An open letter to Niantic
Well it happened, you pushed the payment for the anomaly badge and what we are now seeing is of course a huge pushback. There are some reasons for it, some are valid and some maybe not.
Reason 1: Communication
Dropping this ‘bomb’ one month before the anomaly looks to your player base just bad, especially since you didn’t give a heads up to the POC of the sites. Why is it bad? People feel betrayed, they already have booked their flights, trains or other transportation to the sites, they have paid for their hotels and other things not fully informed about your new conditions. You may think $15 is not the world, which in some places is true, but it’s not mostly about the $15 it's about the fact that people don’t have the feeling you gave them all the information that is needed to make a decision about their participation.
If you would have made an announcement months ago with a statement that the Umbra Anomaly will be a paid anomaly there would have still been push back but not because your communication was bad.
Reason 2: No alternative
You are not offering enough alternatives for agents with this announcement so close to the anomaly, there should have been some kind of a transition period into paid badges. Right now for onsite agents: Pay for the badge and your actions will be counted or you are not counted for the faction. What would have been the alternative? Setting up a ticket that makes sure that people are signed up for the anomaly and their actions will count for their faction without getting the badge. The paid ticket could also have included the double AP as an extra incentive.
This would have given your Players the possibility to choose if they want to get the badge for the scanner or if they only want to play for their team. It could have been a single time transition option to pave the way into paid badge only anomalies. And you can still do it!
Reason 3: Capitalize on faction volunteer work
In the history of anomalies the main work was done by the factions, from the very beginning Niantic has asked quite a lot from their player base to make these events happen. We are asked to submit POC recommendations and playbox proposals, coordinate lodging deals, encourage our agents to sign up on Niantic’s registration site, provide our agents with all the details of where to be and when for the weekend, secure an afterparty venue, submit missions for Mission Day, help with GoRuck planning when that's a thing.
There is quite some work that both factions put into these events. And this work made the concept of an Anomaly a successful event. That work made people signing up again and again for those events. That work made people come from all over the globe to these events every couple of months. They come from all parts of the world to this one point on the map to play against the other faction together with their friends and other faction members.
Without the local POCs and Orga Anomalies would not be what they are right now. Without anything organized around the anomaly by the local people, there is no more real added value to your ticket option especially when Niantic does not have an on site presence anymore.
To make paying for an Ingress event more attractive you should add more value to your events. You can not rely on local orgas anymore to put in their time and effort to make your event great (again). You can not count on them to find a venue for your customers, you can not count on them to handle any of your business issues anymore. In short, the people that you rely on to make it worth people's while to come to the site will no longer help you since you are now charging for this to happen and they do not receive any financial or organisational help from the company.
I think the majority of the Player Base could accept paying for the badge of an anomaly, but then there will be high expectations and a real value needs to be added.
Reason 4: Legal issues
(mostly focussed on Germany - because that's my home area)
With making badges and participation a paid ticket you are entering the harbour of ‘event law’. Germany has some really detailed laws about events in public spaces/areas so let's try to have a look into this (Disclaimer: for more information please pay a lawyer).
A public space or public area is understood to mean the part of a municipality or public corporation that is freely accessible to any citizen and managed or maintained by the municipality. In general, these include public transport areas, but also streets, sidewalks, parks and squares.
All gatherings of persons in public space (e.g., concerts, street fairs, etc.) are subject to the Assembly Hall Act (in Germany: Versammlungsstättengesetz)
Every event, which is carried out and advertised in public space, must be registered and approved in good time with the authorities, usually at the responsible regulatory office. The exact permissions, permits or insurance you need depends on the type and size of the event, but also on the location and timing of the event.
The estimated number of participants or visitors is also an important factor when entering into detailed planning.
So the event must be registered and approved from the city. As a former POC I know that I was asked not to contact the local authorities to register the event, but I also never was 100% that the event was registered.
If the Event gets successfully registered, there are more terms that needs to be fulfilled.
Other locations around the world, especially in the US, have different but similar laws that vary from place to place. All these items that will now fall onto Niantic as the organizer of the event to register for, as local agents, in many cases, will not be able to serve as a local proxy for the company.
As a company, you have not only the duty, but also a self-interest in taking appropriate security measures. Whether a well-developed security concept is necessary or sufficient to adhere to some basic security standards depends on the size and nature of your event and may be required by some local municipalities as part of your application for the event.
Emergency numbers: Keep a list of the most important emergency numbers clearly visible in several places on the event site. (Event site means Playbox area)
First aid: If an emergency occurs during your event, first aid measures may be required prior to lifesaving measures before a doctor arrives. As an organizer, you should be familiar with first aid measures. This also applies to employees who help with your events. It also could be that there will be a requirement to have paramedics on site, which would be needed to be paid for by the event organizer, in this case Niantic.
Organizer liability: No one can plan an event to the last detail, since external influences may occur that were previously unknown and not foreseeable. For the execution of events you should therefore necessarily complete an organizer liability, or hold harmless, as elementary protection. Insurance is a requirement to get permission for the event.
If your event takes place on public streets or squares, you may need a special permit. Also a map of the event location (Playbox area) that will be submitted to the authorities. This may be needed to be submitted to these authorities months, not days, in advance rather than what is the current norm for Niantic. This will mean that in some locations organization will be needed much earlier than in the current planning model that Niantic currently employs.
And this is just a short run thru the requirement list, every city has there own regulations so there might be other requirements needed every time you set up an event.
4.2 Service Fees
(also again focused on Germany - for more information please pay a lawyer)
In August 2018 the Federal Court of Justice in Germany decided that a service fee on digital tickets is against the law. (for references: BGH III ZR 192/17) That means the Service Fee that people are asked to pay is, in Germany, not allowed and needs to be withdrawn.
(for more information please pay a tax consultant)
VAT in Germany is 19% for Events that are not concerts, but tickets for Belgium and Sweden don’t show any costs for VAT. I’m curious how this happened.
Similarly there are many locations around the world that require any online transactions that take place to be subject to taxes. As the responsible party, Niantic would need to collect and disburse those taxes to the correct governing authority and failure to do so may hold Niantic to legal ramifications.
Right now you are only offering Payment via credit card or debit credit card but it also appears that not all cards are being accepted. For years players are asking you to change your payment options because not everyone has a credit card. Especially in Germany this is an issue for many agents. Before this issue was solved with the free ticket or if someone wanted to buy swag with the friendly help of an agent with a credit card. With the new process, people only can order through their scanner and need the credit card info from their friends.
Reason 5: Unrealistic Prices
15€ or $15 seems not to be the world in countries like Germany, USA & Australia. But that's not the case everywhere . For example in Argentina since 2015 the monthly income has dropped from $600 to $220. Asking an agent there to pay $15 + whatever - means you are asking them to spend roughly 7% of their monthly income for a badge in the scanner. In India the average income per month is ~$160, that means you are asking agents in India to spend ~10% of there monthly income for the anomaly badge. I know pricing is not easy especially for worldwide events but you should always ask yourself: Is this pricing realistic to be paid by an average local player.
Reason 6: Self-Image and Marketting
“An Ingress XM Anomaly Event is a series of free Ingress events that you play as a team with other local and visiting players against the other faction.”
On your FAQ site you are stating yourself that Anomaly Events are free. Making an Anomaly a paid only event is a change of the company's ethics - it's not even a change, it is a complete 180 to the former statement. That a change like this will be silently taken by the consumer of your product was not expected and we are going back now to Reason 1: Communication - If you are changing one of your core pieces of your product there needs to be Communication! Good Communication, understandable Communication. Don’t be the Clu in this game, be the Tron!!!
I understand that you want Ingress to be financially viable as Niantic, you are a company, this is not a hobby project for you. You need to be economically sound. I’m not mad about the fact that you want to make money but don’t you think there are other, maybe even better, ways to introduce paid elements into the game than this? Over the years I saw great ideas from players on how Niantic could generate revenue from Ingress without making it pay to win. I would pay for a subscription to Ingress, if I would maybe gain some value like: more portal submissions, better statistic processing, more inventory space, etc. There are so many possibilities many of which you have supplied in the other two games that you have put out since releasing Ingress.
Everything that is in here is 100% correct. If you thought that the player base was dwindling before, it will be non existent now.
Very well put! Agree with the concerns raised and some reasonable asks too.
You are spot on; this will **** Ingress aside from all of the issues we know exist this attempt at monetization is half baked at best and at worst a pure cash grab. If given proper notice that one would have to "pay to play" and the experience was guaranteed to be like Potter Fest I might consider it. If the success of anomalies wasn't built on the backs of free labor given by POC's, Ops and other Orga I could even support this if rolled out in a thoughtful manner. Yet, NIA has provided even less support than normal for October sites, utilized the free labor mentioned above to drive attendance and now a month out announces you have to pay to count. This is just unbelievable and shows how deeply those who run NIA disregard their player base. How much can you actually make when your player base walks away? It's been a year of screwups leading to player mistrust and nothing really surprises me anymore but welcome to the proverbial straw that broke the camels back.
Thank you @Claudija, that's exactly what a lot of us thinks too.
As a note, service charges on card transactions are also illegal in the UK (and all of Europe as per a similar EU directive). The UK extended this same protection to all PayPal and apple payment systems to make it complete.
Therefore you are currently selling an illegal product.
This is a huge point. Free events have a set of laws governing them, and pay events have a whole different set of laws and regulations. Making anomalies pay only events opens a huge ugly can of worms legally.
@Claudija you're spot on! 💚
I'm so angry with this right now, I can't articulate it but your statement: pay to win, is exactly this. I hope @niantic listen.
Also, can they just stop with the bloody blue badges? They're meant to be impartial, not side with one faction.
Sadly there is no Google+ anymore so I have to write it like this
I wonder what steps in Class action can be taken against Niantic for people who committed to a Free Anomaly, only to be told it has a paid for requirement later.
It is a Bait and Switch scam, which have often resulted in Class Action Law suits in the US. Would be interesting to see if enough people attend anomalies to actually be able to push a class action suit
Very well put.
I agree completely. Well put @Claudija
All of these things and more. One would think that after almost 7 years of these events, the company would have learned the value of communication. Here's to hoping they listen to the actual content creators for this and their other games.
Perfect post!!! Please niantic, the agents don't pay to play
Niantic хочет за счет организаторов аномалии получать доход, не вкладывая ни цента. Это чревато финансовыми исками ;)
Thank you for your letter! Waiting for the same letters from other Vanguards (I hope they have thoughts of their own)
Very well put. Agree with concerns raised. Hopefully this particular move by Niantic gets revised soon (and not soon tm).
Sums up the whole situation.
Very well put. Niantic is making gross mistakes. If they communicated openly, this wouldn't be so bad. But this kind of surprise announcement is the ideal way to alienate the player base. A lot of stuff regarding anomalies has been skirting very grey areas of legality for a long time. The community has always been willing to overlook these things because it was mostly volunteer work. If Niantic starts mandatory charges, that will change.
Communication, Communication, Communication.
Charging for events where the vast majority of the work is performed by unpaid POCs and Orga Volunteers.
I got it when you sold swag bundles to to make some money, but now charging for the event itself, seriously?
I very agree with all written and hereby fully support this statement.
In many communities I'm part of, it's said that we don't mind paying for some extra value (badges, double AP etc.), but we want basic participation and being counted into the score for free.
Also, I really feel sorry both for the orgas and POCs, who have put a lot of effort and also money into preparing everything, and the agents who have already paid their airplane/whatever tickets. It's a great betrayal that you're telling us about the payment needed this late. Now many of us are forced to pay the ticket, because it's cheaper than cancelling all the flights and stuff. As for the orgas, there are not only the legal issues, which are very well explained above and it's really unclear if the liability is upon them or you, Niantic, but it's also the probable decrease of number of participants, if the fee remains.
We ask you – consider your options. You might earn more from this anomaly this way, but in the long term, you will definitely earn more by making the payment optional with added value, and agents won't retire.
@Claudija you are spot on with your remarks, even if there are many more that could be made.
Turning a FREE event into a PAID one after everyone had made their own arrangements to participate is nothing short of a stab on the back. (hey, remember the event that you had to pay travel, hotel, swags and many pay character medals for nia? well, now YOU WILL HAVE TO PAY MORE or nothing you will do onsite will count for your team).
There is still time for Niantic to see their error with this, make it like it was before and rethink how they will make money from ingress from now on without actually losing a part of it's player base..
Wonder who is going to offer their time and effort being a POC so nia can sit back, do nothing and fill their pockets with anomalies.
Claudia has very eloquently written what needs to be said. Niantic, I hope you are listening.
Thank you Claudi, for summarizing all our thoughts. On a personal note, there only som many times one can shrug off the badly thought through maneuvers. What Nia fails to realize is that they are alienating their work force and key community culture figures. The core of the game.
Its pretty shocking how Nia can not learn from past mistakes that doesn’t bode well for the company.
+10000 to this letter
Thanks for putting into words what I was thinking after debating what I said last night. I definitely need to apologize to my community about what I said while I wasn't thinking and was taken aback by the change. I hope I didn't make my POC feel bad...
Edit: I definitely didn't say anything mean just so people don't get the wrong idea, but i completely forgot that all this is done by our POCs.