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All "insert business model" games suck!
by Remi Lavoie on 02/07/14 02:12:00 pm   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.

 

[This is a repost from the PixelCrucible website]

Hello,

I’m Rémi from Pixel Crucible, and we make Free to Play (F2P) games for mobile platforms.

Free to Play!!!!???

  • Clearly we are greedy bastards only out to get rich, right?
  • We wear suits and look at numbers all day, right?
  • We don’t care about our players; we only care about their money, right?
  • We aren’t “true” gamers; we don’t know games, right?



This is probably how you imagine we look

Well, if you look at the recent debates floating around on the Internet recently, you’d be inclined to think so. A lot of people, including some high profile people in the industry, have been painting a really horrible picture of F2P, and a lot of recent games have clearly not helped. Sadly, most of the games you will hear about, are those that are not doing it right. Some of them made by big companies with less than stellar regard towards their fan base, and they can afford to pay big bucks for marketing to help them reach the top of the charts. This has generated a lot of hate speech towards all F2P games, like this article, mostly based on one game (Dungeon Keeper). How quickly people have forgotten about another game published by EA, made by it’s PopCap studio, that was almost unanimously praised for its design and incredible use of the F2P model (at least in the West), Plants vs. Zombies 2.

Unfortunately, some of the most vocal people on the subject do not work in F2P games, and in all likelihood have not played every single F2P game ever made. Yet, they feel compelled to express generalized opinions like:

  • “All F2P games suck!” or
  • “I hate F2P!”

Well I’m here to shed some light on what it’s really like to work in F2P, the reasons why we did so, how we did it, how we treat our players, and how it has worked out for us.

The Why

We are a newly formed development team and MacGuffin Quest is our first title as Pixel Crucible. So as a new company, our biggest goal was getting people to play our game. With that in mind, we wanted to eliminate as many obstacles as possible that would prevent people from doing so. As is the case with mobile games, a price point (even as low as 99¢) will deter most people from ever trying it.
As pointed out by Nicholas Lovell in his book The Curve, as digital distribution costs get closer to zero, it drives the price point closer to zero as well. The App Store being what it is, it’s so hard getting the attention of users in a sea of apps that putting a price on your game significantly reduces the potential of your game being downloaded. Users expect a price point of “Free”, and anything different that does not have the advantage of great brandingawesome reputation or outstanding media attention has little chance of finding its way to that person’s phone.
Being a new company, we don’t have a well known name, we don’t have a well known brand or product, and we knew from that outset that we would likely not get much media attention, so going Free was the obvious choice to meet our objective of getting people playing our game.

Financially, it also made sense to adhere to a business model that allows a flowing revenue stream, instead of just spikes of revenue at certain points (release, featuring, etc). Spikes, which for mobile games without the previously mentioned advantages, are not that great anyway, and can potentially be more limiting than helpful. (Oh you greedy bastards, trying to keep your company alive, and you know, eat and stuff…)

The How

Contrary to popular belief, we are gamers. We grew up in the early days of consoles, and have been playing games ever since we were able to manipulate a joystick. We love games, we love playing them, we love making them, we respect them, and we respect the players.



Me playing the Spelunky Daily Challenge (which I try to do every day) during my lunch break, while Alex distracts me by taking pictures during final boss.

So in that sense, it was of critical importance to us that our game did not have hard pay walls. At no point in MacGuffin Quest is it impossible to keep on playing unless you spend money. This is not a random occurrence, this is by design because we wanted it that way.
We don’t like games that have hard pay walls, and we did not want to subject our players to them either. This is a decision that most likely cost us some potential revenue, but it’s something that we stand by. We don’t wear suits to work, we wear t-shirts and jeans (if wearing pants at all), and we are here to get to work and make games. The stats we look at the most are where people are dropping out of the game and where they are having trouble so we can adjust difficulty levels, drop rates and make sure the tutorial feels right.

All purchases in our game are there simply to accelerate your progression or allow you to get even further on your current playthrough. They are not required; they are there to help you out if you are enjoying yourself and want to see more.

We are not trying to squeeze out every penny from every player and we are not trying to “trick” players into spending. That is in fact not at all how F2P should work. Most people will not give you a dime… and that’s OK (again I refer you toThe Curve)!

People who spend money in our game are people who actually enjoy it and look forward to unlocking new in-game content. They spend on things that have value to them as fans of the game, or just want to help us out and show their support. If they get buyer’s remorse, then we didn’t do our job correctly, and this is something we are very attentive to.

In fact, when we got feedback that something in our game was even perceived as a pay wall, we quickly made adjustments to correct the situation, updated the tutorial flow and first-time user experience to make sure everything was clear for the player. At no point should they feel pressured to make a purchase. You know why? Because we care about our players, and we care about our game.

How it played out

  • Are we ridiculously rich and going to appear on the cover of Fortune Magazine? Heck no.
  • Are we on top of the list on every review website and media outlets? Probably not.
  • Did we gain a lot of new friends, and new fans? Heck yes!
  • Did we learn more than we ever did before? You bet!

We were fortunate enough to have been selected as part of Execution Labs, an indie incubator/accelerator in Montreal. As part of this program we were partially financed, and had the great benefit of meeting a lot of mentors who helped us out tremendously.
We are doing very modestly with our first game. In fact, as of now, we are not even covering our costs. We have learned a lot though, and have met some insanely awesome people along the way: from the incredible mentors that stopped by the labs, to the fans that enjoyed our game and supported us in our endeavor. It has been a wild crazy ride fueled by blood, sweat and tears, that has prepared us in the harshest of ways for our next projects, and our next moves. We are super grateful for Execution Labs’ support, and for believing in us enough to keep us on board as an internal team, so we can continue to make games and hone our skills.

  • So are people like us ruining the gaming industry?
  • Are we the scum of the earth for doing free to play?
  • Do we need to stop this F2P plague before it destroys consoles?
  • Are we evil?

I don’t think so, and I certainly hope you don’t think so either.
F2P has allowed us to get people playing our game, and get the fans that are reading this article right now.

  • Are we hurt when respected developers, industry veterans, or others make comments like “F2P games suck“?

Well, yes we are, we make F2P games that don’t suck (in my opinion, and those of the reviews we have gotten) that are friendly towards our players, and are not greedy. We don’t appreciate being lumped in the same group as people making bad F2P games just because we use the same business model. There are many ways of making F2P games, just as there are many ways to make Pay to Play games. Making broad generalizations, without actually playing the games you are talking about, doesn’t hurt the big greedy corporations Instead it hurts every other little guy doing it right and just trying to make a living and get people playing their game. This is the case for a lot of F2P developers, most of whom you never heard of, who are just making enough money to get by or getting a following for their next project. And they’re not evil at all. They are just like pretty much all other game developers who love games and just want to build games and have as many people as possible play them.

You can not like the F2P model, and not make F2P games, that’s totally fine and respectable. What works for you, works for you. But you can’t put all the F2P games in the same category, just like you can’t put all the P2P games in the same category.
So the next time you’re thinking of posting your opinion online, think about its goal, think about the real information you have, and think about who it’s going to hurt. There is no need to attack ALL free to play games, just because you played (or even just heard about) a bad one.

Judging games by their business model is like judging books by their covers… and we all know what they say about that.

Thank you so much for reading this.


---

Additional Reading:

Some examples of people/studios doing F2P right:

  • NimbleBit (Pocket Trains, Nimble Quest, Pocket Plains, Tiny Tower, Tiny Death Star, Pocket Frogs, etc)
  • Halfbrick (Jetpack Joyride, Fish Out of Water, Band Stars)
  • Roofdog Games (Extreme Road Trip 2, Pocket Mine)
  • Other Games: Plants vs Zombies 2, Subway Surfers, Mega Dead Pixel, Pixel People, Tiny Troopers 2, Puzzle Craft, etc.
  • Any many others that we sadly never hear about.

     

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Comments


SD Marlow
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The Dungeon Keeper flap has less to do with monetization and more to do with the mobile version COMPLETELY CHANGING the core game mechanics that made the first two so special. It's just some mobile game that was skinned to look like a classic and allowed to bare the official trademark.

"... as digital distribution costs get closer to zero, it drives the price point closer to zero as well." Ah, remind me to never buy that book. A low or free "price point" doesn't mean your game is automatically listed in a top 20 list somewhere, so setting a price based on discoverability doesn't make sense. Also, If you ARE in that top list, being free de-values your game to the point where most people might not even play it after it is downloaded with like 20 other free games that day.

NOBODY likes the "hard" paywall. But when people see FREE or F2P in association with any game, even known IP from a known company, it's exactly that idea of a paywall that keeps them from taking a second look (which is another reason to NOT use "free" as a way to attract players).

I was kind of with you as you mentioned being gamers and not wanting to get in the way of game play, but "accelerate your progression" and "allow you to get even further" are examples of the F2P paywall getting in the way of game play.

F2P mostly means "we built a game, broke it's knees, and are selling crutches and wheelchairs at half price to make playing it more fun!" The games held up high as examples of F2P done right (or just as "see, F2P works" or "see, lots of people DO like it") are mechanically sound with zero paywall. They are F2A: Free to Accessories. It's cool looking armor that provide no additional protection from the one you get free in the game (but makes other really jell). It's about replacing your horse with an ostrich for no other benefit than being able to call him Glenn.

Spending money because they really like your game is NOT the same as spending money because they really want to improve the gaming experience. A free game that only charges for fluff and bling doesn't belong in the F2P group.

Nicholas Lovell
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My argument about free in The Curve has nothing to do with getting easy discoverability by being free. It is more that when distribution costs trend to zero, your competitors will figure out how to give away for free that thing that you used to charge for and they will figure out how to make money from it, too. This will train consumers to expect products in your category for free, making it very hard to maintain premium price points.

But I love the way that you would rather assume I am wrong on an ideological basis rather than reading the book and engaging with the arguments on their merits.

SD Marlow
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Actually, I think your wrong based on the synopsis of your book and your response to my comment. Even if it doesn't cost anything to ship a game, it still costs money to make one. And this hard to unravel point your making about competing games giving away the once incurred cost of shipping while still finding a way to charge for it (even if it isn't there anymore) further focuses on the wrong aspect of digital pricing.

"... accepting that millions of people now expect your product for free—because a small number of high spenders are enough to build a profitable business." No, a vocal minority want AAA quality games for free while they laugh at the "whales" that are dumb enough to spend thousands on a game that doesn't cost anything to play. The real marketplace is people spending money on whatever products are placed in front of them because they never venture into the 500,000 + catalog nor do they spend time on sites that review games.

"... the focus is no longer on how many units you can sell. It is on how you can satisfy those users who are happy to pay enormous amounts of money for things they value." If you are pushing a F2P game, then hell yes it's about how many units you can give away. And again, being free doesn't mean "more units discovered," which is a prerequisite to the downloading part. Players value character customization and not having to wait a set amount of time to play the next level, but only one of those things is a REAL value.

"This idea has already transformed areas like music, books, and film, and is rapidly spreading to the physical world as 3D printing becomes reality and the specter of piracy hits businesses of every kind." Wow. The irony is that your taking a narrow aspect of internet culture and presenting it to a larger audience for consumption (and charging an up-front fee rather than giving your book away and asking for donations). I don't know of any movie theaters that show movies for free while charging $65 for a small Pepsi to cover the ticket costs, but I suspect you were thinking more along the lines of illegal downloads, and somehow equating that with "being free." Do you have an example of a torrented movie that has lots of short intermissions you can pay to skip over? Yeah, see, not the same thing.

Perhaps I should read your book. The number of comments and corrections I make would be enough to fill a book of my own. I could even give away one chapter a week or allow people to pay a small fee for all the chapters at once.

Nicholas Lovell
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Your suspicion is wrong

Ozzie Smith
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I never played PvZ 2 but didn't it require copious amounts of grinding in order to progress to different levels unless the player paid money? IE forced to replay the same level several times to get stars out of it or something?

Personally I don't enjoy F2P games because having to ever think about spending real money in a game ruins my enjoyment. It brings the real-world stress of money management into the experience instead of being about to just focus on the game. I'd much rather have a perfectly balanced experience by paying $60 or $1 or whatever up-front instead of having the game for free and then stressing out about whether or not this virtual thing is worth my real money. And when I say "stressing out" I'm not actually super stressed or anything about spending a few dollars on a thing, but it's just that sort of decision-making is inherently extremely not fun and a terrible mix for a game for me.

I don't think the problem is the F2P model as much as it is this race to the bottom for mobile developers, where even 1 dollar is too much for most people because there are so many free options. So now there are tons of games that could have been perfectly fine premium games that are instead F2P (and gameplay suffers as a result) so that the developers can try to actually make money off of their game. And even then it seems like only the top .5% of developers end up making any real money anyway (actually maybe I'm wrong on that?).

It's just so crazy to me that the entire F2P model generally only works because 1% of the player-base is actually willing to pay for anything in the first place.

Kyle Redd
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Also, PvZ 2 shouldn't be used as an example of a "good" F2P game in the first place: http://67.227.255.239/forum/showthread.php?t=765017

Even when a publisher releases a F2P game with a reasonable pricing model, there's nothing stopping them from tweaking that model in the future when they want to up the cash flow.

Michael Joseph
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"Judging games by their business model is like judging books by their covers…"

lol. no it's not. f2p is not a superficial aspect of a game's design.

Remi Lavoie
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My point is that it's clearly not the only aspect that you should judge a game by. I simply recommend that you try out a game (especially when it's free to do so), to be able to make an informed decision or judgement about it, instead of dismissing it up-front because of its price point.

Remi Lavoie
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You wouldn't assume a game is good because it's paid right? Then why would you assume it's bad because it's free?

Kujel s
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"You wouldn't assume a game is good because it's paid right? Then why would you assume it's bad because it's free?"

Becase F2P directly effects the gameplay!

James McDermott
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If I may elaborate further, Mr. Lavoie's argument would, were we not talking about F2P games, be completely valid; saying the original freeware releases of Spelunky, Cave Story, and Super Meat Boy are automatically bad because they're free is erroneous simply because their creators were making them available at no cost.

However, F2P games, in general, as they currently exist are designed to require pay-for systems which fill purposely-designed holes in the game's design (i.e. a Tetris clone has collision detection which fails at high speeds, making the game nigh-unplayable unless you pay for the ability to slow down time for a single playthrough of a level) at the very least, mitigate purposely-designed annoyances (i.e. leveling up is slower than it should be unless you pay for an XP booster). Therefore, judging a F2P game as bad is, thanks to how such games generally work, is a sadly-accurate bias.

Sadly, based on what I've read in this article, MacGuffin Quest is no exception to the rule. While it is stated in the article that no hard paywalls exist - e.g. no part of the game is designed to require players to pay money to progress - there is nothing which suggests players are not subtly encouraged to pay for items which, as stated in the article, "accelerate your progression or allow you to get even further on your current playthrough". For example, while the rate of acquiring items might seem fair to most people, the rate, when compared to actual consumption, might be set just low enough that they will, at least, be tempted to pay some money to get the items faster. Provided the game can be completed, not just played (as stated in the article), without paying, this temptation will pass.

Theresa Catalano
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"You wouldn't assume a game is good because it's paid right? Then why would you assume it's bad because it's free?"

You know why? Because "good" F2P games are like needles in a haystack. The image F2P games have is entirely justified. If people keep getting burned by a particular business model, it's only natural it has a negative image.

Alexander Symington
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I can understand it must be very frustrating to keep hearing things along the lines of 'F2P games always have worse game design than upfront fee games', when that is clearly a logically flawed position - there are major existing counter-examples of F2P games in which all IAPs are cosmetic, such as DotA2 and Path of Exile.

Nonetheless, the state of the overall market is unfortunately such that 'F2P SUCKS' is a very effective and reasonable heuristic for a core gamer to apply when selecting what to play. (By 'core' gamer, I mean a consumer who has enough experience of the videogames market to innately understand the typical hidden cost of 'free', not necessarily someone who likes FPSs, etc.)

Although it's of course not safe to assume that an unknown upfront fee game will be good, and that a free game will be bad, it *is* statistically extremely likely that the former will at least be better than the latter. This is because while it is *possible* for IAP not to force direct compromises on a game's balance or pacing, this best-case scenario is extremely rare in the real world. Most F2P games are either part of a minority like Jetpack Joyride where the compromises are relatively small (yet still significant enough that it could offer a better player experience under a different business model), or part of the majority where they seriously damage the game's playability.

At this point, you may feel that it's unfair that the hypothetical deciding player hasn't bothered to play your game to determine which category it belongs it. But the very saturation of the games market that gave rise to F2P in the first place means that she may have sufficient other options that it is a more efficient use of her time to just filter out all F2P games, at the cost of a relatively small number of false negatives.

'Users who expect free' and 'users who expect free to be bad' are two quite divergent groups, and what is a welcome mat to one may be an obstacle to the other. It's very difficult for an individual game to please both at once.

Martin Juranek
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f2p (or could be rephrased as unlimited cost games) is damaging force for game. Its maginitude can be small (when devs/publishers are not greedy), but can change and players know it.
It is not the only force and definitely not the only one negative.
But as customer, if I for sure know that in some game is something that tends to make games bad, and in other it is not, I tend to avoid the one that has higher likelyhood of being bad. It is only tendency, not hard rule. But I play PC games, not mobile ones.

David Keen
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"Unlimited Cost Games" is a far more accurate descriptor than "Free to Play".

Remi Lavoie
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Just to make things clear. I am not trying to make the argument that one business model is better than another. In fact quite the opposite, I want people to chose one that works for them, and let others do the same. I want people to stop making generalized statements about one or the other, without the proper information.

I play just as much pay up front games, as I do F2P ones. I evaluate them on the actual merits of the game (after having played them) not on on their price point.

Peter Thierolf
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I don't care about a business model as long as it is fair to consumers.

Right now I don't think this is true with most F2P games as I have no way to figure out what potential cost would result from my decision to engage with the game before playing, or not at all in many cases.

Your game MacGuffin Quest does not give me any clue as to the value of 'Small Combo' or any of the other in apps so how am I supposed to make an informed decision about the game ?

You might argue that it is free to play until I find out about the value - however that is not true. I will have to invest the most valuable resources I have at hand which is my private time and goodwill.

If playing a payed app I can see associated cost right away, it is as fair a deal as it gets today with lets plays, reviews and free demos for many games.

As far as I get it, your game falls foul of the spirit of the british fair trade principles http://www.oft.gov.uk/shared_oft/consumer-enforcement/oft1519.pdf

Admittedly, your game might be an example of a non-evil, enjoyable F2P game, but one can see where the big money is, it is in the skinner boxes.

Guess what happens to the businesses that don't earn enough for the investors to be interested ? You might continue doing 'nice' games as a hobby, if the market is not going to be regulated so the worst practices get illegal.

Remi Lavoie
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1) "with lets plays, reviews and free demos for many games."
You do know reviews and videos also exist for free games too, right? Also, what is a free demo if not a way to try out the game first to make an informed decision on whether or not it has enough value for you to spend money on it?

2) In the case where you can't find reviews or videos. In the same amount of time it would take you to read/watch those reviews, you could be actually trying out the game first hand. Within that time, you should have enough information to decide if you want to spend more time playing game or not. If you decide to play more, then perhaps at some point the IAP will start to have value to you, or perhaps they won't, that's totally fine too. At any rate, at that point, it's like any other purchase you would make in your life, only you can decide if it has enough value to spend money on.

3) Regarding time, I understand that one, I also feel like I have very little spare time. Surely though, you must have "some" spare time to play the games that you download (let alone pay for) or else why download them (or spend money on them) in the first place?


I am not saying, please play every single game ever made, I am just asking please do not judge games that you have not tried, that's all.

Peter Thierolf
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I wasn't talking about the game, but about the *deal*.
I will have a look at some lets plays for f2p games but I doubt they show me what the different in-apps are in value across the game.

I played probably an hour of candy crush saga at which point I learned I had to pay like $4 for three boosters. With no idea how much I could possibly require to proceed through the game.

I would have not had the smallest kind of a problem if that game would have told me 'buy the full game for $10 *OR* buy this booster' - but no chance. I was really angry because I invested an hour trying to learn an interesting game only to find out there is no way to honestly buy it later on.

Sorry, that is not a fair deal. I refuse to invest my time into such deals, I also wouldn't accept free cinema only to find out later on I have to buy an unknown number of things to see the end of the flick.

I clearly understand you need to earn money, and I also understand there is nearly no chance to earn money on mobile with payed apps. Why don't you give the cost of a typical run through your game before I buy it ?

Would you allow your children to sign into such kind of an agreement ?

Peter Thierolf
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Well, I have watched the video material that there is on youtube about MacGuffin Quest, but there was nothing in it in terms of in-apps.

Where should I turn to to get honest information about the business deal ?

Robert Green
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I think your main point is largely true, but I also think it's largely irrelevant. People may make unfair generalisations about all mobile F2P games, but it's less likely that they actually think all F2P games must fit those generalisations, and more likely that they simply think that there are enough bad F2P games out there, especially among the higher profile ones, that they've been turned off the whole lot. Trying to make better games and convince those people that there are good ones out there is a noble attempt, but right now the amount of effort consumers have to go through to find the good ones may be too much, especially in a segment of the market that wants a quick fix for free.

Let me pose another, perhaps more important, question to you Remi:
Is it unfair to judge a business model based on the products that thrive using it? Certainly there are terrible games in every segment of the market, but looking at the top-selling console games, you'll notice very few duds in there.

Remi Lavoie
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Very valid point Robert, and well expressed.

If you have been burned by the free to play games you have played and are shying away from them now, that's totally understandable.
If that is the case for you, I understand and respect it.

The only thing I ask is that you do not go posting things like:
"All F2P games suck!"
(Which I am not accusing of doing, by the way)

There's a BIG difference between saying "I didn't like the games I have played that use free 2 play" and "I don't like ALL F2P games".

Just to be clear, I would make the same argument for paid games also. Saying "ALL X is Y" is fundamentally flawed, unless you have truly experienced all of X, and even then, unless Y is only observational, it falls in the matter of opinion.

To answer your question: I don't think it's unfair to judge a *Business Model* based on the products that thrive using it, it's not the best approach, but it is understandable.
What is unfair though, is judging all *Games* using that business model, without having tried them.

You wouldn't say a paid game sucks without having played it, right?
You wouldn't say a movie sucks without having seen it, right? Regardless of whether it was free or paid.

So all I'm asking, is that we do not judge all games following a certain business model as a same lot. There are a lot of varied styles, and genres and gameplays within a specific business model, and it should be impossible to consider them all the same.

Amir Barak
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Eh, no.
There's nothing wrong with saying, "all movies that stop halfway through to ask you for an extra 5.99$ to continue watching, suck". It's not saying that the movie itself is bad but rather the practice of it (which is now a part of the movie) is terrible and detrimental to the overall value of the experience. Which is exactly like saying "all f2p games suck". It's not that the game itself is necessarily bad but that the practice of affecting the gameplay experience via a monetization scheme is somewhat of a *sucky* nature.

Remi Lavoie
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You are right:
"all movies that stop halfway through to ask you for an extra 5.99$ to continue watching, suck" is totally justifiable.

Saying:
"all movies that are free suck" isn't, because now you are assuming that all movies that are free will stop halfway to charge 5.99$, which is not true.

There's a difference here.

Sam Stephens
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@ Amir Barak

I think if your analogies to movies were true, movies would be produced in different way to fit this business model. The filmmaking process would change to conform with the model. What the audience would get from these changes could very well be inferior to the standard we have today. That is, I believe, the problem with F2P. The model definitely does affect the gameplay in a negative way because business decisions are being made that often work against good game design.

E Zachary Knight
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Amir,

So do you hate television? Television forces you to stop watching the show 2, 3, 4 or 5 times and forces you to watch advertisements if you want to continue watching the show. So under your argument, all television sucks.

I hope you see how ridiculous your argument is in this arena.

Daniel Smith
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Actually, advert ridden TV *does* suck (imo) - I "cut the cord" years ago, and now watch pretty much only netflix/amazon/google play etc. Watching the Olympics on OTA TV in the last couple of days, and being constantly bombarded by ads, has been a horrible experience.

Do I hate all TV because of this? No, of course not. But i do find i'm strongly disliking the particular business model of ad-supported TV.

Amir Barak
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Hehe, I was about to reply to Sam that his point raised was interesting in terms of film and that the result is what we call television.

I actually haven't watched public television in many years so I don't know. I do know that commercial breaks definitely lower the experience of watching.

"So under your argument, all television sucks"
No, under my argument all advert-based public television shows suck as a practice/experience. And yes, it does by the way which is why I don't watch it. And not all television shows are stopped halfway for ads so, no, not all television sucks. And the fact that we've developed ways AROUND this stupid mechanic shows that it is not a popular one.

In the end film and television are not interactive and these monetization schemes (commercials) are external to the experience not inherent within the experience (unlike say; product placements and/or making whole shows around toy lines - which is a subject for a different discussion).

Monetizing an internal mechanic directly translates into gameplay, even at the most basic/innocent layer (hats, for example) because it means you're [sub]consciously allowing the need to make money out of the mechanic to govern its interactions with the rest of the game systems.

Amir Barak
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"I hope you see how ridiculous your argument is in this arena"
So ridiculous that nobody:
1. Records the show and fast forwards the commercials.
2. Records the shows WITHOUT the commercials.
2. Buys the DVD without the commercials.
4. Gets up to get a soda.
5. Pays for a cables so they don't get commercials.
???

The fact that people bypass this system or ignore it and that alternative and better systems have been developed instead of it is surely an indication that it is not only flawed but also unpopular. So I fail to see how this argument is ridiculous?

Robert Green
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Also, a minor point of clarification: During a typical TV show the ads stop you from watching about 1/4 - 1/3 of the time.
Many F2P games start by wanting to pause the game for longer than you just played it for, then build up to the point of wanting you to wait for days just to be able to interact with it again.
It may seem like a matter of degrees, but I think you'll agree that somewhere between having to stop for 1/3 of the time and having to stop for 999/1000 of the time, most people would find a qualitative difference.

TC Weidner
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the problem with F2P games now is that the consumer is being conditioned to think that games should be "free" ( we are painting ourselves into a corner) And then that leaves developers with only the not so envious position of having to try to create all type of "schemes" in order to simply get paid. Our focus should be about making fun games, not monetization models. Getting paid shouldnt be this much work. We need not feel sleazy about simply asking for money for our work.
If I wanted to screw people by nickel and diming them and by spending my day worrying about how to best extract money from people, I would of simply stayed in investment banking. Tons more money there since you screw people out of way more than just nickels and dimes.Its just sad to see money extraction coming into this industry as well.

Sam Stephens
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"Our focus should be about making fun games, not monetization models."

But I think many F2P developers do have fun in mind when they are making games. The goal is to make the experience as fun and pleasurable as possible. However, there are other emotions that are a very valuable part of the gameplay experience. Challenge, frustration, a sense of self-accomplishment, puzzlement, and many others are also important, but they are not always positive experiences. So F2P games tend cut them out by allowing people to pay for an advantage or to skip challenges. They are often only about making games fun and not giving the full range of expression inherent to skill based challenges.

TC Weidner
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The goal is to make the experience as fun and pleasurable as possible.

But it cant be in F2P design, thats the problem. You have to create road blocks and toll booths. You have to create problems, so people can then later pay to avoid them. You have to begin thinking about how your gonna get paid, how you are gonna extract money from some of your customers as soon as you begin designing, to me, that's not what many here got into the industry to do.

Sam Stephens
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When developers are asking questions like "what do players find fun?," "what will keep people playing the game?," or "how do we give the player complete satisfaction?," they are ultimately thinking in business terms. So when we say that our goal is to make video games "as fun and pleasurable as possible," what we are really talking about is customer satisfaction. As I said, fun and pleasure are only part of the experience. I think it makes for bad design to deny those other parts through F2P business model or any other business model.

TC Weidner
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Gaming for people is a pleasurable pastime, a hobby. It doesnt have to include grindy, expensive, frustrating work. I find it really curious that you think it does. No one is saying eliminate challenges and so forth, we are saying dont design in drudgery and roadblocks.

as for designing a game with business in mind, again? I dont want business men designing games. I really dont.

Sam Stephens
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-"Gaming for people is a pleasurable pastime."

Certainly. I don't have a problem with this per say. Going to see crummy blockbuster movies is a popular pastime as well. That is not to say that crummy blockbusters are evil or wrong, but I think we can agree that they often lack the best experiences that movies can offer.

-"It doesn't have to include grindy, expensive, frustrating work."

It depends on what you mean by "grindy," "expensive," and "work." I definitely don't want any of those things in games, but many people use these words just to dismiss the parts of games they don't like. All games require learning in order to play. The process of learning is inherently going to contain some stress, "work," and occasionally failure, even for those who are not so dedicated. The F2P model, with its aim for customer satisfaction, seeks to eliminate these seemingly negative feelings. F2P games tend to feature transactions that allow the player to make the game easier or circumvent challenges entirely in order to create a stress-free experience. I can understand why. Some people get enough of this in their daily lives as it is. However, I don't think they would be getting the most meaningful experience by playing games that downplay these elements.

I can already hear you saying "but why do you get to decide which experiences are more "meaningful" to people than others?" To that, I can only direct you to Jesper Juul's essay The Art of Failure. It's an excellent read and I would recommend it to anyone who is trying to understand players and the experience of gameplay.

David Keen
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"All purchases in our game are there simply to accelerate your progression or allow you to get even further on your current playthrough."

This sounds exactly like a paywall to me, if not a hard paywall, certainly a soft one. If I need to pay to accelerate through artificially slow progression to enjoy a game, I'm not interested in it. I've got no problem with a free to play that charges to remove ads, that charges for minor visual tweaks, or adds additional content, but charging to speed along the game just leads to game design that feels like it requires paying to play at a decent rate.

Nicholas Lovell
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The conversion rate on a F2P game is typically 55%. That means that 95% of players get all of that enjoyment for free.

70% of people who have finished Candy Crush Saga, (yes, finished - all 450 levels at the time Tommy Palm gave out the statistic -) have never paid a cent.

I still struggle to see what is so bad about giving so much away for free when so many people play and play and play at zero cost.

Joel Bitar
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I see the "The 70% of people who have finished candy crush saga have never paid a cent" statistic thrown around a lot in these types of discussions, but to me it seems like it doesn't actually mean anything? I mean the "finishers" seems to be a very self-selected group.

1) The types of players willing to "finish" a hard game in the first place are more likely to be good at that specific type of game. CCS fools most players into thinking they're alright at the game even though they're pretty bad, then block them with "real challenges". The "play-to-the-end" type players overcome these challenges because they're either better at the game or...

2) Have general game-community awareness of things like walkthroughs, strategy tip videos etc. And finally what makes the number useless...

3) We don't know how many players have actually finished the game. For instance if you have a game that in order to complete you need to have incredible luck, or buy a single 500$ booster. With a large enough player-base you could probably say that 99% of players who completed the game did it without spending a dime.

Bob Fox
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@Nich

Many players who play F2P games don't really enjoy them, they have no choice because publishers control how games are coded. Most people are too tech illiterate to make informed market decisions. To put it another way the 5-10% of the gaming population who understands how they are getting fucked are outnumbered by clueless people.

Market theory only works when one is qualified to participate in that market. Otherwise it's just taking advantage of people.

F2P tends to break classic games, I really enjoyed Need for speed Most wanted (2005) and to see it merely reskinned and rebranded into need for speed world (2009) and casualized (dumbed down) is ruining many apects of the game that I enjoyed.

So while I might pop into NFS world from time to time to play a small chunk of the game, the experience has been so bastardized that it leaves players with an overwhelmingly bad and lasting impression because game quality is being sacrificed for quick profits.

F2P is lazy, EA and all other F2P players 'phone in' many aspects of the game (spend the least money) in order to maximize revenues and in order to do this they are cutting down games to the absolute minimum needed to fleece the tech illiterate half of the population.

F2P is really 'fleece to play'. It takes advantage of low intelligence and inability of the audience to understand how it is being manipulated.

Leszek Szczepanski
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I just think that in principle there is something wrong in using mechanics of spam when designing a game.

James Margaris
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The F2P lady sure is protesting an awful lot these days.

Andy Lundell
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If someone doesn't like being made to think about his real bank-account, no amount of brow-beating or platitudes about book covers will make him enjoy getting a perpetual sales pitch.

But on the other hand, a lot of people don't seem to mind. ... So why all the defensive articles?

You don't need the blessing of the people who DON'T like F2P to sell to the people who DO like it.

There's nothing you can do that will please everybody, so stop being so defensive.

Will Hendrickson
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This article is a prime example of a simple fact:

It's not the tool, it's how you use it.

Bravo to all those developers that use F2P in an ethical way! We support you making lots of money and wearing that suit! (If you want.)

In fact, I think there are a lot of great examples of F2P working well. In a way, any game with a demo uses an older version of this monetization model.

Kyle Redd
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Even after reading this entire article, I still have no idea if MacGuffin's Quest will be one of those "ethical" F2P games or not. The developer has not revealed how expensive the IAP will actually be or how often the players will encounter them.

So for those of us who no longer bother with F2P games at all - specifically because there is no way to know how much the game will ultimately cost prior to a significant time investment - I don't think he's changed anyone's mind.

Leszek Szczepanski
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One of the reasons why people say that F2P games are evil is that F2P is in itself not strictly defined.

One thing is having a working game and adding some ways to get money on top of it, another is having a game broken by design with constant paying the only option to fix it.

Unfortunately all F2P games pretend to be of the first type, while a grand majority in reality being of the second type.

For me however, unless F2P means the good-ol' shareware model, the game by definition sucks. As a player I don't want to care about paying anything after I got the game and as a developer I want to care about the mechanics not monetization.


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