Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Elder Scrolls Online: The subscription fallacy

In the run up to the release of Elder Scrolls Online, I've heard a lot of people say,

This game isn't worth a subscription. Maybe if it was free-to-play...

My question for these people is the: what game, in your opinion, would be worth a subscription model? Because if you answer, 'None; no game is worth a subscription model,' that completely changes the meaning of what you're saying.

If no game is worth a subscription model, then a statement about this game not being worth a subscription is not a statement about the characteristics of this game, but a general principle. And that's fine, you're perfectly free to hold that principle. But if you do, it precludes you from expressing an opinion on this game.

The only way a statement about this game being worth (or not worth) a subscription can have any merit is if you can see some game being worth a subscription. Then you can evaluate this game on its own terms: compare it to the kind of game which would be worth a subscription, and decide, on the basis of that comparison rather than on the basis of a principle, whether this game is worth a subscription.

It's the same with murder. If you maintain that all murder is wrong, then a particular case of murder will always be wrong, regardless of any specific circumstances. There's actually no point discussing the details of the case, because murder is always wrong. On the other hand, if there is some case in which murder might not be (so) wrong - and this is where people usually bring up the idea of going back in time and killing Hitler - then we can have a discussion of the individual characteristics of this case and evaluate whether it was, perhaps, in fact not (so) wrong.

Abortion is similar case. If you think that abortion is always wrong, then there is no way that you will think that abortion could be right in a specific case. If you think that abortion can sometimes be the right choice, then we can have a discussion of whether it is the right choice in this case.

And exactly the same is true of subscription models in games, or anything else which can take the form of a principle of belief. You may well be entitled to hold that belief, but doing so precludes you from evaluating any specific case.

In short, you can either hold a principle, or you can compare and evaluate. You can't do both.

Be clear about which it is you're doing.

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