Sparks of a move to label products according to their expected life spans
It’s a situation many of us are familiar with. The milk turns sour, the yoghurt has curdled, and there are patches of water on the kitchen tiles. At fault in this tale is the refrigerator, which, barely three years old, has started to gurgle and appears to be reaching the end of its useful life. And like the DVD player, vacuum cleaner and coffee machine before it, the warranty has expired and the costs of repair far outweigh those of buying afresh. Yet according to a new survey, these failures might just be deliberate.
MEXIKO hat 11 Milliardäre, der Zeitschrift Forbes zufolge. Zehn werden oft bei Benefizdinners und anderen vornehmen Veranstaltungen lächelnd fotografiert. Der Elfte, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, hat ein ziemlich unähnliches Porträtfoto. Abgebildet in einem billigen Anorak sieht man ihn fröstelnd im Regen binnen der Betonmauer eines Hochsicherheitsgefängnises. Besser bekannt unter seinem Spitznamen El Chapo („der Kleine“) ist Herr Guzmán durch die vermutete $1 Milliarde, die er als Geschäftsführer des Sinaloa-Drogenkartells verdiente, ein von Lateinamerikas erfolgreichsten Exporteuren. Seitdem er 2001 versteckt in einem Wäschewagen aus dem Gefängnis ausbrach, gibt es wenige Fotos von El Chapo.
How do you turn a free product into a profitable enterprise? That’s normally the challenging issue to be faced in today’s increasingly competitive online market. Internet giant Google continues to have issues attempting to monetise its expensively acquired YouTube daughter. Yet game developer Turbine is looking to do exactly the opposite, converting their current business model into a subscription-supported free product. But does ‘free’ pay?
It certainly appears that Turbine’s decision to offer their MMO Dungeons & Dragons Online for free has paid off. Hundreds of thousands of new players have signed up to take advantage of the new offer, and despite the ‘free’ price tag, subscriptions are up 40%. In addition, many players are taking advantage of an in-game payment mechanism to buy additional items and open up new sections of the game. Previously the game had required players to pay a one off purchase price, followed by a monthly subscription fee. Now just about anyone can download the game and be playing within half an hour, paying or otherwise. Turbine also maintain that some players are paying even more per month than the previous subscription fee alone, removing an important cap on how much individual players could pay into the game. Rather than seeing players who play without paying as freeloaders, Turbine are confident that such players bring their own benefit to the company, generating interest, advertising via word-of-mouth, and thereby generating new subscriptions and one-off payments.
President Truman famously kept a sign on his desk that said “The buck stops here”, a gift from an avid poker player. Yet whilst we might appreciate the imagery and the sentiment, should we really rely on there being a ‘buck‘ to pass? Is there always a man in charge, someone with whom the ultimate responsibility lies? The public at large like to believe so. Having someone who is nominally in charge provides a feeling that there is some level of control over daily events, that there is some direction to the madness that seems to govern our lives. It isn’t particularly important whether that person you believe in is God, the president, the Führer or Chuck Norris. Nor does that responsible person need to be an individual, it can just as easily be taken as being particular position, a group of people, or an organisation.
Yet having someone to look to as the ‘Man in Charge’ also entails having someone to blame when things go wrong. In general, people are not willing to look at events as the result of complex systems of uncountable interconnected threads. Such systems lack palpability, they invoke confusion and lack obvious conclusions. Much easier to view events as the result of simple inputs and outputs, revolving around the decision-making roles of important personages. When the proverbial hits the fan, the easiest response is to find those at the helm, whether particular individuals or a group, and lay the blame as thick and fast as the cement mixers can provide it. It’s a simple and effective reaction, since any person that can be held culpable must have made decisions, and any decision can be deemed retrospectively fallacious. Ergo any individual can be made and held responsible. 1We should not forget, of course, that as much as we enjoy seeing certain individuals as being responsible for the workings of the world, both for the comfort it gives us whilst things are ticking along smoothly, as well as the convenience of having someone to blame when they don’t, the individuals themselves also enjoy a level of revelry in the illusion that they are the ones with all the answers.
We should not forget, of course, that as much as we enjoy seeing certain individuals as being responsible for the workings of the world, both for the comfort it gives us whilst things are ticking along smoothly, as well as the convenience of having someone to blame when they don’t, the individuals themselves also enjoy a level of revelry in the illusion that they are the ones with all the answers.