible for the implementation of microtransactions, not each individual developer.