Posted 02 August 2020 18:30 to category Shopgames by worldbuyer
Related categories: RFID, GPS, Social networking, Loyalty clubs


Today I finally changed shopgames. It felt like converting to a new faith.

Sure, we all keep several shopgame accounts for emergencies. Say you're a Wal*Mart World player in Davenport, Iowa. Wal*Mart's shopgame has handily arranged a co-op deal with Exxon/Mobil in Iowa, so the gas money you spend helps your Wal*Mart World superhero earn points toward a faster flight belt. With the belt, you'll rack up frequent-flyer miles on Wal*Mart World's cooperating airline, Southwest. Yet on a road trip you stop a Shell station in Elko, Nevada, and it turns out nobody plays Wal*Mart World there. Buying a tank of gas in Elko only counts as game credits for TargetView or, Heaven help you, DisneyLife. With just one shopgame account, you'd be out of luck.

But you've kept a TargetView account as backup, and it happens that TargetView is big in Nevada. In fact, Reno is a big virtual settlement in TargetView. So you can still get in-game value from your purchase, like maybe sling stones for your strong-jawed Roman centurion. Then when you get to Reno, you can log in to TargetView's online Colosseum for a few minutes, knock out a few bandits, and maybe win a free MP3 song or slot machine tokens.

That was me, too. I've kept my old game account, just in case. But now I've switched all my credit cards to send my buying info to a new game, and I'm logging in to a changed world. I feel like I can never go back. It's one thing to keep a second-string game account, but who can live in two games? You have to stick with one, just one, or you'll never get ahead - either in the game, or in life.

Vendor Lock-in
If you're as old as I am, you probably used to have those old loyalty cards (buy nine lattes, get the tenth free) and email coupons - maybe you belonged to a discount club - you endured all those blunt techniques companies used to keep you from straying to competitors. A decade or two back, I happened to work for the first big-box superstore that started shoring up its customer base by paying employee salaries not with dollars, but with gift cards for merchandise in their own stores. All of us on staff loved the idea. As long as we could buy everything we needed at that store, we got more stuff than if we spent dollars, while the store saved cash. Almost overnight, I remember, the cards became a new in-store currency, an enclosed fishbowl economy.

So I wasn't suprised when the major manufacturing and media conglomerates (General Electric, TimeWarner, Disney, others) extended that economy to non-employees. Each one introduced a unified gift card that worked at all their many products, brands, stores, restaurants, supermarkets, and other subsidiaries, all linked in a sprawling, self-sufficient corporate kingdom. Then the megacorps looked to society's best secular method of creating communities (and addicting customers): MMORPGs.

By setting up virtual game kingdoms to match their real-world equivalents, and tying together performance in both, the conglomerates secured total customer loyalty. They built the new millennium's version of the old-fashioned company town - an online simulation, widely distributed across meatspace but densely linked in virtual reality.

If you're reading this blog, you know as well as I do the sooo-compelling reasons to stick with just one shopgame. Every game sells everything you could possibly need, cradles to coffins. Each game wants all your disposable income. From inside your shopgame you buy and arrange front-door delivery of everything from light bulbs to bulldozers; you can order a cheap pizza or refinance your house at favorable rates. And if you ever leave the house, you still stay in the fishbowl. Like, in my old game I always bought Tide detergent instead of a store brand, and ate at Applebee's instead of Denny's. My character rose higher in the game that way. Now I'm trying new soaps, new restaurants ....

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