New Year, new blog. This one is called “Harpoon Shield”. But what is that?
A Harpoon Shield is a personal commitment to reject the purchase of loot boxes and virtual currency in video games. Those are a whale hunter’s “harpoons”. They are cost obfuscation mechanisms, and they disregard a customer’s right to receive transparent pricing at every step of the play experience. They are designed to convince players to spend more money than they would if they were given up-front pricing. They are not tools meant to provide an equitable exchange… they are tools of leverage.
When you reject those techniques, you keep yourself safe from unfair financial tricks.
This site will celebrate and honor the amazing games that are free from loot boxes and virtual currency – from AAA games like God of War to amazing indies like Hollow Knight.
That said, it’s important to note that wielding a Harpoon Shield doesn’t mean that you can’t play games that sell loot boxes and virtual currency. It simply means that you have decided never to use real money on those in-game items.
We can’t go back in time and have cost obfuscation magically disappear from all the games we want to play. But we can insist on a clear pricing path before we pull out our wallets. Many games separate the “premium experience” from the “microtransaction experience”: In Red Dead Redemption II, Gears of War 4, and even FIFA 2019, you are provided with “pure” modes that are totally insulated from sections that use use virtual currency and/or loot boxes. Those “pure” modes are typically robust enough to easily justify the initial $60 asking price on their own. I’ve learned that I can live with that compromise.
Other games, like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, offer microtransactions, but they are so buried that you have to dig for them to find them, and they don’t ever impact the play experience. I’ve found that I’m o.k. with that, too. A Harpoon Shield will protect you from publisher excesses, without keeping you from enjoying all of the biggest, best games on the market.
Carrying a Harpoon Shield is compatible with many free-to-play games, too. Increasingly, free-to-play games are offering opportunities to make some direct purchases at a real dollar value. That’s great, and it’s something to encourage through spending. If publishers learn this is a way to reach an untapped audience, they’ll look at offering the option of real-dollar pricing as a “best practice”.
Ultimately, your spending is your “voice” as a customer. As such, it’s perfectly reasonable to insist that the publisher speak in a financial language you both share – real dollars. There is no need to accept a publisher’s unique financial language (Gems, Gold Bars, V Coins, etc.). Hold you Harpoon Shield up high, and carry forth.
And know that every gaming experience described on this blog has been experienced without so much as a cent put towards in-game items that obfuscate pricing.