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Clicker Heroes developer drops free-to-play model over ethical concerns

“We really don't like making money off players who are in denial of their addiction," says Playsaurus

Clicker Heroes developer Playsaurus has announced that it will be abandoning the free-to-play model for its upcoming sequel, citing ethical reasons.

In an impassioned blog post, Playsaurus expressed remorse at the abuse of those with addiction at the hands of developers capitalising on free-to-play mechanics.

"Games are inherently addictive," said Playsaurus. "That alone is not a bad thing, until it gets abused."

The developer accused the industry of rationalising abusive behaviour "by shifting the blame, assuming way too much cognisance on part of their victims."

Playsaurus said that despite its best efforts to design Clicker Heroes without the shop in mind, it found a number of players were spending thousands of dollars on microtransactions.

"I can only hope that these people could afford it, and that they were doing it to support us, and not to feed an addiction," said Playsaurus. "But I strongly suspect that this is not the case."

The developer added that it would refund these players "in a heartbeat".

"We really don't like making money off players who are in denial of their addiction," said the studio. "And that's what a large part of free-to-play gaming is all about."

Playsaurus has stated that Clicker Heroes will remain unchanged, but going forward it will try the paid-up-front model. The studio admitted that it "probably isn't worth as much money" but that the team "can do it with a clear conscience."

It's a brave move in a climate where the discussion surrounding the value of games, and what consumers are willing to pay, is shifting away from larger single purchases.

A recent report from Digital River found that games-as-a-service was the more popular model among consumers who are increasingly unwilling to pay full-price for a game.

However, according to Playsaurus, it's more than just the ethical concerns, but also legitimate gameplay considerations.

"We want the experience to be good," said the developer. "The mere existence of real-money purchases puts an ugly cloud over the player's experience, with the persistent nagging feeling of 'My game could be so much better if I just spent a few dollars'. That alone feels terrible."

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Ivy Taylor avatar

Ivy Taylor

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Ivy joined GamesIndustry.biz in 2017 having previously worked as a regional journalist, and a political campaigns manager before that. They are also one of the UK's foremost Sonic the Hedgehog apologists.