Another Slope To Slip On

Continuing this week’s theme of these two posts

Another slope the alarmists warn about is the “now they are selling content that should be given to everyone” argument.  First off, games already have expansions where they charge you $50 for content.  And yeah, while the steed here is half the price of an expansion for probably 1/1000th the content, the steed isn’t required to play the game.  So, the idea that they would just “give” people a sparkly pony is inane.  At best it would be a feature of the next expansion.

I’m actually a fan of cash shop games.  Not because I like buying things, but because I like playing for free.  See, Puzzle Pirates is awesome because I can do everything I want in the game and never pay a single dime to do it, all because someone else is dropping their dimes on doubloons which they sell to me for pieces of eight.  Yes, I do have to play harder to earn the PoE to make that trade, but it also doesn’t cost me any money to play, and I enjoy playing.  Another player is rewarding me for playing more than they are willing to play.

Now, I don’t expect Blizzard to give up their money hats and reduce their subscription rate, but what this has done is show (again) that a subscription game can have a shop that sells vanity items.  Most new games can’t compete with World of Warcraft on a polish and content size level at this point.  Any game with a $15 monthly sub automatically has to compare to WoW, but if a game were to launch that looked interesting with a $4.95 a month subscription and a vanity item cash shop, I’d absolutely be willing to give it a shot and willing to accept that it won’t be at WoW’s level.  I’m paying a third less for it!

And guess what?  All those “free” content updates people say are going to vanish?  They aren’t free!  You pay a monthly fee for them!  The only reason that you get them “free” (really, the word should be “included” but much like using the word “social” to describe games which aren’t, that ship has sailed) is that the subscription fee is making enough profit that they don’t feel a need to charge you extra to cover the development of that small bit of content.  If the game was making less money, you’d get less “free” things.

While we are on the topic of “free” content… if a game releases a completely optional non-impacting piece of “content” like the pets or the sparkle pony of WoW and earns a nice chunk of cash on something that was probably a couple weeks work of a small team at worst (or just a few days of one person at best), it actually allows them to design more “free” content.

As with the post from two days ago, there is a ghost of a slippery slope here, but were aren’t there yet.  Wake me when Blizzard puts gear or a new dungeon in the cash shop.  You know, real content, not vanity items.

Bottle Shock

10 out of 13 nots.
for a little comedy, a little drama, and a little wine

Based around the infamous blind wine tasting in 1976 that has come to be known as the Judgement of Paris, this movie follows a British man, Steven Spurrier (played by Alan Rickman), living in Paris as he heads to California to find wines for his tasting.  His intent is to draw notice to himself, his wine shop and his Academie du Vin by having a showdown between French and California wines to celebrate the American Bi-Centennial and France’s involvement in the origin of the American Nation.  He expects the French to win.

But the movie isn’t just about the one man and his wine tasting… it is also about the people of the California vineyards.  Specifically the family of the one vineyards in particular and some of the people around them.

There is nothing really surprising here.  If you know anything about the 1976 wine tasting, you know what happens, but all of the actors here (the aforementioned Alan Rickman, Chris Pine, Bill Pullman, Rachael Taylor and Freddy Rodriguez) put in great performances and make the film an enjoyable journey to the inevitable end.

It is not for everyone, to be sure, but I liked it.  It may be hard to find at the theater though, as it is only opening in limited release.

No Means No

When I began to undertake my quest of removing unwanted junk from my life, I guess I never considered how much other people might want to send junk to me. While I would never ever in a million billion years shop at the Golfsmith and would prefer to never get catalogs or coupons from them, they apparently think that sending me unwanted catalogs and coupons is worth the expense to hedge their bets on the minuscule chance that I might change my mind.

My previous experience with them was that I contacted them directly and asked for my address (with my house’s old owners name) be removed from their mailings because I did not want them. And I thought I was successful because the mailings from them (sometimes two or three a week) stopped. But lo and behold, I reach into the mailbox today to find a new Golfsmith catalog. The only change is that it is now addressed to me instead of the old owner.

Obviously, since I’m already not a customer, ignoring me and treating me badly won’t hurt them… or will it? Like the website says… Probably not. I don’t wield enough consumer power to hurt their bottom line, but I can say for certain, at this point, even if I one day do decide to pick up the game of golf I will never shop at the Golfsmith. They’ve lost any chance of ever winning my business.

Right now, I’m experiencing a respite in the deluge of junk mail. My efforts appear to be working. I think I’ve only thrown out maybe two or three pieces of junk this week. But is this Golfsmith ad a sign of things to come? Will I never be able to escape the junk since they will send it to me even when I ask them not to? And do I have any recourse if they continue?

For now, I’ve emailed to the Golfsmith again asking them to remove me from their mailing list. We’ll have to see what happens next.

Over at not much’a nothin’, Cliff has run into’s price scam.

It’s simple. If you shop there often, they build up a database of the things you buy, the things you look at, and the things you store in your wish list. All of this is supposedly aimed at focusing your shopping experience. If you buy lots of DVDs there, you’ll find that DVDs start getting recommended to you in the genre’s you shop most. Buy a TV and the next time you log in you may find yourself looking at a screen full of TV accessories… DVD players, VCRs, TiVo units, stereos, etc.

But they are also doing something else… the more you buy with them, the more likely you’ll get what Cliff got, a small price increase. Yes, I said increase.

Now, if the only thing you buy there are paperback books, DVDs and pre-orders, you aren’t likely to run into this much, but don’t be so sure. What you need to do to protect yourself is before buying anything, log out and check the price again. You could easily save yourself hundreds of dollars depending on what you are buying and how often you buy there.

You’d think that a company would reward long term patronage, but that’s just not how things work any more. The new customer is king, a returning customer is someone whose business you already have, and it is all about broadening the client base. So, shop safe, shop blind… don’t let them know who you are until you’ve already got your items in the cart. Remember, its your money, not theirs, so keep your eye on it until its time to pay.