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Who buys the megacorp's products?

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frederick.johansen

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« on: (17:05:15/03-08-18) »
[My standard intro and disclaimer]
I have a few Shadowrun fluff questions.  I am running a 5th edition game with my girlfriend, best friend and his 20 year old son.  We've really enjoyed ourselves so far, and all of us love the Shadowrun game world.  Me being me however, there are some places where the story of Shadowrun just doesn't fit for me.  I'm not talking about whether various events are ethical or legal.  I realize it is fiction and I'm able to accept a fair amount with that in mind.  That stated there are still some elements that I need help wrapping my head around.

Who is buying the megacorp's products?  The megacorps are styled after the multinational corporations of the 1980s, and the financial well being of those companies depended (and still depends) on a huge number of customers with significant amounts of disposable income.  There is money to be made in providing the essentials of life, but the real money is selling things people do not, in the strictest sense, actually need.  It is stated over and over again that no one in the sixth world, except for a tiny minority, has any disposable income.  The vast majority don't know if they can afford to eat the next day, or at least that is how the story reads to me.  I mean, shadowrunners are having trouble keeping the lights on!  Part of the ability for the economies of the world in the 1980s to function (and again, today as well) was the availability of relatively cheap credit (and accommodating personal bankruptcy laws) to the masses (more so in the second half of the 1980s and going forward), effectively increasing the amount of disposable income available to spend on products.  There isn't a great deal that I have found written about credit in Shadowrun but it appears that easy access to credit for the majority of metahumanity is not case.  To make the situation even more complicated, megacorp employees can only purchase their own megacorps products.  Corporate script is essentially the corp selling products to itself or paying its employees in products rather than cash, and so can't really be seen as income.

And no, the answer is not "Shadowrun is a dystopia and everything sucks."  I've seen some really thoughtful writing on these forums and other Shadowrun forums, so I'm hoping to get some clarity on how this element of the Shadowrun world works. 

As an aside, my own suspicion (completely unsupported by canon) is that the megacorps are actually huge charities keeping the world's populace alive without raising the attention of forces attempting to bring the Dark Terrors to our world.  But that is almost certainly just me.  ;-)

« Reply #1 on: (17:28:16/03-08-18) »
Who buys megacorps' products?

Everyone who doesn't live in a hunter-gatherer level subsistence society.  Even the (rationed) electricity your runner consumes at his doss is ultimately provided by one mega or another.

frederick.johansen

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« Reply #2 on: (17:41:28/03-08-18) »
Ok, fair enough, my question was poorly phrased.  I guess I'm more asking where the markets are for the mega corps.  Yes, the mega corps make everything, but if the majority of the population don't have any money how do the mega corps make so much money?  I doubt that in today's world Haiti is a major profit center for international business, simply because there is no money there.  In the dystopia I get from the canon, the whole sixth world is like Haiti with exceptionally minor exceptions.

« Reply #3 on: (17:46:14/03-08-18) »
Well ultimately, once you kick the can down to the end of the alley... this ends up being a case of "it's a fictional world only peripherally fleshed out around the intended focus of Shadowrunning".

But before you get to that point, you have the usual topics of lucrative government contracts, speculative investing, quaternary economics, and good old fashioned exploitation of natural resources and metahuman labor as sources of wealth in the Sixth World.

PiXeL01

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« Reply #4 on: (17:48:04/03-08-18) »
While the stuff tend to focus on the number of sinless and the corps, the two extremes of the setting, thereís still a huge number of people in between. If you just look at the security ratings and neighborhood levels you will notice and most areas are low or middle meaning thereís a huge middle class of people hunger for products and most of these do not work for the Big Ten but an uncountable number of corps and businesses grinding away, hoping to make profit but not enough to get swallowed up by one of bigger sharks. These people who use either nuyen or the local currency is the consumer base that all the corps no matter rating fight over. The Big Ten are just more likely to fight dirty because they can afford it.

Red Herring

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« Reply #5 on: (08:32:59/03-09-18) »
This might just be how I GM, but when I have the Megacorps selling stuff it is almost always through subsidiaries. You aren't buying your food from Aztechnology you're buying it from Stuffer Shack. You're not buying your troll/dwarf/pixie sized goodies from EVO you're buying it from Metaergonomics. You're not buying your guns from Ares, you're buying them from Lockheed Martin. Better yet, think of how in real life if you buy your food it isn't owned by a bunch of diverse food companies, but falls under the umbrella of less than half a dozen giant corporations. Krupp is another good real life example. They may not own all the automative industies, but they produce parts used in just about all of them, allowing them to profit from most car sales the world over. (fragging Lofwyr knew who to pick, amiright?)

We're all slaves to the corps chummer, it just isn't always as obvious as we think ;)
« Last Edit: (08:35:55/03-09-18) by Red Herring »
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frederick.johansen

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« Reply #6 on: (04:33:16/03-11-18) »
While the stuff tend to focus on the number of sinless and the corps, the two extremes of the setting, thereís still a huge number of people in between. If you just look at the security ratings and neighborhood levels you will notice and most areas are low or middle meaning thereís a huge middle class of people hunger for products and most of these do not work for the Big Ten but an uncountable number of corps and businesses grinding away, hoping to make profit but not enough to get swallowed up by one of bigger sharks. These people who use either nuyen or the local currency is the consumer base that all the corps no matter rating fight over. The Big Ten are just more likely to fight dirty because they can afford it.

That helps tremendously.  It is really difficult to figure out where the world of Shadowrun falls between modern day and living in Russia during the 1920s famine where people ate their children to survive.

Are there any references that can help me understand and paint to my players the actual level of screwed up-ness?

Beta

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« Reply #7 on: (10:17:52/03-11-18) »
References are hard, because they veer all over the place from 'much of hte world is fairly normal' to 'most of the world is completely fragged up.'

I don't remember who pointed it out, but what helped me was someone pointing out that most components of AAA companies are minority owned (but fully controlled) subsidiaries which don't have as extreme a level of corporate control.  That in areas with garbage collection that may be done by a subsidiary of Mitsuhama, but it is NOT Mitsuhama, its employees probably get paid in nuyen, it may well be much more open to employing orcs and trolls, its host is not Mitsuhama tough, it is not a zero zone, etc.  The pay and security that it provides won't be nearly as good as working more directly for Mitsuhama, but the employees also won't be as locked into the MCT eco-system, are more apt to live in (low lifestyle) mixed communities, hang out at a local bar, cheer for local rather than corporate sports teams, etc.  And beyond that, a lot of small business fits in the cracks. Sometimes a mega has dominated a sector from top to botom, like Aztechnology did with Stuffer Shack, but in others ... perhaps Wuxing controls much of the wholesale in flowers, for example, but there are still independent florists as well as Wuxing transported flowers sold through outlets owned by other big corps.  It just isn't a big enough business for anyone to try and control the retail flower trade, or for every corp to set up their own supply system.  Now for sure an MCT accountant will be paid in MCT currency and will buy flowers at an MCT store most of the time, but sometimes they may go to a specialty florist that has something that their local MCT store with a section of flowers just won't carry -- and so even some of that pure corp money gets into the local economy.
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Rosa

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« Reply #8 on: (12:49:33/03-11-18) »
I agree with Pixel that the reason why we tend to think that most of the world consists of sinless downtrodden populations or Corp drones is because that's what the lore focuses on. But for the shadowrun economic system to even remotely function there would have to be an enormous middle class with disposable income. Since shadowruns economic system is basically a consumer driven capitalist system run amok it would be unable to sustain itself much less provide any economic growth for the corps if there wasn't a huge potential consumer base. The system would simply stagnate if the entirety of the population were mindcontroled drones that bought only their own corps products. It's also why Aztechnology is one of the biggest of the AAA corps since they are huge in the consumer products areas.

PiXeL01

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« Reply #9 on: (18:43:39/03-11-18) »
While Iím not sure how great a picture Market Panic paints of the whole corporate system the hints and bits and pieces can be picked up here and there when they talk about the corporate revision. They talk about how the hundreds of corps go on a frenzy trying to strengthen their position while weakening their competitors in order to gain a better rating, most hope for AA while others have to fight off others to simply retain their status.
And Beta is right, the big corps donít rebrand most of their possessions because that could potentially mean loss of profit. So while they may restructure the organization they mostly leave the identity of Corp intact.
New corps also spring up all the time feeding the system that is very similar to ours just turned up to 11 or higher.

Reaver

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« Reply #10 on: (23:57:25/03-11-18) »
Keep in mind, the term "wageslave" is shadowspeak. Meaning it is a term used by those in the shadows (like your runners) - If you notice, most of the books are written in a shadow perspective.

"Wageslaves" is anyone who works a regular job for a Corporation; Even if that job isn't an office job. For example, Bob the builder is a wageslave even though he isn't an office drone by the simple fact he is employed by a construction company.
And yes, Wageslaves are numerous, and have income to spend - they are the target market for many MegaCorps offerings!

If you really look close, you'll also see a lot of "leeching" going on as well within a Mega, which makes some sense from an economic point. (And this happens today too, much to the frustration of the workers in the industry!)

SK finds a new deposit of natural gas and wants to procure it for market, so they do these steps:
1: Have Legal secure the Resource rights (in house)
2: Hire an Environmental team to do an assessment of the area for construction. (Would be an SK sub)
3: Hire an Engineering firm to engineer the drilling platforms, the storage and transport systems. (another SK Sub)
4: Hire a construction firm to asses the engineer's prints for supplies materials. (SK sub)
5: Hire suppliers for the required materials -everything from nuts and bolts to structural steel!. (More SK subs)
6: Build their new refinery, well, and storage facility. (with SK sub labor)

That's a lot of money (right now, a NG well, refinery and storage costs in the low Billions), but its all SK moving money from one company they own to another, with no real expansion of material wealth, even though there was a flurry of economic
activity. (And if you look REAL close and track the money on most large projects, you'll find the same thing today. The only real economic growth comes from the workers of all these companies when they spend their wages! Hence why governments
push large infrastructure projects during economic downturns - they are hoping to stimulate the secondary markets.)

If you are looking for hard data on the number of Sinless world wide, the rule of thumb I use is a country's percentage of unemployed. Then I triple it. For example, if the unemployment rate in the US was 5%, then in SR if I need a number
for the Sinless, I assume its 15% of the city/state/country. Its fast and dirty, and can change by local factors, but it gives me a rough starting number, especially after all the factors come into play. (natural Sinless, Crash 2.0 victims, etc)
   
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Carmody

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« Reply #11 on: (06:20:47/03-12-18) »
As I said in the sister topic, there is also some debat about which proportion of corporate workers are corporate citizens. My understanding is than only engineer or equivalent and higher are actually corporate citizens. All lower level employees are not granted corporate citizenship, the company has no loyalty to them (they fire them without any second thought) and do the employees. Therefore they will buy anything they want/need/can afford whatever the mega selling it.
Furthermore, given the size of the mega, and the number of subsidiaries and brands they own, most people are not even aware who they are buying from most of the time.

firebug

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« Reply #12 on: (07:59:19/03-12-18) »
When someone discusses "but all the workers are working 70 hour weeks with no job security, how does the economy work" or something similar, I always like to point out that entertainment is still a massive industry in Shadowrun.  And in order for you to make money from selling/providing entertainment, there has to be people buying.  That means people with the time and money to go see your movie, or visit your theme park, or play your VR game.  It's a common paradox in a lot of cyberpunk settings, where it simultaneously seems to imply that there are no consumers anymore (everyone is either too poor or spends all of their time working and being drip-fed by the corps to function at the bare minimum) while also implying there's rampant capitalism (how else does a megacorporation form?) which requires there be a lot of rubes to trick into buying your crap.

So in SR, there are still upper-middle class folk who have high-paying jobs, but are still the difference between the "wealthy" people who buy and sell goods, and the powerful people who buy and sell businesses.  And just below them are the people who make enough money to live but not as well as they'd like, while still having some disposable income.  It's less of a breach in the genre and more just a logical inclusion--  Anything resembling modern day culture still has people in every possible rung on the ladder, because they're the water powering the watermill, if you get my metaphor.
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frederick.johansen

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« Reply #13 on: (05:18:42/03-13-18) »
When someone discusses "but all the workers are working 70 hour weeks with no job security, how does the economy work" or something similar, I always like to point out that entertainment is still a massive industry in Shadowrun.  And in order for you to make money from selling/providing entertainment, there has to be people buying.  That means people with the time and money to go see your movie, or visit your theme park, or play your VR game. 

*******
It's a common paradox in a lot of cyberpunk settings, where it simultaneously seems to imply that there are no consumers anymore (everyone is either too poor or spends all of their time working and being drip-fed by the corps to function at the bare minimum) while also implying there's rampant capitalism (how else does a megacorporation form?) which requires there be a lot of rubes to trick into buying your crap.
*******

So in SR, there are still upper-middle class folk who have high-paying jobs, but are still the difference between the "wealthy" people who buy and sell goods, and the powerful people who buy and sell businesses.  And just below them are the people who make enough money to live but not as well as they'd like, while still having some disposable income.  It's less of a breach in the genre and more just a logical inclusion--  Anything resembling modern day culture still has people in every possible rung on the ladder, because they're the water powering the watermill, if you get my metaphor.

I added the asterisks for emphasis....this, this a thousand times this!  That is *exactly* why I posted this thread.  I also wonder if a significant portion of how the bad things are portrayed in Shadowrun are is the combination of the writers (particularly the initial writers) believing the current hype about how terrible certain parts of the country are, as well as hype within the Shadowrun narrative itself of how bad things are.  Example: I live in Baltimore city.  I live in an area where a lot of people are quite poor.  There is some crime and violence, though it is almost always between people who know each other.  I don't lock my front door, leave stuff out in my front and back yard unlocked, and am completely comfortable walking the streets of my neighborhood at night.  What is completely nuts is that even some of my neighbors believe they live in a war zone, to the point of making up stories of terrible events that did not actually occur.  The hype is that the average person in Shadowrun doesn't have nuyen to their name, lives in a dumpster and works 170 hours a week (yes, I know, I did it on purpose).  The real story is that the average person is able to provide for themselves, including buying toys....just not as many as they would like. 

The answer is that there are lots of citizens of nations who have money to buy corporate goods and services.  Shadowrun, as we know it, couldn't exist otherwise.  Again, thank you to everyone for letting me know that even in Shadowrun, basic logic applies.  :-)   

farothel

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« Reply #14 on: (09:35:41/03-13-18) »
A lot of things also depend on location.  In Seattle things will look quite a bit different from Lagos for instance.
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