comScore Thanks, but No Thanks: Prime World Offers Discounts, In-Game Bonuses for Being, Grouping with a Lady [UPDATED] | The Mary Sue
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Thanks, but No Thanks: Prime World Offers Discounts, In-Game Bonuses for Being, Grouping with a Lady [UPDATED]

Consider the Following

Prime World is an upcoming entry to the action real-time strategy genre, a style of play where small teams of players compete to capture or destroy the others base. Each player pilots a “hero” that levels up as each match progresses, and the variety in the game is fueled by different maps on which to play and an array of heroes with different abilities to choose from. They’ve recently announced their commitment to bringing in new players, and making it easier for their enthusiastic players to bring in friends and loved ones who might be less familiar with the game. That’s a smart business decision.

The way they’re implementing this is by giving players a mechanically beneficial in-game bonus to people who group with a player of the opposite gender (yes, a player, not a character, more on that in a moment), and by giving female players discounted prices on DLC that offers more heroes to choose from.

I’m probably not alone when I say: “Thanks, but no thanks.”

In order to play Prime World, players must log into the service using their Facebook accounts, thus verifying their real-world gender. While in game, they can, of course, choose to play a character of either gender, but the bonus associated with gender-mixed grouping (“a shield that protects the other player when you’re in close proximity”) will only activate when a player’s real gender and game gender match. While I can’t say anything for certain about Prime World itself, it’s worth noting that in most games of this genre a specific hero unit with a specific set of abilities is usually married to one specific character model rather than giving a choice of gender. Which is to say, some of the hero types will be male and some will be female, and if you want to play a female version of a hero-type that has a male model or vise versa, you’re SOL.

Look, Nival, developer and publisher of Prime World. I understand what you’re trying to do here. You’re trying to incentivize male players to play with female players in such a way that makes them want to come back and play with them again. You’re trying to incentivize positive interaction. And it would be nice if that turns out to actually work on male gamers who are hostile to female gamers. But I fear that what you’re actually incentivizing is for those male players to view female players as a statistic, just one more piece of resistance gear or that slightly overpowered trinket effect that you’ll use to give you that edge until it gets nerfed, a view facilitated by the, even in my opinion, unfairness of charging women less for the game than men.

I love that one of the things gamers are defined by is their ability and fondness for finding the most efficient and elegant solution with in the given rule set (even and sometimes especially when that rule set does not prevent “cheating” in small or large ways). But it means that the other thing you’re incentivizing here is for male gamers to take a minute to walk through the small number of clicks it takes to change your gender on Facebook. A few clicks to get a special in-game ability and a discount on DLC? DLC that costs hard earned real life money? I’d do it. Anyone would.

So, thanks, but no thanks. Women who are already gamers just want a level playing field, and if you’d like to get players unfamiliar with the action real-time strategy genre to play, offer the incentive to new players, perhaps starting a few months after the game launches. All new players, regardless of gender.

Update: Sergey Galyonkin, Marketing Director for Nival has commented, below, so we’re going to bring his words up here where everybody can see them.

Hi. My name is Sergey Galyonkin and I work for Nival. I just wanted to clarify some things.

Female players have discounts for female characters, not for all characters. Same for male players and male characters. Not for DLC or in-game items. And we will have gender-swapped skins for heroes later :)

Being a female doesn’t give you any advantages over being male in Prime World. Playing with people of other gender does.

We don’t see female players as weaker ones. It just we often see female players being harassed by hardcore community, so they often have to hide the fact that they’re female. We thought about giving gender-diverse team some kind of an advantage, hence optional gender bonus.

Gender bonus is symmetrical – so all-females team will benefit from male player the same way the all-male team from female player.

This talent is optional, you can switch it for something else when you decide on your build. So if you’re going all-male pre-made you can choose instead something else. But the way our leveling works you never will have a chance to unlock all talents during course of a game, so it worth keeping it in your build just in case.
P.S. Sorry for my English, it isn’t my native language

While it appears that some of the information that we were worried about isn’t true, the core worrisome aspect remains: the potential to incentivize seeing the players of the opposite gender as a statistic that needs to be maintained, rather than a basic fact of life (not to mention insensitivity to a spectrum of trans players). While that wouldn’t necessarily create an unequal situation in a population with equal gender ratios, in one with an admitted majority of men it has the potential to lead to players treating female players as a numerical advantage rather than fellow players, if the game’s balance favors these gender-based talents.

(The PA Report via Gamasutra.)

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