Hidden Monopolies and the Illusion of Choice: How Companies Trick You by Creating More… Companies

Hidden Monopolies and the Illusion of Choice: How Companies Trick You by Creating More… Companies

Hi guys, I’m back in the world of YouTube
after having a fairly hectic month. Exams are now over at uni and I have finally
finished my Android app PowerWord 2 (go check it out on Google Play if you enjoy playing
minimalist word games). One thing that I noticed while doing research
for PowerWord, was just how saturated the app market truly is. For example, if you do a search for “word
games”, as with all things Google, you’ll get back literally hundreds of results, for
example, Wordscapes. If you continue looking through the search
results, you might just notice that there is a bit of a pattern occurring: Word Cookies;
Word Connect; Word Cross; Word Nut; Word Find; Word Bliss; Word Flowers; Word Connect (again);
Word Game; Word Charm; Word Vistas; Word Sushi; Word Fire; and Word Poo (okay, I made that
last one up). But the list goes on and on with similar sounding
games. If you’ve played any of these games, you’ll
very quickly realise, they’re pretty much the same game. And I’m not just saying that they’re similar. Some of them are exactly the same (apart from
the title, graphics, and the name of the developer). So what’s going on here? Well, I think there’s one of two things
that is happening. Either developers are just copying each other,
that is, they see a winning formula and try to mimic other successful games (there’s
certainly an element of that), or most of these games are made by the same developer. I’m guessing the latter. You see, most of these games have been published
under a different developer account, but to be fair, it’s not that hard to make a new
account. You just have to pay a one-off fee of $25
and you have yourself a developer account for life. Just as you can have an endless number of
gmail accounts, you can also have an endless number of Google Play Developer accounts. My guess is that a single company created
a successfully word game, and then just rehashed it multiple times to make it look like a new
game. All they have to do then is publish these
copies under different developer accounts. There’s even entire websites and YouTube
videos dedicated to this practice, also known as “reskinning”. What’s the point of all of this? Well of course, it comes down to money. The goal is to flood the market with the same
game over and over again. The average consumer thinks they are getting
a great range of options, but instead they’re getting the royal screwgie. It’s the same game repeated hundreds of
times. It’s not dissimilar to the poker machine
addict who thinks by playing a different machine, he’s playing a different game with a different
chance of winning. It’s the same essential game just with some
minor alterations to graphics and gameplay to make it seem unique. It’s almost certainly the same damn company
making the machine. Is this practice of tricking consumers into
thinking that they’re getting a wide range of options common? It certainly is. As I mentioned in the title, I like to call
them “hidden monopolies” — companies that trick us into believing that we’re
buying from different companies, when in fact, they own the whole bloody lot. Just like the boardgame monopoly, the average
consumer is a pawn in this global game for our money. I’ll give you another example. Have you booked a hotel online recently? There’s a lot of options: Wotif; Hotels.com;
Orbitz; HomeAway; Travelocity; Hotwire; Trivago. Do you think they’re all independent companies? Nah, they’re all owned by Expedia! — The big American travel conglomerate. Foolish me used to think that Trivago was
actually an independent website that helped you compare prices from all over the internet. Well, to be fair, they do, but all the results
come from their own websites. As I said, hidden monopoly. Legally I guess they can get away with it
because they are very careful in their wording: “Find your ideal hotel and compare prices
from different websites”. That’s 100% true. They are comparing prices from different websites. It’s just that they fail to tell you that
all the websites are owned by them. It would be like playing an 8-player game
of Monopoly where seven of the eight players are working in cahoots. What do you think would happen to the odd-man
out? Screwed! This is not a new phenomenon. My friend used to work for the now defunct
Dick Smith Electronics, which was owned by the Australian supermarket chain Woolworths. My other friend used to work for another electronics
chain called Tandy, which was also owned by, you guessed it, Woolworths. They use to tell me stories about customers
coming into Tandy complaining about Dick Smith, or Dick Smith customers complaining about
Tandy, or even Dick Smith and Tandy customers complaining about Woolworths. Most people were completely oblivious to the
fact that they were all owned by the same company. Together, Tandy and Dick Smith pretty much
dominated the electronics market. I guess Woolworths knew that the public wouldn’t
tolerate a blatant monopoly, so they had the two chains pretend to be rivals. A giant drinks manufacturer (which according
to urban legend invented the modern-day Santa Claus and who’s name will remain unspoken
in this video thanks to me being pinged a few times in the past), owns a huge share
of the drinks market in Australia and across the globe. The once Queensland-owned Kirks is now owned
by them. The Monster Beverage Corporation which produces
the energy drink Mother is of course owned by them. Even the spring water racket is dominated
by this Santa Claus-looking company. When I was living in Japan, I was surprised
to find out that many of the traditional green teas that I often enjoyed were also owned
by them. Did the average Japanese person know this? Of course not! To be fair, I don’t blame the companies. They’re just doing what they can legally
get away with. Their goal, and their only goal, is to make
money. If they have to own and run 10 different websites,
or make the same game hundreds of times in order to dominate the market, then that’s
what they’ll do. Monopolies will always come about if we let
them. If it was allowed, I’m sure a single company
would end up owning the entire world. It’s only because we have regulation in
place that it hasn’t happened already. But there’s no mistaking that monopolies
are not good for the consumer. They ultimately result in higher prices, and
restricted choice. And if you hurt the consumer, you hurt society. Further down the line this will lead to a
less efficient economy, less productivity, and less employment. But almost every major company is guilty now. When I was designing my new app, I was essentially
working for Google. If they say my app needs to be modified, I
modify it. When I make these videos on YouTube, despite
YouTube officially labelling me a “partner”, I’m really just a slave to Google. Google dominate the internet and exercise
dictator-like control over YouTube. If I was truly a partner, then surely I would
have a say in the everyday operations and management of the company. Do I have ANY control? No. I’m not a partner. I’m a partner in name only. If Google tell me that my video (or channel)
is demonetised, it’s demonetised, and there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it. Google may not have gulags or prison camps,
but they certainly are a dictatorship — a digital dictatorship that will take over the
online world if we let them. Unfortunately, the average consumer doesn’t
seem to mind. They’re blissfully ignorant of these hidden
monopolies. To be fair, I was too, and I would say that
I’m fairly savvy. So what hope does the average consumer have? Anyway, that’s enough ranting from me. You’ve been listening to “Hidden Monopolies
and the Illusion of Choice: How Companies Trick You by Creating More… Companies”.

4 thoughts on “Hidden Monopolies and the Illusion of Choice: How Companies Trick You by Creating More… Companies”

  • Glad to see you back! Will have to check out your app.

    Very interesting topic today. Enjoyed it. I remember reading about glasses companies doing this. Well… A glasses company.

  • It's the same with the big overseas companies buying out our local ones. Hardly any Australian owned companies left. For example in the paint industry you have Nippon paints who recently obtained the Orica group & under this umbrella you have Dulux, Walpamur, Cabot's, Feast Watson, Berger, Intergrain & Selleys.

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