Technically Exists

Can boycotts be solved?

2018-02-01

In my last post, I talked about why individuals’ incentives will prevent video game boycotts from succeeding. Now I’d like to discuss potential solutions (or at least vague outlines for potential solutions) to this problem.

The first idea that comes to mind is looking at historical successes. Two successful boycotts that I’m aware of are the Continental Association and the Montgomery bus boycott. For those who don’t know, the Continental Association was a boycott of British goods by the American colonies prior to the American Revolutionary War, and the Montgomery bus boycott was a protest against the segregated bus system in Montgomery, Alabama during the American Civil Rights Movement. In looking at these examples, I hope to identify both parts of a coordination mechanism: an agreement and an enforcement mechanism.

The Continental Association’s agreement is easy to find. The Association’s articles stated that colonists would refuse to import British goods and American merchants would avoid price gouging to ease the resulting burden. Likewise, the articles provide several enforcement mechanisms. Those violating the agreement were to be publicly ostracized and condemned. Committees of inspection were set up to monitor businesses. Colonies had to cease all dealings with any colony that did not comply. Additionally, violence was employed to force compliance on some occasions. These mechanisms were successful enough for all but one colony to comply up until the war began.

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Video game boycotts

2018-01-26

Recently, many people have been upset by the direction some video games have been taking in regard to certain ideas like loot boxes. One proposed solution is to boycott the offending games. However, there is a fundamental problem with boycotting that makes this very difficult to pull off.

Participating in a boycott is generally not worth it to an individual. A good way to observe this is to use marginal analysis. The marginal cost of participating in a boycott is pretty easy to identify, since it’s simply being unable to purchase and play the game targeted by the boycott. However, identifying the marginal benefit is a bit more complicated.

One way to think of the marginal benefit is to assume that there is a single threshold at which it becomes more profitable for the game developer to give in to the boycott than to continue on with whatever activity is being boycotted. Below this threshold, the revenue lost to the boycotters is less than that gained by continuing the boycotted activity. At and above this threshold, continuing the activity will cost the firm more than it earns them. Thus, the firm will cease the activity if and only if the boycott meets the threshold.

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This now exists

2018-01-23

Well, I guess this site exists now. I wonder if it will die before anyone else sees it.