Predatory Monetisation? A Categorisation of Unfair, Misleading and Aggressive Monetisation Techniques in Digital Games from the Player Perspective

Journal of Business Ethics:1-17 (forthcoming)

Abstract

Technological shifts within the video game industry have enabled many games to evolve into platforms for repeated expenditure, rather than a one-time purchase product. Monetising a game as a service is challenging, and there is concern that some monetisation strategies may constitute unfair or exploitative practices which are not adequately covered by existing law. We asked 1104 players of video games to describe a time when they had been exposed to transactions which were perceived to be misleading, aggressive or unfair. We found 35 separate techniques over eight domains: game dynamics designed to drive spending, product not meeting expectations, monetisation of basic quality of life, predatory advertising, in-game currency, pay to win, general presence of microtransactions and other. Notably, several of these reported practices seem to not align with existing UK consumer protection regulations. We discuss this potential misalignment, as well as the implications of identifying what players believe to be problematic monetisation techniques.

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