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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.

77 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

1,163 1,232 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

925 1,569 1.7
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 1,467 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

103 260 2.5
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

207 236 1.1
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

459 738 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

140 90 0.6
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

420 1,000 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

Eric Pallavicini Game Master, Kabam

331 229 0.7
@Samuel, as I read last post first, I feel the urge to react to this :
it is impossible to create a free 2 play game without sacrificing quallity
This is a way too general statement, and I would ask you the question "what is the quality you are talking about specifically (where is the loss of quality compared to your standards exactly) and what are the Free2Play games you are referring to ?

First of all, not all F2P games are built to be F2P games, with a game experience lead designer working closely with a monetization specialist (to make it simple, reality is a bit more complex I guess). Remember that many AAA games have been converted to become Free-to-play, if they had the expected quality when the change occurs, then it is quite unlikely that the transfer from the classical P2P to the F2P will actually alter the overall quality of the game as it was.

Secondly, I do not see why a F2P game should be less qualitative than a P2P game or a triple AAA. It is very simple, the triple AAA concept is also very much associated to the development budget allocated to the project. Therefore the, in my opinion often overrated AAA label is no guarantee of quality in anyways. Additionally if it could be unlikely a indie studio of 10 people passionate about games and working part time on a game could actually reach a so-called triple A quality (which is yet not defined clearly), unlikely but not impossible. All this stay true regardless of the real economic model in which the game will be published. Of course, with a F2P game, monetization can deeply and dramatically interfere in a bad way with the experience and content design, with the game economy and so on (which as a side not also produce issues that you don't have to think about in a P2P game where real economics don't affect so directly game economics).

Now, the reality is that yes many F2P games currently on the market are rushed, buggy, unbalanced, having poor features or being pale copies of other titles, etc. and produced at low cost, with no other goal then secure market share and make money straight away. Yes that do exist out there, but it's not a general rule. But when you take as an example a few very successful F2P games like League of Legends, World of Tanks, PlanetSide 2 (and I choose just a few games that have been started as F2P games and are renown for their overall quality (while not being perfect, but what game is?), no converted ones here) I guess most will agree the quality of the game experience and overall design is there.

F2P is not directly synonymous of loss of quality. Not at all. It is, for any game the same and creativity, skills, commitment, realistic goals and budget and project management, are amongst few things that could define the potential quality of a game (considering as well that expectations about what is quality is also subjective, on both sides of a product).

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Eric Pallavicini on 1st March 2013 8:51pm

Posted:A year ago

#29

Andreia Quinta Creative & People Photographer, Studio52 London

228 631 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

#30

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

#31

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

#32

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

#33

Eric Pallavicini Game Master, Kabam

331 229 0.7
@Samuel
you need game mechanics to back up a f2p game. these are additional mechanics.
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.
you need game mechanics to back up a f2p game. these are additional mechanics.
I disagree on that.

Let me take, again, the currently most two succesful F2P games in Europe as an example which I not only studied as a professional but that I also played since many many months as a purely non-paying user whilst still enjoying them in full.

League of Legend only mechanics implemented in the game clients are skins for the 100+ characters available to all players and a few scripts that communicate with the website (typically the bonuses from his currently selected account skill tree, which modifies the stats of his character and there is no difference here with an integrated mechanic except the variables are collected from the server where the account data is stored at the launch of a match during the loading screen and communicated to the game server data - except the transfer/collection of data setting up the values that will be applied during the game, the game mechanics would still be integrated to the game client if there was no collection of data from another server and except the protocol of collection there is strictly no extra mechanics if the game was a stand alone). Of course this require a bit of extra work technically and front/end back end teams have to set it right with the team of developers responsible of the client, but once the system designed by the game designer is in place Riot Games can add as many skins or characters as they like without drastically changing the mechanics of the game (an update of the client is necessary though). In terms of actual login and gameplay, everything is managed from the website back-end/front-end couple and the required and relevant data affecting the game experience is loaded only when a match starts. A similar process happens to transfer the relevant data related to the outcome of the match to the statistics of the account (according to whatever metrics Riot decided to display in the player accounts statistics and overall statistics) whilst the most relevant thing for the player is the experience gain.

Typically, the player logs to the game from the website (having the client installed) and he plays a match. Once the match is done, the player receive experience according to his deeds and achievements in game as a reward for playing which is added to his account data and summed up to his current total. So to make it simple and as an example, a free user would get 300 XP for the game he just played, and at the end of the game the amount of XP and ingame currency earned is added to his current account total. If that same user, for the same watch would have been under a double XP bonus, then the client would still send the variable value of 300 regarding XP and this would only be converted not by the client but by the backend tools as "2x300". I do not see how this makes it an unbreakable barrier for a game designer (although yes it will be more programming for the developer team) nor I do understand how this could actually affects the gameplay quality in a bad way, as it is actually a in my opinion a very good design decision that actually improve the quality of the overall experience.

Regarding characters addition, this makes no difference with any kind of patching, hotfix or client update process and it goes through a download process for the user to get the newest version with the character data and cosmetic skins. Nothing exceptional here nor specific to a F2P game. Basically, for the skins, which are nearly the only content that is not purchasable for ingame curreny, it goes the same and when the client load and setup the match according to the settings selected by players on the website it just get the info about which skin the current character of a player will be displayed. No Rocket science there for a knowledgable programmer team that would more or less easily make the will of the designer team become reality... and they did and works fine for about 2 years now.

In World of Tanks, similar mechanics are applied expect that everything is client based there and there is no login from the website, you launch the client and manage nearly everything on your account from there. Now for the client, I guess it makes no real difference to load the data of a premium tank or a standard tank into the match interface and basically if their values change, the variables loaded are exactly the same for the +200 tanks available in this game.

Now I do agree with you, for SOME F2P GAMES, and ONLY SOME of them, it is as you describe it (I played and managed enough of them to confirm that). But my point was to demonstrate that your statement "F2P = Loss of Quality in the game experience due to complex additional mechanics forcefeeded to the game client" is only valid for some F2P games, and actually less and less of them as the quality of F2P GAMES developed from scratch to be F2P GAMES is also raising (Whilst still having some studios making and releasing crappy ones, of course, but no real change there from the previous "era").

Just like for everything, the audience will see for themselves and choose by themselves what suits them and you will always, always find people who, for some reason that one may not fully understand, will play and enjoy crappy games. Let them be free, so it be. Now the real questions for you as a Gamedesigner, or should I say challenge, would be "Could you make a F2P game project that would anticipate monetization requirements while still being fully enjoyable and would you be able to integrate those mechanics in a way that the game would actually become more enjoyable with them, than without them ?"

@Jason
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.
So you jump to conclusion based on one experience ? I do not know how many F2P games are on the market at the moment, on so many different platforms (Smartphones, Pads, Consoles, PC Clients, PC browser, etc.) and shapes (BG's, MOBA's, MMO's, MMORPG'S, FPS, ARPG's, RTS, Adventure and so on, and so on) but even if I nearly tested a hundred of them myself in the past 4 years I am still very very far to be able to make any general conclusion on this or that. Are you doing it seriously with 1 attempt and experience ?

Free2Play means you can register and play for free. Then in some games there are limitations very early on, in some other they aren't. I play currently 6 different Clients F2P and 4 different Browser Games of competitors (which is soon nearly everyone) of the company I work for and this beside the nearly 12 games I've managed in 2 years for this company. And you know what is amazing ? I never ever spent a single cent on those games (that I play quite intensively during my freetime) and I am still enjoying them weekly. I even feel guilty sometimes, because I should support those who gave me such a great experience for free.

So let me confirm to you that it is very possible to play most those games (when they have quality in both design and smart monetization options) fully for free and for hundreds of hours. You will have to accept a slower progression, you will have to accept a slight gameplay disadvantage relatively to a paying user in some of them and you will have to teach yourself patience, frustration management and humility to be able to fully enjoy them without paying, but then if you play them enough and well enough to get skilled than you will be able to defeat (PvP) someone heavily supporting the game (and getting more powerful faster in the process) by using your brain and a good coordination against his "wallet support" (fortunately, skill can not yet be bought... one day maybe).

All you have to do, is try many out and find the ones you want to spend time on because for some reason it does suits you. And the good news is, it's totally free first and no string attached if suddenly you feel the urge to give up because you suddenly fell way to much compelled to make a purchase and don't like it. We may not like this new free-dom-ination trend, but before rejecting it we should try to experience it on a larger (and possibly better) scale.

The contemporary wording of "microtransaction" in a also contemporary meaning of "Free-to-Play" game concept is fully part and fully integrated to this concept. Whilst there are possible hybrid or new Microtransactions concept with the classical subscription or playtime selling models, MT is fully part nowadays of any so called F2P game. It will probably stay that way as long as the staff required to create and run such a game doesn't not want to be willing to acquire rat hunting/cooking abilities and start living in the sewers with their familiies whille producing electricity from some second-hand speaking potatoes to run their PC's.

Edited 6 times. Last edit by Eric Pallavicini on 2nd March 2013 12:03am

Posted:A year ago

#34

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development

925 1,569 1.7
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

#35

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

#36

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

#37

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

138 81 0.6
@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

#38

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

#39

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

#40
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

#41
@ 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

#42

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

#43

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

#44

Nick Parker Consultant

302 179 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

#45

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development

925 1,569 1.7
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

#46

Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing

1,163 1,232 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

#47

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

#48

Andrew Ihegbu Studying Bsc Commercial Music, University of Westminster

469 178 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

#49

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

#50

Eric Pallavicini Game Master, Kabam

331 229 0.7
I am not going to answer to anyone in particular, but I've got the feeling that a lot of people here do theorize without having practiced, not saying it's a bad thing but it will work only as far as you can state clearly what is theory (the things how you think they are or will be) and what is practice (the things how they really are or could become).

There are facts (the stuff that exists beside anyone's opinion/perception) out there about Free-to-Play games and among those facts there is a major one : Just like any triple A games, just like subscription or pay-once games, indie games, there is not ONE F2P model but a huge diversity of them and tons of particularities (I've mentioned hybrids earlier, what I did not insist about because to me it sounds so obvious, is that not only the variety is already huge today but it will grow larger in the future).

Now when I hear about just a few types of F2P monetization related features (pay for random stuff, pay for shortcuts, pay for cheatcodes, etc.) all those are part of the F2P model IN GENERAL, but none are actually part of EACH and EVERY F2P game out there. I've been told LOL (which is a F2P game of AAA quality making its most money on the totally not affecting gameplay skins, or on some experience bonuses - whoever played it also know that nearly everything from the shop can be bought with the points that reward your loyalty to the game and well, simple as that for playing it). So I see a lot of "F2P are evil, they force you to pay, hinder your gameplay experience if you don't" and I've been saying it not true, not true at all and invited whoever had this belief to actually try to get some "customer" experience rather than try to be the voice of the consumer while they obviously have no clue about the F2P diversity (League of Legends not being the one and only exception, and if you want another title that only sell cosmetic stuff I'll name another recent one : Path of Exile, just one amongst others).

Someone mentioned about this topic "Microtransactions are partially an industry response to piracy. " on which no one reacted. Now, since we seems to oppose F2P to triple A (which is also irrelevant in many ways), and I take the concept of "piracy" as a very wide issue including many side effects to the video games , I would ask a very very nasty question that actually direct to 2 new topics : "Do triple A title not have issue with phishing, account stealing, hacking, cheating, goldsellers, item sellers, ebay". Of course they don't *cought*, Now, dare to say to me and to the readers, that a triple A title like Blizzard's Diablo2 had no issue with duplicating of the "stones of jordan" item, dare to say that the "Ith" sword was not sold for insane amount of money on ebay, please dare to keep hiding the triple A reality. The fact are that they are tons of players out there that will gladly pay more than a thousand bucks to get a perfect rolled Diablo3 item, and if a publisher don't sell stuff related to its game than there will most likely be a third party to do it instead (and even if it is theoretically illegal according to terms&conditions). That is the reality... dare to say it's is not and I will shut up forever about this for the rest of my life. I also challenge you (whoever feels concerned) to pretend that this "third party economy" did never ever affect the gameplay experience orignally thought by the game experience designers... no, not at all, doves are white so they are pure! (please wake up, doves are just like anyother pigeons eating leftovers in our overpopulated cities in most cases).

I will not come back on the debate of AAA=quality and F2P=rip offs, because it's not true either (not as an absolute rule, but yes it happened, is happening and may possibly happen again), and most who would feel no shame in pretending the opposite would be people with prejudice and no extended practical experience in the games "in general" from another point of view than their professional one (which may be right for the job, but which is not for the culture).

Just like in everything that exist in nature, there is diversity and more to come. Remember what the masses said about rock'n'roll in the fifties, it was evil. Remember what the masses said about electronic music "that is not music, that is noise..." so where they saying (without having even really tried to listen to it for more than 30 seconds) all those masses that today dances every saturday night on... guess what, the very same electronic music but that is ok because there are nowadys some lyrics on the top, so if there is a singer it becomes music ? Anyway, just like rock'n'roll, just like electo musics made it through the culture of the masses, so it will be with the F2P (not to say it's already the case worldwide, in case anybody did not notice). Now one last thing, just like rock'n'roll did not prevent people to keep listening to pop or classical music, F2P will not prevent people from playing also triple AAA, indie, casual, hardcore, competitive or whatever games they like. There is space for everyone and I fail to understand why so many supposed to be even more aware people are putting so much efforts into trying to stop tomorrow from happening (in which case you are like many years late, tomorrow is much older than yesterday in that field, and it already happened long ago that is currently why EA made their recent annoucement). So the predications about the industry choosing a wrong path, ruining itself are only to be dismissed and whatever you like, dislike, don't care, don't feel involved, have an opinion and just don't want to share it if it is happening, it's because in the "harsh outside reality" you cannot hold it back with just negative opinions on the topic - something that some EA VIP's started to understand a few years ago (only, since they are no precursors in that field and it's pretty "new" to them and in the case one employee did suggest the idea 10 years ago he must probably have been answered "nah, we don't believe it will work, but thank you for the suggestion".) - it is happening and some will do it right, some will do it wrong. Now if you don't have yourself a complete and wide understanding, knowledge and experience of it and are in the industry there is one thing you would be right to be scared about and that is you could then be amongst the ones who would possibly do it as wrong as you currently fear (fear isn't real) it is at the moment (from the ethical point of view, since no other solid and non-hypothetical argument has been put forward in this discussion about anything else* - worrying about the player's fun, experience, worrying about the quality - is purely and subjectively ethical.) by those would basically say "F2P is bad, we don't really now why, but we have to say it loud because we think it is the right thing to do when anything like **evolution or change is showing up".

*By "anything else", I mean some of the practical concerns that actually cause a practical and real issue (like for example the game support structures in the F2P industry) rather than theoretical fears.

**As mentioned by many others in this topic (I rarely react to posts I find on the spot since I would just flood "+1's" everywhere) many things that are now happening with fancy fluffy names existed before in a shape or another, while the only real evolution is that actually the simple wording is getting spread all around.

Edited 10 times. Last edit by Eric Pallavicini on 4th March 2013 2:08am

Posted:A year ago

#51

Jakub Mikyska CEO, Grip Digital

208 1,132 5.4
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

#52

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

#53

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

#54

Jakub Mikyska CEO, Grip Digital

208 1,132 5.4
@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

#55

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

#56

Jakub Mikyska CEO, Grip Digital

208 1,132 5.4
@ 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

#57
F2P = Free 2 pay

Posted:A year ago

#58

Eric Pallavicini Game Master, Kabam

331 229 0.7
@Samuel Verner : And I've been saying all along this thread that there are non-abusive F2P out there and that "everything is not build up on negative conditioning".
F2P = Free 2 pay
As long as we are free.

Edited 6 times. Last edit by Eric Pallavicini on 4th March 2013 6:16pm

Posted:A year ago

#59

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

#60

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

#61

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

#62

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

#63

Eric Pallavicini Game Master, Kabam

331 229 0.7
so whats the design reason for not unlocking it directly
@ Samuel Verner
Excuse me to ask, but I feel like I really have to : "Do you take any money for your hard work as a designer or you just do it as a passion in your freetime ?". Now I have no intent to offend you and you are not meant to answer that question, but I would just like to point out that, in the industry it is not the designers who sell the games, nor them who deal with support and still not them who conclude publishing contracts neither do they deal with legal parameters and all sort of stuff. All those people, this structure of a company around you requires as much as you do to be paid, and if that HR lady who helped you with some stuff has nothing to do directly with your job as a designer, she still depends on you for making good game concepts and you also depend on that PR person or this Marketing expert to tell the audience how great your design is. Because if you do the best game ever but no one sells it, you gonna have to think about changing skills yourself. So yes, to pay your wages amongst others, a company need to make money (and it is not yet about making "more money" just about making what will allow the company to carry on on the long run).

The F2P model gold rush started in Europe about 10 years ago, with the major companies totally ignoring the phenomenon at first. Since it worked for the outsiders pretty well, now the big ones are adapting (and possibly also because they realized they were loosing market shares). Now if millions of players tried all those F2P on the market, with many playing them over years, do you really think your statement about those games being less qualitative or rip offs or absolutely uninteresting or universally boring stands for a second against numbers (which are not opinions, they are facts) ? Can you honestly keep claiming what you claim knowing this ? Please don't forget that if your game only hits a niche market or a niche audience, but if this same audience stays loyal to your game for years while most other would say "their game is boring like hell" then at least that particular game played by those particular customers did achieve something right no matter the economic model, by providing what it was meant to provide as a game, fun and entertainment to some people, and that is most respectable.

Yes you have the right to have opinions, about all and everything and just like everyone does, but at some point you should know (and not only about game design) where are the boundaries not to cross. This topic turned a bit too much into people trying to have a balanced opinion on a phenomenon that we cannot stop from happening (since it's been happening already for more than 10 years but it is just getting to a brighter light thanks to the Major publishers like EA and others) and you refusing to consider that none of us are actually saying you are wrong, just saying you are not totally right. We all acknowledged the risk you keep insisting on and no one denies it exists, especially since it seems to be the easy path to the new Eldorado. But we also said that if we want to avoid as much as possible taking this path we need to think about alternate ones and we need to look for them. If you keep standing still moaning where you are against the "Bad, bad, evil F2P" you will never find any other way and the world will keep moving as it always did without waiting for you to make another choice than the rejection of this reality.


Now to come back on this, finally very interesting topic and this comment I've quoted, I'll ask another question : Why then some games have expansions (nowadays mainly called also DLC - as one type of DLC's)? They should be included from the start if I read your logic well - It doesn't make any sense I am sure you will agree (beside consideration like budget, deadlines and so on).

While I haven't played Magic 2013, I would bet that if Mr Fletcher enjoyed it without buying any extra deck at first it was because the base game content was good enough to entertain him long enough and to interest him enough to get him willing more. So then he chose freely, instead of buying another game, to expand his experience with Magic 2013 by unlocking something different (just like any "expansion") and I fail to see what you deem so wrong with that, as it was already the case in the 80's, 90's before anything like "online" did exist. The video-game industry will soon reach half a century of existence, and if you check its history&evolution we haven't changed that much in the way we sell games. Our means changed, not our intentions : We are a business and being a business does not mean we are evil people doing evil things. We know, we all know, that we can do business more or less ethically, and trust our customers to find out if we are or not pretty early on.

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.

Psychology has always been part to some extent to any successful selling process. This being valid for our industry too. Fact is also that, as it as also been mentioned earlier in this thread they have been disappointing triple A titles, but hey if you had believed the whole marketing campaigns, the amazing cinematics and promotional trailers (which actually sank probably a third of the actual "development budget) that game was not only a blockbuster but it was also the greatest games of all times. Well, most of us, players, found them disappointing after paying for them. Are we fools for all that ?

Now the F2P model allows you mainly to rely on your own experience without spending anything else but time, and if you don't get entertained if your expectations are not matched then you can as freely quit after a few minutes. If you choose to carry on, you can do it till the point you feel compelled by the monetization mechanics to pay, and you can ask yourself again this question about if your are really willing to invest money (and support the publisher/developper) into that game. Basically, you can stop at anytime without having spent a cent. Is that not fair&honest ? Well that is actually part of the success of the Microtransaction model.

Regarding the recent Electronic Arts publication about implementing MT in any title they will do (considering EA also has its portfolio of purely F2P games) including triple A titles that would be sold using the "standard" method and having previously limited the experience and made it frustrating on purpose would be wrong, definitely. Because in that case it could be assimilated to some kind of blackmail or ransoming (I would be also curious to see what a judge would state on that in court, if one day some company using abusive Microtransations is getting sued by a customer) since they have to provide and state clearly all the features that are included in the base purchase and exclude the ones that could be added and would require additional purchases.

EA just like any other entity has its fanboys and haters (meaning they also have a reputation if it was to be mentioned, just stating the obvious there), but if they push the sales too much they will at some point disappoint not only the extreme EA trolls (who anyway keep buying their games so they can keep on haunting EA boards and feed on their own destructive behavior) but also a more balanced and regular audience, and the bigger part, that will not believe in their marketed promises anymore. They may risk it, maybe, even though I do not believe EA ended up where it is by mistake and they most certainly know what they are doing and that they cannot ransom their customers for long if at all. They know it, so they will have to be, and surely will be, smarter than that.

Edited 16 times. Last edit by Eric Pallavicini on 5th March 2013 10:03pm

Posted:A year ago

#64

Christopher Bowen Editor in Chief, Gaming Bus

459 738 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

#65

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

#66

Eric Pallavicini Game Master, Kabam

331 229 0.7
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.
@Christopher Bowen
Thank you for judging and categorizing me. I am, at least currently, an employee of a purely F2P company and I am on this board on this site talking publicly in my own name but still being responsible of my current employment status (therefore I do not express any purely personal opinion here since no disclaimer like "the views expressed by this individual do not reflect the views of the company he's working for" will work). Now just to make it clear again, as a Community Manager, I am not an executive, I do not care about profit with the exception of my understanding that if one of the product related to a community I've been put in charge of is not profitable, this product will soon close (in a more or less quick process) and that would destroy the very essence why the users in that community did gather, to make it simple.

Athough we are taking a sidetrack there, and probably not a healthy one for the topic, I will follow you to some extent. If you were reading me more carefully, and by more carefully I mean much more carefully, you would probably & hopefully see that what I am advocating is certainly not an extreme stance on a side or another, and that I am actually trying to find a balance. Unfortunately, to achieve that, I need to oppose to any extreme&manichaean point of views while this process does NOT at ANYTIME MEAN that I am currently myself on the OPPOSITE EXTREME. If there was here anyone praising the F2P beyond reason, I would oppose him in the very same process and attempt balance in the same way and he would probably accuse me of advocating the other extreme.
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.
About me??? Could we keep personal stuff out of the way please, because for someone who has obviously very very very high ethical standards, you are actually behaving with much hatred against another human being you don't know much about. Is that ethically alright for you?

About my model ? Since when it is mine ?

About my business? Again, it is not mine, I am just someone who needs a job, you know to get something to eat, a safe place to sleep and maybe some extra money to raise a family, you know basic&standard stuff. Now about THE free-to-play business, which you give hints you really dislike (I may be wrong), I am sorry for you but so far it's successfully growing (even if the growth is being slower now, because everyone's joining the party and want his piece of cake) and you will have more and more reason to dislike it because of that.

About the whales? "Funny" way to call the average 10% people (<-- I did not say user, because they are not whales, they are people) who spend money in F2P games, or maybe you refer to the approximate 10% of those 10% who actually spend much more, but even in that case they are still people. And there against you're not putting yourself in the best light should I say by saying such things.
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.
No one is bringing anything down, and it is not about finding scapegoats. The F2P has diversified the offer and its success has shown there is an interest by the public for it. The F2P model is just like an organism in mutation which has not yet reached it's definitive state, if there is anything like an organism that could reach such a state (no such thing exists in nature, nor will it exist in our industry, and by our industry I mean the video-game industry without distinction). It may not be the definitive step of this evolution, but it seemed to be a necessary one to go further. While, on the other hand there is nothing in F2P model for any other model. From my personal experience, I've bought in the past year about 10 games of the classic model and 10 indie games (basically of the classic model as well, just smaller) and I played or tried extensively about 40 F2P titles (without spending a single cent on them, and still enjoying some of them) and this beside the titles I am working with. While I really enjoyed playing the F2P titles and am grateful to the publisher/developer to have provided me with free entertainment, all the money I've spent in games this past year went to the "classical" model based industry. No one is bringing anything down, really.

I will not comment directly on that famous fast-food Restaurant you've mentioned as an enhancive metaphor, Nevertheless I do understand your point and take it as a cry from the heart more than anything like a reasonable thought. You obviously don't know what you are talking about or haven't practiced enough F2P games (at least recent) to have a clear view on what it is and how it is currently evolving nor you seems to have even a good point of comparison with other so-called triple A games of the very same type.

Are you going to say games like World of Tanks (Wargaming), like League of Legends (Riot games), like the upcoming WarFace (Crytek), WarThunder (Gaijin), just to name a few are cheap, crap and shitty as games ? Those have nothing to envy to any other title of the same type (in entertainment value), whenever it would be so called triple A. Now if we have another look, at games like the acclaimed "Journey" (SoE) or that kind of alien titles like "Pupeteer" (SoE again) we are talking about art meeting video games and we are definitely not in the aiming at the same audience.

Basically what you are saying is that everyone should play whatever you deem high quality (which is subjective on many angles and sides) and not have the choice to play whatever you deem "crappy" games. So basically, you are to tell me that this low budget and low quality F2P flash game I've played on Kongregate.com is bad for me (yeah forgot to mention, I play those too like mobile games... dunno where I find the time for that by the way)? The German Philosopher Nietsche said something about an abyss, you know that when you stare at it's depth it's depth stares at you too which basically means in the current context of our discussion that you are actually, and the word is chosen carefully, fighting against something obviously oppressive to yourself and what is your response? being oppressive as well?

Maybe the only thing cheap, fast and well... you know... is your reaction here. I am sorry, but it is pretty clear this went out of line. So please, let's not keep going in that way, for the sake of the discussion and its readers.

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Eric Pallavicini on 5th March 2013 11:51pm

Posted:A year ago

#67

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

#68

Eric Pallavicini Game Master, Kabam

331 229 0.7
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.
It was actually 19 times that amount, and the dad gave the password to his 5 year old son who purchased 19 times the same content... According to the article I've read at least, I was not there.
I guess, I'm just a little frustrated here that so many 'industry' people see in such black and white viewpoints.
I had this debates as an user, with users like 3 years ago on a specialized gaming board. I did not expect to have it again 3 years later with professionals or people very much informed & supposed to be more understanding and knowledgable, so i share your frustrations.

@ Dan Fletcher
Thank your for you GW example. Wise move. (and by the way, I have no "vested interest myself", and this kind of arguments "you work in the F2P industry, so you are corrupted and any argument from you is invalid" is a very primitive and inaccurate way of seeing things, by having to justifiy yourself in that way you are only giving more credit to this way of seeing things - Now I know you did it for a reason).

Posted:A year ago

#69

Christopher Bowen Editor in Chief, Gaming Bus

459 738 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

#70

Eric Pallavicini Game Master, Kabam

331 229 0.7
I would like to bring another question in the debate. What is the value of entertainment ? How it is defined ? Is there a "right" price for entertainment ? When you go to a theater, the price of a ticket is usually fixed as a standard (it may raise from a year to another though) to watch 1 movie. If you watch a 90 minutes movie that was made with a 40 billion $ budget, or a 210 minutes movie made with a 5 billion $ makes no difference for the consumer, he pays for 1 ticket with a standard price. Usually most titles which includes single-player pack a 25-40hours campaign at most, at least it used to be like that in general. In the 90's we were used to also pay a regular or nearly standard price for any game.

At the time, and regardless of business concerns about the price, the focus on the consumer of any video game was somehow not really price based, but self based in the sense he was valuating the game he was about to buy in terms of "do this game will provide me the entertainment value for the money I am going to throw in it?". If he was answering "yes" to that question then he would buy the game, and then since at the time it was hardly possible to test the game (with some exception) and even less to get refunded if the game did not match his expectation, he had to live with his choice. Of course beside the lack of demos most of the time, there was some ways to get better informed about a game before buying it, specialized magazine doing review or simply trying it out at a friend's place or listen to friends opinion (which required a social network and/or patience).

The F2P model, beside the microtransaction ecosystem, is allowing the "not-yet customer" to try the game as long as he want before deciding or not to throw money in it.

Now to come back on the Microtransactions (MT here after) topic, allow me to make a short (as short as i can) analysis.

They are 2 main families of MT, the so-called permanent ones (which are permanent only as long as the game is supported and maintained) and the temporary ones (which are usually similar to a subscription, while splitting features in many possible purchases and by also splitting the duration, from a few hours to many days, instead of the standard rigid monthly subscription).

Beside the families, they are mainly 6 categories of MT, which can and often are often are mixed or hybrid-like. Comfort, itemization, cosmetics, membership, services and extra content.

Now lets take a game or two and analyse its MT ecosystem. I'll start with World of Tanks (which has many similarities to games like WarThunder or MechWarrior Online to name just a few) that I know quite well, while not going in too much details for each feature provided by the MT.

Premium account - membership category mainly, with confort and vanity elements - temporary family - provides extra cash and XP from each battle and a different garage/hangar visual. It also allows you to start pre-made groups with 2 people instead of just one (for random battles). The gain of extra cash and XP allows the easier maintenance of higher tier vehicules and faster progression in the tech trew and crew training.

Premium tanks - content category with vanity elements - permanent family - provides tanks on purchase (automatic purchase) that are usually better then the regular stock versions of the same tier, and slightly worse than the customized versions of the same tier. Premium tanks also provide the advantage of not requiring a dedicated crew to be trained on them (no training penalty).

Premium ammunition - itemization category - permanent family (single use) - this was the pay-2-win element as this type of ammunition had nearly double the penetration than standard ammunition (while not doing more damage). Wargaming has since a recent patch made it available for purchase for in-game currency as well.

Premium equipment - itemization category - permanent family (single use for some) - Another pay-2-win group of items, which is not yet available for in-game currency, although the advantages provided by those are not negligible they are not unbalanced either.

Crew experience and equipment conservation when changing tanks - comfort category - permanent family (single use) - Another "time saver" item, which allows you to keep your crew experience level when changing tank or dismantle the purchase equipment to re-use it when you sell a tank you don't want anymore.

Conversion - service category - In WoT there are three types of experience that you gain from playing game, the tank specific experience (which is used to unlock new equipment and new tanks), the crew experience (a RPG element, which allows you to get perks and skills for your crew making them more efficient) and the free experience which is not specific to a vehicle. Basically tank specific and free experience are the second type of in-game currency beside gold. If you like to play a particular tank the most but still want to unlock other tanks, you can grind on that tank and then convert the gathered experience into free experience by using this MT.

Tank and crew slots - content/comfort category - permanent - You can buy slots to have more vehicles and more reserve crew. If you really into the game and have much time to sink in it and want to expand your tactical option, it may be worth the move. For a casual play, the 4 slots provided at the beginning are more than enough (considering that each year, Wargaming gives everyone a premium tank as a gift which also means an extra slot, while if they do major techtree changes, they also give free extra slots).

That is basically it (i think I did not forget anything, although since I am a purely free player, I am not expert with the shop - My apologies to Wargaming). While this system makes it harder to maintain high tiers (8-10) tanks economy (you may loose money even if you win and kill half the opposition yourself) it does not make it impossible (you just have to play lower tiers games to finance your high tiers tank runs). If the gameplay is slightly different in a low tier or high tier battle (not because of the gamemechanics which stays the same but rather because of the tank stats) as you need to be much more knowledgeable and committed to the game, there is still nothing like a community split related to premium or not and if there is a split it is more skill based rather than cash based (no matter if you use gold ammo all the way, if you don't know high tier tanks weak spots then you will likely bounce your shots and do no damage at all while a knowledgeable opponent using standard ammo will still get you).

So by doing this long (TL;DR) analysis on one of the major F2P games currently running worldwide and quite successfully, my intent is to demonstrate that there are F2P games that are accessible, enjoyable and not urging the player to pay at first. Secondly, the main interest in MT's (and that is basically the "micro" part of it) allows the player to typically choose and adapt his paying experience to his needs. While the subscription model is a fixed amount of money requested to play a fixed duration (generally a month) regardless of your activity and playtime (i.e. 1 hour a day, once a week or 6 hours a day everyday) the MT concept allows the player to choose his game content "A la carte" and while many F2P games demonstrate that it is perfectly possible to play them fully for free and on the long run (which requires self-frustration management, patience, humility, carefulness and organization skills of course). A similar reflection could be applied for a single payment game as well, as again, the fixed prices does not correspond to any playtime (a user may do the campaign/story line 10 times, or give up after the first mission, he will still have paid the same).

While the ideal MT concepts should be as balanced as the game design (i.e. class balance in a MMORPG, in-game economy, etc.) and as fair as possible to the player (and not to the customer in the first place) it is possible to achieve. A game success is not only measured in profit, or hype, but also in player-base and community engagement and whatever is the type of F2P game, non-paying users contribute as much as paying one in supporting the game and to both in-game and business-wise economies. Therefore, a good F2P game must be a satisfying experience for both paying and non-paying users (on average the ratio is around 10%/90%) and it's MT offer must be balanced enough to not split the community, and still worth - from the consumer point of view - the coins the paying users are willing freely to invest in that particular game.

Now if some games fail to provide the appropriate entertainment value (which is measured uniquely by the players, both individually and as a group) because of a too aggressive or ransoming monetization concept, it is most likely to fail to reach out for a large player base or even reach out for a long term exploitation (of the title itself, or of the IP). While this can happen (I guess some examples have been given in this topic already), if all elephants are mammals, not all mammals are elephants. On the other side, it is not because elephants exist that rhinos don't and both can actually live in some kind of harmony.

Edited 5 times. Last edit by Eric Pallavicini on 6th March 2013 11:38am

Posted:A year ago

#71

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

#72

Eric Pallavicini Game Master, Kabam

331 229 0.7
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
I wish you could enlight me by some constructive criticism or some kind of practical examples or even theoretical ones instead of that meaningless bashing.

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. Keeping saying that "It's beautiful because it's awesome and it's awesome because it's beautiful" doesn't really help.

I do not forget anything, and trust me if you had any idea of what Community Management is (in general and specifically in the company I currently work for) you would not dare (although you obviously dare to say a lot without thinking about consequences) to say such a thing - please don't make all the Community Managers angry at you because you are disrespecting their work or their field of influence and responsibility ("empty marketing phrases"). Remember that we are also the ones between the rock and a hardplace, having to provide feedback to your field of expertise as much has having to take the heat from any of your decisions (in all business models).
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.
You seems to lack the understanding on what a F2P game is (or at least this particular one, since I am not pretending to give a complete overview of the F2P games, which has much variety on many platforms). Microtransactions don't work to increase the revenue, they are the revenue.
just take look into your own games
Please do not ever confuse what is my intellectual property and what is someone's else who pays me to represent that property in some (limited) ways and according to contractual parameters.

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 now (at least not in this conversation). So I will not try to convince you that an open-minded and balanced view opens more opportunities than a closed and uncompromising positioning and I can only wish you the best of luck to stay "where" you seems to be willing to be today and do the kind of optimal design your are willing to work on on the suitable type of projects and companies that will support similar views (and hopefully won't evolve faster than you are able to).

Edited 13 times. Last edit by Eric Pallavicini on 6th March 2013 1:40pm

Posted:A year ago

#73

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

#74

Eric Pallavicini Game Master, Kabam

331 229 0.7
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.
Typically in the analysis I've made on World of Tanks (with a nearly 18months experience as a player on WoT, at some stages quite intensive) mentioned that. There is such a system in WoT, and the progression to get to the middle of the game (understand the middle tiers 4-7 tanks) is pretty accessible to the non premium players. Of course if you repeat the same for all the types of tanks (Tank destroyers, artilllery, medium line, heavy line) and all the 6 current nations available in the game, that will require quite a nice bunch of time to unlock each and every single tank of the game. While it is possible (and still enjoyable if you are as a player focused on playing the game and not focused on unlocking everything for the sake of it), it is indeed more accessible to someone who has a Premium account (basically a subscriber) nearly twice as fast. Basically Premium account just get it faster, but in terms of gameplay, it has no effect for three reasons. First the amount of tanks you have unlocked does not only depend on your activity, skill and Premium, but it is also related to the actual time of registration of your account (if you registered to the game early, it is more likely that you will have more content unlocked than a player having put as much effort and has a similar skill level as you did but who started 6 months later). Secondly the matchmaking system makes the players fight (almost) balanced random battles, at least in terms of tiers of the tanks involved in a game (skill is not taken into account, which is somehow realistic). This meaning that a newbie with a tier 2 tank will hardly find himself in a battle involving only tiers 8 and above tanks - although it happens sometimes that a low tier finds himself partnering with a high tier team (rare but possible situation), but when this happens the opposing team will also have 1 low tier tank in its ranks. And last you can only use 1 tank per battle, and if you are a full supporter of the game for months, paid a lot and unlocked every single vehicle in the game it will absolutely not influence anyone's gameplay. Now it is to be mentioned as well that unlocking higher tiers also gives access to a wider variety of maps (some of the maps not being deemed suitable by the designer for lower tier battle and probably being more interesting for mid-high tier one). So WoT also offers an enriching levelprogress system (and I could explain more features that back up this idea), and as I attempted to demonstrate, this progress not being limited by any Microtransaction (although it could be accelerated by MT).
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.
Your english is fine I think, and I am not native myself so I am in a very bad posture to judge. Yes ads are widely used, including by companies who are using MT. I do not have any data on that, but usually most users don't like them much at first (at least when they are implemented into game platforms that feature also MT), while managing ads is also a lot of work which may not be worth the effort of having them since you may end up with some inappropriate content. Additionally it may not be the most appropriate choice (not only in terms of user immersion in the game universe and also affects website design) if you care about the image/reputation/corporate identity of your company (we were talking about quality earlier, ads are usually perceived as a loss of quality by the users, while most actually already have adblockers or similar which would definitely prevent you to get money if they are no clicks). While I do not have the numbers (and it is not my concern to be honest) I am not sure that ads would be sufficient to sustain any medium size company, even with a thousand properties (websites). But again, that is only my opinion and I have no fact to present.
to what should i adapt my point of view? to some marketing lies i am always laugh about when i hear them?
I am not working for Wargaming. I am one tiny part of their huge user base and what I've said was only based on facts anyone can easily find out by actually playing the game and studying its mechanics. There is absolutely no marketing intent in that, nor lies (mistakes or lacks maybe, but lies certainly not). Now I am sure that if Wargaming was to promote their game using marketing concepts they would certainly get some elite professionals they can afford that would do it a million times better than I could. My analysis was only based on the observation of facts and experience as a player and with no intention to do any promotional campaign on behalf of Wargaming to which I have no other connection than being one of their users (just like for many other companies). I only spoke as such and I know my place.

Edited 7 times. Last edit by Eric Pallavicini on 6th March 2013 10:01pm

Posted:A year ago

#75

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

#76

Eric Pallavicini Game Master, Kabam

331 229 0.7
in f2p games you have to pay a lot more for a good game experience than in AAA titles
I among many other players had a good game experience on F2P games without paying a single penny. The experience has been satisfying or enough satisfying for us to keep playing over many months.
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.
From my experience, AAA games demos rarely allow to go through the whole game, the whole story line, nearly the whole content. Most, if not all, AAA demos are therefore limited.
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
It is obviously good enough to please and entertain millions of gamers (and I mean even veteran gamers who have played and keep playing AAA games as well and have comparison points).
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.
You should check community fan sites, gamers communities, guild/alliance/clan websites and you would see that thinking that F2P users are all just newbies to gaming is very very wrong. Many are playing multiple games and having more knowledgeable gamers in all fields than you think. I am not excluding the fact inexperienced gamers, or casual players are there too. Obviously about your pricing suggestion regarding AAA games the MT model has been under experimentation lately and more is to come.
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.
The reality is a bit different, as a company relying purely on the MT model to generate revenue, it may get more unpredictable than for a boxed edition, where actually you will not sell most your stock to the user directly, but to distributors meaning you can anticipate your sales earlier as well and in a more consistent way. Of course selling a boxed title also means external costs are increasing, meaning a potential higher retail price for the consumer (or a possible lower one as well). A F2P company may anticipate the sales volume, but not as clearly nor early as a AAA sold in box.

P.S. Thank you for your final summary, it seems it was just the two of us anyway. As a final comment, I do agree with the risk of a loss of quality (proven in some games I will not mention of course) not only in terms of design, game experience, but also support and customer services. A potential risk, I agree, but not an universal rule that is all.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Eric Pallavicini on 7th March 2013 8:15pm

Posted:A year ago

#77

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