Power Creep, the Pansi scheme in gaming.

Posted: January 12, 2011 by lagunawsu2 in Features

After having a discussion with a friend of mine about Magic: The Gathering, I was shown that there is a severe lack in understanding about how some of these companies that produce games, video, paper or otherwise, make money and how you as a consumer shouldn’t be blind to the practice.

Understanding Power Creep:

Power creep is the inherent progress of a game that people will play for an extended period of time. Generally, these games start off with an amazing baseline, then release an expansion of some sort. Dungeons and Dragons, World of Warcraft, and Phantasy Star Online are all examples of this, with new concepts, great innovations in game-play, etc. Since all these games were amazing cash cows as well, publishers, of course, wanted to milk them as much as possible. To do this, they needed to release more content, but you have to make the player WANT that new content to sell it.  Here is where power creep comes into play.

What is Power creep then?

Remember playing your favorite game? One that you had played for a long time and really enjoyed all those great base concepts in? Then remember when they released that expansion? You know the one, with the better weapons, higher levels, better itemization. It was great wasn’t it? What you have just purchased, my friend, is power creep. You see, in order for the publishers to make you want this stuff, it has to be better in some way. Better all around. Better everywhere. Better than anything else.

Remember back again now, when you first tried PVP after that expansion? Or went into a new tougher dungeon? How all the balance had seemed to shift? How none of the real glaring mistakes were fixed? This is because the system these publishers have created is inherently imbalanced.  It will never be balanced. Balance would negate the whole idea of some piece of equipment being outright better than another piece. The idea another class being, at some point, better than any other. Warlocks at some point will always trounce everyone. HUcasts at some point will be the best damn physical class in the game. Mages with haste will be unstoppable. It’s not only inevitable, it’s planned into the system. The system of power creep. So that you have to buy it…so that the publishers make more money.

Now I’m not saying I’m opposed to all this, or that it’s necessarily a bad thing, its kind of the natural progress of an entertainment product. Yet constantly I hear, in every single one of these games, whining about imbalance. I have, of course, at some point in my own gaming done the same. Now, though, we must all realize: Tough luck. There is no balance. Nor will there ever be. So stop whining about how your paladin was killed by X, or that your fighter sucks now cause of Y. It happens, and it happens because publishers need to make money.

And there’s nothing I can do?
No, there isn’t, I’m sorry. Games need to make money to continue, after all. This, however, isn’t all bad news. After all, some of these games are all still being played, so there must be something to them besides their ability to make money. Just know that, at least for the foreseeable future, you’re not going to see paladin’s be “equal” to druids, or other some such nonsense.

  1. ryanlecocq says:

    Love it. It’s also true that class balances shift between patches to try and keep the amount of people who are too pissed off to pay at a minimum. Or in the case of WoW, a new race or race/class combo can come out and change everything (for example the Worgen Darkflight ability).

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