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Mastering F2P: The Titanic Effect
by Ramin Shokrizade on 10/16/13 05:20:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Mastering F2P: The Titanic Effect

This concept was first presented at the Austin Captivate Conference and at the Panama International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN) summit, both in early October, 2013.

For hundreds of years musicians, artists, and storytellers have been thrilling us and even bringing us to tears with the power of their craft. When we are pulled into the story, whether by sound, sight, or some combination, if the sensation is intense enough it can cause our moods to change and our bodies to respond. Shakespeare was particularly expert at bringing audiences to the highest of highs, then dashing them to the lowest of lows, before passing the hat to his shaken but thoroughly thrilled audiences.

With the introduction of recorded sound and then movies, storytellers have had over 100 years to further refine their ability to thrill audiences. When television was introduced, things changed. Artists could no longer “pass the hat” so they switched to commercials as the business model that powered the distribution of cutting edge media. This transformed the relationship between producers and consumers, creating a new economic dynamic that favored the larger producers that could afford TV advertising.

At the dawn of the 21st century this dynamic began to break down. Consumers now had the ability to avoid TV commercials, forcing advertisers to move out into the internet where consumers were lurking. Consumers were now spending a huge amount of time browsing the internet, using social media, and playing games.

Then something profound happened.

Companies realized that it was now possible, through the power of interactive media, to pass the hat again. Now storytellers no longer needed to partner with sponsors who wanted to sell consumers products. The story was the product again. This time, however, things were different. Interactive media could pull in audiences by the millions or even billions, from the privacy of their homes. With the advent of F2P, we now have the ability to “pass the hat”, even to children of any age.

Now imagine if we had an audience watching Titanic, near the end when the passengers were dying by the hundreds, and the audience is almost entirely in tears. The viewers are certainly experiencing an altered state of consciousness, complete with physiological changes, that might make them more vulnerable to certain suggestions. If we could put two green buttons on the screen at that moment and ask our audience for money, we might have great success.

Imagine the first button allows the viewer to change the ending of the story, so that Leonardo lives, gets married, has children, and goes on to be immensely successful. This only costs $10.

Now the second button says that for only $1000 the movie makers will go back in time and save one passenger on the titanic that otherwise would have died. While this scenario seems implausible, if it was possible I suspect both of those buttons would get a lot of play, especially given the mental state during which they were presented.

But in interactive media, this scenario has already been done. In my 2011 Zynga Analysis paper I described something very similar in a Zynga game called FrontierVille.

More than any game in the Zynga stable, this game seems the most child oriented. The gameplay is extremely simple, all characters are childlike and cartoonish, and the goal of the game is to build a homestead so that your sweetheart can relocate to you so that you can get married.

Within the first hour of play in FrontierVille the player will be shown a wounded, bloody, and crying baby deer. I described this as “Dying Bambi” in my 2011 paper. The player is told that the deer was attacked by coyotes and unless the player gives Zynga $5 quickly, Bambi will die. While such horrifying appeals might be easily resisted by an adult, it seems likely that a traumatized child might go to extraordinary lengths to save Bambi.

Such lengths could include going to your neighborhood Walgreens, Sam's Club, Best Buy, Randalls, Gamestop, Target, Radio Shack, A&P, Stop and Shop, Rite Aid, 7-11, Walmart, Safeway, Kohls, Albertsons, Publix, Toys R Us, Speedway, etc and buying a Facebook Gift Card. These cards are apparently also available in Canada, Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden.

This allows any form of existing Western parental consent to be bypassed by a child of any age. While the Facebook Gift Cards may be the most widely available game currency cards in the world, they are hardly unique. Apple iTunes Gift Cards, for instance, are just as widely available.

I don't see the Titanic Effect to be inherently malicious, it is a tool like any other and can be used to benefit or harm consumers. Unfortunately, it is currently being used by the industry almost entirely unethically. I realize that ethics can be subjective so I am going to attempt here to rigorously define what I see as both the ethical and unethical uses of the Titanic Effect.

If you have a consumer enraptured by the Titanic Effect and bring them to a state of elation, and THEN monetize them, I call this Elated Monetization. I see this as the height of our craft. You have made the consumer happy and then you passed the hat. They gave you money in return for your entertaining them, just as Shakespeare did in days of old.

If you have your consumer enraptured by the Titanic Effect and then put them in distress, either by threatening them (by holding Bambi hostage), making them lose (Candy Crush Saga or Puzzle and Dragons), or putting them under time/economic/competitive pressure/threat (almost any competitive or midcore game today, including Kabam or Kixeye games, or Clash of Clans), then offer to sell them relief, you are engaging in Distressed Monetization. I consider Distressed Monetization unethical.

Note that in all cases, I consider the use of the Titanic Effect against children unethical. This even applies to Elated Monetization because children cannot be ethically asked to make financial decisions. I made this explicitly clear to the ICPEN in Panama last week as they struggled with how to properly regulate our industry, given its complexity, ruthlessness, and potential value to society.

 

 


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Comments


Chris Clogg
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Great article Ramin. It will be interesting to see how things change if regulation takes place. Kids make up a very large group, so it may have to steer towards getting parents involved (as they would with typical paid/console/pc games). Do you have any ideas on how that could work?

Remy Trolong
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Maybe we could have a "Child account" attached to your parent account with credit you buy on it for mobile stores?
The unethical comes froms "derivative game design" (the "Dying bambi"... I didn't know this ^^), but it can also be a lack of attention from platforms who give access to this content to children.
Interesting article and great metaphore, thanks!

Ramin Shokrizade
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Unless you can make sure children are not playing your game, all games have to be treated as children's games. It is my understanding that in Korea they require gamers to use something like a social security number to log in, and this would be one way of screening children from adult games, but this sort of action would encounter a lot of resistance in Western countries.

Christian Kulenkampff
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I think an age rating/content label should be enough. Devices and ISPs should support such labels directly.

Parents should control what their kids do on their devices. The internet and app stores are like open gates to hell or at least to a casino. When you market to kids there should be special regulations. I like where this one is going: http://www.oft.gov.uk/shared_oft/consumer-enforcement/oft1506.pdf

Wes Jurica
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This should be tackled on the platform level. When a new device is setup and when a credit card is entered a prompt should be shown to setup limits on how much can be spent. Parents could set an allowance, $5 a week for example.

Christian Kulenkampff
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I agree. In Germany internet content providers can comply with the laws for youth protection by adding a label (similar to ICRA/RTA labels) to the html header. Such a system where a developer just has to add a tag or similar should be mandatory for all app store providers (or the app store provider would be responsible that the store is only accessed by adults).

Francisco Valdenebro
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Once again, spot on.

With the very structure of App Stores making the switch to F2P inevitable for most developers (as it was cleverly pointed out to me the other day), getting F2P to be socially acceptable is getting more important everyday.

Unfortunately, unethical F2P is - as your examples indicate - present in the biggest F2P franchises nowadays. This can only hurt the image of F2P in the long run and the whole industry chances of survival.

Let's hope that this trend can be reversed. For this your work and papers seem invaluable to me. Thanks.

Andreas Ahlborn
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This blog gives a great rule-of-thumb for gamedesigners.

Unfortunately history shows that lawyers and conmen/conwomen are quicker in finding loopholes for taxevasion (aka know as legal fraud) than the average state can come up with laws.

Its obviously that we should get started with setting up boundaries for the Monetization-insanity and treat it with the same sincerity like Violence and Sexual Depiction in video games.

In the case of kids -unfortunately- I can think of no other solution than introducing a new kind of gatekeeping organisation similar to the esrb, for all apps/games on the web, which might be just not be feasible considering the myriad of f2p games that are emerging on a daily basis.

Remy Trolong
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This is possible only with the trust of reseller! Even ESRB or PEGI in EU are useless if resellers don't mind about it. How many times did I see a 10 y/o kid asking for GTA or Hitman in a store and the seller just giving him?
Same for online store. The most efficient would be to teach parent how they can protect their children, and give them the opportunity to do it.
As a dad of a 8 y/o video game lover, I do my best to put games on his hands that I think "non-abusive", but not every mom/dad works in game industry.

Peter Eisenmann
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People do not want to pay before playing a game. We tend to believe this a new thing, but have to remember that before the internet, most people would only buy games that were greatly hyped, had great reviews or an excellent demo. Small unknown games had a hard time, a lot harder than today I'd say.

The funny thing is that publishers found a solution for the 'dilemma' of people wanting free stuff, decades ago, in the form of Apogee's implementation of shareware.
Try out a third of the game, hours of gameplay for free. If you wanted the other levels, pay. No begging, no hassles, no tricks involved. No impact on gameplay.

With today's online distribution, this concept could shine - the problem is that 90% of mobile games don't even have the concept of going from A to B, with hand-crafted content between. It's all endless runners, random puzzles or farmville style. Hardly anyone makes the effort to build much besides basic mechanics. (I don't claim mechanics are trivial, but they used to be only part of a game before - the rest was level design.)

Robert Crouch
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I would be careful about saying that mobile games just can't conceive of it.

I would say that it's just a more potent strategy to monetize through microtransactions. Many games have tried the "release a demo including the first few levels and charge for the full game" strategy, even modern games. But here we are talking about microtransactions.

Microtransactions probably would have been popular in the age of shareware as well. The difference is they weren't really possible back then. Microtransactions are easy now, and they rely on the same kind of compulsive habits as collectable card games and arcade games, and video lottery terminals.

The amount of copycat games probably has less to do with games in general and more to do with the desire to make a profit and a fear of investing in an uncertain strategy. Someone's already made a system that causes people to pay. Instead of making a new game and a new microtransaction strategy, you can copy an existing one with your own spin.

Maurício Gomes
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Yet, those are the ones that get all the money.

On my company I adopted Apogee model, I offer free episodes and paid episodes.

My free episodes last time I checked have half million downloads.

My paid episodes... well, they don't paid yet one month of running my company (the company is 1 year and a half old).

While those people using those stupid models are drawing not millions, but sometimes billions...

I am not sure, what to do about that. Although I love being a ethical person, to save the company it is becoming more and more tempting to just take the low road too.

Wes Jurica
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@Mauricio
I'm curious to know if you have metrics showing how many finished the free episodes. I wonder how TellTale's metrics align to yours including the conversion rate.

Brenton Haerr
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I'm also interested in the metrics of this.

Also, as an aside: I think Gasketball and Outwitters have made pretty strong arguments that the whole "make a good game and sell it like shareware thing" is past its prime.

Lars Doucet
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For what it's work, the "shareware" model worked really for me.

We can quote anecdotes back and forth to one another all day, but until someone cites an actual body of data nobody has any actual proof.

Francois Verret
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Perhaps the "stupid model" is the smart model, then, if they make money and your model doesn't?

edwin zeng
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Very nice! This article allowed me to confirm that I have designed around elated monetization for non-children.

Has anyone realised that there is an option to combine elated monetization with alpha funding through the use of F2P and IAP? I had some thoughts about this before, and it seems a pretty good combination.

Amir Barak
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Elated Monetization -> giving someone a handjob then robbing them after the orgasm. But I guess it's alright cause they were happy...

If the Titanic showed me a button for that choice I would, very simply and quietly, get up; leave and not go to see another movie by the director/producer/company. This, come to think of it, is the reason why I've not bought a game on Steam for a very looooong time nor will I buy another game by Ubisoft or play anything made by Zynga and its ilk. I look with distaste on developers [and all associated] like that and with pity on people that play those games. You could call it whatever you want but that's my opinion.

I've never minded paying something for a product. If a game has a demo I'll play it before buying, otherwise I'll watch/read as much as I can about it (minus spoilers) and then buy it. Worst case, I wouldn't enjoy it. Big f***ing whoop, isn't the first or last "bad" decision I'll make in my life. I've recently bought Gone Home for 20$, probably the worst game I've ever played - bad story, bad gameplay, the works - but you know what it was still an experience and the developers still put in their time on it and they got my 20$. I look at it as a twenty dollar lesson not to buy anything from them again...

And what's wrong with the shareware model again? make a demo of your game. Let people play it. If they like it they can buy and play the rest. Then again to do that you should have a worthwhile game to play with actual narrative and a factor of intelligence and that means creativity and a shred of decency on your part. Failing that I guess the other option is making an F2P game...

Peter Eisenmann
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Yeah, the problem with shareware on mobile is that most of the time there is no "rest" of the game. No world, no levels, no progress, no victory. Note that I make a distinction between a demo, which only serves to try out a game, and a shareware version, which actually provides solid entertainment value.

Remy Trolong
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Telltale's "walking dead" and now "The wolf among us" are a good example of episodic business model (which offers many advantages: you can release a game before it's completely finished, you can have direct feedback, you start earning money and you reward early players who buy the full game before the complete release with a cheaper price!)

F2Ps are just the new generation MMOs: years ago, suscribing and paying every month was not sounding positive, but players were spending hours and hours, and money in a game with no ending.

Dave Hoskins
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Very good article. The experience I've with negative monetisation is that I feel insulted by the game. It's obvious it has started to make me lose the game and that I need to buy something to continue.
But the main problem is that I don't know whether buying an item will be the end of it, and how much will it cost me to finish the game, if ever? So it just makes me stop playing it and move on to something else.
It also breaks the build up and learning curve that is the very heart of some game designs. It just breaks it, full stop.

Fredrik Liliegren
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Ramin: Where do you put the monetization of time acceleration? For example pick our game Kingdoms CCG, where you collect gold and gems (premium currency) by investing time, then use these currencies to buy more card packs. By buying Gems from us you can skip the time investment. Here we are not putting the player in an elated or distressed state, we simply say invest time or money to get what you want.

Rob Solomon
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Do the players with more card packs have a competitive advantage over those who don't?

If your game is anything like M:TG, the answer would probably be yes. As such, by allowing some players to buy their way ahead, this increases the time/money investment required to play competitively. For casual players, this may not matter, but for those who wish to compete I would say such a system is designed to put them in a distressed state.

Meanwhile, it seems ironic that a lot of competitive M:TG play has evolved to the sealed deck/booster draft format which involves a fixed cost up front for a complete experience.

Ramin Shokrizade
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@Fredrik: As Rob points out it hinges on the type of competition in play. Are your players threatened by you if they do not pay? In most games if they do not accelerate their progress they will be almost certainly defeated by those that do. This is a pay to win mechanic that puts players in distress.

A counter example would be our World of Tanks product where you can accelerate your progress through the game by spending, but you cannot spend any money in the actual play field and you can't buy advantage in the play field. All battles are balanced so that both sides have a fair chance of winning.

In most CCGs if a player purchases more cards they will have a quality advantage over other players in a match that has little to do with their skill level. I'm not sure how speed ups work in this scenario.

Ashley Blacquiere
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@Ramin: Don't purchasable items in World of Tanks such as Premium Shells and Premium Consumables provide an advantage in the play field?

Ramin Shokrizade
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They certainly do, and this is a hot topic of discussion internally at the moment but obviously I'm not at liberty to illuminate those discussions. Still, while the choice to use them might happen in the heat of battle, the decision to purchase them occurs in the neutral lobby.

EDIT: I got permission to say that not only have we made our "Premium Shells" non-premium, but we are soon going to do the same with consumables so that all these things can be purchased with earnable in-game currency.

Luis Blondet
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In defense of Kingdoms CCG:

It is one of the fairest F2P games out there. I don't have to spend any money to have a good time because there is so much to do for free. The players that spend money do not out-compete the players who do not because the cards have plenty of vulnerabilities. The game hosts tournaments of various types that do include Gems, but i do not think that saving a game mode solely for paying players is a bad thing, especially when the free players have so much to do.

My only complaint is that the sound effects are terrible and that it is very difficult to keep track of what is happening when multiple cards or effects are being done. This frustrates decision making as the effects hitting the board are simply flashed for a second before being implemented, leading to "How the fuck did i just lose!?" moments.

That being said, all other CCGs online could learn from Kingdoms CCG on how to do things right, especially the horrible MOBAGE CCGs.

Arnold Hendrick
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"Fairness" in F2P PvP games is very tricky. If opponents are matched up randomly, a player will be more successful if they have more cards to build a deck from (in a CCG), or use a "gold tank" that is biased to the top of the match's tier list (in WoT the German Lowe). This is perceived as "rigging" the game in favor of the person who monetizes. The DEGREE of advantage, as experienced by the players, has a dramatic effect on the perception of fairness.

For example, in the early days of M:TG, buying cards to get the few "super powered" cards, like the Moxes and the Black Lotus, were game changers and breakers. Players who invested enough to acquire these could win most matches. However, tanks like the Lowe have a modest advantage, but almost never dominate in a 15v15 tank battle because the game has so many other variables.

In my view, for PvP games it's not whether monetization is elated or distressed, but rather the player experience that counts. If free players who haven't monetized are constantly faced with failure and defeat by opponents who overpower them with purchased advantages, they will stop playing and never monetize.

In PvE games, be they solo or cooperative, Ramin's concepts are elation and distress are much more applicable.

Amanda Lee Matthews
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"This allows any form of existing Western parental consent to be bypassed by a child of any age. "

What?! No, it doesn't. The child has to get $5 from the parent, or get permission to earn $5. Then the child has to get permission to go to a store, and to buy the card. The child has to get permission to be on the computer/device in the first place, has to have permission to play or free-range (which the parent chooses to give) to find the game, and the parent had to buy the computer/device.

I'm a parent of children of multiple ages, yet I have never had an issue with this sort of thing.

You feel children cannot be ethically asked to make financial decisions - that is one of the reasons they have PARENTS. The idea that certain things shouldn't exist because parents can't be expected to actually parent their children is unethical in my mind.

Ramin Shokrizade
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Amanda, many children in the West have allowances or sources of money that are not strictly supervised. I grew up poor so my only income when I was young was doing odd jobs for neighbors and local businesses which I used to fund my game habit. Even so my parents never had a say in my purchase decisions when I wanted a new Dungeons and Dragons book or such.

If a parent has given their child a smart phone or iPad, in most cases they don't have to get permission to use it daily. It is very difficult for a parent to make sure their children have no money at all times, and this can actually put them in jeopardy. Most children do not play on the PC these days, and because of this PC game makers tend to aim at older audiences than mobile game makers.

So yes I don't think children can be ethically asked to make financial decisions, and I think regulators should take a very close look at business model mechanisms that are designed to allow children to bypass parental oversight, and undermine parents in general.

Amanda Lee Matthews
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You seem to be confusing parenting with supervising. I'm not advocating for strict supervision; I'm a free-range parent myself. I find out what my kids are doing not by constant supervision but by interacting with them, setting developmentally appropriate limits, giving punishments when those limits are not followed, and teaching them what I expect BEFORE they are developmentally ready to be in those situations. I.e. if I don't want my kid having Dungeons and Dragons books, I teach them that before they are able to do odd jobs. When they become able to do odd jobs, I discuss what odd jobs they are doing and what they are doing with their earned money. I also discuss what books they ARE reading. All of this is important, because even if I don't give them money and an Amazon account (there's no book stores around here anymore), they could still find a Dungeons and Dragons book at the library or a friend's house. I CAN'T supervise them constantly even if I wanted to, so I have to PARENT, not just supervise.

By giving the child the ipad, the parents are giving the child permission to use it. By giving the child $5 and free range to go to the store, the parents are giving the child permission to spend the $5 as they wish. If parents do not wish for their child to access certain games, they must take steps to prevent that. Something being available for the child to buy means that IN THAT MOMENT the child does not directly have to ask for permission, but the parents have, ahead of time, given the child permission to not ask for permission.

Your parents may have chose to not say anything about your purchases, they may have even chosen to remain ignorant about your purchases, but they certainly HAD A SAY - parents have the power to take away inappropriate items, tell kids not to purchase them again, enforce punishment if that rule is not followed, and enforce a higher level of supervision until trust is earned again. That's all part of parenting.

Ramin Shokrizade
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Amanda, while I admire your passion about parenting, and in large part share it, I have some concerns. As wealth in the USA moves into less hands, middle class parents are increasingly being pushed to take multiple jobs. Those parents that can stay home with their children and not depend on others to help raise them are in a luxurious minority.

I would love to go back to an economy like we had in the 50s or 60s which promoted parents having more time for parenting. This seems like a very low priority now. It takes a village to raise a child, and increasingly that village includes the internet. Some parents have the means and motivation to put walls around their children to keep them safe, but I am not sure this results in the intended effect.

In other words, taking the position of "allow the world to become as dangerous as it may, but at least I will be able to protect MY children" is not a position I (or regulators) have the luxury of adopting.

I would like to add that we, as game developers, understand the risks of internet and game exposure much better than the average parent. I've read so many articles and interviews about how we are much more restrictive about letting our own children play games than the typical parent. That says a lot about our industry. It may be tempting to fault people that are not in the industry for not understanding our industry, but that approach seems a bit impractical and possibly even elitist.

Booby K
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When I was in school, I would get an allowance for (school lunch, ...). So, to have money to buy games or play in the arcade, I would just buy some candy or one of those hostess pies instead of buying a full lunch. I would eat at home after school (both parents worked).

Eric Robertson
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I disagree with the ethical perspective but agree with the rest of the emotional theory of the article.

I would argue it can be theoretically ethical and unethical to charge during elation as much as distressed emotions if the game does it deceptively.

1. I feel it is ethical to charge a player to get out of distress if they caused it upon themselves when the game did not go out of its way to cause failure (weighted like video poker).

2. Also I feel it is unethical to charge a player during elation when the positive emotion (peak) was created right after an emotional distress(valley) caused by the game five minutes prior. Actors/writers flow the emotion on purpose. They are crafting a final/climax emotion that will resonate with the observer until the next show/book/song.

I guess I find ethical boundaries to be tied more to the deception of the game's monetization versus the timing or placement of it.

Ramin Shokrizade
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Eric your points are valuable and we clearly live in a Brave New World filled with challenges. The first pass enforcement proposals from the UK Office on Fair Trading do a good job of starting with transparency issues so that consumers will know the costs of a game before they even download it or create an account. This would go a long way in giving consumers the ability to assess the risks of a product before being subjected to the Titanic Effects we are debating here.

Isaac Knowles
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Setting aside the issue of children, how do you deal with the fact that people in the F2P market have reasonable expectations about if and when they will be asked to pay?

Let's use your Titanic example, with the modification that I didn't pay to get in. There are two possible scenarios.

The first is, I walk into the theater, sit through 2.5 hours of "Jack!" and "Rose!", and then, at the most riveting moment, the movie is paused and I am unexpectedly given one of four choices: leave (churn), pay nothing, pay a little, or pay a lot for no ending, normal ending, better ending, and best ending, respectively.

The second scenario is exactly the same, except now I enter the movie knowing that at some point, I will be asked to pay something.

In the first scenario, maybe - and that's a big maybe - it's an unethical bait and switch. The fact that I have the choice to continue for free casts doubt on that claim, however.

In the second scenario, I am fully aware before I enter the movie that at some point, and probably at the point when I am most riveted, the company will ask me for money. But I knew this ahead of time, when I wasn't emotionally invested, and I made a choice to expose myself to that. Isn't this situation exactly like F2P? And if so - that is, if I know what I'm getting myself into - then isn't it completely ethical for a company to offer me a choice that I explicitly agreed to face?

Ramin Shokrizade
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What I would propose is most ethical, which seems to be what the OFT Principles are getting at, and what Wargaming is already (or close to) doing, is to put the prices up front before the movie starts and let the consumer pay for the ending they want in advance. Now the movie is not interrupted, no immersion is broken, the transaction is transparent and informed, and no Titanic Effects are used to manipulate the consumer.

After the movie, if the consumer decides it is worth it to get a better movie the next time, they can make that choice in the lobby before starting the next movie.

Isaac Knowles
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That may or may not be more ethical, but it is certainly impractical. The value proposition of F2P depends on the consumer being able to see where virtual goods would be useful in the context of the particular game. If I require my player to buy something before they enter, they simply won't enter. To get them to enter a game that has a paywall at the very front, I have to provide a larger game. That drives out smaller developers that depend on F2P out of the market. If the OFT principles require this, their only effect will be to destroy indy developers and to drive the game publication industry into unregulated markets, which many developing and less-regulated developed countries will be happy to provide.

Jake Forbes
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When a consumer goes to a movie, no matter how bad it is, they can be sure they're getting the whole movie if they show up on time and leave when the credits roll. This makes movies a weak analogy for F2P games which are almost all -- at least the successful ones that editorials like this focus on -- open ended. To stretch the titanic analogy, it would be as if the boat spent three years sinking and new passengers were showing up every day, no matter how many you saved. Paying for "the good ending" is a red herring in the market; more often it's about paying to maintain a first class experience while the non-payer sees their experience deteriorate over time. We see a lot less of the "save bambi" moments in todays FsP games because that kind of authored distress isn't as evergreen as the kixeye/kabam/king/gung-ho models.

Ramin Shokrizade
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Isaac, while I could address or rebut your concerns now, I think it would be more prudent for you to read the OFT Principles and then the two of us could have a heated and hopefully productive debate on their merits. We could then summarize the results and post them here. I know both of us can produce a lot of writing but I'd like to leave some space for everyone to participate.

Christian Nutt
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BTW, here's a good blog on the OFT's principles which contains a link to them:

http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/EthanLevy/20130927/201182/Why_the_
OFTs_8_principles_for_ingame_purchases_are_great_for_game_develop
ers.php

Isaac Knowles
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But Ramin, I'm not debating the OFT principles, which are focused on children. What I'm trying to understand is whether or not it is ethical for game companies to face non-children with choices that they knew that they were going to face. I say yes. You didn't answer, but instead said OFT was more ethical. But isn't the situation I posed "ethical enough"? And if so, why impose more costs on game developers?

Ramin Shokrizade
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Consumers facing choices that they already knew about? This is tremendously vague. If consumers knew what the costs were in products before they even downloaded them (as the OFT proposes) then a lot of these products would never get downloaded. Currently many of the "choices" involved in F2P are very carefully hidden from the consumer, and as my article here attempts to explain, the concept of "choice" can be undermined.

Isaac Knowles
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It's really not that vague. If a person is aware before she enters a game that at some point, and probably at the point when she is most riveted, the company will ask her for money, then isn't it ethical for the company to ask her for money at that point? If not, why not? And if so, why impose more costs on game developers?

Katy Smith
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Isn't this information already available? I keep reading that this will be a big change, but there's an "In App Purchases" section in the App Store game description and it lists everything purchasable in game and the cost. It also lists them in most purchased to least purchased order. Does this not meet the OFT guideline?

Ramin Shokrizade
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Isaac I think to us as game developers we understand what to expect. I think the average consumer has a much more limited understanding of the mechanisms being used against them. They are learning over time, and the more information that is provided them then the faster they will learn. This request for additional information would not be necessary if these products were sold honestly, so I agree with you that these costs are unfortunate but for two years I have been warning the industry that they would end up putting these costs (and potentially even more costs) on themselves by mistreating consumers.

When I warned the industry 27 months ago in my Zynga Analysis paper that the actions of Zynga and those that followed them (seemingly most of the industry) would force the hand of regulators, I was not advocating for regulation. I was advocating for voluntary industry standards of behavior which were higher than what was being demonstrated by that company. Now that that advice was clearly ignored, I am advocating for mandatory regulatory enforcement. It sounds like you want to blame the victim, which I find bizarre.

@Katy: That feature seems to at least mostly meet that one (out of 8) Principle proposed by the OFT. There are 8 Principles, and there are additional products not sold on the Apple store that do not have this disclosure yet. This article I have written attempts to explain why those 8 Principles are a good start but will ultimately prove insufficient.

Isaac Knowles
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What I find bizarre is the presumption that there is an adult "victim" of a freely-offered, intentionally-used, and freely-abandoned entertainment service. My question about ethics - which you haven't answered - goes directly to that presumption. How is it unethical for a firm to give you a tough choice if you agreed to face that tough choice?

On a side note, I worked at the FTC in the consumer protection division (on child privacy protection cases, no less). I find it hard to believe that the policy-makers there - who are quite hawkish on consumer protection issues - would ever accept the proposition that F2P is victimizing adults.

Ramin Shokrizade
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While the USA is a member of the ICPEN, they did not send a delegate because our government was shut down. Perhaps you can contact your colleagues at the FTC and ask them to see if our ICPEN delegates would invite you to the next summit. I would welcome the opportunity to debate this subject with you before the regulatory body.

Isaac Knowles
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Well, I have learned one thing from this post: How to dodge a question that is inconvenient for my argument.

Ramin Shokrizade
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Rather than allow this thread to get derailed, I have written a second paper that I will publish here on Tuesday to address the concerns that you and Amanda have expressed. I look forward to hearing your comments.

Christopher Enderle
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@Isaac
"How is it unethical for a firm to give you a tough choice if you agreed to face that tough choice?"
Because people tend to overestimate themselves?

Jean Christophe CAMBOURNAC
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Clash of Clans is clearly not a pay-to-win as many strategy games can be: the traditional map (from where you can slaughter lower level victims) is replaced by an automatic match making system giving to every player similar level opponents. Less epic, more balanced, I suppose. So yes, your global progress can been accelerated with money, but you can win against (almost) every enemy you face.

I wonder how to keep, in that kind of games, the immersion of the world map while monetizing efficiently. The "building" phase is something crucial in term of gameplay and... monetization. But by accelerating the building process, you create unbalanced and frustrating PvP situations in a context where player can attack who they want, when they want. Clash of Clans avoided this problematic situation by not having a multiplayer world map. You'll fight opponents the match making system want you to fight.

I don't think all types of F2P games can have a "totally fair" monetization. Something based on gameplay probably (World of Tanks, League of Legends etc.), but something based on systems (like a strategy/building game)... I don't know. The maximum a strategy/building game can do is to be less agressive, with the risk to be less *successful*... (in term of $$$)

Feel free to tell me where I'm wrong... Not sure to have a clear mind about all that. :)

Ramin Shokrizade
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While you make good points about fairness, and it is a popular topic in some of my other papers, this article is not about fairness. It is about putting players under stress which is then used to get them to make an IAP to adjust that stress. Clash of Clans makes heavy use of instant build buttons which are designed to take advantage of this mechanic to reduce the stress of players who feel frustrated when they stare at extremely long timers.

Jean Christophe CAMBOURNAC
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Monetizing time in a strategy game does make sense to me (since time is an historical "invisible resource" in strategy games, at least RTS), but I see your point.

I don't know how to make the building/strategy games monetization less "unethical" in a F2P context, except by making it less agressive/coercive (parameters), or maybe with gameplay requirements, or something like that.

Are F2P strategy/building games (based on systems and progression over time more than on gameplay and skill) condemned to be more or less unethical by nature? (if they're designed to be profitable)

Does anyone know "ethical" AND profitable F2P strategy games? (without distress monetization)

Ethan Verrall
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I agree with your distinctions and in the extreme cases such as holding Bambi hostage it's quite obvious to me. However, is it always cut and dry? Are all cases of Distressed Monetization inherently unethical?

You mention in regards to Distressed Monetization Candy Crush Saga. I'm not sure I know what you are referring to in this case. Are you referring to when you fail to complete a level they give you the option to attempt to 'save' yourself? As the user had the chance to complete the level and failed, is now given the option to attempt to bypass the difficulty... I don't inherently think that is Distressed Monetization. I suppose if we factor in the luck in Candy Crush Saga, where each attempt to complete a level is not necessarily possible than yes maybe that's unethical.

However, if it was simply a puzzle game that each attempt had a 100% guaranteed solution and if the user failed to find the solution, and you then give them an option to bypass that level for a price... is that unethical?

Also just curious, what is your definition for children? What age range would you be referring to?

Ramin Shokrizade
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For the purposes of being able to make the decisions necessary here, the biology seems to point to cognitive adulthood/maturity being achieved at the age of 25. I go into detail in my Children's Monetization paper. I realize this is an inconvenient number for governments that need citizens at ages younger than that to engage in risky behavior for the benefit of their country, where someone older may be less likely to volunteer for activities that are more obviously risky.

This age range between 18 and 25 is also where people tend to acquire enormous debt that they are increasingly unable to pay off. People of this age are favorite targets of lenders for the same reasons they may be vulnerable to some F2P business model methodology.

Katy Smith
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I'm failing to see how "Elated Monetization" is any less "manipulative" than "Distressed Monetization". Any time you are asking the player for money...you're asking the player for money. Sure, there is psychology behind removing negative stimuli or adding positive stimuli that will get you more money, but using either method is manipulating behavior (and this isn't always a bad thing!) Candy Crush gets a lot of flak because it uses frustration to monetize. But King isn't coming over to players' houses and physically removing the money from their wallets! You can easily bypass the pay to continue box and try again. This does not seem unethical.

Ramin Shokrizade
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Katy I completely agree with you that both elated and distressed monetization are manipulative. That is the point of this article. I recommended to the ICPEN that they consider investigating whether to remove both from games played by children.

As far as what King does with CCS... what may be easy for you to bypass may not be as easy for a child to bypass. Their brains are less developed and their ability to weigh present time pleasure vs. future time costs is much more limited.

Wes Jurica
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It is unethical to target kids or anyone else that is unhealthily susceptible to the kind of manipulation tactics used by companies employing these predatory F2P models. Spending limits either based on a time span (weekly, monthly, etc) or or just a lifetime limit sound like one good idea. Is it really ethical to charge someone $60, $100, or more for a game that, if it was a premium title with the same content, the market would dictate it costing a mere fraction of that?

Katy Smith
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@Wes

There's a lot of loaded language in your post, so I'm assuming you're not a big fan of F2P :) Here's the problem with spending limits: income. Is it fair to give the person with a minimum wage job the same spending limit as someone with a six (or seven, or eight) figure salary? If it's going to vary, is it ethical to have game companies up in the finances of their users?

Also, you mention value. This doesn't only apply to F2P games. There have been movies I've seen where I would have paid twice as much and others where I'm like "well, there goes 10 bucks down the drain". It also happens in pay to play games. I got over 240 hours out of Final Fantasy X and I got 2 hours of gameplay out of Gone Home. When I bought both of them, I paid $20 dollars. Did FFX undercharge? Did Gone Home rip me off? I'd say no to both of those questions.

@Ramin, I guess I'm confused then as to why you say elated monetization is the "height of our craft" , and then compare it to watching Shakespeare's plays if you are saying elated and distressed monetization are both manipulative in a negative way.

Ramin Shokrizade
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Katy, elated monetization is great for adult consumers. The problem is how do we partition children from adults in these games? I'm assuming we don't unless we implement a reliable authentication system.

Wes Jurica
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@Katy

You could tell? :p I don't have a problem with all F2P games, just the ones that fit into my description above.

Anywho, you have some valid points.

I think I'm going to stop posting about F2P issues. I fear I'm becoming "that" guy.

Joshua Dallman
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It already exists, it's called COPPA and it's required for games that knowingly have child audiences to comply. It relates to privacy not monetization but the partition and precedence exists.

Mark Morrison
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I don't understand the point you are making here Ramin. It's an interesting topic. Are you trying to redefine what is ethical in the F2P market? If so, then what do you consider to be ethical F2P sales tactics for kids? Btw- do you think kids gave Shakespeare money ;)

Ramin Shokrizade
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Mark, I'm much more interested in promoting dialogue than I am in proscribing action. I think our standards of ethics change over time. What I told the ICPEN would be more ethical would be for all monetization decisions to occur in a neutral non-gameplay lobby before (or after) the player is immersed in the game. We do this with movies already, you pay before the movie starts. The thought of the movie stopping in the middle so that ushers can collect your money would seem bizarre to us but it is occurring in our games.

I would imagine kids rarely had their own money in Shakespeare's time. They may have given fruit or flowers though!

Wes Jurica
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Placing spending limits based on parental controls would be a good start.

Wes Jurica
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Just imagine if Fable 2 had come out years later as a F2P game! Molyneux could have made millions on the "best friend" part near the end.

Curtiss Murphy
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Great article Ramin. I expect "Elated Monetization" and "Distressed Monetization" will become standard terms going forward. And, the discussions in the comments were just as interesting.

Out of the research that has explored the link between money and happiness, there are two outcomes that fascinate me. First, people gain more overall happiness when spending money on Experiences. And second, people gain more overall happiness when they spend money on a variety of smaller purchases (vice one large one).

So, the science would argue that a F2P model where small purchases over time enable memorable experiences, would in fact reflect the science of well-being. On the other hand, some games abuse the psychological aspects, leading vulnerable players to invest $100s or $1000s of dollars in an obviously manipulative cycle of stress/release.

It reminds me of the arguments over intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation. We know extrinsic motivators are less impactful, and yet, sometimes it's hard to tell the difference. I've found one litmus test is whether the designer intends to control behavior. In which case, most humans will perceive that the extrinsic reward is an attempt to control and eventually reject it, whether consciously or not. Unfortunately, games obsfucate the control mechanisms with attractive animations, skinner reward behaviors, or even a well designed flow system. And that's why these discussions are always gray, or dark.

I cannot imagine how regulators can unravel Intent. Though, I think that OFT guidelines are a good place to start.

edwin zeng
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I believe the part on small purchases over time for Elated Monetization can synchronise with alpha funding. I am thinking about 1 dollar purchases over several differing non-consumables. This allows a developer to show a bit of their monetization plan with an early released product without subjecting the entire plan to direct criticism (eg oh? you are charging $49.99 for this?!). This can possible allow the building of happiness, engagement, social interaction, etc, over time until a certain threshold.

Whereas, the games that rely on Distressed Monetization will increasingly find themselves needing to have sufficient implementation, before they can reveal their 1 dollar purchases. It used to be the case where a minimum viable product strategy where a game can start charging 1 dollar for virtual currency even if its not complete. But with so many of them out there attempting Distressed Monetization, people will learn and realise that these games end up looking like Nigerian scams.

Mark Morrison
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so herein lies the more interesting topic for me. is it ethical to force a standard on entreprenuerialism other than "capitalism rules" (excluding obvious legal requirements)? in other words, if what we are exploring here is a standard or a template for the way games present monetization, couldn’t that be likened to being told what to do? that seems counter-intuitive to creative storytelling or creating games that are meant to be creatively inspired.

isn’t the candy rack at the store, the DVD red machines and everything else out there that begs for our disposable income just as unethical as a game that begs you for $5 and in return makes you feel good? i have strong opinions as a father and a gamer, but I'm also a big believer that if you have rules, they must be followed by everyone or they won’t work. I'd suggest that in this day in age of crowd resourcing, the crowd will police itself if anyone can. no one plays by the rules in business, especially in the game space. this is what we simply call capitalism. it may not be right, fair, etc….but as Rodriquez so eloquently stated from his Detroit apt. "nothing beats reality."

Wes Jurica
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Sorry, but even capitalism has rules. There are plenty of consumer protection laws out there. Pay day loans, not serving a visibly intoxicated person another drink, credit card APRs, etc. Why not for games too?

Ramin Shokrizade
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In addition to what Wes says, I would like to say that entertainment is an essential part of our biology. It may even be an increasing need as our species deals with ever greater stresses. I don't see entertainment as optional or a waste. The promise of interactive media is that through it we can provide that entertainment to consumers where they want it, when they want it, how they want it, at the lowest possible price, with increasing quality. It would be a shame if carelessness, on both the part of producers and regulators, caused that promise to be unrealized.

David Briggs
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I have a quibble with one part of this premise - "Now storytellers no longer needed to partner with sponsors who wanted to sell consumers products."

As an indie developer I know only too well that acquiring users in a cost effective manner is the singly most important and expensive part of launching a game. The app discovery process in the iOS ecosystem is massively stacked against small developers, and one of the only avenues available to us when promoting our games is through advertising channels.

I'd argue that while the form of the advertisements may change (think native ads that are streamlined into the gameplay/UX) their existence is in no jeopardy whatsoever - they are one of the only avenues available to developers looking to promote new games/existing developers to cross promote new products.

To loop this back to the topic at hand, the point I'm trying to make is that by its very nature Elated Monetization will never be able to bring in revenue at the level seen by games that have effectively implemented Distressed Monetization. The reasoning behind this statement is that elation inherently is governed by the law of diminishing returns - you'll get progressively less and less of a 'high' from playing a game, even if you're constantly encountering new content simply because your expectations will continue to rise. Games using Distressed Monetization schemes do not encounter this diminishing return, or at least not as drastically. Are "ethical" games economically feasible for indie developers, or will new regulations have a chilling effect on the industry? If they do and the market becomes less indie friendly, is that an inherently bad thing?

Ramin Shokrizade
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David I would agree with most of what you said except that there is one area of game development where there is very little diminishing returns. That is in truly social games because the binding from social interaction increases over time, not diminishes. This is why I only work on social games now. Note that I do not consider most social network games as social. I actually consider most of them antisocial.

I'm not sure why this should be a shocking revelation, because this is how games started.

edwin zeng
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@David Briggs, The ranking algorithm for iOS ecosystem has already changed. Now its back to focus on engagement, time spent, app ratings, etc. While advertisements are still being utilized, but they cannot guarantee a top spot in the rankings chart anymore. In fact, it may even guarantee a demerit on that app if Apple finds sufficient reason that it uses advertising to manipulate the charts.

You are definitely right on the part that it still is massively stacked against small developers, but you will realise that the chart and its top 100 free apps are now very different. So small developers now have a chance to get into the top 100 if they bother to makes apps that are engaging and allows for long usage sessions, just like how people are glued to the YouTube app on their daily travels.

Additionally, I believe it is possible to balance the rise in expectations with a rise in memorable experiences, so that it allows the developer to charge F2P/IAP in small purchases over time. (I am referring to what Curtiss Murphy mentioned earlier).

Mark Morrison
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You strengthened my opinion about rules Wes ;) RE: "Pay day loans, not serving a visibly intoxicated person another drink, credit card APRs, etc." None of those industries play by "the" rules." they play under their own rules which makes an incredibly subjective playing field. i'm wondering what a reasonable set of rules would be here? someone used the word impractical above somewhere. i think given the industry and the fact that it is so competitive we're not going to see this happen via govt. regulations, etc. it will be the industry or the crowd who helps affect change here IMO. great conversation here all, thanks!

Sauli Lehtinen
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Somewhat offtopic and my ontopic answer would be that free to play has become a cancer and needs to be destroyed to be reborn.

Anyway,
I don't care about people in general, but I care about children and IMO it's parents own stupidity if they let their kids to be manipulated by this kind of free to play mechanisms. Parents should test games before giving them to their kids or test games with their children. If there are monetization mechanisms that parents don't agree with, but evoke strong feelings in children they should discuss this with their child and make them understand that they don't have to play games that make them unhappy etc. If they don't do this you are a miserable parents and deserve all the bills caused by their kids actions. Maybe that'll teach them to treat their kids better.

Ok, that was pretty harsh, but anyway I don't believe in government control when it comes to games. If there needs to be control it should be birth control.

Curtiss Murphy
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Do you even have kids? As the father of two (18 and 14), I found your observations patently uninformed as to nature of how children mature into productive adults.

Bob Johnson
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Enjoyed the article!

Nooh Ha
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When I was a child i revceived modest but regular pocket money from my parents. How I spent that money was entirely up to myself but my main purchases were games and collectable cards/stickers (football stickers and star wars cards mainly). The latter category were sold in randomised packs with overt marketing-based encouragement to complete the set or the book. Buying and opening new card/sticker packs was hugely entertaining (even addictive) and my pocket money would often go in a single purchase on packs that would provide diminishing returns of new cards/stickers as my sets grew.

From this experience over several years I learned incredibly valuable lessons about managing my meagre financial resources, about income and expenditure and about the short-lived and ephemeral nature of the happiness that money can buy. This was all before I was 10.

There is an argument therefore that you should expose children to F2P games and even some of the more exploitative ones in order to teach them the basics of financial management and responsibility. Give them their pocket money in digital form (which most platforms support in one form or another) and let them work out for themselves what a good and bad purchase is using their own finite resources. It is arguably better than providing an endless flow of money on demand when the child asks for it or providing nothing at all leaving the child to experience this financial responsibility through friends or later in life.

Ramin Shokrizade
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Nooh Ha I hear this rational often as the reason why parents give their children an allowance. Learning the value of money early on, and keeping a budget are valuable lessons. I'm all for that. Making the leap that we need to make (keep) games dishonest because that is good for children seems a bit less rational.

In many cases children are learning more from games than they are from school. In my Third Tier of Game Development paper, I predict how soon games will replace schools. I can just imagine if our schools were like this:

Teacher: "Nooh! I stole your lunch money again! This is the third time this week! When will you learn?!?"

Maybe you are right, maybe we should teach our children from an early age that they live in a dark and cruel world, but the result will be dark and cruel people.

Eric Robertson
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>> "maybe we should teach our children from an early age that they live in a dark and cruel world"

I thought thats what the playground was for.

Phil Maxey
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It seems there is one simple solution to this issue. And it can only be implemented by the platform holders.

Implement a monthly limit on how much developers can charge within a game.

If that was set to $100 then nearly all these questions about "whales" misuse etc go away, and for the majority of people who probably don't spend anywhere near that, the limit would never come into effect.

Problem solved.

Curtiss Murphy
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$100/mo in a game seems ludicrous to me. Several game companies have begun implementing built in mechanisms for capping spending - for instance, once you've spend say $25, you get everything else there is to have too.

I'd like to see games with monetization schemes that result in larger AVERAGE spending, with almost no whales. Whales, as an idea and practice, is harmful to our industry. Whether it takes years or a decade, I cannot see how a rational society will not eventually lash against it.

I agree it's a person's right to spend $1000s of dollars on their hobbies, and yet, I don't believe the prevalent manipulations of Candy Crush, Farmville, etc are comparable in value to experiences like sky-diving, snowboarding, or trips to far-away resorts.

Phil Maxey
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$100 was just an example, it would probably be equally fine to make it $60. The point is, is if the platform holders put a cap on monthly spend it resolves a lot of the issues which dog F2P.

warren blyth
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Thanks for writing this! (really kinda freaked me out. I'm distributing as widely as I can).

One quick clarifying question : When I noted the dying bambi example (from Frontierville, a game I've never played), another game developing friend noted he never saw that when he played the game.
I googled up this page http://www.lightchan.com/frontierville-black-deer/ so I'm sure it exists (or existed).
but I'm curious if you were saying this is something every player encounters in their first hour (and how you would know).

If these dirty tricks do end up being regulated I'm curious how they'll be verified. How can the watchmen be sure the dirty trick is forced on everyone, unless the developer shows them the code?
(guessing I need to read the "OFT" thing mentioned in comments above). Curious if you experienced the dying bambi in 2011, but maybe it has been removed from the game since then, or simply changed to be more of a random encounter instead of a first hour litmus test.

Ramin Shokrizade
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Warren, I don't know if it exists now, and I believe Zynga has shut down that game for good. There is now a The Pioneer Trail game instead. I assume it has been revised. Nonetheless, I wrote down the details of Dying Bambi in 2011 for posterity. I would imagine it appeared for everyone. I was not spending so it is not like the game was reacting to my "whaleness". Reading the OFT principles would be a good move.

Marvel Superhero Squad Online is my new standard for "creepy" for online children's games, this is the product I focused primarily on in Panama.

Joshua Dallman
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There's a lot to say about this piece but my biggest criticism of it is the manipulative title, "The Titanic Effect."

You create a make-believe situation, where a movie audience has two buttons in the middle of the movie to determine the fate of the main character, then name an "effect" after this situation of make-believe that has never happened and never will, then use THAT made up effect fashioned after a made up situation (with a made-up and presumed outcome) to leverage criticism against a completely different medium and industry, one that's at its core interactive instead of passive, and further conflate a film's main character with a game's incidental one. It is ironic that in trying to show the manipulations of F2P you yourself must resort to such great (and obvious) manipulation.

The single game you referenced is from 2010. In presenting your argument show us a swath of current, top-grossing examples of the alleged mechanic. Everyone knows the 2010 Tap Zoo "Let it Die" button. Show me recent examples with high DAU's to show that this is actually happening and not a design outlier and build your case up from there.

Ramin Shokrizade
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Joshua I suspect I will be calling Titanic Effects something more appropriate in the future. I would love some audience suggestions on more appropriate terms!

This is meant as a short article, it is just a piece of what I presented in Panama (where I spoke for nearly an hour) and in that speech I addressed all of your concerns. Alas I don't intend to write another (longer) article here in the comments section to satisfy your concerns but if you take a look at Marvel Super Hero Squad Online you will see a more modern example of some of the issues that concern me about children's games.

Joshua Dallman
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Sorry I missed Panama, the point of online forums like GamaSutra is the free exchange of information amongst professional developers. If you don't wish to rebuke my assessment, I have to only conclude that there is no rebuke. Vaguely waving towards Marvel Super Hero Squad Online does nothing to enlighten the issue. You can say 'this is my opinion, if you don't agree I don't have time to argue' but that's not exactly high quality peer reviewed thought work.

Alexander Jhin
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Interesting ideas, but I'm a little confused by the Titanic example. Both of the Titanic monetizing examples (save Leo -OR- save some other random person) seem to me to be Dying Bambi, distressed monetization moments. Yet, the article seems to imply they are elated monetization moments! Is not saving Leo very similar to Saving Bambi?

Indeed, I would like more examples of elated monetization in general as there don't appear to be any examples in the article (with the exception of the false Titanic example, which is actually distressed monetization.)

If elated monetization simply means the viewer/player is enraptured before paying, then all "elated monetization" is saying is that the game was good before asking for money! In which case, it's only "ethical" to ask for money if your game is good and has enraptured the player? I can't imagine that's what's being argued. =)

Add to that, in most of the elated monetization examples (putting money in a busker's hat) we don't expect the receiver of the money to change the outcome of a performance based on whether they received money or not. Rather, we are paying out of elation for an experience that has already happened: We aren't paying for the busker to play a different song or change the ending of a movie or grant a special widget.

Maybe I'm just missing something. As an aside, saving Leo or saving a random person undercuts the very idea of a tragedy: That no matter what you do, things are going to end up terribly. This is a perfect example where taking control out of the viewer/players hands is a GOOD thing. You can't have tragedy without inevitable, unstoppable loss. (Now, if you had to choose between Rose or Jack dying at the end of Titanic, that would still be tragedy.)

Ramin Shokrizade
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I'm having a very difficult time understanding how anyone could have interpreted the people dying on the Titanic as elation. I also have a very difficult time coming up with examples of elated monetization other than in my private (not yet deployed) monetization models as almost all conventional F2P models leverage distressed monetization to force conversion.

Alexander Jhin
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Thank you for your response. I get what you're saying now...

For me, what threw me off was this sentence:
"If you have a consumer enraptured by the Titanic Effect and bring them to a state of elation, and THEN monetize them, I call this Elated Monetization."

For some reason, I didn't GROK that sentence correctly. So, the article is saying: the Titanic Effect is good for making Elation Monetization better by pulling an emotional 180: You're sad... but whew happiness (now pay us!)

There are some issues: If Elation Monetization occurs AFTER elation, the player may not be incentivized to pay at all. They're already elated, why pay other than from the goodness of their hearts?

Additionally, couldn't Elated Monetization happen in absence of any Titanic Effect? A discussion of that would also be useful... especially since the other examples of Elation Monetization (putting money in the hat of a busker) doesn't involve ANY Titanic Effect.

And of course, once you release your private models, we'll be able to have a more concrete discussion of examples of elation monetization.

Thanks.

Brandon Van Every
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I assume that a Facebook gift card or equivalent, is a prepaid, preloaded card that can only be used for the amount of value contained in the card. So the risk is the child blowing the $50 or whatever the giver gave them on the card, not the $1000 button like the poster said. In fact, I'd like to see legislation that the use of credit or bank accounts in game transactions be made illegal. Prepaid only. Then consumers lose exactly what they prepaid for. The kid gets a hard lesson from his parents about wasting money on stuff. Or the parents have an exceptional level of wealth, or stupidity, where we really shouldn't care about their problems raising a child properly.

Ramin Shokrizade
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Just because these cards are called gift cards does not mean there was any gifting involved. It just sounds nicer to call it that so that is what the marketing guys came up with. An 8 year old can use such a card to bypass the 13 year old age limitations on Facebook games at will without anyone else being in the loop.


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