Data analytics, consumer exploitation and dota

Dota just announced a new premium subscription service. This led to plenty of discussion on it. Arguments about whether it was pay to win for example, with it's in-game live analysis and recommendations. So far based on the suggestions it gives, probably not heh. But it probably will improve over time, especially since they are using machine learning, so that will be interesting.

Personally, I havn't spent a cent on the game and I don't think I would be getting the dota plus either since I don't feel the functionality it provides justifies spending $4 USD a month. But I gotta say, for how much dota has been a part of my life, its kinda funny how I never gave it any money heh. I suppose I'm exactly the kind of consumer that makes life difficult for companies, and lead them to be incentivised to put in pay to win structures and other microtransactions. After all for people like me, if everything I need is in the base game already, why pay more right. Whoops? I never felt the need to play dress up with my heroes so with in-game cosmetics being the main revenue source I just never felt the need to spend I guess. I don't think I need the extra functionalities from dota plus either.

Then again I'm probably significantly more of a miser for spending on anything else other than friends and food relative to all other consumers. Especially virtual items. When you think about it, $4USD is like just the price of one meal. Maybe I should consider it even if I don't need the functionality just so that in my ten years of dota I feel like I've given something to the developers who work hard to make this game fun for me.


Anyway, in the midst of this whole discussion about dota plus, this one really interesting post came up:

I'm really glad I read this post. The content covered here is not really much about dota, but about free to play video games economics, consumer behaviour and the life cycle of free to play games.

There was one particular paragraph that stood out to me:
I do believe that most F2P monetization is created in a way that unfortunately exploits players with these problems. It's usually not a conscious effort on the part of the developer to say "let's target gamblers anonymous members", it's a byproduct of using only data to drive monetization methods and decisions and not caring to understand who is spending and why as long as the money is coming in.
As someone who is looking to grow a career in marketing and is passionate about consumer insights through data driven analysis, this is a potent reminder to always remember to see these data points as human.

This can be true not just for free to play games, it can be true for any product or service as a marketer. And as someone who will be looking to convince people to buy my things, I can be put in a position where I have the ability to exploit consumers. And if I am not careful and think deeper about what the data is revealing, I may not even make the link that what I am doing is exploitative

My stand on consumer behaviour has always been sure you can use various tricks and techniques to appeal to people, but at the end of the day, you must add real values to their lives. For a funky analogy, if you're looking to get into a relationship, whether intentionally or not you would typically put up your best front. I don't consider that as being exploitative and lying, but I do think that if once you enter the relationship you do a switcharoo and you become a different person altogether, that all your promises become empty promises, then that's terrible.

So I'm okay with using an understanding of consumer behaviour to better appeal to consumers. I'm okay with using data driven analysis to gain better insight into consumers.

But at the end of the day, I believe in the grand purpose of business to add value to society in a way that individuals are unable to do so on their own. As a marketer, I believe in my role of understanding what consumers need and want so I can provide it to them, as well as to demonstrate how something can add value to their lives. I just need to remember that in a position of power (and information is power), I will need to make the right decisions.

Because consumers don't always know what is best for them, and it is my responsibility that in such scenarios I do what is right and not what is exploitative.


The business world can indeed be tricky to navigate with multiple potential pitfalls. I avoided finance because even though finance has value as well, I saw how certain parts of it were really just about figuring out how to best 'game' the way the economy works to get the most of out it rather than actually creating something of value.

It's not like marketing doesn't have its traps too though. Some might argue there are even more in fact. Heck, supply chain is riddled with human rights challenges and gaming the way trade works. Seems like nowhere is safe. The fact is that we live in a complex world and while many companies don't set out to do these things, they quickly find themselves embroiled in it because of the way the world works.

So as someone venturing into this world real soon, I do hope to find myself in a place with people who share similar convictions, and that we would be able to navigate this complex world right.