Manufactured Discontent and Fortnite
So back at the beginning of February 20, 19, DJ marshmallow performed, a live concert, inside, Epic Games online. Gaming sensation. Fortnight, and I. Have since then being informed via numerous breathy. Think pieces, that fortnight is no longer, merely a game but, is now a content. Delivery. Platform. Experience. And so. Logically. The only, sensible thing for me to do is to get in on this and pivot, entirely. To. Fortnight. Welcome. To, the brand-new, folding, ideas all fortnight digital studio that is not only a, digital, studio because I'm producing digital content, but it is also, literally. A digital, studio it is, double. Digital and. This. This arm-waving emote, is the only meaningful animation, I've got and there's nothing available that really looks like talking. So I, I, guess, it's what I'm going with for now so when you see me doing this it, means, I'm talking, to. You. It. Took me like 20 hours to unlock this fortnight developed, by Epic Games is, an online, for player cooperative, base-building tower-defense shooter, game released, as early access, with in-game purchases in, july 2017. The game has been utterly, eclipsed, by it's free-to-play sub, game fortnight, battle royale launched, in September, 2017. Battle royale a format, popularized, by player unknowns, battlegrounds, and originally, inspired by the 2000. Japanese horror film battle royale is a last, player standing free-for-all. Where 100, players are dropped onto an island with an ever-shrinking, zone of engagement, and leftist, ground resources. Build defenses and fight until, only one remains, in the. Wake of the success of fortnight battle royale the original, fortnight, has been renamed, fortnight, save the world a critical. Bit of fortnight's development, comes from the involvement, of Chinese multimedia, firm $0.10 in 2012. Epic Games approached. $0.10, for help with the then-fledgling fortnight. Seeking, their input on turning the game into a live service, platform, meaning it would function as an ongoing revenue. Stream rather than simply being a single purchase product, $0.10. Agreed to help and supply additional financial resources and expertise, in exchange. For being allowed to purchase a 40%. Stake in the company an arrangement, to which epic agreed. Following. The merger a number of high-profile, staff retired, from Epic including, Cliff Bleszinski Adrian. Chmielarz, Lee Perry and Rod Fergusson all to, one degree or another citing, dissatisfaction. With either the Tencent merger the games as a service business model or both, but, that's, not, what you're here for, you don't want a history lesson play, in fortnight, into an appropriate cultural, context. You're, here for hot fortnight. Player, on player. Action. Player. Wait what did I say. So, remember to follow me on twitch TV slash I kill weed names because you can enjoy what the earth-mother gave us for that isn't the same as having, a personality. One, of the things in particular that stands out to me about the meta-narrative. Surrounding. Fort back. He. Isn't it weird how hostile, the free-to-play track, is like, it's not simply structured, to drive paying, for something or another it actually, starts. Okay. So what's all basic about a concert, Matt. Okay. So what's. All this about a concert, in fortnight, on February. 2nd 2019. Christopher, Comstock, who performs, under the DJ named marshmallow, played, a 10-minute, concert in fortnight's, pleasant partner. Or. More, accurately at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time players who joined a special marshmallow concert, game-mode got to watch a scripted, concert, event during which weapons, and damage were deactivated, to ensure that players couldn't be griefed and that the event wouldn't be interrupted, with gunfire and explosions.
It's, Maybe a bit of a pointless hair to split the fact that the concert, was pre-recorded and, not actually, live but, I mean that's what we do here we deconstruct. Narratives, and the idea, that this was a live set was very much part of the narrative the, fiction, extended, to the fact that the mini set was added, to marshmallows, tour schedule, a significant. Component of the implicit messaging, was to demonstrate the flexibility. Of fortnight, the concept. Of fortnight. As a content. Delivery platform. As a, scripted, event utilizing, the games engines server architecture and, assets, the concert, is quite, impressive the, crowd does end up looking a little thin because it turns out 60 people per match just isn't that many if you're trying to simulate an actual audience but. Players, manoeuvring virtual bodies need a bit more space to do things than real people and keeping. The population low. Mitigated. Problems, with players who are accessing. On lower end hardware or internet connections, minimizing. The odds that they would lag out or just crash, entirely, as. A. Delivery, platform, however well. It demonstrates. The flexibility. And possibilities. That fortnight offers, if your. DJ marshmallow, the. Concert, isn't actually built in fortnight, it's, full of bespoke assets, and scripting, that could only be constructed, with the active participation of epic games, well, fortnight, has a creative. Mode that allows players to build their own spaces even, very, impressive, spaces nothing. Like this, is remotely, doable. Well. It's possible to put on a concert in fortnight, it's not possible, for you to, put, on a concert in fortnight, the. Actual audience for this specific, message is big-name, collaborators. Epic is advertising. The idea, that, fortnight, is a viable, venue, for crossover. Promotional, opportunities. This, is all part of the concept, of games as a lie. Service so we should probably spend some time disassembling. That particular narrative, concept. For, tonight isn't really, a game, like. There's, a game attached. To, fortnight, but that's not the core, of. Fortnight. Fortnight. Is first, and foremost a storefront, the. Monetization systems. In fortnight Battle Royale, are seemingly, simple on their face but, well, join. Me on a journey the, two arms of for tonight's monetization, are the battle pass and the item shop both of which are fueled by an in-game token, currency, called V Box V, bucks are used here as in most other micro transaction, based games as a means to bypass, financial, regulations, involving, held value, and some, regional laws surrounding gambling.
With Regards to the loot crate's because, in many regions it doesn't count as gambling if the currency evolved, is non fundable, basically. In a lot of places it doesn't legally count, as gambling, if you're gambling with fun bucks that can't be converted, back into legal, tender so things that utilize, all the structure, vocabulary. And psychological. Mechanisms, of gambling, like video, game loot crate's or Gacha pon toys aren't, technically. Gambling, as far as the law is concerned because. You can't convert your winnings directly, back into dollars. Additionally. The use of v bucks also allows epic to obfuscate the assigned, value of both in-game purchases and, the value of v bucks themselves. By giving buyers a bulk discount for buying more and handing, out v bucks for performing, in-game activities. Nominally. One v buck is worth just under one US cent but if you buy 10,000. V bucks at a cost of 9999. U.s. you, get an air quote bonus. 3,500. So the actual monetary, cost of anything you buy on the store varies, by about 25, percent depending on how many v bucks you bought if you're confused, that's the, point. The primary, utility of funny-money is to relieve you of the pressure and weighing if this, specific, skin is worth fifteen dollars or is. Eleven, dollars this, is on top of another really common strategy. Where the amounts, don't scale evenly, and don't line up cleanly. With the costs of actual, items increasing. The likelihood that you'll always have some left over or will, need to buy a substantial. Amount in order to get the thing that you want this. Particular bit is pretty common but Fortnite, manages, to take it to a whole new level this, is ultimately, the meaning, of game as a service, it's just a euphemism for a game that takes up all your free time and becomes the only game that you play because it's just an elaborate, constantly. Resetting, Skinner box that utilizes, progression, systems, and seasonal competition, as a means, to place you constantly, in the path of an endless stream of monetary. Interactions. To. Top it off as a game, fortnight, battle royale isn't, even particularly great, the, matchmaker, is utterly bare-bones, and pays no regard, to your performance, so you'll almost always be matched to the mix of players who are barely, functional, and several, who are so far above your skill level that you're, not even really playing the same game the building mechanics, in battle royale are unwieldy, and create a tremendous. Skill gap that contributes, to the after mentioned disparity, but they're also the, whole gimmick that the game is built around so, that's. Kind of take it or leave it the game is full of weird unpolished. Edge cases, like vehicles. All using, slightly different control. Schemes even for shared functionality. You, get on a hoverboard and the speed boost is bound to left-shift but, on a quad, crasher, boost is spacebar, even though left shift isn't bound to anything on the quad crasher, because, of the way that systems, interact, in particular the ways that the building mechanics, are vital for defending, against long-range attacks, but are also so, effective, for either closing distance, or escaping, that, the, mid-range effectively. Barely, exists, the, game biases, extremely, heavily towards shotguns, basically. Becoming a contest, of closing, distance and gaining Heights so you can land a shotgun headshot, on your opponent's if, you strip out everything else the game is a moderately. Okay shooter with a unique, twist and a compelling aesthetic, it's not dire, but, it's, kind of just barely, good enough to stand on its own without the rest of the hooks and oh. Boy. Does. Fortnight, have hooks the. Item shop is pretty grotesque when, you break down its underlying mechanics in. Contrast, to pretty much every other game on the market fortnight, only displays 10 to 13 items at a time rotating. On a daily basis. This has the dual purpose, of obfuscating. What's available and creating. A FOMO response, or fear, of missing out if you see something you like you have a limited, window in which to purchase it and with the total, inventory of products obfuscated.
There's No sense of how long it might be until, that particular item is available again or, even, if, it will ever be available again, at all, incidentally. Alfonso, Ribeiro isn't, just suing epic because his carlton dance made it into the game but because they took his work and were selling it for 8 bucks a pop, the. Other arm of the monetization system, is the Battle Pass which costs a little under $10, u.s. and ties into the seasonal progression, track system, which, is itself broken, into two tiers freed, and paid fortnight, cyclical, gameplay is broken up into ten weeks seasons, and the battle pass applies, only for a given season the, paid track just throws piles of stuff at you every tier to incentivize, playing more including. An early perk of an experience, boost next, season, just, in case you were maybe considering. Not getting the next battle past ten weeks from now what's, interesting about the free track is that it doesn't nearly make use of FOMO, psychology. It's not just, saying oh look. At all this stuff you'd get if you bought the battle pass though, I mean it is literally. Saying that right there but, in addition to that it's making use of hostile. Design, the free track actually, ends, at tier 62, though the season track goes until 100. There's no additional, free rewards past, this point from, here it's not simply a matter of a fear, of missing, out the. Entire battle past system is founded on the dopamine, rush of unlocking, something new every, few hours of play to keep players coming back within. That context. The point where the game stops giving you stuff entirely, the, game is withdrawing. The thing that is used to get you hooked it is, punishing. You for having dared play this long without, paying, this, is manufactured. Discontent. And make. No mistake you. Will have to play a lot, to, get to this point again. With the layers of deliberate obfuscation, the broad progression, systems are broken into two parts first a count level which is, self broken, into total level and seasonal, level and the, Battle Pass which we've discussed, progressing. In level, is done by earning experience, which is rewarded, at the end of every match while, progressing the battle pass is done by earning battle stars battle, stars are rewarded, and amounts ranging from two to ten for every level and for completing, challenges which. Come in daily and weekly flavors, daily. Challenges, tend to be fairly straightforward ranging. From placing, in the top twenty five to, scoring a number of takedowns with a specific weapon type while, weekly, challenges, tend to get more varied and abstract, and include things like visiting, specific, locations, on the map now, briefly, I want to touch on the psychological design, elements, of the weekly challenges, and the way that they're presented, first. There's the element of FOMO, in the completion. Reward of 5,000, XP a substantial. Amount of experience, requires, completing, four challenges, but only three, are available for free second.
The Paid battle past challenges, aren't simply locked but are turned into a mystery, box if you don't pay you, don't even get to see what they are. Tantalizing. Isn't. It you. Only need one more, you're. So, close, well. Let's go back to these tracks they're, presented, as roughly, analogous, literally. In parallel. But, progression. Along these tracks aren't, even the, gold tier players have access, to more challenges, which reward, more battle stars which in turn reward. Direct experience. On top, of experience, multipliers, gold. Players don't just get more they, get it faster, and with, less effort so. This point tier 62, it's, highly, unlikely that you'll actually get to this point without playing a lot, of fortnight, every. Single day I've, actually needed to play a lot, of fortnight, pretty much every day in the course of making this video both, in order to ensure I understood, the game itself, well enough to speak about it confidently, and also. Just to get these specific, kinds, of footage I was looking for and. At the midpoint of season, 8 I'm, less, than halfway there. This, maybe seems like I'm just complaining, about the free-to-play players not, getting enough stuff but, that's not actually the, point the, underlying purpose of demonstrating, all this is to show the mechanisms, that the creator's, are willing to employ these. Psychological, tricks are in effect a form of rhetoric a form of persuasive. Speech, they are trying to persuade, you by applying select, forms of pressure and it is I think worth, understanding the mechanisms, of that pressure so that we can better recognize, how, and when, we, are being persuaded. Also, it's worth keeping in mind that as a season. Is only ten weeks long a paid, player, can, slip back into being a free player at any time, in. Order to retain all the perks of being a, paid, player one, would need to buy all four, to five season. Passes, every. Year all of this goes hand in hand the, marshmallow concert, isn't a thing happening, in parallel, to the monetization systems. It's a core pillar the external, purpose of things like this are fairly straightforward it's a publicity stunt an oddity, that people will talk about the, cost of assembling the technical, aspects of the concert and paying comstock, for his participation, were effectively, weighted, against a direct ad buy and based. On the coverage, epoch $0.10 is probably, pretty happy with the outcome the internal, purpose, is a little, more arcane, and I wouldn't blame you if you wanted to use the word sinister, the, purpose of the concert, is to utilize the social, pressure of, exclusion. Let's. Take a closer look at a couple key moments. If, marshmallow, is calling out for you to use your favorite emo, well, if you haven't paid in odds, are, you don't have any.
Or The, ones you do have are going to be pretty generic, and, lame events. Like the concert, create environments, where the ability to self express is placed at a premium, in, order to feel like a full and active, participant. You need to be able to perform, the, catch is, that literally, every, unique, action, has an attached price, tag. And. There. Are some things that you'll simply never, get without, paying players who haven't bought a skin, don't even have control over their, basic image there, isn't a roster. Of default, looks to choose from your look is assigned, randomly, after. Every match there isn't just a layer of FOMO the sense that others around you, with cooler, more expressive, character, models are having more fun are better. Able to, project, themselves into, the social space there's, a level of hostility in. The design, if you, don't buy in you aren't merely, limited, in your options of expression, you are actively, denied, control. Over. The most basic, element, of how, you choose, to look in the virtual world nothing. That Fortnight does is particularly, new, these complex. Monetization, systems, with multiple layers of obfuscation you, can find this in pretty much any mobile, game and plenty, of desktop, and console games are laden with cosmetic. Microtransactions. Legally, dubious, gambling, and other ways to aggressively. Monetize, the game lots. Of games use progression, systems, and incremental, rewards, as part of their core loop to keep players playing, fortnight. Is really, just a maturation, of those systems a refinement. Of every. Habit-forming, trick. And micro transaction. Pressure point, developed, in the last decade, condensed. Into a weaponized, product, targeted, at kids one, of the articles that originally. Called my attention to all of this was one Nick stat wrote for The Verge titled, fortnight's, marshmallow, concert, was a busy are an exciting glimpse of the future I. Disagree. With NYX breathy, excitement. But on the whole he's right, fortnight. Is a glimpse, of the future an awful. Perpetually. Monetized, vertically-integrated. Vaguely. Hostile. Future. You.