Your Tired Blogger actually stayed up till 1 AM last night, writing about the way Hasbro has angered the gamers that provide it with about 20% of their revenue.
Now I’m going to explain three reasons why this story matters to non-gamers.
- 1) Corporate belief that “perpetual” means “until it isn’t convenient to us.”
- 2) Corporate assumptions that they can treat the customers like crap with perfect impunity.
- 3) Corporate belief that ethics are only relevant as it pertains to making money for the shareholders.
Let’s dig in.
Corporate belief that “perpetual” means “until it isn’t convenient.”
On one hand, I know it is just gaming, but on the other hand, people just don’t like broken promises. Let’s take a look at the ogl, and some other examples of broken promises in both corporate and political history.
When I was twelve years old, I felt I had one more chance at going trick or treating. It is a big deal to kids, and I was looking forward to it. Dad promised me he would take me.
He forgot his promise. Instead, he went to the bar, hung out with his loser boozer friends. And me being a twelve-year-old who was terrified of a father who hadn’t lost a fight in God knows how long, I never told him, but that was the day I began to lose respect for him. Don’t get me wrong, I know as an adult that nearly everyone breaks a promise at least once in their life. But that first promise your parents break is one you never forget. This is where we begin to learn what tyranny is.
Gamesradar.com gives a pretty typical and fairly thorough account of why everyone is upset, and I will share the more salient points here.
“Even though Wizards of the Coast has walked back many of the new OGL’s most controversial changes, it’s too late for some – as a Dark Souls RPG dev said when we interviewed them, “the revolt has already begun.” When you dig into the legal jargon, that anger is understandable. Livelihoods were on the line.
“For a start, products made with the first OGL were suddenly thrown into question. As I understood it from the leaked document, publishers would have to agree to this new system if they wanted to continue selling their products. Should they have refused, could years of old books be pulled from shelves? It was a real possibility.
“Why wouldn’t creators just agree, then? Well, suddenly being forced to hand over 25% of their earnings past $750,000 each year would take a massive toll on the publisher’s bottom line. Actually, it would destroy many smaller teams. Profit aside, this is money used to pay writers, artists, designers, and more. Reducing the take would therefore squeeze the companies in question, so it stands to reason that cuts…(be it content or jobs) would follow. This potentially leads to a drop in scale, quality, or frequency for products.
Free products – like community builds or adventures you don’t charge for – remain unaffected
“It would have hit smaller creators too, albeit less dramatically. It’s all good and well not having to pay royalties if you don’t earn more than $750K on your product, but having to register it with Wizards and report annual revenue above $50K (which still seems to be on the table at the time of writing) is an added faff that makes the process less appealing. Especially because, as io9 pointed out in the initial leak, “there [was] no mention of perpetual, worldwide rights given to creators (which was present in section 4 of the original OGL)”. Worse still, “Wizards will [also] have a ‘nonexclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, sub-licensable, royalty-free license to use that content for any purpose.'” This isn’t an uncommon slice of legal jargon and has also been walked back by Wizards in the time since then, but it’s easy to see why it’d unsettle so many in the community.”
What very few have mentioned, and frankly this disturbs me, is that simply put, Hasbro broke a promise. I won’t post the sites (mainly because I’m using a work computer and it won’t let me on half of the sites), but the creator of the ogl, Ryan Dancey, intended it to be an irrevocable promise that Hasbro could never legally break. It was essentially a promise that the game system itself would always and forever be usable (with some reasonable limitations) by anyone who wanted to.
Maybe Hasbro didn’t get the memo.
It is no secret that companies lie to us all the time. All too often they get away with it. But what corporations fail to realize is that in the long game, they stand to make more money if they are honest. Sadly, all we really care about is our bonus and promotion. Forbes shares this information:
“Trust in brand promise is universally a top priority for consumers in determining whether to do business with a company. But trust cannot be assumed or bought. It needs to be earned through actions…
“Consistency is a key factor in gaining and keeping consumer’s trust in a brand promise. It is not about fulfilling the promise once and moving on to the next campaign. It is a sustained building of trust that nurtures brand loyalty.
“Marketers need to rethink their brand strategy to ensure that they deliver on brand promises. Promises that are kept strengthen. Broken promises diminish and set the stage for a long and possibly impossible win back.”
Maybe I’m stretching the premise, but this is the whole reason why some of us feel so deeply the tragedy of how the American government has treated the Native American so shabby. The whole history is a litany of broken promises. Likely a lot of us felt at the time it was justified but looking back on it from the perspective of the 21st century…no, I don’t see it. This post is about Hasbro and American corporations, but the principle is the same. We promised the Native Americans that “The hatchet shall be forever buried, and peace given by the United States of America.” “Each tribe or band shall have the right to possess, occupy, and use the reserve allotted to it, as long as grass shall grow and water run, and the reserves shall be their own property like their horses and cattle.” A hundred years after these words were written, the Native Americans were devastated by several wars, and their lands were reduced to a mere pittance. We justified this to ourselves by saying that the Natives attacked first (sometimes true, but most often not), or that our Senate didn’t ratify the treaty (sometimes true, but frankly, I don’t think if I were a Native American freezing to death in the late 1800s that I would feel comforted that the treaty was invalidated on a technicality).
Behavior comes down from the top, whether money trickles down or not. I don’t doubt this is part of the reason why Hasbro thinks their behavior is acceptable.
The opinion of a Tired Blogger doesn’t count for much, but Hasbro…if I had a gauntlet, I’d smack your face with it.
Corporate assumptions that they can treat the customers like crap with perfect impunity.
I’ll just quote from three sources here.
According to moneyinc.com, Forbes reports that businesses lose $75 billion a year from losing customers from poor customer service.
Heck, I’ll leave the link for that here:
Forbes tells us
- Customers do not feel appreciated.
- Customers are not able to speak to a person who can provide them the answers they are looking for.
- Customers experience rude and unhelpful employees.
- Customers are being passed around to multiple people.
- Customers are put on hold for unreasonable lengths of time.
They rank Fakebook as the 7th worst of the major corporations, this is what they say about them: “For a company with nearly 40,000 employees, Facebook does not offer much help to customers seeking help. Woe unto you if your account gets hacked. Even if you…tell them to delete…accounts the hackers used, Facebook will not assist…
“Matter of fact is you will be lucky if you communicate with an actual human being because most of the Facebook support is through chatbots and constant referrals to FAQs. The explanation for the lack of personalized service is that Facebook users are not making the firm any money.
“Instead, the advertisers are their customers, and a user’s information is only useful to enable ad targeting. Worst of all is that if they lock you out of your account due to suspicious activity, you cannot contact them since they only use Messenger which you must be logged in to access.”
Wells Fargo made it to both lists. I have my own personal beef with them, but I’ll keep that out of this post. This is what Yahoonews has to say about them.
“Wells Fargo is not the only bank that is much hated in America – Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase among others attract significant distaste as well. It emerged in 2016 that Wells Fargo’s employees fraudulently opened 3.5 million spam accounts to make it appear that they achieved quotas assigned to them. The big deception leaked and forced former CEO John Stumpf to quit the organization that year.
“That’s not all. Wells Fargo also charged more than 500,000 customers for auto insurance that was unrequested and ultimately useless; and the bank equally debited more than 100,000 customers for late mortgage fees the company engineered to be paid late. Many Americans consider Wells Fargo a dishonest bank…with many others simply hating it for its unethical financial practices.”
How in hell did we get here? How is it possible that so many companies think this is acceptable? Honestly, there are three reasons. For decades schools have taught the only ethics these large companies have to adhere to is to obey the law and make money. But with so many companies in bed with our federal government, money is frankly the sole measure of ethics. Second, companies now hire the CEO under the expectation that the top priority will be shareholder stock value. Not sales, not customer service, not even profit except as it involves making the stockholders rich. And if that is all you care about (or even just head and shoulders above the next priority), what other behavior can you expect? But the biggest reason is that they get away with it.
Harvard Business Review tells us “As part of our research…we interviewed managers of call centers to understand how their…organization is structured, and the way it contains redress payouts. We found that most involve at least two levels of agents.
“The Level 1 agents take all incoming calls and hear each customer’s complaint first. These agents are typically limited in the amount of redress they are authorized to offer to the caller. For example, one Indian call center that serves the seller of language learning products forbade Level 1 agents from offering any monetary refunds. These agents could only offer replacement items or provide information on the status of an order. Any caller insisting on a refund was told to call the U.S. headquarters during normal business hours, generating additional tasks for any customer seeking more compensation from the call center manager, or Level 2 agent. This design relies on the fact that some consumers are not willing to incur this hassle. When this happens, the company is off the hook for the additional payout.”
In the interests of profit, we make the customer work their ass off to get any redress. Don’t get me wrong, I worked for a call center for four years (and frankly, while I hated nearly every minute of it, they were still better to work for than either Wal-Mart or Pepsi…yeah, I said it). There are some amazing and wonderful people who are really trying to help you the best they can. But the company itself will tie their hands, add hurdles to both you and the call center agent who is foolish enough to care about you, and the agent is so disincentivized to take care of you that eventually they either give up in frustration, or get fired.
Harvard Business Review continues: “So what about the idea that frustrating customers has consequences on customer retention and long-term reputation? For example, some experts advise companies with upset customers to reach out to them directly to win them back. But some companies have little regard for their reputation, especially those who control a large market share. This is reflected by the fact that the Carey School of Business survey respondents said they’re most frustrated with airlines, internet, cable, and telephone service providers. Most of us, for example, remember seeing the video of a bumped passenger being violently removed from a United Airlines flight in the spring of 2017. While the airline incurred a few payouts for the mess it created, it remains highly profitable with no noticeable loss in market share. Unfortunately, this means companies with few competitors may find worthwhile to alienate angry customers in order to save on redress costs.”
Compared to many of the things discussed here, a gaming license frankly sounds irrelevant. If banks can bankrupt customers for profit, and Wal-Mart can literally put customers to work, and Pepsi can sell us beverages that are killing us, if all of this can be done with relative impunity, what does all this ogl stuff matter?
Corporate belief that ethics are only relevant as it pertains to making money for the shareholders.
This was basically my last subpoint in the previous point, but I believe it is the heart of the problem. If there is neither wrong nor right except to make money for shareholders…at what point does that short sighted mindset disintegrate? We talk about sustainable energy, but frankly, I think the current American system will fall apart long before we run out of oil.
Self-help books insist that capitalism is the best system, because it rewards people for the value that they add to their fellow human beings. Make life better for everyone, and we as a society will make your life better. It sounds so wonderful. And I want it to be true. And I think on a certain level it is. But I can’t help but believe that something is broken. The big corporations, at any rate, don’t seem to have to add value to society, they just have to manipulate markets, masses, and advertise their way into our broken hearts. Keep the masses hungry, keep them desperate, advertise to their most basic needs and sell them on, not a solution, but on FEELING like a problem has been solved. But they’ve mastered the art of amassing “money for nothing.”
I’m not going to quote it, but I will share a site that explains corporate shenanigans fairly well. It gives you some insight, I think, into why a company can report record profits to shareholders on one hand, but then when you ask for a pay raise, they are just too broke to do it. Poor billionaires…must be rough not having any money.
I think I’m going to wrap this up. I hope ya’ll found it insightful and/or entertaining. I may just run away to the Bahamas after this one. Let me know in the comments if you want me to cover anything specific.
This was thorough- well put together. I wouldn’t say it is capitalism so much as standard human greed. Not that I am defending capitalism (i.e. corporatism i.e. gov legal protection for power…)
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Yeah, that is another thing. I can’t help but think the ancients were right to list greed amongst the seven deadly sins
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