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Survey finds virtues in virtue signalling | This Week in Business

Accenture report provides a reminder that most gamers see social responsibility as a selling point, vastly outnumbering those turned off by it

Get woke, hype stoked.

That's one possible takeaway from an Accenture survey of 4,000 gamers released this week. As part of the wide-ranging poll of people who play games an average of four hours or more each week, respondents were asked how much they agree with the following statement.

QUOTE | "I am more likely to play a video game if the game design company is socially responsible (e.g. they are involved in environmental sustainability efforts, or are a champion for marginalized communities)"

The results were pretty clear.

STAT | 66% - The percentage of people who said they agreed (39%) or completely agreed (27%) with the above statement.

STAT | 9% - The percentage of people who disagreed (6%) or completely disagreed (3%) with the above statement.

This should not be surprising. Game companies who live and die by market research have been semi-regularly running social responsibility angles in their marketing for decades now, with the last decade-plus seeing a notable increase in both the quantity and quality of representations of marginalized people in games.

Gaming is an increasingly global business, and the vast majority of the addressable audience is not comprised of straight white dudes. Given that people like to see themselves and their stories reflected in the media they consume -- and that even straight white dudes can get tired of stories about straight white dudes -- it's a no-brainer that there's an appetite out there for more diverse representation.

Obviously, there's a contingent of people out there who don't want that, who see attempts to do this as "virtue signalling" rather than "attempting to make the industry a more welcoming place" or even just "making media that reflects the audience." And every now and then, they make a lot of noise.

I've been frustrated for years at much of the industry's reluctance to push back on these people for fear of hurting the bottom line, but I'm hoping surveys like this and the conspicuous success of some of the media that audience has most fervently decried (The Last of Us Part II, Overwatch, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Mortal Kombat 11...) can give these companies the spine they have so badly lacked.

Of course I'd prefer they make these sort of games because they see diversity and representation as inherently valuable pursuits. But failing that, I'm hoping that reminders like this Accenture survey provides are enough to convince particularly callow publishers that the vocal detractors are actually relatively few in number, and game makers everywhere have a lot more to gain by being socially responsible than they have to lose.

QUOTE | "[FIFA Ultimate Team] is the cornerstone and we are doing everything we can to drive players there." - An internal EA document reported on earlier this week, stating that the publisher's goal is to drive people to its loot box-enabled game mode.

QUOTE | "Ultimate Team is one of the most popular game modes in the world, it's got millions and millions of fans engaging with it every single year. And I think the narrative on it at the moment is challenging, through sensationalist reporting a little like this." - FIFA's VP of brand David Jackson says the document was "taken out of context," and that EA doesn't actually want to drive people to spend money; it just wants to drive them to engage specifically and unrelentingly in the one game mode built entirely around spending money on loot boxes, as if these things were entirely unrelated.

QUOTE | "[Mr. Varga] repeatedly violated Twitch's Community Guidelines and exposed our community to harmful content. We absolutely stand behind our decision to terminate his account, and he will not be allowed back onto the service." - Twitch explains why it will not allow James 'Phantoml0rd' Varga back on the service despite Varga winning a lawsuit over his 2016 lifetime ban from the platform.

QUOTE | "We will take action against users that violate our community policies against harmful content that encourages or incites self-destructive behavior, harassment, or attempts or threatens to physically harm others, including through misinformation." - A Twitch representative's comment to the New York Times in response to the paper pointing out that Twitch provides a lucrative platform for far-right influencers who have been kicked off Facebook, YouTube, and other sites over harmful content that encourages or incites destructive behavior, harassment, or attempts to overturn the US government, including through misinformation.

STAT | 15% - The new maximum amount Humble Bundle users can have go toward charitable causes. The site used to have sliders so customers could choose how they wanted to split the money between the publisher offering the bundle, participating charities, and Humble itself.

STAT | 7.8 million - The number of PS5 systems shipped (and likely sold) worldwide as of March 31.

STAT | 50% - The year-over-year increase in Microsoft's gaming revenues for the first three months of 2021, with hardware revenue up 232% thanks to continued sales of the Xbox Series X|S.

STAT | 10 - With this week's debut of Pokémon Snap, the number of physical Pokémon games released on the Nintendo Switch to date. The Wii U had just one: Pokken Tournament.

STAT | 1.38% - The refund rate of all games on ever since the digital distribution store last year rolled out a policy to refund games with no questions asked for up to 30 days after purchase

STAT | 5-8% - The average refund rate of one publisher's Steam games in 2020, as reported by Simon Carless of GameDiscoverCo. Steam lets users refund games if it's been less than 14 days and less than two hours of total playtime.

STAT | 44% - Percentage of developers who said their current project has been delayed by COVID-19, up from 33% the last time this survey was conducted in June 2020.

QUOTE | "A lot of what we're seeing now is publishers looking at it and saying, 'Instead of you working yourself to the bone, let's just start cutting some things out so we can meet our deadline.'" - Brad Hendricks, CEO of work-for-hire studio Blind Squirrel Games, says publishers are slowly becoming more mindful about making sure the studios they hire aren't crunching to meet unrealistic schedules.

QUOTE | "We design products with a view to lowering the environmental burden of manufacturing processes and enhancing efficiency through recycling and reuse. Further, we are advancing efforts to preserve the environment and reduce power consumption." - The number one issue on the Corporate Social Responsibility page of Sega Sammy's website. Sega this week announced it would begin selling NFTs this summer.

QUOTE | "We are happy to announce that our new CSR website is opened today! We look forward to sharing you more about our environment and social initiatives." - Nexon's Corporate Social Responsibility page, on February 12, 2020. Over a year later, the only thing even vaguely environmentalist on the site is a note about how they re-used some phones they had lying around to let kids at one school make an art project with them. This week the company bought $100 million of bitcoin, with president and CEO Owen Mahoney telling people the notoriously volatile and ecologically disastrous speculation-driven cryptocurrency "offers long-term stability."

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Brendan Sinclair avatar
Brendan Sinclair: Brendan joined in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at GameSpot.
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