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Meet The 19-Year-Old Who Spent Over $10,000 On Microtransactions

Kotaku's Ethan Gach writes: At the height of the controversy surrounding microtransactions in Star Wars Battlefront II, a Reddit user who goes by the name Kensgold posted an open letter to publisher EA and other developers in the video game industry. “I am 19 and addicted to gambling,” he wrote. Kensgold wasn’t talking about roulette tables or online poker. He was talking about spending over $10,000 on in-game purchases over the last several years.

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UltraNova14d ago (Edited 14d ago )

I've read an interview somewhere that mentioned the term 'whale' was pinned down by devs to describe gamers who spend hundreds/thousands of dollars in games.

Am I the only one who finds this disturbing? They now give names to clearly addicted people and consider them huge free money-giving animals.

Frankly, I m disgusted and appalled. Never again EA and the like.

UCForce14d ago

Yeah, I find this is disturbing to be honest.

showtimefolks13d ago

septic

it's his money you are right but he is also part of this problem. it's gamers like him who publishers call sharks who end up spending thousands and our future games get MT

so yes while it's his money but the things he is doing with that money directly affect us

FITgamer13d ago Show
Jamesx82x13d ago (Edited 13d ago )

@ Septic

Yes its his money but you obviously have no idea or just dont care what a gambling addiction can do. Its no different that drugs or other addictions he cant control spending the money and those are the people these Game Publishers like EA, Activision, and the like target. The so called "whales".

Yes people need to be more responsible but at the same time that doesnt let people that target them off the hook.

Kids who take steroids in highschool to try to improve their strength and conditioning for sports should be more responsible but dont we also blame the dealers?

Godmars29013d ago

@Septic:
It maybe his money, but:

1) It is still the enabling and exploitation of additive traits.
2) Effecting everyone else the more the game industry tailors to what is amoral behavior.

FFS, this is the exact mentality that had cigarette makers advertise to kids and created a legal sub-industry that factors in deaths and birth defects into things like product recalls.

"Its going to costs us 20 million to retool car production because of this safety fault, but only 4 million to cover annual legal fees from an estimated four accidents. Let's put profits over being responsible."

Really hope you're not being serious.

Ducky12d ago

@Godmars290 "1) It is still the enabling and exploitation of additive traits. "

Role-playing games tend to make it easy to level up in the beginning and then it progressively takes longer and longer. This is a way of exploiting people with addictive traits, and other games use other techniques to hook people into playing their games for longer. Some people unfortunately end up ruining their lives.

Are we going to start regulating game design because of video game addiction?

Christopher12d ago

Lol... Ducky, are you serious? You're comparing the reduction in advancement in a game that promotes longer playtime with no financial impact on anyone to designed business strategies aimed at exploiting gambling tendencies for profit and continues movement towards such things to encourage people to spend more money over longer periods of time.

Seriously, talk about a really shitty apologist argument there that has nothing to do with microtransactions as a business model.

Oh, and by the way, the reasons RPG video games are designed to accelerate growth early on is to introduce various abilities to the user to develop how they want to play rather than having them wait an hour just to use and learn a new ability. By a certain point the user has enough tools at their disposal and the rest of the time is spent specializing and customizing in those skills. This goes back to classic pen and paper design.

mikeslemonade12d ago

My friend who is 28 spent more than 10k on overwatch, fire emblem mobile, and hearthstone. Maybe close to 20k now. And his salary is only like 45k lol

Godmars29012d ago

@Ducky:
The difference being between design happenstance that requires or builds to level grinding, a cash meter has been added and game has specifically been designed to give up real money for a "quick fix" while old style grinding is made even more tedious. Its direct manipulation and purpose.

rainslacker12d ago

@Septic

No one is disputing it's his money. The top the OP brought up is that there are those in the industry that exploit those who spend a lot of money, regardless of it it's morally or ethically proper to do so. They bank on the small portion of the market, and go so far to classify a even smaller segment of that group that obviously have restraint issues.

RacerX12d ago

Gentlemen, set your eyes on the fools that are feeding the Microstansacrion machine.

A fool and his money are easily parted.

Ducky12d ago (Edited 12d ago )

@Christopher
Godmars made the argument that microtransactions were bad because they exploit an addictive trait.
I disagreed with that specific argument, because if this guy - who's lost over 10k because of addiction - is a reason to take action on microtransactions (regulation, etc), then similarly the people who lose their youth (or worse) because of videogame addiction are a reason to take similar action.
I'm not defending microtransactions, I am disagreeing with a specific comment.

Your response makes it seem like you are fine with exploitative strategies as long as there is no financial impact. So if someone with addictive traits falls victim to a game by playing for long periods while neglecting their own health, that is fine? There's the extreme cases of deaths caused by people neglecting their own health or the health of their children, because of video game addiction. Should that be ignored while focusing on people that fall victim to microtransactions, just because the latter had a financial impact?

I wasn't clear about my RPG comment, I meant that the overall leveling system is used as a way to exploit addictive traits. Or else, why does a game like Call of Duty have a leveling and prestige system?
This is a business strategy, just like microtransactions, because these companies are competing for your time, not just money. In some cases the two are directly linked, such as subscription-based games.

@Godmars290
I agree that it is wrong to have a leveling system with a paid option to circumvent it.
However, your previous comment was about exploiting addictive traits, and I think that has consequences that affect more than just microtransactions. Both the the 'grind meter' and 'cash meter' are something that people with addictive traits risk falling victim to. My question is, if we want to protect people with addictive traits, won't we have to do something about both meters?

I don't think that grinding is just a coincidence. Pretty much every game's online component has a leveling system nowadays, while even single-player games often have trophies/achievements that require doing some repetitive task for a prolonged period of time. Are these systems not exploiting addictive traits?

DarXyde12d ago

Septic,

It's increasingly apparent that EA is taking advantage of this. Rather than seeing this and trying to follow up or contact platform holders to freeze network activity, they allowed this to get this bad. The game hasn't been out long. If you're not seeing this as red flag behavior, you're hopeless.

The truth is, they do not care and it's so sad. I will never support EA again. This is just predatory and enabling.

Gaming needs to nip this in the bud asap. Lives are being ruined, but you turn a blind eye because profits.

trumpwonstopcrying12d ago

South Park did an entire episode a few seasons ago on micro transactions and how companies are preying on addicts. It was really spot on.

Godmars29012d ago

@Ducky:
Its not about "protecting" people who are especially vulnerable to this kind of thing, but more about keeping this kind of manipulation from becoming standard.

We've already faced - and lost - to the BS of single player AAA gaming being passe for not being as exploitable as multi, but now the likes of EA and Activision want to retool the whole of the industry to where a $60 game can rake in hundreds if not thousands more from a small minority of the audience.

Christopher12d ago

***So if someone with addictive traits falls victim to a game by playing for long periods while neglecting their own health, that is fine?***

You're conflating user choice in continuing to play with business decisions to prey on gambling tendencies. Games even developed methods to tell gamers to take breaks.

These are two vastly different issues where one is about providing long term gaming for those who still it but it's mismanaged by some gamers. There other is about designing purposefully to prey on the bad habits of gamers.

that tend to have these extended gameplay scenarios don't want you to finish the content quickly or to invest too much time into it by design (they even limit content by number of times a day or week).

So, at best, you're using a really poor straw man argument that has nothing to do with the topic at hand.

+ Show (13) more repliesLast reply 12d ago
thorstein13d ago (Edited 13d ago )

Casinos give away free nights at their hotels and free meals to guests out of the goodness of their hearts.

They would never call these people whales... oh... wait...

EDIT: BTW You just met the person that has spent $0.00 on Microtransactions over the years.

sprinterboy13d ago

I remember spending £20 on ps home furniture for my apartment which I spent pretty much zero hrs in, even though I enjoyed home. Still don't know why I spent the money lol, hangs head in shame.

bloop13d ago

"Casinos give away free nights at their hotels and free meals to guests......"

Throw 20 grand at SW:BFII and see if EA put you up in a swanky hotel with free meals.

hekudizitu12d ago

I quit working at shoprite and now I make $35h - $80h...how? I'm working online! My work didn't exactly make me happy so I decided to take a chance on something new… after 4 years it was so hard to quit my day job but now I couldn't be happier. Heres what I do, •••••••••>> http://4u.fyi/4h5

Old McGroin13d ago

Getting back in the console game soon, what I've been reading about EA over the past few months is sickening and enough to make me never buy one of their games in future.

TheVetOfGaming13d ago

That's what we all need to do. The UFC beta is full of their shady practice so I'll be buying it used.

mochachino13d ago

Yeah, me too, just going to play Fifa and NBA2k18.

oh wait.

Thomaticus13d ago

EA ruined sports games, they're ruining all games with Micro-transactions and they're trying to ruin single player games. At this point they are completely bad for the industry.

OffRoadKing13d ago

Vegas casinos have been referring to high rollers as "whales" for years now.

CrimsonWing6913d ago

It’s a stock market term, too. Watch the Boiler Room.

Chumdiddy13d ago

Whale is a gambling term/slang for exactly that. Casinos call repeat, high spending customers "whales".

For devs to use the term wrt a game and its users, it tells you all you need to know about what it is.

mochachino13d ago

The name is not meant to be offensive, it derives from Casinos and is used to identify a person who is known to be very rich and spend a lot of money. If Marc Cuban was known to love videogames and when to Gamestop he's be considered a whale. Same probably goes for Drake going to a club. They coined the terms to let customer service know they were very important (big) customers and should received very special treatment throughout their stay in the Casino with the best rooms, service, food, etc.

agent453213d ago

True, sadly whale gamers don't get anything in return. No free hotel nights, no free meals, no tour of the gaming facilities, no E3 pass, etc. They just get a kick in the nuts enriching say gaming corporations in the process. ....

fathertime446413d ago

@ultranova
"Whale" is a term that's been around for decades in the gambling world to generalize Amy person with deep wallets

Forn13d ago

Who is this "Amy" person? I want to know!

agent453213d ago

Agreed but what do gamers get for spending over $10,000 dollars on microtransanctions and loot boxes. The answer absolutely nothing, which as a gambler for over spending money at the casinos you get free rooms at hotels and free.meals, etc

trooper_13d ago

People like this don't give two thoughts about the value of money.

Its sad.

Thomaticus13d ago

Seems we woke up one morning and went from regarding games as works of art, to games as a money making schemes.

NovusTerminus13d ago

That was Zynga back when they were kind of relevant.

Most of their revenue came from 10-20% of their player base.

fromchildren12d ago

From what I know term "whale" began from casinos. It is used to describe those that gamble bug.

kneon12d ago

Whale comes from the casino industry, it's another name for people who make large bets, and therefore make them a lot of money.

memots12d ago

i friend of mine who plays , like mafia war or clan war something like that spent a couple thousand ... yet he was complaining about upgrading his pc for 500$ ... its like they dont see that spending for what it is . Addiction is a bad thing and they are preying on those people

pinkcrocodile7512d ago (Edited 12d ago )

Sorry, but if you are against gambling that's fine, but be commited and campaign to shut all forms of gambling down.

Addiction is not the responsibility of EA, its YOUR OWN responsibility. If you are stupid enough to spend that much money on MT's, its your own fault. Go and get help instead of going online and saying woah is me!

Simple thing is, you don't have to buy them.

rainslacker12d ago

What if one isn't opposed to gambling as a whole, but doesn't like practices that are akin to gambling being in place in a product that we enjoy because we don't support gambling, or we don't like it when certain things actually affect what we get. Casino's existing don't make my experience at other hotels or resorts any different. Loot Boxes and MT have already had an effect on the games that I've brought for a while now.

I agree that someone should seek help if necessary, but sharing one's story just highlights the issues involved, and isn't always a sob story. Not really reading this article, as it seems like a strange coincidence it comes out now, and I'm dubious of the claims in the title, but it's not the only report I've seen of similar things, and they fall into the categories of kids who don't understand the value of money and aren't spending their own, or those with additive personalities.

yeahokwhatever12d ago

I've heard the term "whale" being used in this sense in game studios as early as 2006. I've also personally heard the terms: "hamsters", "idiots", "retards", and many, many more things. This isn't new and it certainly isn't only EA. It's everybody. The way product teams and designers talk about their paying customers is..interesting. NONE of it is positive. They all think you're idiots and its a fun thing to talk about at work. Please people, don't ever spend any money on MTs.

rainslacker12d ago

You can hear all sorts of crap talked about customers at any place that deals with customers. No matter the kind of customer, the "customer" tends to be the most annoying part of any job.

Anyhow, I would often agree with some of them that what you see on forums generally does paint the customer as not that bright. On top of that, the general market doesn't often support the gripes that the ardent vocal gaming community have.

I do see some of that changing as of late though, because social media has become so much a thing now that grievances by the hardcore can highlight things for the masses, and it can affect sales from time to time. Not always, but often enough that it's not worth ignoring the potential backlash that could come.

sd1112d ago

I agree. In my opinion it should be illegal to charge gamers more than a set amount for in game transactions. Once a gamer has reached a designated limit they should be able to permantly unlock everything.

M_Prime12d ago

I don't know why EA is getting all this Flack... I mean yeah its shitty what the did but if you played TF2 or Counter-Strike, they do it too for skins. Gears has had skins for guns since Gears3 and there was no way to unlock them for free. At least with EA you can grind the stuff out.

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corroios14d ago

This is a new form of gambling and must be stop by authority right now, before it escalate

2cents13d ago

At least with official gambling there are chances to win back investments, win big and strategically. Also there are many regulations in place to help advise and protect 'users' .

These [email protected] have simply taken a video game with potential in game purchases and made it into a game of chance with no regulations or upper caps. scumbags.

InTheZoneAC13d ago

let's ban McD's and all fast food for people getting fat....

let's ban cars because people can't stop texting and driving......

let's stop blaming everyone else for our own actions.

agent453213d ago

Is not banning you fool. Is regulating loot boxes and microtransanctions like the regulations and laws that are in place of drinking alcohol and gambling. Both are not banned but are regulated. So in that sense regulating and putting laws in place to ensure kids don't get too addictive or become gamblers in the process for buying microtransanctions and lootboxes.

zekk13d ago

I kinda get what zone is getting at. I mean I have a friend that is an alcoholic and know they are. The problem is they never take steps to either stop or change even after we have tried taking him to aa meetings remove liquor from easy accessible places, stop drinking around them to prevent temptation or outright locking the alcohol we find away from them away. They always find a way to get plastered. I know addictions are a issue but people like this will go to the extreme for these things and ruin it for others. Yes feeding the addictions are bad thing but there are times where the victim is just as guilty. If it's not one thing it'll be another. At some point the blame should also fall to people and their actions as well.

yeahokwhatever12d ago

I also don't think it's just to blame EA for taking advantage of stupid people. The trick here, is to not be a stupid person.

Aquacure12d ago (Edited 12d ago )

Here's the thing, you buy a $4.00 burger it's yours, they aren't charging you additionally per bite or chew. Texting and driving are FWIW independent of each other. Here EA has said "yeah you bought our $60 game but we're gonna give you this crappy weapon set or characters which severely limits your progress because we didnt program them to be beast (foreknowledge). Now you as the gamer who would naturally want to complete their game in a timely fashion have to shell out $50 more, $100 more, $200 more. Imagine Chris and Jill running from the dogs and needing to buy a $10 key to get into the mansion, $20 to get an emblem to fall out of its indention, $50 to unlock stairs access. It'd all be ridiculous.

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bluefox75513d ago

Why? The current form of gambling isn't illegal. If you want to call it gambling, make the games rated "Mature", so they're not for kids. But why should the authorities legislate what adults want to do with their own money? I hate MTs as much as the next guy, but this is the wrong way to go about it.

rainslacker12d ago

What we see now is not lawmakers trying to make the loot boxes illegal, they're just looking at what to classify them as. If they're classified as gambling, then they'll automatically fall into current regulations, or something special will be made up for it considering the medium they exist in.

But, them being classified as gambling by any major market is likely to be the death knell of the practice. Anything that falls into gambling isn't just advised to be for adults only, but can only be sold directly to adults, and adults that buy for their kids wouldn't be allowed to buy the products for the kids, or even allow their kids access to the games themselves.....and given the nature of the market, publishers may be required to insure that the person playing isn't a minor....or just make sure the account playing it isn't for a minor.

There is so much that is involved with gambling regulations that it just isn't going to be worth it to the publishers, so they'll forgo them to find another way to fleece the consumer just to make sure that the game still sells.

ChrisW12d ago

@Corroios,

Exactly! And it's geared towards really young people!

My son (6yrs old) really loves games like Cut the Rope on iPad. When he found that there was a Cut the Rope 2, he obviously wanted to play it. I saw that it had microtransactions and became wary, but since he'd completed almost all of the levels in the first one, I thought that we could give it a try. And just a couple weeks ago, I bought it for him.

The first thing that they did was give him free balloons to obtain difficult clovers or to make the level easier. In about 2 levels he had mistakenly used all of those balloons and, of course, he wanted to get more. It's $3 for 20, $5 for 50, $8 for 150, and $20 for unlimited balloons. The same thing goes for candies and helpers to make the game easier.

Shaking me head in disgust, I told him that he's going to have to play the game without any of those special items. When he asked why, I told him it was stupid and that it would cost over $60 just to get unlimited everything. I then showed him how many of his favorite toys it took to equal $60 and asked him if he thought it was smart to spend that much money in a game for microtransactions. He said, "Ummm... No." Smart kid... I hope he retains that.

yeahokwhatever12d ago

great job! thats what us parents have to be doing. :-)

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-Foxtrot14d ago

Meet the "idiot"...****

Fixed

Liqu1d14d ago

Addict. Being an addict does mean you're an idiot.

UltraNova13d ago

He was an idiot when he spend the first couple hundred on a game, then somewhere along that slippery path he became an addict. Now if that aint blurring the lines then I dont know what is...

NordicRainy13d ago

How do you think someone becomes an addict? Out of thin air?

Krysis13d ago

The ignorance on the subject of addiction and the people stricken by it is mind boggling.

Liqu1d13d ago

I meant to say it doesn't make him an idiot.

@UltraNova He actually spent $30 at first and then he was addicted.

yeahokwhatever12d ago

You can't be addicted to crack without first being a big enough idiot to try crack. Idiot works just fine for addictions. If the thing they were addicted to was positive in the first place, it wouldn't be an addiction.. it would be "work" or a "hobby".

bloop12d ago

@yeahokwhatever: That's a bit of an ignorant point of view. Having close friends that developed very real problems with cocaine I've seen first hand what addiction can do. Unfortunately one of my friends took it too far one night. He was far from an idiot, very intelligent, successful in a very good job and had a great social life with close friends and women practically falling at his feet. He didn't make the conscious decision of becoming an addict and dieing way too soon. It's not as Black and White as you think and you clearly know nothing about it.

Liqu1d12d ago

@yeahokwhatever Why are you comparing taking crack, an illegal drug, to gambling which is a legal activity? They aren't even comparable. Gambling is a regulated activity that people find enjoyable but can be addicting to some. If you want to compare it to something then compare it to alcohol.

+ Show (4) more repliesLast reply 12d ago
Pancit_Canton13d ago

I was about to say the same thing.

His parents much be rich

agent453213d ago

His addiction started at age 13.He got a part time job at Panera to pay his addiction at age 16. He then got another part time job to continue funding for his addiction. His parents disconnected from the internet and tried to prevent him from buying loot boxes and microtransanctions. He ended up continuing with his addiction through his smartphone 4G network. He ended up going to a therapist to get rid of his addiction. He proved that lootboxes/microtransanctions are a new form of gambling addiction. That is in dire need of regulation and laws in place to curb this new gambling addiction. Is not banning lootboxes/microtransanctions is regulating and having laws in place like traditional gambling or alcohol. I can still gamble and drink alcohol but it is regulated and there are laws in place to curb addiction....