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Fearing the micro-transaction future

Fearing the micro-transaction future

Fri 01 Mar 2013 8:00am GMT / 3:00am EST / 12:00am PST
Free-to-PlayDesign

F2P and paymium are inevitable, and not just for EA - but critics of this future aren't easily dismissed

Electronic Arts plans to build micro-transactions into everything it does in future. If this upsets you, you may not like the future very much. There's no point railing at EA; EA is simply being honest about an approach that just about every publisher on earth is either considering seriously, or already committed to. In the realms of AAA games, the era of paying for a game up-front and never reaching for your wallet again is coming to a close.

It may surprise regular readers to learn that I'm every bit as uncomfortable and worried about that prospect as the rest of you. Accepting its inevitability doesn't mean I think it's entirely a good idea, and it certainly doesn't mean I think things are going to go smoothly. On the contrary - I think the next few years are going to be very, very painful indeed in the core games space.

I'm an advocate of free-to-play and, more cautiously, of the paymium/DLC/in-game purchase model. I co-wrote a book about it, and I'm writing another at the moment. I know that this model can work - that it can be a great way for developers to reach an audience, for consumers to discover new games and experiences, for casual players to skim through a game without making a big financial commitment while devoted fans engage to a degree of time and money that they're comfortable with. It can be good for developers and respectful of players. I'd even go so far as to say that for some kinds of games and some kinds of players, it's a much better, fairer system than the existing $50-up-front model.

"I'd even go so far as to say that for some kinds of games and some kinds of players, it's a much better, fairer system than the existing $50-up-front model."

At the same time, though, even the most ardent advocate of the potential of F2P needs to acknowledge that it's a business model that's ripe for abuse - and that abusive, cynical behaviour is absolutely rampant in it right now. It's a sad reality that many of the most successful games in the F2P market are nasty and exploitative. Companies like Zynga, Gameloft and King.com have made an artform out of building rip-offs of popular games and loading them down with every aggressive psychological trick and monetisation wheeze in the book - and it's an even sadder fact that their games regularly reside in the upper reaches of the "Top Grossing" charts.

Sure, that's capitalism. "The market" sorts this stuff out, we're told with tedious regularity by a certain brand of smugly self-satisfied capitalist who presumably misses the fact that these things aren't called "psychological tricks" for no reason. They're explicitly designed to convince people to spend money on things they don't actually want, and as such they disproportionately target people who are bad at delayed gratification or not educated about such underhanded tactics - which, as any social scientist can tell you with a heavy sigh, basically means that these tricks generally leech money from those who can least afford it at the low end of the socio-economic spectrum. There's nothing illegal about that, but there's also nothing creative, uplifting, positive or even morally bright about it - nothing, in other words, that reflects the reasons that any decent human beings have for being involved in games in the first place.

"They're explicitly designed to convince people to spend money on things they don't actually want."

This is the kind of thing that people who recoil as if burnt when micro-transactions and free-to-play are mentioned are thinking about - and I sympathise with that reaction. For a project I'm working on at present, I've ended up filling my phone with a host of the top-grossing free-to-play games of the past year. A handful of them have delighted and entertained me - but a large number were simply such awful, exploitative and soulless experiences that I felt like I should scrub my phone with a brillo pad after uninstalling them, just to make sure that every malign and insidious trace was gone for good.

So yes, it annoys me when people slam F2P under the seeming impression that it begins and ends with Farmville - but when so much of what's being done in the name of F2P is awful (and when so many F2P advocates, "holding the line" against widespread criticism from gamers, seem to be unwilling or unable to call out the awfulness and contrast it with the good titles), I can certainly see why people are horrified at it turning up in their own beloved console and PC titles.

Most of all, they're right to be horrified - because console and PC titles are going to get F2P/paymium terribly wrong, over and over again, before enough lessons are learned to ensure that everyone avoids the most awful mistakes. Paymium, in particular, is going to be insanely difficult and hugely abused. Publishers enthralled by the revenue potential of F2P have been all too keen to bolt the same elements into games that actually still cost $50 up front - and few of them have shown any understanding of the radically different relationship that exists between a player and a game they've bought, compared to a player's relationship to a game they downloaded for free.

"Most of all, they're right to be horrified - because console and PC titles are going to get F2P/paymium terribly wrong, over and over again."

It's not that it's impossible to monetise a paid-for game down the line - but it must be handled with kid gloves, approached with the utmost of generosity and must never lose sight of the fundamental task of making the player feel respected and rewarded. Fail, and you don't just lose out on the possibility of post-sale monetisation - you also lose out on the next $50 the player might have spent on your games.

Perhaps I'm in a pessimistic mood, but I think that in the next three or four years, most PC and console developers and publishers who attempt to strike that balance will get it wrong - in the process, driving a wedge of resistance deeper and deeper in between players and micro-transactions, perhaps even to the extent of ploughing salt into these fields for once and for all.

The main reason I fear this outcome is because right now, much of the evidence points to traditional publishers having grasped only the bare outlines of what microtransactions are and how they work - with the more subtle principles which underline the business model being largely ignored or dismissed. Key among these principles is the notion that a free- to-play game should actually be free to play - it should be possible for a player with a modicum of patience to play and enjoy the game forever without reaching into their pocket. A paymium game, by the same token, should offer the full measure of entertainment the player has paid for; micro-transactions may build on the experience but should be wholly optional, and the building of deliberate friction to encourage purchase in a game the player has already paid for is abhorrent and dishonest.

"In other words, micro-transaction models are designed to generate revenue - lots of revenue - from the people who really love and are deeply engaged in your game."

In other words, micro-transaction models are designed to generate revenue - lots of revenue - from the people who really love and are deeply engaged in your game. The flipside is that a much larger group of people - casually engaged but not fully hooked - are playing for free, or paying nothing over the initial purchase cost - and that's fine. That's more than fine, and you have to be utterly comfortable with it - yet I sense that a great many soi disant F2P designers, mostly from traditional games business backgrounds, really aren't fine with that. They struggle to escape the notion that everyone should be paying, that freeloaders are parasites and leeches - and their design reflects that, with aggressive, pushy monetisation tactics, harsh friction built in from the word go and even the occasional paywall slammed down, demanding money before a single minute more can be played.

This, I fear, is the near-term future of microtransactions. Many companies will get them right, of course, and we're going to see more and more games that dodge the obvious mistakes and create microtransaction models that enhance the game experience rather than detracting from it - but the mistakes and miscalculations are going to be major, high- profile and hugely damaging. Micro-transactions are inevitable; they will, of necessity, be a major part of our industry's future, because right now there isn't really any other way of funding AAA development costs that actually makes sense. Let's not kid ourselves, though - it's going to be a bumpy ride, and while the naysayers will ultimately have no choice, that doesn't mean they don't have a lot of valid arguments which the industry is going to have to work very hard, and think very carefully, to disprove.

66 Comments

Jade Law Senior concept artist, Reloaded Productions

72 291 4.0
Popular Comment
This all reminds me of coin-op arcade games where I'd pop in some money and have a limited experience. Interesting how that became a dated concept once popularity of buying the game outright grew.

Now i get to buy the game outright AND shovel money into the coin slot.

yay!

Posted:A year ago

#1

Dave Herod Senior Programmer, Codemasters

528 788 1.5
Popular Comment
I think when people say they're against F2P or microtransactions on this site, it'd be interesting to know what angle you're coming from - as a developer or a consumer. I hate the F2P model completely, but that's coming from a consumer point of view. It's a personal thing for me but I hate being begged for money. I want to think if I spend my money on anything, that it's entirely my choice - i.e. the relationship is you offer something unobtrusively and I choose to buy it or ignore it. This is why I loathe advertising, because it's trying to ram something I don't want down my throat. A one-off decision to pay some money for a game and not be bothered by anyone until I decide I want some more is painless. Once someone starts trying to influence me to buy things I dig my heels in and it puts me right off buying it. If you weave this stuff into the game itself you've absolutely ruined the game for me. The F2P games I've played on Android have been designed with every element of the game to funnel you into coughing up money, and as such I can't stand them.

Posted:A year ago

#2

James Sweatman Senior Game Designer, Jagex Games Studio

3 4 1.3
Ultimately if consumers continue using micro-transactions companies will continue putting them in their games. This isn't about our preference, or some overwhelming negative sentiment, all of that is irrelevant to the companies bottom line. If things are to change consumers must vote with their wallet, not their mouth. Problem is, if you see it as a problem, they have voted and that's why companies are clambering to get a piece of the pie before it's all gone and we move onto the next thing.

Posted:A year ago

#3

Jade Law Senior concept artist, Reloaded Productions

72 291 4.0
Popular Comment
@Dave
I hate it as both. As a developer i dislike making concessions about what I design based on what would make a fast buck. Making artistic decisions based on what can be directly monetised leads to very dissatisfactory work. It breeds an unhealthy team attitude where some would prefer you focus on what can be added to a cash shop that week instead of what would improve the quality of the game. Overall artistic quality goes out the window and pride along with it.

As a consumer i feel like many games dont cater to my completionist attitude unless i throw thousands in additional money at them.

Both of these situations are entirely subjective as theyre based on my experiences and preferences of course.

Posted:A year ago

#4
Love it or loathe it, microtransactions and F2P are elements of the zeitgeist vs the established models.
Personally, I like all my offerings up front but such is the changing landscape, and I suspect itemized items will be here for a while to come :(

Posted:A year ago

#5

Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant

1,692 594 0.4
Microtransactions are partially an industry response to piracy.

Posted:A year ago

#6

Alexandros Gekas Co- Founder, Editor, Ragequit.gr

15 19 1.3
@Bruce if so, it's as misguided as draconian DRM schemes.

Posted:A year ago

#7

Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing

1,186 1,273 1.1
From a consumer perspective, I do not want to constantly guess whether I have to be more skilled at playing the game, or just cough up some money. Particularly when skillful play is part of the core experience of a game, the sale of publisher sanctioned cheats is not something I want to see replace difficulty settings.

We do not want to end up in the same situation as Midway. Who included settings to artificially keep matches in NBA Jam close, so players spend more money. They even advertised this via tool tip in the factory setup menu of the arcade machine!

In many regards, I feel I already outlived f2p once already in the past. Sure it works, because who of the current f2p consumer generation really remembers that past, let alone was part of it? It took decades to wash out the legacy gameplay tropes of the arcade era. No need to resurrect that corpse, if you mind going forward. If the goal is money, then sure, f2p full steam ahead.

Posted:A year ago

#8

Isaac Kirby Studying Computer Games Development, University of Central Lancashire

40 37 0.9
From my consumer point of view i think this is a more generational divide.
Original arcade gamers thought paying a little moeny for an experience was good
From the PS1 era i enjoy playing my games fully "from the box": no more needed.
My younger brother of the 360 era sees DLC, and Microtransactions as normal.
It would be interesting to see spending habits of different gamers depending on Age and Entry Point.
Maybe i'm strongly opposed because i see the "full from box" game as the rose tinted ideal, Time will prove me wrong or right.

Posted:A year ago

#9

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development

961 1,759 1.8
Microtransaction might be a partial reaction to a lot of things, but their main reason for existence is that this is what a lot of players want.

I've been hearing all these tedious arguments about what an abortion this model and how it's a con and etc and etc and it gets a little old tbh. If punters didn't want it, it wouldn't be taking over. Message ends.

Posted:A year ago

#10
I have zero issue with microtransactions. I have a huge issue with what they tend to lead to: F2P, mass-market gameplay, and generally everything that console gaming is NOT about.

I really doubt its going to get anywhere near mobile gaming trends: people who buy consoles are generally accepting of paying money to *purchase* games - and it has to stay this way if consoles are going to stay cheap (i.e. below cost). The numbers are just different.

Ultimately its going to come down to economics and publishers/developers will do what they need to be profitable. You aren't going to risk losing 2-3m sales of a $60 title, with a decision that might get an extra few dollars from 10% of your userbase.

Posted:A year ago

#11

Jeremie Sinic

43 18 0.4
I wanted to write about this. Now I'll just link to your article.

Posted:A year ago

#12

Patrick Williams Medicine and Research

93 61 0.7
My soon-to-be brother in law works for a lottery company and they make money off their electronic slot machines hand over fist. These machines are widely distributed and the majority of the company's profits come from exploiting the lower socio-economic ladder. The machines are really designed to exploit the kinds of people that are the least likely to afford this kind of exploitation. A lot of games are about tapping into the same short term gratification mechanisms. WoW and Diablo are lotteries where players hope to hit the jackpot when they pull the lever / kill a boss in an instance. Blizzard has been tremendously successful because they've learned to study player behavior and optimize the work-to-gains to keep players hooked. WoW's subscription rates speak for themselves and Diablo has evolved from a loot pinata to a candy store.

Ultimately, publishers target their games at the people who give them money and I'm worried that in the long term, games will be increasingly designed to necessitate micro-transactions. We already see this a bit with Diablo 3, where poor drops and gear checks force people to the auction house.

Complete side note: Rob Fahey is now a former editor? How the hell did GI.biz allow that to happen?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Patrick Williams on 1st March 2013 2:11pm

Posted:A year ago

#13

Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd

1,021 1,470 1.4
I object to the idea that gaming business models are all or nothing. Why should the success of one model mean the complete end of all others? That's silly and will directly damage content variety in the medium. At least we still have Nintendo selling us complete games for a flat price... we'll see if they are all that's left in the next generation.

Posted:A year ago

#14

Andrew Watson Programmer

113 290 2.6
Maybe one of the reasons why F2P is so successful is its audience. Loads of people who have never touched a pay-up-front console/PC game have started playing mobile games. From what I can tell, a lot of people against F2P are people who enjoyed the older model, and a lot of the people that F2P makes money from have never played any games with that model.

Maybe it's partially successful because it's profiting off the ignorant?

Posted:A year ago

#15
Popular Comment
I find both sides of the issue pretty fascinating and am glad that GI.Biz folks are having a good old down-the-pub argument about it, with a solid article by Rob. It's all helping us learn a bit more about the subject.
My two cents: Not all games are played to be competitive, many are played for the mystical netherworld head space that gets created in the players imagination. This is why most smart successful devs see making games as a creative process that tickles the humanity in their fellow gamers. So to many devs and gamers alike the prospect of a used car salesman being injected into every fibre of the games they love may just erase gaming in its purest form, as it exists for them. So while FTP fans can dismiss how people communicate this fear (e.g. “EA = SATAN” etc.), when used at every turn against every argument it seems less a firm conviction and more like whistling in the dark. If your only answer to the real fear of gaming becoming reduced to bubble gum pap for gambling addicts is “Yeah well I'll make more money” then I submit we are not talking about the same subject and there's no need for you to join in the conversation.
My worry with the logic of the pro-FTP side is the idea that “money in my pocket now = a better future for all”. I'd point out that your divining powers are no more advanced than the next shaved ape – you are driven by your wallet and have only your own (biased) version of how this will play out long term to draw on - as do we all. But I would say if only 5-10% of the players of your games feel they are worth paying for, I don’t see anything to do a victory lap about – I'm not sure you're the correct person to be saying what mass appeal looks like. Of course many non-paying users play these games too, but as they don't pay for it you have no idea whether they are masterbating with excitement or are one click away from playing with their belly button fluff - or are flat broke and have little choice.
What we do know is that the grasping FTP game mechanics at issue (a) piss off a lot of paying customers and (b) verifiably appeals to only a tiny minority of players who happen to shell out huge amounts. Nobody's publishing the stats of how many players try out these games and go “Eugh, fuck that”.
With FTP there may be dragons ahead is all I mean. “If it was actually crap they wouldn't pay for it" is how we justify it to ourselves. Well, 95% of them don't pay for it, so I would use that argument with a bit more humility. When plotting the road ahead we seem to be blind to the factor of the silent mass majority who try these games but refuse to buy and my worry with FTP is that it's not clear at all what kind of damage may be coming down the pipe for us if its taken too far. Everything in moderation and all that.

Posted:A year ago

#16

Tameem Antoniades Creative Director & Co-founder, Ninja Theory Ltd

196 164 0.8
Personally, I think there's room for all kinds of digital and retail models to co-exist and i definitely share the apprehension for F2P.

But just to play devil's advocate... imagine a world where all games were F2P digital. You can try and play any game you want instantly and for free and decide if you want to spend money on it or move on to the next game. Then imagine someone announces a new model: you have to walk to a shop, pay 50 quid upfront and then play the game through before you know whether it was worth it. Oh and as a developer you only get your cut after retail and distribution get theirs. How would developers and players react in that scenario?

Just a thought experiment...

Posted:A year ago

#17

Nicholas Lovell Founder, Gamesbrief

211 254 1.2
I think that the 95% of people don't pay argument is misleading. Dan Ariely has convincingly shown in Predictably Irrational that when the price of something falls from very cheap (1 cent) to free, the number of people who choose the free option skyrockets.

In F2P, many people download a game in passing. They are not comitted. They grab it because a friend mentioned it. Because it's free. Whatever. They are not engaged. Of those people, some go on to become players, fans and superfans. In the paid model, everyone pays, but you have no idea how many people considered buying it but didn't. You just don't know.

I am not pushing free as the only model. I believe that the real secret of success is allowing those who love what you do to spend lots of money on things they truly value. As Rob says, the emotional contract you have agreed with your players is very different depending on whether the starting point of that emotional journey is in a free game or a $60 one. That's where some AAA houses are going to get it very, very wrong.

Posted:A year ago

#18

Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer

1,269 941 0.7
I dont like the idea, I dont support it, I dont want it. Simple as that.

Thats part of what ruined my expirience on many facebook games, like farmville, pet society and nightclub city. They were ok to play in the beginning, but once you maxed out all you can do for free, if you wanted the cool stuff you had to pay, and the stuff you could have gotten through gameplay was frustratingly hard or you needed to gather a rediculouse amount of ingame currency to have it.

Gmes like SSX, lots of racing games, RPG all have at the core of their gameplay that you unlock stuff. In SSX I loved playing and getting rewarded for it through new costumes, boards, gear and courses... Your telling me now I have to pay for that?

What about mass effect and dragon age? Am I screwed now because I need to pay mony as I go deeper in the game to have better equipment, that I normally could have through accomplishing different goals or being skilled in the game.

I am absolutly certain that this will affect major game design desicions in a way that will result in broken gameplay expiriences. It will no longer be about player skill, but how deep there wallet goals. Among players there will not be an even laying or competitive playing field, Since players with more money will have more advantages or simply look cooler.

Its like taking an old game of pacman and making it so you can pay money to have a higher score. Games have changed and many no longer have a high score as the reason you try to get better, but games now a days do it in different ways, instead of points they offer level ups, better equipment, character appearence, more customization options etc. Your telling me now I have to pay for this?

Im sorry but for a game to work, especially competitive ones where you play with friends, each player should have an even playing field. I think that making a player pay for things will make for uneven and broken gameplay in the long term.

As a huge fan of Mass Effect the multiplayer aspect of ME3 presents this problem. Its really hard to have any of the cool stuff and even when you pay. Cause its random. Now with the reckoning multiplayer since Im reluctant to pay I have to spend endless hours getting enough in game points/currency to unlock stuff and when I get enough, its random and I may not get it. I really want that Geth Juggernaut. However while Rich boy can afford to pay to unlock him or at least have more chances to aquire it because of his wallet. I have to play around 10 games on gold or platinum difficulty until I rack enough points and opportunities to unlock that playable character. And on these levels you dont always win or get a full extraction. I can be in wave 9 and lose the game and I wont rack up the same points I would as if I completed a full extraction. But a person with money doesnt even have to play his way through this, he can just pay his way through it. And Im not cool with that. I feel its unfair. And I wouldnt mind unlocking stuff through game play in the way it is, I just hate the fack that others have the advantage cause they have more money. And on top of that I bought full game. So how much do I have to spend if I were to spend money to get that geth juggernaut or cool uniform colors?

Sorry, but I see the future pretty bleak, where games will be broken into small chunks and you pay as you go, they will become services within themselves. And if that is the case, I might as well stop being a gamer. Cause games will probably stop being games, they will be more like an interactive movie were you just pay as you go.

I would change "Free to Play" to "play as you go" cause nothing is free especially not in the gaming community. This will fuel hacking and piracy for those that cant afford the luxary of the Rich Gamer. F2P is nothing more than offering a full game as a demo and you pay to get the full expirience. I dont even know why the industry uses the term free to play. Its not differant then offering a Demo then selling you the full game, except that they do it in pieces.

It will literally open the door for "Broken Gameplay" and Uneven Expiriences and do away with the competitive nature of games. In the end we will see only games designed to penny the shit out of the consumer/gamer.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Rick Lopez on 1st March 2013 5:25pm

Posted:A year ago

#19

Christopher Bowen Editor in Chief, Gaming Bus

461 754 1.6
The problem is that the people behind this don't care who they profit off of. If their monetary sources are people with clinical issues with impulse control and/or people spending money they don't have, they don't care; they will prey off of those people all the way. The only object of this is money, no matter how it's procured.

Posted:A year ago

#20

Brian Lewis Operations Manager, Aeria Games Europe

141 93 0.7
I had to read this article twice...

Micro-transactions don't have anything to do with Free 2 Play. In fact, they are not even the most common form of monetization for F2P games. The most common method to monetize these games is via a sub, or by selling time cards. What is further confusing, is that this seems to be a direct response to EA's statement that they were adding micro-transactions to all of their games... regardless of business model.

There is a lot of bias here.. and very little indication of understanding of what they are saying. Examples of psychological tricks to get people to buy more... pricing at .$99 vs $1.00.. putting the milk and eggs in the back of the store, so that people have to walk past other products to get them... even putting candy and other impulse buys at the register. These are all psychological tricks to get people to buy more. I wont even go into the whole social dialog about social targeting.

Companies have been looking for ways to make more money, by convincing customers to over-consume for longer than I have been alive. This is nothing new. It is not even new to the gaming industry. Just look at a Steam Sale... and you will see the exact same actions that are being decried in this article... but they will be praised instead.

Bottom line is this... Caveat Emptor

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Brian Lewis on 1st March 2013 5:56pm

Posted:A year ago

#21

Philip Smith Copywriter, PopCap Games

1 1 1.0
",,,the era of paying for a game up-front and never reaching for your wallet again is coming to a close."

I thought this was where video games and I would part company but I'm coming around on the F2P model. A little. While I would still rather pay up front and be left the hell alone to play the game I have made an agreement with myself in terms of microtransactions.

I'll spend money in-game up to the amount of money I think the game is worth (which is totally arbitrary). So if I play a "free" game for which I would have gladly handed over 5 or 10 bucks (USD), I'll spend 5 or 10 bucks in-game. But then that's it.

And if I pay for a game up front, I absolutely will not pay any more money for things within the game. Maybe it's generational (I'm 45) or maybe I'm just a crank. Maybe both.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Philip Smith on 1st March 2013 6:02pm

Posted:A year ago

#22
Actually, as one of the longest running critics of the "F2P" concept, the idea that micro-transactions will be available everywhere doesn't bother me. Its just another purchase option and thats good for both customers and companies.

But it is a fundamental error to equate micro-transactions everywhere with "F2P everywhere". We are already starting to see plenty of examples of the use of Microtransactions as an adjunct economic model, not a replacement. GW2 is an excellent example of where the world is likely going. You pay some base cost for the game itself, and can then customize with micros-transactions.

Pure micro-transaction games are, as Zynga has shown, an economic dead end that just annoys customers and starves game companies. But the ability to customize your purchase holds value to both side of the equation.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jeffrey Kesselman on 1st March 2013 6:17pm

Posted:A year ago

#23

Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer

1,269 941 0.7
@Andreas Gschwari

You certainly took your time to break apart my post :)

Thats just my view. Don't know if Id call myself biased. I try to make reasonable statements based on facts and experience. I just know its a feature I haven't had good experiences with. Mainly on most Facebook games. But as I see this feature creeping its way into console games. I start thinking of what it MIGHT BECOME. And seriously for anyone greedy this can be a tremendous way to exploit gamers and also break gameplay experiences and creative decisions. This is my primary concern.

Right now as it is… many features that you pay for are not a big deal. Mostly aesthetic or minor upgrades. But even in the small amount its being used in games like ME3 I often see a guy with a character or gun that gives him the edge in gameplay and Its very hard for me to get, and for all I know he probably bought it with real world money. As a gamer i don't mind the extra hours of play but in a competitive experience I like to be on even ground. Cause as the gaming networks become more social, more global and we have charts with player rankings and stuff, this issue will be more relevant.

I use games like SSX and Mass effect as examples, and in a lot of games the ability to unlock better or cooler stuff is actually part of the gameplay like in SSX. Instead of points its stuff. The fact that you have a certain type of costum or character of different color, means you achieved something others did not. Even a prestige badge in call of duty becomes meaningful. Then I hear EA making statements that they want to make this a mandatory feature in ALL games. My mind starts rolling and I start thinking of ways this will be used in future games and how it will affect gameplay. Now a days its not so much of a problem. But when it hinders gameplay progression or enables uneven competition then Im not fine with that.

Then unless a gamer pays up they make the game intentionally frustratingly hard? They can do that you know… or maybe Im just biased? Maybe Im sounding unreasonable. Im well aware that right now in most games most things can be acquired in normal gameplay. But how would the intended game design difficulty be adjusted had the real world payments been omitted. We would probably have a more accessible, balanced gameplay experience vs a game made for people that pay and those who don't.

And when I talk about it in my post, Im imaging how this might be used in the future. In current games like Mass Effect its not so much of a problem. I enjoy Mass Effect Multiplayer and don't mind the extra hours. But I still believe in gameplay aspects, the advantage goes to people who forked enough money to get that level 10 Geth plasma assault Rifle in just a few minutes. But when this is used to exploit then yeah I have a problem and Zynga is a fine example.

So If a guy doesn't have enough time to spend on gaining a high score on Pac Man, he can just go ahead, pay some money and gain that extra score that way. This is just a simple made up example. I honestly would like to see gamers fork just as many hours as I have on Mass effect multiplayer to get the stuff I have in the same way, to see who is better. But Right now its not like that.

If this feature can be implemented in a way that won't affect competitive play or result in broken unbalanced games, then its fine. But in the long term, will publishers and SUITS allow that?… or will they tell the developer and creative people to make the game frustratingly hard in order to make people more prone to pay real money? I don't think I am being biased because of my reasoning. This only brings a major concern to me.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Rick Lopez on 1st March 2013 7:39pm

Posted:A year ago

#24

Samuel Verner Game Designer

131 243 1.9
the more EA is pressing, the less im paying. and that counts for a huge group of people on the pc plattform. the games on the pc could easily outperform games on the consle. why does that not happen? because the people are fed up by the milking methods of the big publishers and so they just download it illegally, or dont even borther with the games anymore. the consoles will follow very slowly this path.

i rarely open my wallet anymore. but not because i cannot affort games, or because im not willing to buy games. no. i dont buy games like dead space 3 or sim city because i would feel ripped of, if i buy the game and then have to pay again for the content i allready bought.

also the mechanics will change. its going step by step, but good to get more and more from the dlc stuff, and f2p mechanics in fullprice titles you have to back it up with a proper grind mechanic and other monetization mechanics. this stuff is ruining the whole game experience.

i am willing to spend 50 euro on a game, but i am not willing to spend this money on a halfassed try to ripp me off. i rather would backup 3 kickstarter tiles than trowing my money on these god forsaken monetizing machines. if they want to milk people, then they should stay at facebook and continue to rip-off dumb non-gamers.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Samuel Verner on 1st March 2013 8:00pm

Posted:A year ago

#25

Jeremy Eden Co-Founder, JForce Games

4 2 0.5
Could someone give a specific example of an abusive F2P tactic?

Posted:A year ago

#26

Samuel Verner Game Designer

131 243 1.9
Could someone give a specific example of an abusive F2P tactic?
is this qustion a joke? and if you really don't know, take a look into what happens, if everything is aligned to maximize the profit, by playing a game like empires & allies on facebook. but even if f2p games are not desgined with such drastic mechnics, then their approch is to maxemize the revenue on cost of the quallity of the game experience. it is impossible to create a free 2 play game without sacrificing quallity. not a single f2p mechanic makes sense on itself, but by making the game experience worse they become what drives the revenue up.

so if you aim for the best game experience possible (in the budget ofcourse), then its impossible to use f2p mechanics. f2p does always mean to have a decreased quallity of the gameexperience. it is impossible to create a f2p game without sacrificing quallity to the bussines model.

Edited 5 times. Last edit by Samuel Verner on 1st March 2013 8:18pm

Posted:A year ago

#27

Todd Weidner Founder, Big Daddy Game Studio

430 1,027 2.4
as a consumer and developer I dont like it.
As a consumer I have to constantly be wary about what's the catch, where is the walls? what's being withheld from me, Am I just wasting time here. How much of a disadvantage am I at, how much is it gonna cost me to even get a balanced playing field, etc etc. After a hard days work, do I really need this crap in my hobby?

As a developer, having players pay up front allows you/me to simply design the best as we can, putting as much fun and content into our game as we can. Pretty simple, straightforward,and honest. If its F2P, monetization of content suddenly becomes a factor in all designs issues. Do I leave in the bottle neck, have em pay to skip it, Do I add this feature? or make em pay for it. It reminds we may too much of some slimey salesmen setting up a mark. No thanks.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 1st March 2013 8:30pm

Posted:A year ago

#28

Andreia Quinta Creative & People Photographer, Studio52 London

236 659 2.8
Popular Comment
I just feel compelled to show the other side of that scroll bar.

By definition those would be micro-transactions, in reality there's nothing micro-about it. It's a bit of a paradoxical issue because MT's are both hit and miss if not done (extremely) carefully, but the moment a game design is made revolving around these transactions rather than these transactions being made to further enhance gaps in the original design, then the purpose of making games is defeated.

I mean, what is a game? let's forget for a moment that suits run the industry and remind ourselves that this, by definition, has nothing whatsoever to do with what EA is doing to RR3.

But hey, I think they've almost hit the right spot with Mass Effect 3's multiplayer, so there's that...

Posted:A year ago

#29

Jeremy Eden Co-Founder, JForce Games

4 2 0.5
@Samuel: Making a low quality game isn't an abusive/exploitative tactic.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jeremy Eden on 1st March 2013 9:05pm

Posted:A year ago

#30

Jason Alexander QA - Senior Tester, Blizzard Entertainment

20 15 0.8
My issue is the Free to Play name its not free...I got introduced to this a long time ago by some company at a convention. They were like it's free to play. I said how are you paying for your servers. She explain the whole "game" to me.
It a great business model "LoL" has done it right but micro-transactions and F2P are two different things.

Posted:A year ago

#31

Samuel Verner Game Designer

131 243 1.9
@Eric Pallavicini you need game mechanics to back up a f2p game. these are additional mechanics. none of them are needed for the game on its own. they are designed to make the microtransactions possible, not to create a better game experience and they are doing the opposit. they are lowering the game experience. thats the point. you have to sacrifice quallity to get the f2p model into it. and the more you try to milk your customers, the worst the game experience become. the best quallity is only achievable if you don't use a f2p monetization. so no matter what you do, f2p means a lower quallity of the game in the end. and in a addition to the design point of view you can add the production side: the usual "rollout" or "softlaunch" of these games means publishing games in a unfinished, feature incomplete state.

or with other words: f2p games are the worst you can get.


@Jeremy Eden no? lowering the bar and establishing low quallity as a bussiness modell is not abusive/exploitative enough for you? ok, take a look on the usual facebook game. then you know where the path is leading to. these games are no games anymore, but monetization plattforms. thats where this thing is heading to. and this IS lowering the game experience. people who cannot see that, are typical no gamers and coming more from the sales and marketing end.

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Samuel Verner on 1st March 2013 10:05pm

Posted:A year ago

#32

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development

961 1,759 1.8
Let's just try to get out of the knee jerk reactions and spend a second thinking some biases through.

1) Freemium games will be poor quality? Who came up with this ffs. You get it for free and can play for a few days for nothing. The punter knows exactly how good or bad this game is before being asked for money, and has no "i've spent some already" bond to keep him around. Poor F2P games are deader than poor AAA games and the need to provide a compelling experience goes way deeper than a good (not actually game footage) movie and a quick snatch of 60 bucks in advance.

2) Most of the so-called AAA games I've bought recently are actually pretty poor and I've often regretted spending high sums on them. I'm getting a bit fed up with some developers/publishers taking the moral high ground in this debate. 40 hours of scripted intros, cut scenes and post match interviews don't push up the fun, they just push up the bill. And this isn't done just to try and justify the pricetag?

3) All the various "cons" that some people think they're being very insightful in revealing have been known to most retailers since shops first became a thing. Pointing at a few psychological pushes used to try and monetise a game that costs nothing by default just makes you look naieve, not insightful. Talk to a supermarket manager one day and your world will collapse.

4) This is the real biggie, already hinted at with an earlier post. If your game is crap, you will make no money. Not just subpar money, but no money at all. You can't grab a day one armload of $60 bundles before people realise they've been taken. That has the people that can only make "shiny" filling their pants. And about time to.

Posted:A year ago

#33

Samuel Verner Game Designer

131 243 1.9
@Eric Pallavicini
Which I personally see as much opportunities for a game designer to add extra features. It is up for the game experience designer to be innovative and make the most of it by improving the game experience at the same time as monetization opportunities.
ok, let me say it again: it is impossible to create a f2p where the monetization doesn't hurt the gameexperience. f2p mechanics are unnessecary for the gameexperience. implementing them is lowering the quallity.
you need game mechanics to back up a f2p game. these are additional mechanics.
I disagree on that.
LoL is an exception with a model which cannot be transfered to other games. but even there the f2p model reduces the quallity of the game experience a bit. you either have to pay a lot of money or you have to chose if you rather want to buy the needed runes for a perfect build or if you want to buy heroes instead. this means the grind is stretched to a point where the users have to pay in the average as much as there is needed to have a working revenue. but that also means you have an unnessesary grind in the game and a decission for free or low-pay-users on what end they want to sacrifice from their gameexperiece. in a full price title with everything included you would have access to all heroes and all runes in the game by the time you reached the maxlevel. also the maxlevel would be designed to motivate you in a way to make the game as much enjoyable as possible. in a f2p game the progress is designed to have good KPIs.

free to play games are just a rip-off. nothing more. some pretend to be games, some are far beyond and are not more than pure milkmachines. the customers have absolutly no benefits from this. its just about profit optimization and has nothing to do with creating good games.

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Samuel Verner on 2nd March 2013 12:38am

Posted:A year ago

#34

Samuel Verner Game Designer

131 243 1.9
@Paul Johnson
1) Freemium games will be poor quality? Who came up with this ffs. You get it for free and can play for a few days for nothing.
and that makes it a good game? *cough*
2) Most of the so-called AAA games I've bought recently are actually pretty poor and I've often regretted spending high sums on them.
so some AAA games are not well done and that makes extremly terrible f2p games good?
3) All the various "cons" that some people think they're being very insightful in revealing have been known to most retailers since shops first became a thing. Pointing at a few psychological pushes used to try and monetise a game that costs nothing by default just makes you look naieve, not insightful. Talk to a supermarket manager one day and your world will collapse.
a supermarket manager is selling you products with some kind of methods. a f2p game pretends to be a product which is in reality a supermarket to sell you stuff.

or with other words: what you just sayed is that f2p games are nothing more than monetization plattforms to nickel and dime the crap out of the users.
4) This is the real biggie, already hinted at with an earlier post. If your game is crap, you will make no money. Not just subpar money, but no money at all. You can't grab a day one armload of $60 bundles before people realise they've been taken. That has the people that can only make "shiny" filling their pants. And about time to.
you can also make tons of money with bad games, which are not even "games" anymore. ask zynga.

dont missunderstand me here. i know the benefit from the bussiness side. but at some point everyone has to be honest and see the bussines model for what it is: a scam. creating good games and creating free 2 play games are completly diffrent things. you cannot do both.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Samuel Verner on 2nd March 2013 12:27am

Posted:A year ago

#35

Roland Austinat roland austinat media productions|consulting, IDG, Computec, Spiegel Online

144 94 0.7
@Tameem: you write:

"You can try and play any game you want instantly and for free and decide if you want to spend money on it or move on to the next game."

I'll bite. How long does the deciding phase last? Considering metrics earlier mentioned in this thread, 90 percent of the players never return to the game after they try out. So if the trial phase is "too long", they might never buy it. If it is too short or too "buy this to keep playing" heavy, you might scare off those who actually would have bought it after giving it a try.

For designers and publishers, having players just test your game and never buy it is the worst-case scenario. Unless ... you offer them a "flat rate" subscription of all new games, digitally deliverered/streamed. Which is where I believe the big console makers are headed toward eventually.

Posted:A year ago

#36

Ignacio Garcia

11 1 0.1
You can already see how companies are using it on children...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/appsblog/2013/mar/01/apps-smartphones

Posted:A year ago

#37

Pier Castonguay Programmer

189 106 0.6
I have yet to see a single game who implemented the concept correctly (in a non-greedy kind of way). I also hate the fact that this "model" will force games to use even more currency/resource concepts and statistics on items, turning every games into wannabe rpg, which is already becoming a bit too common. Also I think it will actually promote piracy because games will comes with everything installed in a pack instead of having to buy it part by part. I see this business model as a needed response to the dumb mass of consumers and not an evolution of the gaming industry.

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Pier Castonguay on 2nd March 2013 2:50am

Posted:A year ago

#38
I want to share a personal experience I had recently. My sister in-law arrived from overseas and we were sharing recent game experiences. I showed her a 3DS-XL and got her playing Paper Mario from the start. She got me into a game from King.com - Candy Crush or something like that...she was stuck on a later level.

I quite enjoyed the game but didn't get it...how could this get money out people?

After a couple of weeks of mild-addiction I had it all worked out. The game is a standard match-3 Bejewelled clone based around challenges with time and move limits. But the key is that levels are completely random. If the levels were the same everytime it would effectively be a game if SKILL. As it stands it's a game of chance...a POKIE. All the monetisation in the game revolves around this.

When i hit level 50, i deleted the game. I ended up paying a grand total of $1.10 (purely for content)...nothing else for a couple of weeks of play. If this is the "best" and most "popular" game the mobile industry has to offer players...there are some real issues coming.

And now, my sister in-law now owns a 3DS-XL and Paper Mario.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Michael Shamgar on 2nd March 2013 1:08pm

Posted:A year ago

#39
@ David

Excellent question.

I decided to blog on it. See this series i am starting today..

http://unseenu.quora.com/Why-I-hate-the-word-F2P-part-1

A quote from the second installment...
"This is the reason I have a particular hatred for this economic model. I chose games because I wanted to entertain people, not struggle with them over their wallet. I find it an inherently dishonest way to do business. I work hard to produce a good product that will have real and honest entertainment value to my players, in return they should feel its worth an honest price."

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jeffrey Kesselman on 2nd March 2013 3:55pm

Posted:A year ago

#40

Laurens Bruins Jaywalker, Jaywalkers Interactive

135 158 1.2
Monetization schemes are just that; monetization schemes. I understand why it exist, I have no moral problems with it, but it cannot and will never make any game better because of it, since it is in no way and has never been a solution to overcome design problems. It is a solution to make money. As their implementation is an integral part of the actual game, it hinders the design. It's not good for the games, and thus not good for consumers. It just might rake in a bit more cash. That's all fine, but in the interest of the games themselves, I see absolutely no reason to be excited or happy about an F2P/Microtransaction future, quite the contrary.

Posted:A year ago

#41

Gareth Donaghey Customer Support Agent, Blizzard Entertainment

34 46 1.4
To see my comment, please click here to pay with Gareth Coins.

Posted:A year ago

#42

Nick Parker Consultant

306 186 0.6
We're arguing with our own logic. You could write a list of advantages and disadvantages and a whole SWOT analysis on F2P or pay to play from the threads of this article and the one on EA. This is not about posturing subjective views on personal choice or experiences - we're all going to have many within the industry. Consumers will decide whether you agree with their choice or not - are consumers wrong/stupid/sheep/gullible/easily duped because they enjoy a F2P experience or a $60 up front experience? No, it's up to them and as long as the industry can supply the choices of payment methods to a wide demographic of gamers, then I'm not sure whether we, at this early stage of these evolving business models which are not finished in being completely thought through and definitive in structure, can take the lofty view of what is right for gamers. Gamers have shown us so far that both microtransactions and pay to play work, just by the very numbers who do play them and who have supported even those core triple A titles that switch from pay to play/subscription to F2P. We can't ignore the stats but I'm bound to say that.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Nick Parker on 2nd March 2013 9:34pm

Posted:A year ago

#43

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development

961 1,759 1.8
If only that were true, Nick. There's a chap up there trying to argue with me by just making it up as he goes along and quoting random bits of my text to make it look right.

Gonna bow out of this one now. I get bored enough of hearing all the whining about ftp games at places like Touch Arcade. Instead I'll quietly go about trying to match up my limited ability to supply with the absolutely massive amount of demand...

Posted:A year ago

#44

Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing

1,186 1,273 1.1
Any modern (post Settlers of Catan) German boardgame will put its players into a position, where a mixture of strategy, luck (dice rolls) and social interaction is the way to victory. Reliance on one factor over the others will not lead to victory.

This mixture of elements is reliant on the business model. Most f2p business models fundamentally alter the composition of winning factors. There has yet to be a game which evolves the formula of "skill, dice rolls and social interactions" to the point where the inclusion of microtransactions really is adding something.

As a result, we no longer have games which are for gameplay's sake, but games which are servants of their business model. Playfulness is traded for economic exchanges hinging on their perceived value to the customer. With video games being little more than reward machines aiming at granting every single player an almost 100% chance of success, the outcome of a game has replaced the actual act of playing it as most important part. Compare that to Settles of Catan, a game which knows three players are going to lose and how it uses it to its advantage.

Posted:A year ago

#45

Samuel Verner Game Designer

131 243 1.9
@Andreas Gschwari

lets say i know exactly what i am talking about ;-)
Some people have pointed to LoL, World of Tanks is another one - not to mention that i have a ton of fun playing things like candy crush on my tablet. I actually enjoy RR3 a lot and i find that i can do everything i want for free - i have yet to spend a cent on it.
like i sayed before lol is an exception and wot is not even a good game.
As Paul points out there is a massive amount of AAA games which are not really that good.
how many are not good? 20 in the last 2 years? there are tousands (!) of f2p games released in the last 2 years which are terrible and maybe 1 or 2 good ones.
In F2P games i get to try, and often play the entire game, before i have to pay anything.
thats a nosense marketing argument for the stupid masses and has nothing to do with the reality in these games. because if you really dont have to pay for anything to have a good time in the game, then the game would not create much revenue.
Most good F2P/Freemium titles let the player enjoy the entire game, so any kind of monetization mechanics are designed to link into the core game mechanics.
what you are talking about is hiding the monetization with clever tricks. but that is quite the opposit of a high quallity game experience.

here again the concept of f2p monetization, because i think you dont understand it: create the demand for virtual good and monetize this demand. if you dont have demand for these goods, then you have no revenue, so you have to build in unnesseary mechanics which hurt the game experience to make the bussiness model work. there is no way around. you can fool the user by hiding the stuff behind psyological tricks, but he will always notice the impact on his game experience, even if he cannot point out the monetization mechanics which lead to that experience.

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Samuel Verner on 2nd March 2013 11:55pm

Posted:A year ago

#46

Andrew Ihegbu Studying Bsc Commercial Music, University of Westminster

473 187 0.4
You completely misunderstand the concept of 'paymium'.

What you speak of are 'shortcuts' you can pay for to get further into the game for you character. However I may disagree with the ethos of these (why pay to have a game then pay to skip most of it) I have to agree that that would be completely fair and reasonable for those that chose to use it as it does not affect those that do not.

What this suggests DOES affect EVERYONE that plays games. Paymium is a terrible business model taht cannot just be transferred from $1 Zynga games to $50 AAA games becasue EA (and presumably Activision) want to nickel and dime the people that already paid for thier games. Paymium is 'unlockable DLC' built into the game that you buy on a case by case basis (or by purchasing special game currency only attainable with real cash). In the SSX analogy, it would be like suggesting that certain costumes and colours required you to insert $5 each and were impossible to unlock otherwise. I can see this being used to glass ceiling games. A game you originally paid $50 full stop then becomes worth $150 because in order to buy all the 'Paymium content' you would have to spend $100. It's manipulative and stupid and is a great example of industrial greed that permeates the top tiers' C-lists of this industry.

Posted:A year ago

#47

Samuel Verner Game Designer

131 243 1.9
From which perspective? The customer? The developer? On AAA or on F2P? It's hard to quantify your arguments with a statment like this.
is it? it shouldn't be for a designer with f2p experience who understands how this stuff is designed and how it affects the gameexperience...
WoT is not a good game? Last year there were 45 million registered players.
another hint that you have absolutly no clue what you are talking about. registered users says nothing about the quallity. even the worest of all games can have more than 45 million registered user with enough marketing traffic for user acquisition behind it. thats how f2p games work. its a good game from the point of monetizing the users, but from the design point of view with the best possible game experience in mind this game is nothing more than a piece of junk.
If you take below 70 as being "not so good" (and below 70 usually also translates to less than acceptable sales), you'll get above 20 easily in one year. And of course there will be more rubbish F2P titles - there are far more on the market.
i repeat again: what means somewhat above 20 in compare with tousands of terrible f2p games in the same year?
Give people something they enjoy so much that they WANT to pay for it to continue.
thats the problem. the masses of people who ould pay for virtual junk are too big, then counting on them as a regulator. thats why we are heading to this direction and the more it goes down the road, the less the games are designed for gamers. again: take a look at zynga's non-gamer games.

if a casualgamer likes to throw some houndred dollars in a cheap made f2p game, than it just shows that poor design gets rewarded and the poor design will increase next time. i know from experience that there are endless amounts of idiots out there, who spend tons of money of this crap and that wouldn't bother me, but it reduces the quallity of games for the rest, the real gamers.
This is the same principle as MMOs with subscriptions have
you couldnt be more wrong on this one. it is the complete oppsit. subscription based games are designed to deliver the best game experience, so they can keep the players as long in the game as possible - its a positive conditioning. f2p games on the other side are designed to use a negative conditioning to get as much money out of them in their lifetime.

free2play games are driving the quallity of games down for all and this microtrasaction dlc stuff is only one of the effects of that. from this point it will become worst and worst. the industry is ruining itself with this bussiness model. because it teaches the people that games are free and that you don't have to pay for them. that the game itself has no value. because of that the value of all games will go down in the mind of the customers. in some years the market will be even more flooded with f2p games and the profit margins will go down more and more. but then not enough will pay anymore for real AAA games, because they are used to get everything for free. the industry is ruining its own bussiness with f2p for short minded revenue increases.

if this does not change, then i think in 10 years real AAA will only be developed by small independent studios and only for hardcore gamers as a target group. the rest of the games will be cheap copies of copies of copies with less and less budgets.

Edited 8 times. Last edit by Samuel Verner on 3rd March 2013 7:29pm

Posted:A year ago

#48

Jakub Mikyska CEO, Grip Digital

209 1,140 5.5
We have implemented "microtransactions" in our PSN game last year. If you didn't want to go through the whole single-player campaign, you could pay a small amount of money and get the unlocks early.
There wasn't a single review that didn't mentioned it. It was considered abusive and the overall score of the game was usually lowered because of it.

In the end, the people are using the microtransactions and they brought in some extra revenue. The question is, how much did we lose because of the bad reviews and talks of abusive cash-in?

EA probably saw a similar thing with Dead Space 3 and decided that microtransactions do more benefit than harm. From a perspective of a small console games developer, I would be glad if fair microtransactions actually became an accepted part of games.
As a player with a very little time, I wouldn't be against paying my way to a better equipment, provided that it isn't an unfair advantage.

It is all just a matter if doing it "right". AppStore is a F2P wild west because there is not gate keeper to keep the (not legal, but moral) criminals at bay. So, with Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo reigning over what gets to their e-shops and what doesn't, console could actually become a thriving microtransactions-based ecosystem, much better than mobile platforms.

Posted:A year ago

#49

Paul Shirley Programmers

178 150 0.8
EA failed to connect F2P with their announcement. With my player hat on it seems I'm taking all the risk, both in upfront cost and trusting that downstream I will have a genuine choice on micro payments, while EA take all the rewards.

Microtransactions offer many temptations to publishers, most of them abusive. Our industry rarely resists temptation... especially not our dominant publishers.

Posted:A year ago

#50

Samuel Verner Game Designer

131 243 1.9
@Eric Pallavicini
it does not matter how abusive different approaches of f2p games are. its the fact that they all lower the game experience to nickel and dime the users is the point here. they all build up on negative conditioning, which is just bad game design.

@Jakub Mikyska
As a player with a very little time, I wouldn't be against paying my way to a better equipment, provided that it isn't an unfair advantage.
in most, nearly all cases, you are not paying to get stuff quicker than normal, but to skip the time which is added to make you pay. thats the problem.

if a player really wants to skip the content, then maybe the content or the game isn't good at all. no one wants to skip fun, which means if you skip something, its not fun.

Posted:A year ago

#51

Jakub Mikyska CEO, Grip Digital

209 1,140 5.5
@Samuel: What I call the "right" implementation is to not add any extra waiting time to make me pay, but simply letting me skip the traditional unlock ladder present in most games.

That should not mean skipping over some parts of the game, but giving me what I actually want to use now. Let's say that I play a multiplayer shooter and I want that sweet rocket launcher. I can spend 10 hours leveling to reach it, or I can pay a dollar, get the rocket launcher and then spend 10 hours playing with the rocket launcher. That's where it makes sense for me.

Of course, the line between "right" and "abusive" microtransactions is very thin. Making me wait unless I pay, creating levels in a way that it is frustrating to beat them unless I pay, getting my #$% kicked in multiplayer unless I pay, that's abusive and it should never come close to any console game.
But a well-implemented and fair system can actually improve the game. The question is... can EA or Activision or Ubisoft implement it right?

Posted:A year ago

#52

Samuel Verner Game Designer

131 243 1.9
What I call the "right" implementation is to not add any extra waiting time to make me pay, but simply letting me skip the traditional unlock ladder present in most games.
if the "unlock ladder" is not implemented in a way that it adds in positive way to the game experience, then there is now reason to have this mechanic in the game in the first place. and if there is a good reason to have it in the game, then you hurt the game experience by allowing the player to skip needed mechanics.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Samuel Verner on 4th March 2013 2:41pm

Posted:A year ago

#53

Jakub Mikyska CEO, Grip Digital

209 1,140 5.5
@ Samuel: When someone pays 60$ for a game and then he wants to spend more money to be able to actually not play the game, that's fine by me.

The problem is when someone pays 60$ for a game and then he must spend more money to actually be able to play.

Posted:A year ago

#54
F2P = Free 2 pay

Posted:A year ago

#55

Dan Fletcher Production Manager, Rockstar North

6 3 0.5
I've been really interested in reading this thread over the last couple of days and beyond a slightly antagonistic tone in some of the exchanges I've found it pretty insightful. Essentially, as an industry we're still not really sure what the best solution for free to play is.

People have talked about it being done 'right' in places such as League of Legends and there are definitely instances where it has been done 'wrong' (I'm using the quotation marks to highlight that this is obviously subjective and my opinion rather than fact) - for instance any game that allows you to spend £69.99 in one go on currency feels a bit 'icky' to me.

I'm an advocate for free to play (or paid for DLC) when it feels like I've got a full experience and I then wish to add to it. For instance, Magic 2013, although paid for, is one game I have happily paid for content in. I got a full experience playing the entire campaign, unlocking several decks through play but once I'd completed the main quest line I bought a couple of additional decks just because I wanted to use them to replay the game without the need to build them through putting in the hours (after all, I've played for about 30 hours by this point). There was no compulsion to pay through nefarious means, I simply wanted to skip ahead to having a fully unlocked deck.

@Samuel - Honestly, for many of your comments I didn't get what you were trying to say and you seemed to just be trolling. However, your last post knocked something loose. It sounds to me like you are trying to be a Utopian game designer and basing all your decisions on 'what makes the best game'. However, as people have previously said in this thread - that statement does not have a correct answer, it's entirely subjective. In the real world you have to try to make the best game possible and monetise it in a way that makes ethical and moral (hopefully) sense to you. If you are creating a product that's paid for up front you can focus on a game flow that you feel provides the greatest overall experience that will entice people to purchase and enjoy your creation. However, if you're creating a product that is going to be free to play you have to provide for people who aren't required to purchase your content to enjoy it.

Now, if you want to make one game that you feel is perfect and allow people to enjoy it entirely for free that's your prerogative, but you'll only get to do it once! In reality, you have to balance making a great game that people enjoy whilst identifying the areas that you can allow people to pay in order to gain further enjoyment. Does that mean that in the case of magic for instance they have slowed down the speed with which you unlock decks to encourage you to pay? Maybe. The question becomes, is a slightly slower progression model which encourages microtransactions a better or worse experience than having to pay substantially more up front to play the game? It's a difficult balance, but to simply say that free to play = bad is just a naive and uneducated stance.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Dan Fletcher on 5th March 2013 11:53am

Posted:A year ago

#56

Samuel Verner Game Designer

131 243 1.9
@Jakub Mikyska
@ Samuel: When someone pays 60$ for a game and then he wants to spend more money to be able to actually not play the game, that's fine by me.

The problem is when someone pays 60$ for a game and then he must spend more money to actually be able to play.
you are wrong. the problem starts right at the point where your content is so boring, that you made someone to pay to skip it. if some is able to play trough it without spending money is not relevant. you are delivering a bad game experience and offering to skip it by paying real money. you could just left the bad game experience out of the design, but if you decide to keep it in and start to monetize on that, then its exactly what also the f2p monetization is about - monetizing on the back of negative conditioning. thats the opposite of delivering the best possible game experience quality. that was my point.

@Dan Fletcher
It sounds to me like you are trying to be a Utopian game designer and basing all your decisions on 'what makes the best game'. However, as people have previously said in this thread - that statement does not have a correct answer, it's entirely subjective. In the real world you have to try to make the best game possible and monetise it in a way that makes ethical and moral (hopefully) sense to you.
i am just pointing out the truth a lot of people here try to deny. if someone decides to go f2p, then he decides to sacrifice a lot of quality in compare to a business model, where the quality of the game experience is the base for the success instead of the cleverness of the monetization mechanics in the game. you can have awesome game designs in both models. but you can have the best possible quality of your game only without a f2p model.

so if someone says "ok, we are going f2p because its a great opportunity for us", then what he really means is "ok, we chose rather to scam the people because its easier and has less risks involved". that's the truth and if someone does see it different, chances are very high that he does not know much about this business model. or he is lying to himself.

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Samuel Verner on 5th March 2013 1:52pm

Posted:A year ago

#57

Dan Fletcher Production Manager, Rockstar North

6 3 0.5
i am just pointing out the truth a lot of people here try to deny. if someone decides to go f2p, then he decides to sacrifice a lot of quality in compare to a business model, where the quality of the game experience is the base for the success instead of the cleverness of the monetization mechanics in the game.
I'm sorry, but I just don't believe that's true. You can design a game that is exactly what you want to do from a gameplay perspective and then fit the best business model to it. For instance, take my example of Magic 2013 that has taken an approach of having a base price for the game that they feel justifies their title and then providing the opportunity to supplement your original purchase with additional content such as the ability to purchase packs that can be unlocked for free if you dedicate enough time to the game. Note - you are able to unlock or purchase any pack in any order - there is no getting better by paying, just unlocking something 'different' without needing to commit additional time. Would Magic 2013 have been a better game by having you pay more up front and then forcing you to play for hours upon hours to unlock all content? In my opinion it would not. Would it have been been a better business decision to do this? In my opinion it would not.
so if someone says "ok, we are going f2p because its a great opportunity for us", then what he really means is "ok, we chose rather to scam the people because its easier and has less risks involved". that's the truth and if someone does see it different, chances are very high that he does not know much about this business model. or he is lying to himself.
Again, I think you are taking 1 possible (and sadly, in reality, very likely avenue) and extrapolating it to a universal truth. There's a definite path that some take to exploit players from their cash and I'm as strongly against that as anyone. An ability in a children's game to spend £69.99 in one go??? Advertising inappropriate content to a child in a game just to get Ad money??? All these are, to my mind, reprehensible and only aimed at exploitation. Does that mean that all games that are F2P are reprehensible and undermining design decisions because of it? I'd say no again

Obviously, we're going to have to agree to disagree here as I'm clearly not going to change your mind and I'm not going to swing from what I feel is a balanced point of view to a polar extreme

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Dan Fletcher on 5th March 2013 2:19pm

Posted:A year ago

#58

Samuel Verner Game Designer

131 243 1.9
For instance, take my example of Magic 2013 that has taken an approach of having a base price for the game that they feel justifies their title and then providing the opportunity to supplement your original purchase with additional content such as the ability to purchase packs that can be unlocked for free if you dedicate enough time to the game.
so whats the design reason for not unlocking it directly, or after some tutorial steps to give the player the possibility to use all decks right from the start? what you are saying is that it takes time and that it is boring to unlock the decks and you have to pay to skip the boring part, because who would pay to skip fun? and that's their bushiness model: create a low entrance barrier and bore the people to death to make them pay. the interesting part is the playing against other people and to try out new decks against them. and that proves my point.
There's a definite path that some take to exploit players from their cash and I'm as strongly against that as anyone.
you can be against everything you want in your mind, but in the moment when you support f2p you are in reality for it, because in some way every f2p or mta approach exploits players with negative psychological tricks.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Samuel Verner on 5th March 2013 5:20pm

Posted:A year ago

#59

Christopher Bowen Editor in Chief, Gaming Bus

461 754 1.6
Listening to F2P advocates like Eric above defend F2P is like listening to CEOs of companies that outsource to third world countries defend their practices. Either way, it's exploitation.

You obviously have a pretty bad opinion on our audience, our customers, the ones who are paying our wages and about their abilities to self-determine what is good for themselves. Like if the F2P means psychological manipulation (forced to play&pay?) and that all the players (millions and millions) who are actually playing those games are lacking maturity and are stripped of any ability to choose. Trust them, they know what is good for them very well, at least the vast majority of them, and they do not need anyone to "overprotect" them.

I don't know if that's what anyone else is saying, but that's damn sure what I'm saying. I do have a bad opinion of you, your model, your business, and your customers, especially the whales. You are all bringing our medium down, to the point where game designers aren't even designers anymore; they're marketing people designing from the revenue side first. There should be a church-and-state like separation between the monetization and design sides, much like there should be (but too often, isn't) between games press and their business offices. "Well, it's what the customers want" is something I'd expect to hear out of McDonalds, and frankly, that's all you are: the McDonalds of game design. Cheap, fast, and shitty.

Posted:A year ago

#60

Samuel Verner Game Designer

131 243 1.9
i can only agree with christopher. to say "it pays the bills" as an answer to the question of the design reason for using mechanics which have a negative impact on the game experience, like eric did, says everything about the model.

Posted:A year ago

#61

Dan Fletcher Production Manager, Rockstar North

6 3 0.5
@Christopher Bowen

I've never worked on a free to play title, nor any title that contains microtransactions (I do have several published titles in the classical pay your money up front model) - so I have no vested interest.

I guess, I'm just a little frustrated here that so many 'industry' people see in such black and white viewpoints.

As I've said earlier I'm dead against anyone trying to screw people for as much money as they can by playing on someones predisposition to spend beyond their means.

I guess I'm trying to get a sense of what people consider to be fair and right?

Let's take, for instance Guild Wars 2 - an MMO that charges a player up front for their game, but then has no subscription fees and uses a real money marketplace for microtransactions. Mike O'Brien from Arenanet has said the following about micro transactions:
Here’s our philosophy on microtransactions: We think players should have the opportunity to spend money on items that provide visual distinction and offer more ways to express themselves. They should also be able to spend money on account services and on time-saving convenience items. But it’s never OK for players to buy a game and not be able to enjoy what they paid for without additional purchases, and it’s never OK for players who spend money to have an unfair advantage over players who spend time.
Now, does anyone have an issue with a model that sees a full priced game being sold, but the developer/publisher instead of asking you to pay a monthly subscription fee utilises microtransactions to keep the game subscription free after you've bought the disc?

What happens then, if this model is so successful that Mike chooses to make Guild Wars 3 entirely free to download the client for the game as he knows that they've made such a compelling product that people want to buy their cosmetic upgrades to the extent that they make a profit (I know, it's a horrible thought!) through the marketplace alone? Is them giving you the game for free now bad???

Again, just one theoretical example in a sea of people fleecing unsuspecting parents of £69.99 that their kid spent (because the Dad didn't know how to turn off in app purchases) but it's an illustration of how f2p is not necessarily the den of scum and villainy it's being painted as.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Dan Fletcher on 5th March 2013 11:48pm

Posted:A year ago

#62

Christopher Bowen Editor in Chief, Gaming Bus

461 754 1.6
@Dan Fletcher - You bring up some very good examples of some F2P games that are good. Friends tell me good things about Guild Wars 3 and World of Tanks. And I personally enjoy Jetpack Joyride (dumped some money into that to support 'em) and Temple Run.

But those are well overrun by what I'll call the Korean Model; I guess over in America, we can call it the Zynga Model. I don't need to describe what that entails, but it's generally what I and others think of when we talk about free to play. In that sense, I apologize for being inarticulate and painting with too broad a brush. But my criticisms of the Korean Model, and those that perpetuate it, stand. I've watched as companies I've previously respected (Gamevil) took their games to that model and broke them in the process. I've watched as very large companies have taken the respect that people have for their brand and dragged it through the mud, taking their fans for suckers in the process (Square-Enix comes to mind with All The Bravest). And I'm watching companies take that model and sticking them onto games we've already paid for... and according to today's rumours about Dead Space 3, even *that* isn't good enough. None of this is really known to consumers until they dive in, as fans of the Real Racing series are figuring out.

I don't know too many executives who are going to say "we'll just make a really good game and people will just want to buy cosmetic upgrades because they love us!", because let's face it, that mindset is highly dangerous in a kill-or-be-killed industry as this. So while the few that manage to do this are admirable, and yes, Jetpack Joyride and GW3 deserve commendation, that's not where the industry is going, and it's seeping into the real games that we've known and cared about for years. Don't believe me? Fire up NHL '13 and try to play EASHL as a default avatar.

Posted:A year ago

#63

Samuel Verner Game Designer

131 243 1.9
you forget that you are not talking to your community here. everything you wrote there are just empty marketing phrases, which have nothing to do with the reality of the game experience. everything of your listed monetization features has huge design flaws from the quality perspective. the only reason why they are used, is not because they deliver any kind of benefit (in compare to not have the need for them in the game), but because they work to increase the revenue.

just take look into your own games and tell me why you think its better to pay over 300 dollar or more on a f2p game to get a somehow playable but still not optimal gameexperience, if you can get a AAA game for 50 dollar with the best possible game experience for this game? and yes, only a very small amount of players pay these sums, but then you can imagine how many of the players wont have the optimal game experience in this kind of game.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Samuel Verner on 6th March 2013 12:52pm

Posted:A year ago

#64

Samuel Verner Game Designer

131 243 1.9
So far you talked a lot about quality and optimal game experience, but did you even gave the reader a single hint of what it is.
there would be many examples. one is the levelprogress - its a good design approach to use progress systems to motivate and to enrich the game experience. quality-wise it is a bad approach is to use it to stretch your playtime, to stretch your content and to use it a a base punish the player is he isn't paying.
Microtransactions don't work to increase the revenue, they are the revenue.
maybe my english was missleading there. i didn't meant mta's as a whole, but every one as a part to increase the revenue, which is is same.

btw, you can also have revenue without microtransactions in free2play games. that would be the incentive ads.
Now that this is clear, another thing become clear as well, is that you will not ever consider adapting your POV to anything else than what it is no
to what should i adapt my point of view? to some marketing lies i am always laugh about when i hear them?

Posted:A year ago

#65

Samuel Verner Game Designer

131 243 1.9
they are still marketing lies, even if they are not initiated by you. i already explained for you whats the differences in quality are. my final summary:

in f2p games you have to pay a lot more for a good game experience than in AAA titles but in the end even high-pay user get a lower quality because of all the design flaws which are necessary to make the monetization work. it does not matter if you are pro or contra f2p, this is a fact. if you don't understand it, than maybe the game designers in your company can explain it to you.

the user does not have any benefit from free to play. not a single one. even the argument that he can test it for free does not count - demos are always an option for AAA games. and playing for free means have a terrible gameexperience, which is justified by "its ok for free" but which means in reality "its not good, but it is ok for free" - the solution for that would be a better pricing model in the AAA sector... or just to grab some cheap games in a steam deal. but that leads us also to the targetgroup discussion of non-gamers, which are targeted with most of the f2p games and who don't see how they are scammed because of their lack of experience. in the end all the benefits of this model are on the company side. there is not a single valid benefit for the user and so there is no valid justification for this model on the user end.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Samuel Verner on 7th March 2013 10:42am

Posted:A year ago

#66

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