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July 3, 2013 7:07 PM   Subscribe

The techniques used by "Free to Play" games to part fools from their money.
posted by DoctorFedora (142 comments total) 54 users marked this as a favorite

 
Exhibit A: Candy Crush
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:12 PM on July 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


It actually was Exhibit A in the article.
posted by michaelh at 7:14 PM on July 3, 2013 [16 favorites]


That's actually mentioned a couple of times throughout the article as a prime example (the other main example: Asia's darling Puzzle & Dragons).
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:14 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I realize the article is supposed to be about "casual" games like Candy Crush but I don't see any mention of hats...
posted by thewalrus at 7:21 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


That's probably because they aren't fundamental gameplay elements.

Which is not to suggest that a nice hat isn't still important.
pre-ponysterical

posted by DoctorFedora at 7:24 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


FIENDISH!
posted by louche mustachio at 7:24 PM on July 3, 2013


Just to tie this in to EVE Online (as all mefi video games posts should), CCP, developer of EVE, recently hired Sean Decker, who was previously vice president at EA's "Play4Free" group. Players are already sharpening their pitchforks/posting against the threat of F2P EVE.
posted by ryanrs at 7:26 PM on July 3, 2013


Somewhat relatedly, the Steam sale is about to start...
posted by Going To Maine at 7:26 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I realized something interesting about myself the other day. I don't object to people that make things that cost money, even if it's a lot of money. And I don't object to advertising really, especially the kind that's about finding who will buy your product and explaining that products benefits to them.

What I think I don't like is sales, all these little semi-coercive tips and tricks to get somebody to make a decision that's not in their best interest. Maybe I'm being pedantic, but its sales tactics that always give me the ickies. And this feels like pure sales.
posted by Apropos of Something at 7:26 PM on July 3, 2013 [19 favorites]


I just started playing Candy Crush Saga, though I have yet to actually pay money (or want to pay money). I wonder how winnable the game is if you just never pay anything.
posted by jeather at 7:30 PM on July 3, 2013


Fascinating read. I'm saving the link so I can forward this paper to assorted friends of mine who are Candy Crush addicts.
posted by Annie Savoy at 7:30 PM on July 3, 2013


I just realized that one of my favorite Tower Defense games, Kingdom Rush, is structured like this. It's a skill game that becomes unplayable without a hard boost.

I want to say that I'm glad they tricked me: I've played a dozen free tower defense games over the years, and it's about time some developer got paid for their work and my enjoyment. But it helps that it was a one-time, cheap purchase. Call it a free demo, maybe?

You can also see some of these techniques at work in DLC.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:33 PM on July 3, 2013


I realize the article is supposed to be about "casual" games like Candy Crush but I don't see any mention of hats...

The article is about hidden coercive expenses. The hats are not sold sneakily at all and there is no coercion of any kind to buy them.
posted by aubilenon at 7:33 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just started playing Candy Crush Saga, though I have yet to actually pay money (or want to pay money). I wonder how winnable the game is if you just never pay anything.

I just finished level 30, after 3 gruelling levels that took me several days to complete. Where I find that to unlock the next several levels, I either have to pay, go on facebook and market to my friends, or complete 3 basically impossible challenges.
posted by muddgirl at 7:33 PM on July 3, 2013


Thus this group is a vulnerable population with no legal protection, making them the ideal target audience for these methods. Not coincidentally, this age range of consumer is also highly desired by credit card companies.

I don't really disagree but I'm not sure we can say this group has "no legal protection." They just don't use it.

I wonder how winnable the game is if you just never pay anything.

I had a brief romance with Bejeweled Blitz at the end of my last semester, as a study break. Because I am a skinflint, I never paid anything and never would. I found myself souring on it as I gradually built the understanding that these games are not structured like "real" games, they're optimized to generate revenue. In real-life games, the more you play a game, the better you get, and you enjoy the satisfaction of increasing prowess. These games don't work that way. They include chance elements to demonstrate the power of purchasable items, but the better you get, the more rarely the really valuable chance gems appear. There comes a point where you realize there is no way to consistently excel at the game, no matter what your skill level, because it's rigged. You have to pay to excel consistently. In the article's parlance, it switches from a "skill game" to a "money game."

Once I realized these games weren't honest about the terms of play, the fun went out of them for me. It's not just that chumps take the easy way out by paying for extra game advantage. It's that no one can truly do well at the game without paying, and the game manipulates you constantly to encourage you to pay. There's no real challenge there in competing with oneself or others. The actual gameplay is not fair, so it becomes very uninteresting. The house wins every time.
posted by Miko at 7:39 PM on July 3, 2013 [29 favorites]


We've made it clear as a society that we don't want to pay for digital content. This is maybe exactly what it looks like when the market adjusts and adapts to that fact.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:40 PM on July 3, 2013 [18 favorites]


I spend a stupid amount of money on bejewelled blitz and i really need to stop.
posted by empath at 7:42 PM on July 3, 2013


Play bejeweled Blitz, never buying any boosts, and see how high a score you can get. Got over 300k a couple of times...
posted by Windopaene at 7:44 PM on July 3, 2013


Man, I still owe Skip Feeney a hundred bucks from back in the day at Shufflepuck Café.
posted by not_on_display at 7:45 PM on July 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


Bejewelled Blitz is a slot machine that never pays out.
posted by Gin and Comics at 7:47 PM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


One of my current favorite games, Mechwarrior Online, seems to avoid most of these with the exception of the first point, coercive monetization if you want to spend real money to buy stuff in-game. That said, you don't actually have to spend a nickel to enjoy the game. Anything except a few hero mechs can be bought with pure sweat equity, and to be honest, the hero mechs aren't all that special. My favorite ride in that game is a Raven-3L that can easily be purchased by a newbie after 20-30 matches with in-game winnings.

That said, they do push the premium stuff pretty occasionally. The last big "deal" prior to full release, Project Phoenix is $80 at the top tier. The crazy thing is I half considered it before I came to my senses.

I've probably already spent $60 on this "free" game. That said, I have gotten more game play out of it than I have from many games I've spent $50-$60 on at retail so it's fair.
posted by barc0001 at 7:47 PM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


I got over 300K many times too. That doesn't change the substance of my comment. It happens rarely, and the game parcels out the valuable gems very stingily, and then pushes competition with the leaderboard of paying friends, and then does the "remove reward" thing. It manipulates you. If I can score 300K 10 times, I should be able to continue and score 4, 500, 600K, and I should be able to score 300K with relative consistency. That's not how the game experience plays, because the game isn't a fair one.
posted by Miko at 7:48 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is what I've always thought about these games, but get shouted down when I have the audacity to say it aloud. I hate them.
posted by JHarris at 7:48 PM on July 3, 2013 [12 favorites]


I don't know about that - people certainly are paying for digital content in these games, aren't they?

I wonder how much money "real" games make, versus these scams. One of my favourite iPhone games is Plants v Zombies. I've played through the whole thing twice. There is nothing in that game you have to pay real money to get past. You can spend real money to buy helpful boosts or interesting plants if you want. But you can save up in-game coins for the same purpose, there's no forced premium currency, no impossible level. It's a great game. Angry Birds is another good example. There are plenty of opportunities to spend money to buy "cheats" - but fundamentally it is honest, and improvements in your skill allow you to progress. I wonder how profitable honest games are compared to the scam games. Not very, I guess.
posted by Jimbob at 7:48 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


According to King.com, 70 percent of the players that finish Candy Crush don't spend any money. They rely solely on social tie-in help from friends.

They don't say how long that takes, though, or how many of those players are cheating, which is easy to do, and not terribly important to King's bottom line, since they're getting a 30 percent conversion rate, which is more than 10x a typical F2P game.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:49 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jimbob has it right. I've a friend whose a developer, one of the things he points out is that most of the people getting these games are just kids with cell phones, so they get the game for free, then either bug mom and dad to load em up with points/money for the goods. Word then spreads virally. If you charge for it, most people don't want to pay on an unknown quantity. I still don't see why you can't release a free demo, and pay to unlock, which is my ideal system. Granted, that's for android, not FB or other F2p on computers.

Also, the only f2p game that I've played that has gotten me to give up way more money than I'd rather admit to is Triple Town. I have the full Android Version. I bought the steam version. I also play the FB version. The devious thing is, even though FB has "ALL THE GOODS", it takes foreeeeeeeeeeeeever to get my main town built up. So I use FB which lets me buy gold to do things I need (crane, hello!) faster, so I can make more epic buildings. DAMN YOU!
posted by symbioid at 7:52 PM on July 3, 2013


By the way, if you guys want to get all up in arms about games that are virtually impossible to finish without pumping in more money, there's a Wizard, Warrior, Valkyrie and Elf you can speak with. The Wizard, in particular, needs food badly, so bring him a sandwich or something.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:56 PM on July 3, 2013 [29 favorites]


The 70% are just loss leaders.

Interesting discussion on Bejeweled Blitz:
I'll always want to maximize the effect of the boosts I use, and so I will unfailingly pick 3 really effective — and thus really expensive — ones, and play as focused as I can for the 3 rounds they last, to really make them count. This of course then has the flip-side effect of demanding lots of additional pedestrian “pick-up” play, simply to re-accrue the coins spent. Which, in turn, means that you start to consciously plan when to spend your coins — at which point during the day am I most likely to be focused and sharp? And perhaps, more worryingly, when will I be tired and just going through the motions? I think this may end up hurting the game, as those less-important games become tedious "work" to be undertaken merely so that you can have fun "later". It promotes a cynical mindset that I think is fundamentally out of tune with the intuitive, adaptive strategies that drive Blitz. It also kind of reeks of monetization — 100 bucks says PopCap will introduce micro transactions one of these days, so players can skip the "boring games" and plunk down, say $1 for 50,000 Blitz coins. This might actually be timed to coincide with Facebook's introduction of its Credits currency. (It was, during this discussion — in spring 2010).

I have always found the idea of introducing paid power-ups to be a somewhat problematic monetization strategy. The notion that you can pay to get ahead of your friends is a tricky one, and in the case of Blitz is only tempered by the fact that you will still have to be sharp as hell, and lucky to boot — there is no guarantee that the boosts you buy will get you a record score. Still, I think it might fundamentally undermine the sportsmanship that characterizes friendly competition. What will you think about someone at the top of your scoreboard who bought his or her way past 1 million points?

Jesper: That they have too much money on their hands? To me, microtransactions and virtual item trades say something fundamental about users that we tend to forget: people's lives change over time. Blitz may be successful due to both its short game sessions and due to the predictability of the length of a game session. In "serious" console games, it is often unclear how long a game session you are committing yourself to. Blitz is more like Guitar Hero in that you know the time commitment ahead of time, which makes it much easier put in some game playing in a crowded schedule. You could generalize that young people tend to have little money but lots of time, while older people with jobs and kids have more money but less time. Thus, microtransactions may be a way for the older generation to achieve parity?
posted by Miko at 7:57 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I spent WAY more money in the video arcades of my youth than I ever will on freemium iOS games.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:59 PM on July 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


I just realized that one of my favorite Tower Defense games, Kingdom Rush, is structured like this.

I would be so fucked if they had a regular fee thing going on.
posted by elizardbits at 7:59 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


JimBob, the thing is, we all have different ceilings to our skill level, the height of which is determined by hand-eye coordination, rapidity of thought, natural aptitude, game experience, play savvy, free time and motivation.

The difference between a really skilled and experienced player (which for some games I am fortunate enough to be) and a 60-year-old casual player is sometimes very great. It is possible that, at high levels, the "impossible" stages of some of those games become beatable for a sufficiently skilled player. But it is also possible that it really is impossible, and it's not always easy to tell the difference.

Also, it takes time to get that good at a game, and many people who aren't willing to pay money will lose interest before the point where they get good enough to overcome the otherwise-paywalled challenges.

As for me, one of the things that instantly causes a game to cease being fun is when I have to pay real money to advance in it. Because a game is a game because it is its own thing, a challenge to overcome with no real consequences for success or failure, and you don't have to give anything up to do well at it. Once you start having to pay for that, the entire point of playing a game is invalidated. I think this is a fundamental aspect of game playing, and it's why I think in the long run free-to-play, as a business model, has problems.
posted by JHarris at 8:00 PM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Play bejeweled Blitz, never buying any boosts, and see how high a score you can get. Got over 300k a couple of times...

Yeah, so have I. I've gotten well over a million with boosts that I didn't pay any money for, either.
posted by empath at 8:03 PM on July 3, 2013


As for me, one of the things that instantly causes a game to cease being fun is when I have to pay real money to advance in it.

But you've always had to pay to advance in video games, it's just that now they are shifting the point of sale from Level 1 to Level 30. That seems like an improvement to me.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:03 PM on July 3, 2013


I just started playing Candy Crush Saga, though I have yet to actually pay money (or want to pay money). I wonder how winnable the game is if you just never pay anything.
and
I just finished level 30, after 3 gruelling levels that took me several days to complete. Where I find that to unlock the next several levels, I either have to pay, go on facebook and market to my friends, or complete 3 basically impossible challenges.


I am about 100+ levels into it without spending any money (but with extensive futzing of my phone's clock at times) and my success has just gotten more and more random as time goes on. I complete the challenges and the increasingly-difficult levels simply by playing them a lot. The game does become trickier to play without purchasing items but not impossible.

I like the arcade analogy mentioned above, mostly because I hadn't considered it before.
posted by hepta at 8:05 PM on July 3, 2013


FWIW, Jewel Mania is vastly superior to Candy Crush, but gets about 1% of the attention.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:06 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Cool Papa Bell, the thing about Gauntlet is that it isn't "virtually impossible" to finish, it is impossible to finish. This feels like the 71st time I've had to tell people this, but neither Gauntlet nor Gauntlet II have an ending. They are infinite loops, after a few introductory levels there's 100 maps that cycle forever. The point of playing Gauntlet isn't to complete it but to play. Note, the scoreboard for that game is average score per credit, not total score.

Different people will give different reasons for the decline of arcades. Well, one of mine is when they became less about having fun and more about squeezing as much money out of players as possible on a way to an ending. Arguably the sequels Gauntlet Legends and Gauntlet Dark Legacy were about this, but they also had the player building a character that carried over from game to game. And you were still basically paying for game time, not for advancement.
posted by JHarris at 8:07 PM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


I put out a puzzle game recently where I had to make a choice between making a hobbled demo version and a paid version (both with free hints) or release a single unhobbled free version where you paid 10 cents per hint.

If I was serious about making money with the game I definitely would have chosen the latter. Charging people $1 for 10 hints means you stand to make money when someone is feeling frustrated with their life and has a low tolerance for being stuck. And the ten-pack is a good number where people can think "Oh I'll never use that many" right up the point where they buy another.

On the other hand I'm not that concerned about making money with it and of course I like my immortal soul right where it is for the moment, so I went with the demo.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:07 PM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


I still don't see why you can't release a free demo, and pay to unlock, which is my ideal system.

You can certainly do these things, and do it successfully, but then you're just creating a different game economy that doesn't always monetize in as lucrative a manner. It's not always better, not always worse. Just different risks and business trade offs.

It's like asking why shoe stores don't all just carry one brand of sneakers, since that's all anyone needs. Well ... there are people that don't like sneakers, people that want to try lots of different shoes, people that only want sandals, etc. And sure, there are people that don't understand shoes at all and make mistakes and buy clogs or buy more than they can afford, but is that the store's fault (provided the store isn't cheating or stealing or advertising falsely)?

And there are people that LOVE shoes and want to buy 100 pairs of them, and who are you to tell them they shouldn't want that? You know how many pairs of plain black pumps my wife has? Why don't you tell her she has too many shoes.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:12 PM on July 3, 2013


I'm actually playing Bejeweled Blitz right now, and the reason I can stand it despite the obvious money-grubbing is the fact that there is no progression at all, other than the cosmetic records of how many times you've cleared a given skill threshold. If I spend a dollar's worth of in-game currency on a single round and score a million points (an unfathomably high score even with power-ups), then my personal best score goes to a million, I'm at the top of the leaderboard for a while, until it's periodically reset, and...that's it. There are no further game modes to unlock, no new elements available only to high scorers. My next round is exactly the same as if I was playing the game for the first time ever. So you have to be really, really attached to your high score in order to spend money on the game, because that's all you're getting in return. Compared to games that charge for new levels or bigger game worlds, it's a strange decision on EA/Popcap's part.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:13 PM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


But you've always had to pay to advance in video games, it's just that now they are shifting to point of sale from Level 1 to Level 30. That seems like an improvement to me.

The difference is not in the payment schedule, but whether the game is fixed-price or variable-price. That is, if a game charges $1 per level when you reach each level the first time, that would be just a different payment schedule, but the game would still have a fixed price ($1 x #levels). However, in a f2p game there is no such price: you can keep on pumping money into the game indefinitely. This creates an incentive for the game developer to try to influence you into paying more more money, generally to the detriment of the game.
posted by Pyry at 8:15 PM on July 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


But you've always had to pay to advance in video games, it's just that now they are shifting the point of sale from Level 1 to Level 30.

No. You had to pay to play. You exchanged money for game time, either one game (arcades) or as many plays as you wanted (console). And I can personally vouch: many arcade games from even up to the mid 90s are finishable on one credit.

Playing means getting in the door; advancing means getting some distance beyond the door.

Despite how it may seem I actually have pretty complicated views on this. Gauntlet does get unfair to the player later on in some ways, because the game averages your score by credit, and dynamically removes food from levels depending on that. And KLAX has its infamous "ramping" feature, where the game gets faster not only based on level but on time since continuing.

I do not approve of these measures, and when playing on emulation always seek to minimize them because as arcade games they're hard enough without them (KLAX has an operator setting to disable ramping). But in both cases, at least it still is somewhat fun to try to overcome the increasing challenges. For awhile, at least, and I think I'm in a minority in that area.
posted by JHarris at 8:16 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


an unfathomably high score even with power-ups

Really not hard to do with almost any power up.. you just need to get a lot of multipliers before time runs out -- i usually use shuffle, time extension and starting multiplier... you can get higher scores if you replace shuffle with a starting special gem, but you're going to sacrifice consistency and lose to some bad boards.
posted by empath at 8:18 PM on July 3, 2013


The difference is not in the payment schedule, but whether the game is fixed-price or variable-price.

Yeah, the "ante" method he describes is pretty much why massive online thingamajobs aren't any fun.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:18 PM on July 3, 2013


now they are shifting the point of sale from Level 1 to Level 30.

But not exactly, since the actual gameplay itself changes in ways that encourage you to pay more and more often. It's not a simple shifting of the pay point, it's an entirely different environment.
posted by Miko at 8:19 PM on July 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Playing means getting in the door; advancing means getting some distance beyond the door.

I get that, but I don't see why it's such an important distinction to make. Maybe it's because I am so bad at video games that I rarely end up completing them? There is always going to be a point I can't advance past, so I never know how much actual gameplay I'm going to get out of a given game purchase.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:21 PM on July 3, 2013


Compared to games that charge for new levels or bigger game worlds, it's a strange decision on EA/Popcap's part.

I think it's fairly ethical, actually, in comparison. But also, something to consider, because spending money doesn't get you anything that just playing a lot won't get you, you have some plausible deniability in that the people on your high score chart don't KNOW that you paid to win, which I think encourages more spending.
posted by empath at 8:22 PM on July 3, 2013


And this thread is really making me want to go check in on my long-neglected Clash of Clans village.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:25 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


the thing about Gauntlet is that it isn't "virtually impossible" to finish, it is impossible to finish.

Look, show me on the cabinet where it said how I should understand the game's philosophical structure and what I was signing up for and how I was supposed to react to it. All I remember is being told to shoot the bad guys and run for the exit, and when I did, it said "Level 2..."

I just think people get all up in arms that f2p games are somehow unique and a new evil under the sun, and they're looking back on games with rose-colored glasses.

If Gauntlet were released today, I bet we'd see angry articles about how its four-player structure creates a unjust coercive effect on players to continue dropping in quarters, lest they abandon their friends to a certain death at the hands of ... well ... Death.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:25 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I am still playing Candy Crush, and I still haven't paid a dime. (I do have a robust network of people on Facebook who are active players and will sponsor me through the gates.) At this point it is on par, for me, with playing Windows solitaire on Vegas mode (which I always do.) I'm not going to come out ahead, but it's a soothing way to spend two minutes.

But yeah, this is a succinct description of the logic involved in monetizing f2p games. It's not pretty.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:26 PM on July 3, 2013


But yeah, this is a succinct description of the logic involved in monetizing f2p games. It's not pretty.

Totally right about that. I'd just say that the logic involved in monetizing video games has never been pretty, it's not a new development.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:34 PM on July 3, 2013


I'd like to find a place that reliably commiserates on which f2p games are less evil and which are more evil. Reviews are a pit and even the non-pit reviews are from people who have just played for a couple days maybe and haven't really developed the perspective about that issue.
posted by furiousthought at 8:40 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Somewhat relatedly, the Steam sale is about to start...

Heh, I like that Team Fortress 2's approach for making money is basically selling virtual hats that don't affect gameplay.
posted by Lowwen at 8:42 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I get that, but I don't see why it's such an important distinction to make. Maybe it's because I am so bad at video games that I rarely end up completing them? 

Look at it from an economic perspective. With pay-up-front games, the goal of the developer is to create a game that people will purchase, which is pretty close to making a game that is enjoyable to play; the gaming press could stand to do a better job (hello all the early SimCity reviewers who gave it a 90), but there is generally a lot of information out there. So game developers and players have roughly aligned incentives; the more enjoyable a game, the more people will pay.

The F2P model, on the other hand, puts developers and players at cross purposes. The goal of the developer is to extract as much money as possible from within game play, which as TFA notes, involves additional pain that is removed when the player pays. The ideal game here is one that extracts as much money as possible, which does require some minimum level of enjoyment to keep players playing, but nothing beyond that.

It's like the difference between a restaurant that sells a lot of drinks because they have a great bartender and sommelier and people really enjoy the drinks, and a restaurant that sells a lot of drinks because they deliberately oversalt and overspice the food, and deliberately never refill the water.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 8:59 PM on July 3, 2013 [13 favorites]


Look, show me on the cabinet where it said how I should understand the game's philosophical structure and what I was signing up for and how I was supposed to react to it. All I remember is being told to shoot the bad guys and run for the exit, and when I did, it said "Level 2..."

On this, it does not relate to the point of the article. I was just clarifying on the nature of Gauntlet. I happen to have a lot of familiar knowledge of that game and was passing it along. It came along at a weird time, when the idea that you could "beat" a game was still being established. It was always intended to be a game you played for score, or just to have fun with.

If Gauntlet were released today, I bet we'd see angry articles about how its four-player structure creates a unjust coercive effect on players to continue dropping in quarters, lest they abandon their friends to a certain death at the hands of ... well ... Death.

There might be. As I said before, these cost structures are part of why arcades died. The moaning you're hearing about F2P is from people who like playing games and don't want to see the field harmed.
posted by JHarris at 9:11 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


(The people who don't like it but don't moan will just stop playing, silently.)
posted by JHarris at 9:12 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Homeboy Trouble: "the more enjoyable a game, the more people will pay"

I don't know if I believe that. The pay-up-front games that I have enjoyed the most tend to be commercial flops, while I generally hate the AAA bestsellers. I'll admit that my gaming tastes appear to be fairly skewed from those of the average gamer.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:14 PM on July 3, 2013


JHarris, I am BEGGING you, PLEASE CONTINUE TO EXPLAIN AWESOME THINGS ABOUT ARCADE-TYPE STUFF. I absolutely LOVED the pinball write-ups.

PLEASE
posted by DoctorFedora at 9:17 PM on July 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yeah, I am feeling very out of my depth arguing about videogames with JHarris.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:21 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Joey Michaels: "We've made it clear as a society that we don't want to pay for digital content. This is maybe exactly what it looks like when the market adjusts and adapts to that fact."

That's weird, because between Netflix, Hulu, a couple of streaming audio services and whatever else, I'm spending at least $50 a month, and that's on top of the video the cable company spews at me and the stuff I buy on the Play Store, Steam, and elsewhere. Shit, I've paid multiple hundreds of dollars for single digitally delivered pieces of software that's aren't Photoshop or Windows or anything like that.

It's not that people won't pay for stuff, it's that developers decided to continually undercut each other in chase of market share without bothering to consider the bottom line. So now, given the amount of free content out there, this is what's left to make money.

Of course, they could also just..I don't know..charge for their software, possibly after a demo like Angry Birds? But then everything but the money would look worse, so that's not really possible, either. People pay what the market demands if they think it's a reasonable price. Right now the market is demanding zero, as sad as that is.

It shouldn't be that hard to get people used to paying $1.99 for a Candy Crush/Bejeweled/whatever type game and more for more story based games. But it is hard, because jackasses swoop in and decide to give away reams of shit for free in hopes of getting bought by some studio.
posted by wierdo at 9:27 PM on July 3, 2013


I'm feeling… around my own depth, but impressed by knowledge of stuff I'm not personally familiar with? THAT'S IT JHARRIS WE SHOULD START A PODCAST.*

*This particular sentence is noteworthy because it has never led to anything by anyone, ever.
posted by DoctorFedora at 9:28 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think it's fair to lump Kingdom Rush in with these other clowns. If you go to their forums, the number one complaint is that the game is too easy. They also release a decent amount of DLC for free. It's two guys in a garage in Uruguay we're taking about here, that want to make games for a living.
posted by Brocktoon at 9:29 PM on July 3, 2013


I am so very, very glad that I started teaching my kids about this sort of thing, but man are the techniques insidious. I'm loving this write-up, thanks for sharing it.

Also, I play CSR Racing on my iPad. I like it, but it's starting to get harder, so I'll be moving on soon. I suppose people who play a free game until they hit a wall and then move on are viewed by gaming companies the same way credit card companies view people who pay off their cards before interest accrues. Which is fine by me.
posted by davejay at 9:33 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Of course, they could also just..I don't know..charge for their software, possibly after a demo like Angry Birds?

Well, sure, and that's the old model. Similarly, you could just charge people a flat monthly fee for internet access or telephone service, but in days gone by there was much, much more money to be made charging by the packet/minute. Gaming's working in reverse only because there wasn't a way to charge gamers by the powerup before, except for slot machines. Whether or not this model will stick around depends entirely on how consumers respond...and based on how they respond to slot machines, we can expect to see this model stick around for a long time to come.
posted by davejay at 9:35 PM on July 3, 2013


furiousthought: "I'd like to find a place that reliably commiserates on which f2p games are less evil and which are more evil. Reviews are a pit and even the non-pit reviews are from people who have just played for a couple days maybe and haven't really developed the perspective about that issue."

Rock Steady's List of the Best Non-Evil F2P iOS Games:

Jetpack Joyride
Fruit Ninja
Puzzle Craft
Triple Town
New Star Soccer
10000000
Spaceteam
Jewel Mania
Bubble Mania
Knights of Pen & Paper
Dead Ahead
Quadropus Rampage
posted by Rock Steady at 9:37 PM on July 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


in theory, Mathowie should have let everybody in for free, but made commenters wait longer and longer for their comments to be posted unless they paid for a MeTaPass (and edits within the window cost 5 gold.)
posted by davejay at 9:37 PM on July 3, 2013 [10 favorites]


Ah, Triple Town and Spaceteam...two games I happily paid for. Meanwhile, F2P games haven't gotten a dime from me yet. There's a lesson there...unfortunately that lesson is probably that I'm an outlier and nobody cares because they're making mad cash via F2P from everyone else.
posted by davejay at 9:38 PM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Brocktoon: "I don't think it's fair to lump Kingdom Rush in with these other clowns. If you go to their forums, the number one complaint is that the game is too easy. They also release a decent amount of DLC for free. It's two guys in a garage in Uruguay we're taking about here, that want to make games for a living."

You know, I think that is my main point. There are amazing free-to-play games out there that are not evil, and by decrying them all based on their business model is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:39 PM on July 3, 2013


davejay: "Ah, Triple Town and Spaceteam...two games I happily paid for. Meanwhile, F2P games haven't gotten a dime from me yet."

Both those games are F2P.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:41 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


OK, stepping away from the thread now. 'Night all.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:41 PM on July 3, 2013


I played a game called Dragon STory for a while, until the ads got too intrusive. One thing I wondered about was: you could pay to get all these different dragons instead of breeding them yourself. But the dragons cost like $20 each! Just so you could have a different colored dragon! Who was actually paying for this? Are there some people literally spending thousands and thousands of dollars, to make up for the 99.99% of people who are happy enough to just play the game?
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:44 PM on July 3, 2013


Are there some people literally spending thousands and thousands of dollars, to make up for the 99.99% of people who are happy enough to just play the game?

Basically, yes. I'll see if I can find the link, but there was a brief report emailed around at work by one of the... publishers, I think? about the money breakdown. It's so unbalanced it's not even funny. Instead of the 80/20 rule it's roughly the 99.9/0.01 rule: Basically all of the money is coming from the top fraction of a percent of players.
posted by PMdixon at 9:49 PM on July 3, 2013


Are there some people literally spending thousands and thousands of dollars, to make up for the 99.99% of people who are happy enough to just play the game?

The article uses the term "whale" but the author presumes his audience already knows the term so he doesn't explain it. That's basically what the "whales" are, people who will spend a huge amount of money on these FTP games if given the opportunity.

My own gut reaction is the term "addict" may be the only way to explain the whales, but I have not examined it closely.
posted by RobotHero at 9:57 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I play a game called WarTune. This is a presentation the head of the game company made, titled Chasing $100,000 Whales, An Introduction to Chinese Browser Game Design. It's got more background on the industry use of the term "whale".

In his world free players provide an environment where cash players are willing to pay out their cash.
posted by Mad_Carew at 10:05 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I played a game called Dragon STory for a while, until the ads got too intrusive. One thing I wondered about was: you could pay to get all these different dragons instead of breeding them yourself. But the dragons cost like $20 each! Just so you could have a different colored dragon! Who was actually paying for this? Are there some people literally spending thousands and thousands of dollars, to make up for the 99.99% of people who are happy enough to just play the game?

Joe in Australia, you haven't seen the crazy economy that is springing up in the DOTA2 Beta yet... over pure cosmetics (which have zero gameplay value).

I've been trying to procure a Blue Ethereal Flame Frog but all the auctions I've seen regularly top $500 to $800 for it. The most expensive cosmetics might be the limited edition ones, I stopped watching one auction when it hit $2000+

I do have a cheaper frog that I'm hoping will appreciate in value over time.

Some people say Valve's practices are less insidious (you cannot buy these expensive cosmetics from them - they're all randomly player found, (free), and if anyone is paying $800 for them it goes straight to another player, not Valve) but it ultimately leads to the same outcome, people splashing out a lot of cash on the game.

I guess my point is, you don't even need to design coercive or manipulative game mechanics to influence people into spending money. People seem completely happy to spend ridiculous amounts of money even when it's completely optional and delivers no gameplay benefit.
posted by xdvesper at 10:22 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the compliments guys. I do know a lot about games, but I feel I should impress that I'm not trying to claim a position of authority. I don't think I'm wrong, but I will admit the possibility that there's something I haven't considered. (I can't say what that thing could be, if it exists; if I could, I'd already be convinced.)

My own opinions tend to vary a bit depending on which examples are fresh in my memory. I don't think all Free To Play games are necessarily bad, but I do have some philosophical problems with the model. Chief among those is that, in the mobile space at least, the whole model is made possible by the walled garden app store model that makes the will of the device's owner second to the will of the manufacturer, which I find abhorrent. Note that both browser games and arcade games get around that problem in that the actual hardware isn't owned by the player.

I wouldn't mind participating in a gaming podcast, but my schedule is kind of weird sometimes, as is my memory when it comes to remembering to attend recording sessions, as the Roguelike Radio guys found out.
posted by JHarris at 10:22 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have been thinking lately about whether the use of purchasable currency in games has the potential to affect ideas about data ownership, specifically in the context of savegames. I think, historically, there has been a general view that data files we create with an application (if not necessarily the application itself) would be "ours". An example might be a document we created with Microsoft Office. We wouldn't think twice about sending a word document to someone else, or (to choose a slightly more sophisticated example) building or buying software to do some kind of workflow operation on them.

Game software is a bit different, but there is both a history of savegame hacking programs and also savegame sharing communities - this was mentioned in the Bioshock Infinite thread here as a an important part of progression for players who found themselves unable to cross some of the game's challenges, but who wanted to still see the resolution of the story.

Are there examples where purchasable in-game currency or flags denoting the accessibility of additional content are stored in local savegame files? I think there must be, because several examples I have seen require you to manually click a button (usually marked something like "restore purchases") to synchronise DLC/IAP items with your e.g. Apple Store account, instead of having these things automatically arrive across the cloud. In that case, would any attempt to manipulate or share the data that we had the application create for us be considered as some kind of fraud or theft of service?
posted by curious.jp at 10:34 PM on July 3, 2013


Rock Steady's List of the Best Non-Evil F2P iOS Games:

I liked Pixel People although it is so easy it's basically a tamagotchi in city form. You don't have to pay a thing as long as you're reasonably patient. I'll have to check out the others though!
posted by furiousthought at 11:51 PM on July 3, 2013


davejay: "Well, sure, and that's the old model. Similarly, you could just charge people a flat monthly fee for internet access or telephone service, but in days gone by there was much, much more money to be made charging by the packet/minute. Gaming's working in reverse only because there wasn't a way to charge gamers by the powerup before, except for slot machines. Whether or not this model will stick around depends entirely on how consumers respond...and based on how they respond to slot machines, we can expect to see this model stick around for a long time to come."

Yeah, but what I was trying to get at, apparently poorly, is that these jokers make it much more difficult to sell games for money, thus forcing (nearly) everyone into just giving it away up front, at least in the smartphone space.
posted by wierdo at 12:36 AM on July 4, 2013


For me, it's reached the the point where if I'm scrolling through available game downloads for my phone, if a game costs money to download, I'll look into it, and if a game is free to download and looks indie / garage / labor of love, I'll look into it, but if a game is free to download and looks really polished and professional and/or is based on licensed IP... ugh! Eww! Ewww! NEXT!

I was pretty hard-core never-pay-for-phone-apps, but these games have taught me the error of my ways - paying money up-front to not be faced with this shit ruining the gameplay and fun is just worth it. (Ad-supported apps are great though - free to download, and yet still functional!)
posted by anonymisc at 12:42 AM on July 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I paid $5 for an extra builders' hut in Clash of Clans because I figured why not? I have got at least that much in enjoyment from it, and expect to receive much more. I'm surprised to see it singled out as a money trap, especially since there's no actual reason (other than impatience) why you need to spend any money on it.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:54 AM on July 4, 2013


I'm the same way anonymisc, but I also hate advertising! Yeah, I'm kind of narrow-minded when it comes to payment.

Last week I picked up the iOS port of Agricola, a board game I adore, and found it's a very competent version, with a good UI, full support for one-player "solitaire" games, async multiplayer. Well worth the $7 I paid for it, which hurt a bit, but c'mon, it's Agricola here. And all was well. UNTIL....

...until I noticed that Playdek, trying to scrounge extra money out of the pockets of dedicated Agricola fans, only provided the basic 'E' deck with the game, only one-third of the cards included with the boxed set, and the lamest of all of them to boot. If this was mentioned in the App Store listing for the game I didn't notice it. And c'mon, it's advertised as Agricola, not Agricola Minus The Good Bits! And then it turns out, after some reading, that they plan on releasing the I and K decks, the rest of the boxed set, as in-app purchases. I was furious.

$7 is a lot for an App Store game, but I'd gladly have paid $15 for a good iOS version of the whole damn game. Now, the bad taste in my mouth is such is that paying anything for the I and K decks rankles. It's not as if there aren't plenty of expansions they could legitimately charge for: the Z deck, the G deck (which is awesome), Lenden-dairy, Farmers of the Moor and still others.

What I'm saying is: developers, we players do notice when you do these things. When you try to come up with sneaky ways to squeeze us of extra money, you aren't making those purchases ultimately less painful for us; you're making them more painful, because nothing spoils the happy unwrapping of a new toy on Christmas Morning than finding out you have to get expensive batteries to make it work right. This applies towards Free To Play too. STOP DOING THIS.
posted by JHarris at 12:59 AM on July 4, 2013 [13 favorites]


I've got addicted to Triple Town recently, which someone else mentioned up thread. If you pay for the full version, you get unlimited turns, otherwise 140 a time, which refresh after a couple of hours. (And you can use coins won in-game to buy more turns too). I bought the full version on Android, but haven't on Facebook. Amusingly, I found that buying the full version almost killed my interest on Android. I was playing in order to earn gold in order to buy turns. Once I could have as many turns as I liked for free, there was no reward system in there for me anymore. So now I mostly play the crippled free Facebook version instead.
posted by lollusc at 2:10 AM on July 4, 2013


What I'm saying is: developers, we players do notice when you do these things.

Slight tangent - my understanding is that developers generally fight the good fight and are on our side in these matters (they tend to see their job is being to make a game that is primarily fun). Mark Pincus is more the posterboy of where the shit comes from - a higher-up who tends to see their job as maximizing product profitability yet can't balance that due to little to no understanding of what makes a game fun, or ability to wisely juggle short-term-profitable intrusions against damage to long-term cash cow player loyalty.

Well ok, perhaps that last bit makes him not a posterboy so much as an effigy - he made a fortune by being at the right place at the right time, but once competent competitors arrived, his incompetence at looking beyond numbers ceased to be surmountable. Those competitors are really the posterboys, but an effigy is somehow more satisfying. :) But I digress.
posted by anonymisc at 2:17 AM on July 4, 2013


If a game makes most of its money from people spending $100,000 (srsly?!) then they're only going to care about "playability" insofar as it affects those players. They'll be happy to have a flow of people joining and quitting after a few weeks, as long as that doesn't spoil the experience of the whales.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:35 AM on July 4, 2013


Somewhat relatedly, the Steam sale is about to start...

Nooooooo. More games that I will never have time to play being offered up to me for the price of half a pint of beer.

Must...resist.
posted by pharm at 2:42 AM on July 4, 2013


Metafilter: Consumers under the age of 25 will have increased vulnerability to fun pain.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 2:55 AM on July 4, 2013 [3 favorites]



Man, I still owe Skip Feeney a hundred bucks from back in the day at Shufflepuck Café.
You don't want to know how much I owe Bill Gates from Windows Solitaire.
posted by mippy at 3:06 AM on July 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Joe in Australia: Clash of Clans turns into a money game at higher levels IIRC.

I'll see if I can find it again, but somewhere I found a blog post (maybe a MeFi comment?) that outlined how it worked. Essentially, at lower levels players are protected from raids by other players. This protection is progressively withdrawn and at higher levels it becomes essentially impossible to progress further because the time it takes to accumulate the necessary resources to build anything exceeds the half life of your resources thanks to raids by other players draining them away. Naturally you can buy paid add-ons that protect you from said raids & enable you to progress your city further.

So it's yet another skill / fun game at the beginning that turns into a money game as you progress, but in a subtle fashion that isn't obvious to the player at the start.
posted by pharm at 3:09 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


This thread has me ruminating on all those abandoned Farmville farms. All those crops rotting in the fields...
posted by mippy at 3:19 AM on July 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


So not only do they annoy everyone around you and spy on everything you do (for multiple masters) and don't even work very well as computers, but they are also tiny vending machines that trick you into continually shoving money into them?

And people keep wondering why I don't have one.
posted by DU at 3:32 AM on July 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is Punch Quest free these days? Because that's one of the best games on ios, and has a very unobtrusive f2p scheme.
posted by Sebmojo at 5:24 AM on July 4, 2013


Tldr play punch quest
posted by Sebmojo at 5:25 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


It all reinforces the depressing sense that when I play games I am basically surrendering control to some pretty primitive stimulus/response circuits and behaving like a budgie with a mirror.
posted by Segundus at 5:32 AM on July 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Maybe the government can use this model to replace taxation, which is no longer acceptable.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:51 AM on July 4, 2013


I just realized that one of my favorite Tower Defense games, Kingdom Rush, is structured like this. It's a skill game that becomes unplayable without a hard boost.

I really disagree with this. I've beaten every level and challenge in both games (ok, I have about 3 more challenges in frontiers) without even using any items, let alone using money to acquire them; I'm far from alone in this. I didn't even use heroes in my first playthrough of the original. I do think that kingdom rush sometimes requires you to go back and rethink your strategy completely (or build up your stars on earlier levels), but this is very different than unplayable. Also, there's YouTube videos for basically every level/challenge with workable strategies if you get completely stuck.

The game does give the opportunity to spend money, but that's all it is.
posted by advil at 5:57 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've been playing Candy Crush lately and although I do have problems with the f2p philosophy, in practice I find I can't mind too much. I think I've spent about $5 in total (to get past a couple of the gates in the beginning; I was too impatient at first to do all the quests, waiting 24 hours between each, and I refuse to link it to my facebook). For how many hours I've played it, it doesn't seem like a bad price. I've certainly payed more money for XBox or Playstation games that I've spent less time playing. I have an hour commute (each way) on public transit, and although I'm sure I should be spending my commute reading literature or learning a foreign language, sometimes my brain can't do much more than 'red match red'. I kind of disagree with the assertion that
"the game difficulty ramps up massively, shifting the game from a skill game to a money game as progression becomes more dependent on the use of premium boosts than on player skills."
since I stopped paying for anything pretty early on, and I've made it to a pretty embarassingly high level.

In general I would rather get a demo for free, and, if I like the game, pay $5-$15 for a full version, but if I end up paying less than that amount in total anyway, I'm not too bothered by it. I do keep my in-app purchases password-protected, so I have to enter my long, annoying password every time I make an in-app purchase. That at least makes me think twice before spending a dollar on a boost, though I find it's the annoyance of entering the password that is a better dis-incentive than the pain of losing $1.
posted by matcha action at 6:05 AM on July 4, 2013


I've pumped a lot of money into arcade games in my life, including those I knew were designed to get the money out of me. I'd approach it like--ok, I'm going to spend $5 on Silent Scope and see how far I get (not farther than one or two levels--brilliant design for that purpose: picking off individual baddies made you feel skillful, and then the difficulty level would ramp up very fast).

However, Magic: The Gathering was the first game I had to pay for that I got just disgusted with. At least with arcade games you could finish them. It might take you $30, but you could finish them. With Magic, your ability to have an enjoyable game (when each player was playing with their own deck) was directly relatable to the relative value of the opponent's deck. No matter how good your strategy, it always seemed to me that a sufficiently more expensive deck could beat you. And that was a shame, because what a fun game Magic is. I had great times playing with shared cards. But once it became about playing with opposing proprietary decks, all I saw was a giant money pit that it was best not to go near.
posted by oneironaut at 6:13 AM on July 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Speaking as a game designer, like many other markets, we want to do the right thing and make great games that don't exploit people financially. The problem is that game development is usually a hit-driven business, making it hard to have any kind of financial security. That's why so many designers and devs ended up joining the evil empire, Zynga - they pay well and they looked reasonably secure (of course, that didn't end well for a lot of people, but anyway...) and that matters if you have kids, a mortgage, etc. If they have F2P, well, that's too bad but hey, no-one's forcing people to play those games, right? Right?

Our app, Zombies, Run!, has been as high as #10 in the App Store so we know how much people make at different ranks, and believe me, there are very few paid games out there (as opposed to F2P) that can possibly be sustainable for their developers. A lot of this is Apple's fault for its poor marketplace design and discovery, unfortunately.
posted by adrianhon at 6:33 AM on July 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


F2P and dlc has to happen. This ain't the old days when devs could toss a game over the transom and move on. People expect forums, patches, multiplayer with adequate serves, and all kinds of geegaws that require money. Without residual money coming in games are a losing proposition in the long run.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:36 AM on July 4, 2013


I much prefer DLC to F2P. What I want, though, is legitimate DLC. It shouldn't be intrusive to the gaming experience, it shouldn't affect your enjoyment of the original game. Basically, Borderlands and Borderlands 2 do it perfectly.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:02 AM on July 4, 2013


I've been the Gaming Uncle for my nephew growing up in the past few years. Once the F2P thing started being a big deal I got somewhat nervous; I think these kinds of techniques prey particularly on the young. We had a couple of chats about it and I was proud to see he makes pretty smart decisions about what he spends his money on. I think it helps that he's young and has many interests. My impression is the worst F2P stuff preys on middle aged lonely people, particularly women.

For a whole different F2P business model, I've been starting to play League of Legends lately. They've done a great job making a game that's free to start but with reasonable, fair ways to take your money. There's no real pay-to-win, although there's a bit of pay-to-progress-faster with the IP and XP boosts. Neither are necessary though, and not even that compelling. Mostly people seem to spend their dollars on skins, a purely cosmetic thing. That seems like a fair trade to me.
posted by Nelson at 7:24 AM on July 4, 2013


The biggest thing for me when confronted with F2P games is this: is it actually possible to succeed without paying, albeit more slowly than those who pay?

F2P games like Candy Crush and PAD and DragonVale have succeeded because they've been pretty generous to cheapskates. Time is a currency and if you're willing to spend it, you're capable of advancing in all three and obtaining what the whales get right away. PAD trickles out its premium currency (magic stones) to players regularly -- the first hit is always free, right? -- but it lets free players pull the egg slot machine at intervals and have a chance at getting good stuff. Candy Crush lets you clear roadblocks with Facebook annoyance, cash or skill.

The main difference between these huge successes and other F2PMMOs I've played is that other players in the successful games are _allies_, not competitors. A PAD whale can't hurt you, but if they friend you you can benefit from their expenditures by 'borrowing' one of their leaders on occasion, for example.

I compare them to a game like Fantasica, an iOS tower defense MMO I played for a while until the gouging got obnoxious; in that, not only can players pay cash for extra turns and otherwise-unobtainable premium cards, but the best rewards are event leaderboard-based. If your credit card isn't on fire, you're falling behind the players who are winning events and getting rewards that will make it even easier for them to beat you the next time... unless you pay even more than they do next time.
posted by delfin at 8:37 AM on July 4, 2013


Level 147 Candy Crush Saga here. The only money I have paid is a dollar or two when I couldn't be troubled to wait for my friends to unlock a level for me (and honestly now that's not an issue because a lot of my friends play) and exactly ONCE I have purchased an extra thing to help me get past a level. If you are patient, you will get through these levels. Granted at the harder levels sometimes it's a matter of luck not just skill, and that can get annoying but hey, it's a game. And again, I have enough friends that I get extra lives and extra moves which are cool.

If it ever gets so hard that I get stuck, there's other things to do in life. Till then, I carry on.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:41 AM on July 4, 2013


Also, the biggest lure of all: randomness of rewards.

The article speaks of "rare creatures sold for $5" in PAD as an example. If only it was that easy. What you are buying is a pull on a slot machine, with the odds of certain desirable eggs increased at times but ALWAYS a crapshoot at best. You might pull the lever once and get a game-changer, you might spend $60 on stones and get good stuff mixed with crap and then spend more out of rage because the NEXT pull might drop a nigh-invulnerable god that someone else just got basically for free.

Skinner box technology has improved over the years in that it's well-disguised.
posted by delfin at 8:50 AM on July 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


So good. Thanks!
posted by zscore at 9:15 AM on July 4, 2013


I think if anyone was really annoyed with Kingdom Rush, they could take an app like iHaxGames (eg on a Mac) to it and just change the memory value that represents skill points.
posted by yoHighness at 10:23 AM on July 4, 2013


Skinner box technology has improved over the years in that it's well-disguised.

I don't know, I can spot it pretty well. It's basically all MMORPGs try to be anymore. Whenever you hear some designer talk about a "rush of endorphins" when implementing some feature you can tell he's doing it for the wrong reasons.

The thing is, artificial reward systems are ultimately hollow, and while the human mind is fooled by them temporarily, in the long term it is not. And when so many games are trying to prey upon the same mental failings, people learn how hollow they are that much faster.

The thing is, all these people are being taught this is what video games are. They don't see these shallow experiences as part of degenerate design techniques but as inseparable from the genre, so when they get fed up, I think they leave gaming altogether, instead of turning towards better games (mostly indies and other nontraditionals, at this point).
posted by JHarris at 11:41 AM on July 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think if anyone was really annoyed with Kingdom Rush, they could take an app like iHaxGames (eg on a Mac) to it and just change the memory value that represents skill points.

While I'm talking about these things, I suppose should mention my own recent, direct experience with this kind of game....

As I've mentioned once in a while in the past, I'm kind of an outlier fan in the huge outlier fandom for My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Not *super* into it, but it's entertaining and I keep up with what people are doing. And so when Gameloft's pony social game came out, I figured, sure it's free, why not.

You think these kinds of free-to-social games are bad, and you are right. But compared to social games they're fucking Tetris. I'm only using the term game loosely, because all social games are is a gussied-up monetization strategy that only sort of looks like one when you unfocus your eyes. And this one is nothing more a big milking machine hooked up to the brony community, an electronic pandering system that's not even very good at it, a delivery mechanism for an endless series of plays of two insultingly stupid minigames, things even little kids get tired of quick, under the guise of "progress," awarding "experience points" that "level up" characters so they can do "things" slightly faster.

Worst of all was the unlock system, which in the social game style had a "normal" currency, a "social" currency and a "premium" currency. Of course the most popular characters require huge amounts of the premium currency -- Rainbow Dash used to cost 300 gems, which amounted to $50. (Since then, word is that the price has decreased. Same problem, just not as severe.) That specifically gave the lie to the defense that the game was aimed at kids and not the adult userbase -- if it is aimed at kids, then it's not just terrible but reprehensible.

And note that your save isn't stored in the cloud or anything. If your device breaks or the (EXTREMELY BUGGY) app gets corrupted or you upgrade, if you can't get your app backed up and restored correctly you are out for all of those little "features" you paid money for.

Well anyway, some bronies discovered that the price list is stored as a text file that is downloaded from Gameloft's servers at each startup, which is how they implemented sales. It wasn't even encrypted. So, there emerged a program that pretended to be the Gameloft server that the app was fooled into communicating with if you configured your router to point to it, that could be used to set all prices to 0 gems. Which you could call "cheating," but really, when the ruleset for a game is just a cardboard prop for a transparently exploitative business model, you're stupid not to cheat. Or more accurately, you're stupid to play in the first place.
posted by JHarris at 12:15 PM on July 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


davejay: "Ah, Triple Town and Spaceteam...two games I happily paid for. Meanwhile, F2P games haven't gotten a dime from me yet."

Both those games are F2P.


Huh. I never noticed; I just played the free version, liked it, bought the full version, and kept playing. I guess I'm just tuning out the additional payment opportunities without realizing it...
posted by davejay at 12:18 PM on July 4, 2013


Despite being in the F2P design business these days, I have not paid a dime to Candy Crush (level 361 out of a current 365 available on mobile), Clash of Clans (max level Town Hall) or the other games that I currently play for research purposes. I hate to say this, but people who complain that a lot of these games switch from skill to money are wrong. They're not constructed to be impossible; the complainers are just not very skilled at the game (especially candy crush. I don't even use the free powerups that people give me, and I'm still basically capped out at content). You can see that the top IAP sales in Candy Crush are more lives and more turns, not powerups.
posted by shen1138 at 1:53 PM on July 4, 2013


So you work in the F2P business and you can assure us there's absoloutely nothing wrong here? What a convincing argument you make!
posted by yoHighness at 2:43 PM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Shills used to have the decency to at least pretend they weren't.
posted by yoHighness at 2:44 PM on July 4, 2013


The author of the original article also insists in the first comment that there are ethical ways to make money in F2P games, but won't give his secrets away for free.
Note that as a rule I do not publish my F2P monetization models. In this case, I am publishing the methods used by others to make money games, and since I only make skill games, I'm not creating any competition for myself.
posted by RobotHero at 2:57 PM on July 4, 2013


Weird, I wouldn't think that a shill is decent by hiding they're a shill. At least I'm open about what I do. But eh, whatever.

I do believe that F2P is a good thing for indie game developers, because it's extraordinarily difficult to make a living as a video game maker. Before, you used to have to work for a triple A game studio if you wanted to make games, who would abuse your love of the industry by forcing you to work shitty hours for suboptimal pay. Now that iTunes and Google Play has democratized game development, more people can make their own games, which is great. But selling a game for an upfront fee is financially untenable for a small studio starting up. We're talking about sales in the tens a month, unless you have 40k in marketing budget a MONTH. Advertising is similarly terrible as a revenue source. If a person playing a game supported by advertising sees 15 banner ads a day every day, it will take 9 YEARS for that person to generate $0.99 for the game makers. So unless you have 1m users playing your game already, generic ads don't make you money. F2P lets small developers use a much better revenue model sustain their game making.

DLC is a viable business model only for game companies who are already stable and with a proven audience. If I'm making a brand new title with a game studio that no one has ever heard of, how could I possibly rely on DLC sales to sustain my income when I can't even get my initial download to move units?
posted by shen1138 at 3:50 PM on July 4, 2013


I neglected to add that I do certainly agree that there are better and worse ways of doing F2P. Some techniques are definitely odious. But I will also say that it is wrong to paint F2P categorically as a "get all the money as hard as possible from the idiots that play our game" business model. Do you really put Farmville and Chess With Friends in the same boat? If you do, I would suggest your thinking on the subject is compromised.
posted by shen1138 at 4:10 PM on July 4, 2013


it is wrong to paint F2P categorically as a "get all the money as hard as possible from the idiots that play our game" business model.

This is true, but the odious is so odious and wasteful, and the market so filled with choice, that I find it safer and more rewarding to assume the worst and give little benefit of the doubt. So in my case at least, the odious designs are poisoning a pool that could otherwise sustain those who aim higher.

Transparency is key. If what I need to pay, how, when, to get what, is simple and obvious before I start playing (the gold standard of this being the up-front price for an uncrippled game that also has a free demo version), then that creates trust and enthusiasm and loyalty. F2P can play in that league, and should, but that currently doesn't seem common enough to render my prejudice unproductive. Fingers crossed for the future though - it's a rapidly evolving market.
posted by anonymisc at 4:29 PM on July 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Weird, I wouldn't think that a shill is decent by hiding they're a shill. At least I'm open about what I do. But eh, whatever.

Shilling would not be decent, period. It's not arguing in good faith. I give you the benefit of the doubt on this, though; it is nice to have an insider's perspective. Similarly, I would think you would benefit from having the perspective of a good number of interested users and observers.
posted by JHarris at 5:27 PM on July 4, 2013


I created, arguably, the very first* commercial social online game: Acrophobia. It did pretty well, and it even won some awards. Its commercial release was in the fall of 1997. It cost $0, and we sold advertising space that ran during the natural pauses of the game.

The game was taken offline in 2001 and other than a brief return in 03 or 04, it stayed offline. The rights were really muddied so I couldn't buy them out. No one could. People clamored for a return. I got emails, Facebook messages, ICQ messages (remember that?), tweets, whatever. When are you going to bring Acrophobia back?

In 2010 I started a company to do just that. We could not get the rights to the game, but I could make a "spiritual successor." It was called TAG: The Acronym Game. I had colleagues and advisers tell me that the game needed social hooks. It needed to pull people in. It needed to give advantages to experienced players, and to those who wanted to spend money to jump the line. I needed to stop designing for gaming's "middle class." In the social space, there were two types of online gamers - the 1% who would spend as much as they felt it was worth it to them, and I should make it very worth it to them to spend... and everyone else. Everyone else is there simply to pull in more people to try and get more of those 1% of people who will spend lots of money.

I knew these dynamics well. I'd seen it play out in countless games during the Zynga rush of 08 and 09. I knew that things played that way, and would likely begin playing that way on iPhones (and Apple's tablet device, if it caught on). But I was convinced that there was another way. I was sure that people would pay some for a good game rather than get bled financially over time. I was very, very wrong.

And of course I was wrong. Simply put the "middle class" gamers who are complaining about the current business models are outnumbered by those who want to play but don't have money to spend on games, and are outspent by those who do and will.

I am working on several designs now that keep this in mind. I intend to not be evil and to ensure there are modes of play where skill is the absolute gateway to success. That said, I've learned -- and over the least five years, my entire** industry has learned -- that Fleece To Play is the way to go. It isn't the pure and ideal way, but it is the way that gets the rent paid.

* Technically, there were about 20 commercial multiplayer online games that shipped before Acrophobia did. But none of them were based around social play - casual, chatty, friendly, semicompetitive, that sort of thing. By this definition I am excluding MMOs - your mileage may vary on that one.

** Obviously not Nintendo, but they've never really listened to anyone until they've suffered large financial losses.
posted by andreaazure at 5:37 PM on July 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


The thing is, artificial reward systems are ultimately hollow, and while the human mind is fooled by them temporarily, in the long term it is not. And when so many games are trying to prey upon the same mental failings, people learn how hollow they are that much faster.

I think this is why games like Go and Chess remain popular for so long: the reward is winning, and they are purely tests of skill between yourself and your opponent. The same goes for many difficult single player games: you're testing your skill against a world whose behavior makes sense (in context). The rewards and challenges of F2P style game are more artificial.
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:40 PM on July 4, 2013


It's entirely possible to beat Kingdom Rush (and the new one) without spending any extra cash on the game. I'm sure, if it was F2P, that wouldn't be the case. I have doubts about being able to beat it without the gems you pick up during the in-game play (which can be exchanged for power-ups, and can be bought in game), but it is beatable by just playing the game as is.

Also, totally worth the price they charge.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:41 PM on July 4, 2013


I've not heard of Acrophobia, andreaazure! I usually pride myself on encyclopedic game knowledge. Tell us more?

My own perspective on this is that there are many reasons that games fail, frequently for reasons entirely independent of quality, and it's very often not possible to tie it down to a specific cause. And yet, there are good games that manage to be successful without fleecing, and bad games that fail because they do.

Chasing after the whales ultimately means you're designing your game around them. Certainly it can be profitable. So was writing Fifty Shades of Gray. In the words of Mr. Bernstein: "It's no trick to make a lot of money... if all you want is to make a lot of money."
posted by JHarris at 9:47 PM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


andreaazure: "I created, arguably, the very first* commercial social online game: Acrophobia."

I remember playing that on IRC. It was a thing in my life for like two weeks, which if you knew me at the time was actually pretty impressive...
posted by wierdo at 10:36 PM on July 4, 2013


And of course I was wrong. Simply put the "middle class" gamers who are complaining about the current business models are outnumbered by those who want to play but don't have money to spend on games, and are outspent by those who do and will.

I don't think it's a financial "middle class" so much as an experienced "gamer" class - the people who complain are complaining because they're used to something else (something better), and these new games don't offer that and don't need to. The people who get big into F2P social games, Zynga, etc, are pretty famously demographics that were previously considered non-gamers.

Traditional-style gamers have been (and are) highly catered too, so we can't begrudge there now being a wider market now overflowing with shitty (IMO) games that are toxic to me but push the buttons of other segments of the market, to the tune of big $$$. Yet occurs to me as I write this, that I might be an untapped whale - a single game (plus DLC, accessories, merch, etc) could extract a lot from me over time, but I'm mostly untapped because it's not cheap to produce the kind of content that opens my wallet, and I'm kind of a hardened target. I guess that means I'm not bankable and unlikely to be profitable. But that's ok - having a little disposable income and failing to find a way to dispose of it is a good problem to have :)
posted by anonymisc at 3:16 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Traditional-style gamers have been (and are) highly catered too

I disagree. I guess I'm a traditional-style "gamer" (that is a bad term I would say; video games are far from the only kind), and yet the big thing I play these days is emulations of NES and SNES-era games (I just got done with playing Gradius III) with the occasional "throwback." They rarely make 'em like that anymore.

Yet occurs to me as I write this, that I might be an untapped whale - a single game (plus DLC, accessories, merch, etc) could extract a lot from me over time, but I'm mostly untapped because it's not cheap to produce the kind of content that opens my wallet, and I'm kind of a hardened target.

It's not just that. It's....

It is not true that if you throw enough money at a player, he'll bite. I claim that, no matter how much you spend, many users will not play a given game unless there's something there, something different from what came before, something unique and visionary. I know as well as anyone that having it is no guarantee of financial success, but without it, you might as well not get out of bed in the morning. Not that I claim to have it, but I do keep my eyes open for those rare occasions it shows up.

But that's ok - having a little disposable income and failing to find a way to dispose of it is a good problem to have :)

No matter how good your game is, even if it's visionary and all that, if I can't afford to play it, I won't. And little income is truly disposable, these days; if you have it now, medical bills ensure you won't for long.
posted by JHarris at 4:14 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


But, eh, no matter. Maybe I'm too "into" this conversation. Wouldn't be the first time. Don't mind me, I'm just opinionated and loud-mouthed.
posted by JHarris at 4:16 AM on July 5, 2013


That's sort of my point - there is money on the table here, but no sure-fire way for a game developer to know what their game needs to get access to it. Even I would struggle to know ahead of time, and I'm the one who decides :)
posted by anonymisc at 4:33 AM on July 5, 2013


It is not true that if you throw enough money at a player, he'll bite. I claim that, no matter how much you spend, many users will not play a given game unless there's something there, something different from what came before, something unique and visionary.

I don't think we should underestimate the power of money to make up for something unique and visionary. I mean, Candy Crush Saga and Bejeweled are apparently based on this old Russian game called Shariki. And Angry Birds copied Crush the Castle, and I wouldn't doubt if Crush the Castle copied someone else along the way. Money gives you a megaphone to advertise your game to a much wider audience and to port it to various platforms, which also open up audience access.

I think I would not begrudge these sorts of F2P games if they were used towards funding "real" projects. Like a Hollywood director or actor in a big dumb action movie in order to make that fru-fru indie project that will only play in college towns. But companies like Zynga exist only to pump out these franchises, which is disheartening. The only thing I can think of now that is shaking up the funding model is backer sites like Kickstarter. Here, a "whale's" money is given as an upfront seed to develop a game, so the incentive switches from creating a game about long term extraction to actually creating a product.
posted by FJT at 11:11 AM on July 5, 2013


I LOVED Acrophobia. I was pretty good at it, I wouldn't play very often, but when I did, I could usually bank on almost all the GMVs, especially in the later rounds with longer acronyms. My go to moves were to use "Clinton" for C's and "enema" for E's. Seriously, you could not go wrong with those two, they killed.
posted by shen1138 at 11:43 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Acrophobia was an online multiplayer wordgame gameshow. It stood next to You Don't Know JACK - the Netshow as the two games that made up the Bezerk network. That network was run by Berkeley Systems, and later held You Don't Know JACK Sports - the Netshow, What's The Big Idea? (later known as Cosmic Consensus) and Get The Picture. Other than the JACK games, those games were designed by me.

Here is a video someone found of the B-roll footage Berkeley Systems released to support the game's launch.

Acrophobia won the 1997 Online Game of the Year award from Gamespot.
posted by andreaazure at 2:00 PM on July 5, 2013


Hmmm...

As a thought exercise, I'm trying to brainstorm the kinds of free-to-play games I wouldn't have a problem with.

The "pay to play" model isn't a bad one, intrinsically, it's what arcades always used of course, and it's nice for sort of giving "stakes" to a game, making it slightly important. I don't like the idea of games that depend on outside control of a user's device, since to me those carry a whiff of extortion. I mean, if a user hacks his own device to give himself powerups or more plays, under what law would he be charged? I don't think he should be, in truth -- this should not be against the law.

However, if such a game was just a shell for a web server, then it's okay, because the game is actually played, substantively, on another machine. And web browsers can actually implement user interfaces, and even action games, these days, or use Flash to provide a visual interface, and even sizeable parts of the game engine, so long as some key part of the game logic is not owned by him.

Continuing to think on this.
posted by JHarris at 4:53 PM on July 5, 2013


I don't think we should underestimate the power of money to make up for something unique and visionary. I mean, Candy Crush Saga and Bejeweled are apparently based on this old Russian game called Shariki. And Angry Birds copied Crush the Castle, and I wouldn't doubt if Crush the Castle copied someone else along the way. Money gives you a megaphone to advertise your game to a much wider audience and to port it to various platforms, which also open up audience access.

At the same time, though, had anyone ever heard of King.com before Candy Crush conquered the world? Rovio before Angry Birds took off? GungHo Online Entertainment, outside of the folks who remember Ragnarok, before PAD? GungHo now has more cash-on-hand than Nintendo.

iOS is a chaotic gaming environment because of its low entry fee. Sometimes a small developer's title like Tiny Wings will catch fire in precisely the right way and sell six million downloads out of nowhere. Other developers stake months of work and expenses on their title and mess up one variable (starting price, what IAP is offered, some design decision that ticks off the wrong reviewer) and end up with next to nothing, sometimes taking the company down with it.

There are dozens of clones of CCS and Bejeweled and AB and PAD on the App Store -- why are they not sharing in the money avalanche? As noted, succeeding in that world is a pinch of innovation coupled with a truckload of polish. You need your game to stand out, both on the description page in the store and in the first two minutes of someone trying it. You need a satisfying hook, the IAP techniques in the article being included in that. You need a little marketing to get the word in the right circles and some good reviews on the right sites. And then you just need to get damned lucky.

I mean, if a user hacks his own device to give himself powerups or more plays, under what law would he be charged? I don't think he should be, in truth -- this should not be against the law.

I don't know if it's possible on Facebook (I don't play that version), but that's precisely what many do on iOS Candy Crush -- by manipulating the time/date on your device skillfully you can get all the lives and Mystery Quests you need. Looking at CCS's #1 Grossing App position for months on end makes me wonder how many people realize that.
posted by delfin at 5:07 PM on July 5, 2013


MMOs these days tend to be free-to-play and tend to have fairly sane monetization, at least where I'm familiar with them. LoTRO, for example, has a perfectly functional amount of free content, and additional content is available for reasonable fees. There are gameplay enhancements you can buy - mostly convenience stuff, rather than power-level stuff. You get a certain amount of secondary currency for free, so you can pick and choose which of that you want even if you don't buy in. And there's a toooon of cosmetic stuff, which you can totally, happily avoid forever if you don't care what kind of tack your horse wears.

The thing that really makes it non-cringeworthy, though, is that they still offer a subscription, so if you want to buy in, you can pay $15/month and get pretty much everything. So you'd have to be making some really deliberate, non-gameplay-related choices to pay more than that, with the limited exception of the expansion packs which are one-time purchases not tied to the secondary currency.
posted by restless_nomad at 5:12 PM on July 5, 2013


I've been recently playing the beta for Card Hunter, a so far very charming pen-and-paper RPG-styled tactical combat dungeon crawler game (move digital figurines around on a dungeon grid, kill kobolds, etc) and it's using a mechanic I hadn't run into previously that falls under what the article describes as Reward Removal, and which made me simultaneously groan and laugh and twitch all at the same time when I saw it:

You win a fight, you open a chest. The chest has two to four random items in it: sellable treasure or various character equipment. But then you also "get" one more item, a "Club" treasure that lands on its own magical pillow next to the opened chest. And it's always relatively nice, on par with the better stuff in the chest. And you can look at it in detail, it's not a "what if" sort of gamble where you're just told what type of thing it is: that's the actual item, period.

And you only get that item if you're an active member of the Adventurer's Club or whatever they're calling it. Which you get to be by spending ten dollars for a month of membership. (Well, you get it by spending 300 pizza slices on that. The pizza slices will cost you ten bucks. Layers, yes.)

As an incentive its nasty and brutal and clever and honestly seems (unless they go Bad Places with it later in the game somehow) like not a terrible way to go in what is so far very satisfyingly a skill game that's been laying out a really good line of challenging-but-progressable for me. I have trouble reminding myself sometimes to try and be not so resentful of well-constructed, well-balanced micropayments in otherwise free games that ten years ago I'd have happily dropped twenty or forty bucks on upfront. But at the same time, I also have a hard time not resenting the move to free-but-we'll-fuck-our-game-design-for-monetization schemes in the first place because that's actually kind of worth resenting even if in some respects it ends up being a bargain. I don't like people bargaining away good design.
posted by cortex at 10:05 AM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


We should probably just legalize gambling. If we are going to empty people's wallets with simple manipulative games there might as well be a nice jackpot out there for somebody.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:11 PM on July 8, 2013


I think part of my problem cortex is I don't think many of these games would have been worth it at full price either. I know, I'm a terrible snob.
posted by JHarris at 7:49 PM on July 8, 2013


Just to update anyone still following this thread: The makers of CCS, King.com, responded to the author and he has posted some updates to the article at the FPP'd URL.
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 9:27 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


"There's Is No Evil Scheme Behind It" - an interview with one of the Candy Crush developers (? sounds like he wasn't there from the beginning). Typical shill, but interesting to read them spin.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:37 PM on July 18, 2013


Coercive "pay to play" techniques. ;P
posted by RobotHero at 2:05 PM on July 18, 2013


Some good points in that rebuttal RobotHero: the old-school pay first, play later developers are hardly pure hearted moral paragons of virtue!

None of this would matter to me if it weren't for the fact that these coercive techniques end up triggering strongly addictive responses in vulnerable players. When people report buying virtual items in your game instead of paying rent or buying food for their children, then I think as a developer you've crossed a moral line, especially if the majority of your profits come from these 'whale' players, rather than those who pay a little and move on.

If as a developer your development effort is focused on finding vulnerable people and turning them into addicts, then I don't care what you say, you are making the world a worse place than it was before you started & deserve to be called out for it.
posted by pharm at 1:32 AM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


When people report buying virtual items in your game instead of paying rent or buying food for their children, then I think as a developer you've crossed a moral line, especially if the majority of your profits come from these 'whale' players, rather than those who pay a little and move on.

Jonathan Blow talked about that here 3 years ago. It's a really worthwhile talk about the ethics of game design, where he uses farmville as an example.
"Video games have evolved tremendously over the past few decades; they’re much more entertaining than they used to be. That is not by accident; we, the community of game designers, have been continuously refining our techniques. The most common way we do this is by testing out our games on you, the players, and optimizing for the “best” result (where “best” is defined by us). As this process is ongoing, what kind of relationship exists between the designer and the player? Is it artist/audience, experimenter/subject, entrepreneur/customer, or tycoon/resource? Invariably it’s some admixture of these things, the particular ratios for a given game being chosen by its designers (usually without awareness that a decision is being made). Today, due to the way the Internet is widely used, and because game designers are becoming more serious about certain aspects of their craft, the iteration time of this game design optimization process is shorter than ever before: designers can observe their players much more thoroughly, and more quickly, than they ever have in the past. At some point a quantitative change becomes a qualitative one: the result of all this competency may be heavily destructive. Some aspects of the current notion of “good game design” may in fact be very bad, or at least indefensible, from an ethical standpoint. Today’s “better” video games spend a great deal of effort to undermine defenses that took you tens of millennia to evolve. They tend to be successful at this. As designers keep evolving their craft and gain greater analytical power, what will happen?"
posted by empath at 2:16 AM on July 19, 2013


I dispute that they're more entertaining than they used to be, but then, I'm kind of a retro fanatic.

I think games have overcome defenses in the short term, but I think in the long and even middle term, those defenses are stronger than they appear. For example I successfully got the MMORPG bug out of my system many years ago, pre-Everquest even, and as kids are brought up in this environment they won't be so easy to awe.

But when most video games come to involve these kinds of coercive techniques, when a general consensus forms around how stupid and empty they are -- make no mistake, that day is coming -- I'm worried that the reaction is going to end up being charged against video games as a whole, not just the most exploitative types, and that will be a shame, because there is much else to recommend video games as an art form.
posted by JHarris at 3:04 AM on July 19, 2013


But when most video games come to involve these kinds of coercive techniques, when a general consensus forms around how stupid and empty they are -- make no mistake, that day is coming

Doubt it. Slot machines, Blackjack, Roulette, Keno and Lotteries are all still going strong.
posted by empath at 3:23 AM on July 19, 2013


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