Do Video Game Mobs on the Internet Work?
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Hardly a day goes by that passionate players don’t find a new cause to champion. Group effort, which on a good day can be a groundswell for positive change and on a bad one can be a mob of hate, is just the way of the internet now. But it takes a lot of time and effort, and people only have so many hours in the day. If you’re looking to actually change things with that time, why not think big? Why not ask for sweeping changes?

If you really want something to show for your time, it’s best to think as small as possible.

It’s not a secret that games companies don’t want to get on the internet’s bad side. They’d rather side with the angry mob than face it, and while sometimes this leads to some questionable choices that hurt the minority, it’s a method by which a group that feels most passionate about something can be heard. And a lot of the time, it matters to those people and the rest could go either way.

But the one factor that will always take precedence? Money.‚Äč

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Shareholders win out over customers, especially those that are probably paying at least sometimes anyway. When the thing for which players ask is a whole new game (like a new Age of Empires or a Paper Mario remaster) or a fundamental change to how they do business (like a more fully-featured Switch menu system or Epic dropping its efforts to entice new people to its store with exclusives), that’s much more likely to amount to nothing.

That’s why the small ask is such an effective strategy. Of course, something that’s cheaper does make it less of a concern to the bottom line. Beyond that, though, companies fundamentally want to be seen as listening and responding to fans, if only so that they can accrue goodwill they’ll need the next time they have to say no to something big. 

Just recently, we saw how fast a company would jump on a small opportunity when Nintendo moved to replace a voice actor for a lead role in Fire Emblem: Three Houses. The game wasn’t even out before the change was announced, and the voice was already swapped with a new one for the mobile game, Fire Emblem Heroes. Nintendo’s a company that has to say no to the internet quite often, so for something like this? It probably costs more than you think to bring in a new voice actor and swap out the audio files, but it’s still not a lot in the corporate sense. Maybe it’ll even stop you from asking about Mother 3 for a few days? 

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Big things sometimes work. People will often point to the Operation Rainfall campaign, which advocated for localizing three Wii games, as a great example of this. Interviews with those involved at Nintendo have basically shown that those projects were already in the works, and it’s possible that things were sped up (or a lesser release like Pandora’s Tower was made a reality) by the campaign, very few of the many, many attempts to do this again have been at all fruitful. Another big ask? Some cross-play concessions from Sony. And we’ve seen a few here and there, but only when the games involved were too big to ignore. The company’s shareholders wouldn’t love a sweeping change that would, say, let indie games do the same thing, so it hasn’t happened.

So if you really want to build a movement, sign some petitions and make a change, aim small. You’ll probably get it.

Graham Russell
Graham Russell
@colorninja

Contributing Writer
Date: 08/07/2019

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