The minority rule:
A small minority if it stands firm behind an idea can force the majority to conform to its will.
Today, we will explore this rule and how it can be seen, understood and affect video-games.
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Let’s start by explaining the minority rule by providing examples.
The Kosher population represents less than three-tenths of a percent of the residents of the United States. Yet, it appears that most drinks in US supermarkets are kosher.
Just grab an orange or a lemonade juice from and you’ll probably see a U in a circle sign, which simply means that this drink is kosher compatible.
At first, this might seem weird and makes no sense from an economic point of view, to produce a drink with specific rules that the vast majority of consumers don’t care about only to fulfill the demands of a small minority, but if closely looked at, there’s a simple explanation behind it, and one that makes total sense: the minority rule.
Every person who does not conform to the Jewish dietary regulations can drink kosher or non-kosher drinks but every person who conforms to the Jewish dietary regulations will only drink kosher.
This asymmetric relationship makes the producers decide to make one unified kosher compatible drinks for both consumers to avoid the inefficiency of having two products, two distribution channels and searching for specific areas to sell one of the drinks and not the other.
Whenever you have a flexible majority and a minority that follows strict rules, the minority always wins.
The same phenomena also explain the gradual disappearance of a manual gearbox in modern cars.
Drivers who drive manual cars can also drive automatic gearbox but automatic drivers can’t do the opposite.
To simplify things for the manufacturers they make automatic-only cars.
Youtube once suggested to me a 20 minutes video on why manual gearboxes are disappearing from cars. I wondered why do you need 20 minutes to explain it; it’s simply the minority rule, end of discussion.
The phenomena once noticed can be seen in many aspects of life, philosophy, industries, politics and even video games.
The examples are too many to count.
In the United Kingdom, where the (practicing) Muslim population is only 3 to 4 percent, a very high proportion of the meat we find is halal.
In air flights, they don’t provide nuts although those who are allergic to it is a tiny minority of the total number of passengers.
The tricky part of the minority rule is that its dynamics are not noticed and the changes happen in an organic way which is why many people don’t detect it.
Let me bring the minority rule to video games in two examples:
First, one of the most boring topics I see people repeatedly talk about is the end of single-player games.
From the minority rule point of view, I can with confidence say that it will never happen.
Those who play multiplayer online games, in general, don’t mind playing single-player games but those who only play single-player games are not necessarily interested in multiplayer games, including yours truly.
This asymmetry work in favor of single-player games. All of the call of Duty Games except for the latest black ops include a single-player component. And black ops didn’t include it because it wasn’t ready when the release date came and starting from the upcoming call of duty, the single player will come back again.
The first titanfall was heavily criticized for not including a single-player component and that pressure pushed Respawn in the sequel Titanfall 2 to create one of the most beautiful single-player campaigns in recent memory in a first-person shooter game.
Multiplayer games are under pressure to deliver a single-player component, while the opposite is not correct.
No one has criticized Shadow of the tomb raider, Detroit become human, God of War, Spiderman or Horizon Zero dawn for not including a multiplayer component but both star wars games and Titanfall were criticized for not having a single-player component. EA to redeem its mistake is extending an olive branch to gamers by announcing a third-star war game that will be single-player only with no multiplayer component in any way shape or form. That is the minority rule in action.
The single-player gamers have an asymmetry in their relationship with multiplayer gamers and it works in favor of the former.
So whenever someone talks about the end of single-player games, just remember the minority rule and how a consistent unyielding minority can lead the majority.
The second observation of the minority rule in the world of video games is the reaction to the new epic store.
Only a small minority of the total number of PC gamers care if a game is on the steam or epic store.
There are 2.5 Billion gamers on this planet and from the total gaming market 25% use their computers play on their computers, that translates into more than 600 million computer players and steam users are around 90m, and from the 90 million only a portion who will refuse to play on any store other than the steam store
So we’re talking here about a minority within a minority within a minority.
I can now see a new minority rule brewing, most of the 600 million pc gamers won’t mind playing a game on steam or on any other gaming market but the hardcore steam users might end up acting like in the typical minority rule followers and refuse to play a game on any store other than steam.
This will force developers to provide their games to steam under any circumstances. If you think a minority like them can be safely ignored then take a step back and think, why would a company like Epic games write lucrative checks to game developers to get their games away from the steam store. It is a direct response to the minority rule of steam users, Epic realized that there is an asymmetry that works in favor of the steam store.
If a group of friends wants to play a game together online and they’re agnostic to which platform or store to buy the game from, then it only takes one uncompromising member of the group who only plays on steam to push the whole group to that store.
By having a game exclusively in its epic store, Epic is removing the effect of the minority rule.
Steam represents only around 10 percent of the total PC Market Gaming revenue. But the minority rule is strong and any new major game has to be released in the steam store because you have an uncompromising minority of hardcore gamers there who won’t play the game anywhere else.
The followers of this channel know that we are big fans of Nassim Taleb and his writings. In his book “Skin in the Game” Taleb talks about the minority rule and summarizes it brilliantly as follows:
“Society doesn’t evolve by consensus, voting, majority, committees, verbose meetings, academic conferences, tea, and cucumber sandwiches, or polling; only a few people suffice to disproportionately move the needle. All one needs is an asymmetric rule somewhere—and someone with soul in the game. And asymmetry is present in about everything”
What is unique about minorities in video games is that they are very vocal and visible. Time after time we see developers reacting, altering and accommodating demands of gamers who are protesting about things like the cover art of Bioshock infinite, having a female lead character in Battlefield 5, or don’t like the design of a character in the avengers game.
In all these cases the majority is flexible and doesn’t care in which way the wind will blow but the minority is consistent, unyielding, vocal and therefore they always get a response from developers.
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I’m your host Elizabeth and behind the computer screen is Haitham, we wish you all the best and see you soon.