Video gaming is now bigger than it has ever been before. The golden age of the arcades saw video gaming arrive, and with it fears for the welfare of children and teens due to video game addiction. Nowadays, video gaming is done off and online, played individually, and in big tournaments.
The first Fortnite world cup saw a teenager walk away with $3 million in prize money, and The International: Dota 2 Championships has total prize money of over $40 million, making it the biggest eSports pool ever.
The video game industry is predicted to be worth about $65.5 billion this year, and that is in the US alone.
The struggle to keep making innovative games, and also to retain players leads to updates and mods. Sometimes, these are not always welcome. One area that seems to be concerning many players is nerfing and buffing.
What are nerfing and buffing?
The terms largely concern first-person shooters, or FPS games. As games such as World War Heroes are updated with new weapons and maps, the developers often tweak other areas of gameplay.
This is done with all good intentions of course. A new call of duty installment has been announced for 2021, and excitement is high for FPS fans. However, some updates and installments cause consternation among players.
This is because some updates make changes to existing characters and weapons. Sometimes, accuracy, power, and features are reduced, and sometimes they are improved.
Nerfing relates to the toy Nerf guns, and the term is used when a weapon in an FPS has been lowered in power, range, and accuracy.
The term buffing probably comes from when people talk about someone looking buff from the gym and refers to muscle. Or, it could be from buffing as in polishing something. Either way, it means that a weapon or character has been enhanced.
Why don’t gamers always like nerfing?
In the case of World War Heroes, a mobile single and multiplayer mobile game, it has caused a lot of friction between developer and gamer.
The announcement to nerf Caustic in Apex Legends did not go down well with some fans, but the reason the nerf was proposed was to add balance to the game. This was likely the reason that Azur had the same intention for WWH but they have caused much anger for their nerfing and buffing.
WWH is a free-to-play FPS, but it includes adverts and in-app purchases. These purchases can be eye-wateringly expensive. It is not unusual for a weapon to cost $100 and that is before upgrades. Other guns can be bought with gold that is obtained through adverts and purchases.
When a player discovers their expensive weapon has been nerfed in an update, it quite rightly causes anger.
Surely buffing shouldn’t cause a problem though?
You would think buffing would be less of a problem, but it can still cause major headaches. Take for instance a game that is in decline and has to use a number of bots to make up the numbers.
Normally bots are easy to kill. Look at PUBG Mobile for instance. However, some developers up the accuracy and firepower of bots regardless of what weapon they are using, meaning the balance tips the other way.
Also, the question about money comes into play again. If one player had spent $50 on a weapon and then discovered a free gun had been buffed to the same specs, they may be less than amused.
Is it only FPS games that this concerns?
Another industry that has come under similar concerns is that of online gambling. Last year online casinos and similar games became more popular than ever, but they suffer from a view that they can’t be trusted.
This probably stems from the fact that casinos have a house edge, or advantage, over the player. Then there are slot machines. These certainly can be set to pay out less, or nerfed if you like.
However, visiting an online kaszinók means that not only can you play slots, but you can see exactly what the RTP or return to players is. It is transparent, unlike nerfing and loot boxes.
What do loot boxes have to do with nerfing?
Loot boxes have come in for a hard time recently and some countries have even banned them. Holland and Belgium no longer allow loot boxes and Japan has strict controls over any form of gambling. China forces game developers to be transparent about the chances of winning.
It is still unclear whether loot boxes are a form of betting, but the BBC reports that there are links between the controversial devices and problem gambling. Things get worse when you consider nerfing too.
Paid-for loot box contents are usually hidden, meaning it is something of a raffle as to what the player will get. Hence the accusations of gambling. If a player pays out for ten loot boxes, and the weapons he or she receives are then nerfed a month later, will this lead to more money being spent in the game?
Is this even ethical?
This is perhaps the biggest problem behind nerfing and buffing. While there is no doubt that many developers are tweaking their games to improve balance and gameplay and to extend the game’s lifespan, others may be less scrupulous.
Many developers have been accused of praying on their customers with relentless loot boxes and in-app purchases. Japan shut down games that required players to make purchases to finish the game after it became clear how much was being spent by children and teens.
Is nerfing and buffing just another way for some developers to grab more cash?
Perhaps more transparency needs to come from the developers in this area.
When it comes to the gambling industry they are looking at decentralized apps to provide exactly this. Other innovations include the live casino where players can see the dealer running the game and real cards being used. This has helped to increase trust between the casinos and the players.
When it comes to FPS games, perhaps the developers should warn players when they make purchases that their weapon will be nerfed in the next update. This would give players the option of making better purchases.
In the meantime, players will just have to contend with bots being able to shoot them from 100 yards with a peashooter.