Monetize. It is a horrible word, but one seemingly on everybody’s lips. If people like doing something, other people will try to find a way to monetize it. In some long-forgotten past, people used to play games for fun, without any thought of profit. No longer. Selling games was one way to monetizing them, and renting them another. Selling tickets to spectators is a source of revenue, and gambling another. More recently, virtual economies in virtual realities like Second Life have grabbed the attention as a way of monetizing what for most people is a form of recreation. Of course, once you monetize recreation, it stops being recreation and starts being a business. Just consider the way that gambling has exacerbated the corruption of sport. For increasing numbers of people, Second Life is a source of income, not a form of recreation. As monetizing is the the modern mantra, it is inevitable that more recreation will be turned into revenue. First-person shoot ‘em up internet video games has just been added to that list. Check out Kwari, a new online game currently in beta. The idea is beguiling simple: if you shoot someone in the game, your bank account gets topped up; if you get hit in the game, your account takes a hit too. The makers of Kwari say they will only generate income from selling the ammunition needed to play the game, which I guess means their business model is the equivalent of a virtual arms dealer. Of course, the prospect of making money should turn Kwari into a magnet for cheats and fraudsters worldwide. This begs the question of how the makers intend to manage the revenue assurance of a complicated fast-moving internet game with many micro transactions and lots of communication between server and client. To be fair to them, they have been refreshingly honest about the risks, and comprehensive in explaining how they intend to counter them, see here. More established internet businesses could learn a lot from Kwari’s example that such risks need to be openly recognized and countered, not ignored.
So next time you feel like playing a shoot ‘em up, you have the chance to put some money at stake. Just stump up some cash for ammo, and get playing. I know what you’re thinking. “How many shots did I fire?” In all the excitement, you may lose track. Being that this is the internet, the most powerful monetizing machine in the world, and would blow your bank account clean away, you’ve got to ask yourself a question: “Do I feel lucky?” Well, do ya, punk? ;)