Ustwo fights back against unfair reviews

Supporters rally after $2 expansion causes backlash

This week developer Ustwo took to Twitter to lament the fact that the release of a $1.99 expansion pack for its game Monument Valley led to players posting damning reviews on the App Store.

The tweets seemed to have mobilised the game's more reasonable fans, who are now fighting back by posting their own five star reviews of the title. The game currently has 573 reviews with an average score of four and a half stars.

"We saw a vocal minority early on, but if you check back at the store page now you can see that they have been hugely outnumbered by more positive reviews," Ustwo director Neil McFarland told Gamasutra.

"That said, I have the perception that there's also a silent majority who have an uneasy relationship with mobile app value. Spending money on apps for their hugely expensive piece of technology (the price of which is often hidden inside a monthly contract) doesn't come easily for a lot of people because the general environment has trained people to expect low prices for huge amounts of content or even apps for free."

Related stories

Ustwo: Giving creativity the attention it deserves

Ustwo Games' CCO and CEO discuss how to not lose creative people to business meetings

By Haydn Taylor

Monument Valley has earned over $14 million in two years

But ustwo gave 80 per cent of the game's 26 million downloads away for free

By Matthew Handrahan

Latest comments (13)

Jamie Read 3D Artist, Neon Play Ltd5 years ago
$2?.. $2!!!??? You mean we have to actually pay a small amount of money to the devs, to play something hugely creative and beautiful?!

Keep making awesome games Ustwo, the small minority can have fun with their 500 coins instead.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jamie Read on 13th November 2014 8:39pm

11Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 5 years ago
Yeah, that's about 1.27 in local money, sooooo..... price of two chocolate bars. About a fifth of the price of a movie ticket. Given the amount of time, effort, resources and expertise it takes to make even small app-style games, seems more than reasonable to me.

Did they at some point promise all expansions for free or is this just out of the blue?
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Andrew Wilson 3D Artist 5 years ago
I voted with my wallet. Suffice it to say I voted FOR Ustwo
2Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Show all comments (13)
Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development5 years ago
It looks like the publicity of this is a giant blessing for ustwo, but I do sympathise with them.

All mobile developers ever hear about is "we don't want shitty timers, let us just buy the stuff". So they make stuff you can just buy and get slated for it.

As mobile developers ourselves, we see this kind of self-entitlement all the time - moaning about how developers are greedy for charging for their work, reviews that just say "shit" because it costs money or has adverts, etc etc. It's a grim environment to work in. You hardly ever hear from the massive majority of reasonable people as the word "silent" in "silent majority" applies.
4Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Anthony Gowland Director, Ant Workshop5 years ago
I think blaming the customers is entirely the wrong way to look at this. The people leaving reviews are willing to pay for content (they have already bought the game), they've just been tought for years that updates should be free. Essentially what Ustwoo have is a messaging problem borne out of that situation. I wrote more about it yesterday
12Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development5 years ago
Sorry, Anthony but I do disagree. There should be absolutely no sense of entitlement to free expansions of anything, and certainly not to a product that costs only a few bucks to start with. (Unless the buy-in promises it)

Free bug fixes, definitely. Free tweaks to add more fun somewhere, absolutely. That stuff shows the dev cares about his product and is a reasonable expectation to have from the customer.

But free new content? Just no. Not in games that cost pennies.
3Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Anthony Gowland Director, Ant Workshop5 years ago
The key word there is "should". Your options are either to change the mindset and expectations of tens of millions of people, or to work in the marketplace as it exists.

As an indie developer, I'd take the second option.
9Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development5 years ago
Well that's me told. I guess we'd better start giving our work away free then. After you.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Anthony Gowland Director, Ant Workshop5 years ago
Who's talking about them having to give things away for free? Certainly not me. I'm talking about working your messaging to fit with player expectation rather than fight against it.

As for your other comments - I work at a f2p studio, and you apparently do give your work away for free (Combat Monsters). So I'm not really sure what the point of that snappiness was.
2Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Robin Clarke Producer, AppyNation Ltd5 years ago
It's not really about how much the content cost to develop, it's about whether it's competitive with what else is out there. Most premium mobile games offer free updates because they result in more sales.

I think it's just a bit unfortunate that the MV update falls short of being able to be packaged up as a fully fledged sequel. The way it's been reported in some quarters ("malicious customers risk making publishing model unsustainable") is a bit ridiculous when Monument Valley has already been a major success and ustwo themselves have said that profit wasn't their main motive for doing the update.

The only place where paying for tranches of more content has become normalised is in console games, where it was adopted because the retail model was so broken.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development5 years ago
@Anthony, I wasn't being snappy. You seemed to be implying that giving stuff away is the required response to people demanding free stuff. I say that's fine if you work for a charity but I got a mortgage to pay. We're looking for a new audience instead.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Derek Smart Software Developer/Engineer, 3000AD, Inc5 years ago
Sorry @Anthony, I disagree.

As others have stated, there should be NO sense of entitlement whatsoever.

If you feel that your game is priced at $1.99, that's the end of that. Your game. Your pricing. Your rules.

Whether you make it or not is entirely up to you. If the pricing was a mistake, then you pay the price.

And I don't see how any different "messaging" would have yielded different results when it's really just down to pricing.

This is the usual bullshit that has caused this rapid race to the bottom. While some larger players (mostly publishers) can offer an opinion, it is usually unrealistic to expect smaller outfits to do the same thing. That's why what works for one party, won't for another.

We had the same issue when we launched our multi-platform title earlier this year. A bunch of entitled snots started doing the same darn thing, but mostly on the PC side because they felt that the game (Line Of Defense Tactics) was a mobile "port" (which is rubbish, since it was a multi-platform Unity3D game) and that the PC version was priced too high.

I ignore them. The game sold just as expected and is still doing fine. Plus, it was marketing spend to promote our larger game (Line Of Defense MMO) due out in 2015, so whether the game made money or not was largely irrelevant.

We simply cannot condone this race to zero for much longer. It is not healthy and it is an unsustainable business model which is precisely why so few are making money while so many are not.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Derek Smart on 14th November 2014 9:05pm

2Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
John Bye Lead Designer, Freejam5 years ago
Those 1 star reviews aren't entirely unreasonable, and this story's reporting of the issue is too quick to dismiss the complaints and belittle the people making them (the 1 star reviews were "unfair" and "the game's more reasonable fans .. are now fighting back").

Given how short the original game was compared to many similarly priced premium mobile games (I finished it in about half an hour at a fairly leisurely pace and didn't find most of it particularly challenging), I can certainly understand why some players are miffed at being asked for another $2 for a few new levels, especially when many other premium mobile games do release content updates for free.

Go and actually read the negative reviews - most of the ones on the UK app store at least are surprisingly articulate. This isn't just a case of over entitled gamers expecting everything to be free, they're players who really enjoyed the original game but thought it was too short for the price and wanted more, getting excited at seeing that an update was (finally, after six months) adding some new levels, and then being annoyed when the game asked them to pay again to unlock those new levels.

Right or wrong, expectation in mobile gaming is that content updates for premium games are generally free. I certainly sympathise with Ustwo, but they probably would have been better off releasing a full blown sequel instead of what's effectively console style paid DLC, something that's fairly rare on mobile AFAIK.
2Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply

Sign in to contribute

Need an account? Register now.