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GDC Europe: To Succeed In Free-To-Play, 'Exploit Human Weaknesses'
GDC Europe: To Succeed In Free-To-Play, 'Exploit Human Weaknesses' Exclusive
August 18, 2010 | By Brandon Sheffield

In a polar opposite of the recent PopCap talk, Teut Weidemann, lead designer of Settlers Online for Ubisoft's Blue Byte studio, says that the key to free-to-play success is to exploit human weakness. Essentially, find those areas in which players can be monetized, and go after that aggressively.

As a caveat, Weidemann said that first and foremost, developers have to make a fun game in order to attract users. Then once those users are there, the mandate is to figure out ways to monetize them, or else the game can't go on. It was an unusually frank discussion of the ways in which human psychology can be exploited in order to make a buck.

Weidemann began by discussing the differences between the single player and MMO game worlds - Settlers Online is an MMO with PvE and PvP, bi-weekly and monthly updates as a retention strategy, plus a free to play business model. "You have complete control of the environment in a single player game, whereas of course in an online game you have not," he said. And you can't just think about fun, he asserts. "You have to think about making a fun game and monetizing it at the same time."

"That's a huge burden and a big change from what we've done before," he said, adding that "we have to bring them in and keep them addicted and make them keep playing. Selling advantages is seen as evil. That's over for free-to-play games."

Monetization has become the most crucial and integral part of game design, says Weidemann; developers have to think about it from the start. "In your game, progress has to be measurable." he says. "The most common thing is player level -- that's something everyone can now grasp," he says. You can monetize this with a speeding-up experience, but you have to make sure that paying players usually can't be identified. If you hide from the players what other players are actually paying for, you can get more money without making players angry."

Some of the kinds of things you can sell, according to Weidemann, are rare achievements, access to later stages earlier, early access to new maps, faster exploration or comfort, and all manner of socialization elements, such as avatar customization, emotes, and larger guild sizes.

Exploiting Human Sin

"We are monetizing all the weakness of people," Weidemann says, turning his talk toward the seven biblical sins, and how these can be turned into hard cash.

Vanity. "I'm the best. That's something they want to have," he says. But players need to be able to see their posing and posturing, which is usually difficult in a strategy game, where seeing what the other player has could be perceived as an advantage. In Settlers Online the game allows players to see their friends, but in a controlled environment. Here, they monetize avatars and guild creation.

Envy. "To make this succeed, the player has to see his neighbor's possessions," says Weidemann, noting that in China it's popular to steal items from other players. "I believe that in the next few years we'll see some game that does this well in the West," he said. "And then everybody will steal, and this will be a lot of fun."

Gluttony. Here, the aim is to get players to consume more. Make consumables (such as healing potions in a traditional MMORPG) available, and then sell them directly. "It's an indirect timesaver," he says. "If you upgrade a building to the next level, it takes time and resources, but you can buy an instant upgrade," he says.

Lust. In Settlers Online, this is measured by instant gratification. Instead of waiting, the player can unlock what they want immediately. "[This kind of player] is easy to monetize," Weidemann says, "because everything instant, that's what he wants." Examples include instantly recruiting troops, instead of having to wait for them.

Anger. "You hate your enemy, that's something we're gonna monetize," he says. This type of player is one of the simplest to exploit, because they will want all the best items right away, in order to defeat other players. Games can sell them this at the onset, and give them paid access to better battle reports, and more experienced units. It should be noted that Settlers Online does not force PvP, which is how weaker players who may not be interested in that can enjoy the game in this sort of environment.

Greed. This includes housing production increases or buffs. "The trader is someone who's sensible for unfairness. So if he wants to be wealthy, he doesn't want to buy [gold] directly," says Weidemann, because then it doesn't feel like an achievement. "Never directly sell gold to the player -- it must be indirect."

Sloth. This is represented by avoidance of work. Players are lazy, he says, so sell comfort. Sell extensions to buildings, and automizations for repair and overproduction handling. "You're saving clicks. That's all you do. And if he pays for that, why not?"

Settle For Nothing Less Than Cash

"Game design is not about game design anymore -- now it's about business," said Blue Byte executive producer Christopher Schmitz. "We do exploit them, but they should not feel like they're treated in a bad way," he added. If they do, then players will dislike the developer.

"If you think you have the same items for this year and next year, you're wrong. You have to change everything like in the Superstore," says Weidemann. He says designers should ask themselves how the major brands in the grocery store sell you new versions of detergent and the like, when it's basically the same stuff. Then use that to your advantage, since the psychology of consumerism is well documented.

As a designer of an online game, you must learn to balance within a chaotic environment when players have more control than ever before. That's difficult because they try to hack your game - Settlers Online had its first hacking attempt within five seconds of Open Beta. On the other hand, Weidemann reminds us, "sometimes players do things you didn't expect, but sometimes you can say 'hey, we didn't know the game could do that.'" And why should you care about this kind of emergent gameplay? Of course, because "you can monetize that."

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Carlo Delallana
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As a designer I find this a bit unsettling. I wonder what the long term effects of this kind of conditioning does to people.

How about the flipside of the argument? Can we appeal to virtue rather than sin? Can you monetize a game like where players come together and positively contribute to society. Gamers who have participated in this free-to-play game have already proven their contribution to science.

Aaron Truehitt
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Every game should be like this. Yeah.

Mark Morrison
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"We are monetizing all the weakness of people"...great, more keen insight from the 'just good enough crowd.'

Victor Perez
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At least this guy is honest...

Henry Goffin
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If you want to exploit your customers, go open a casino. Or start selling hard drugs. They are way more direct and way more lucrative. Leave games to people who want to make compelling experiences that have intrinsic positive value. Stop lying about what you are doing; you aren't in the business of providing entertainment, you are in the business of separating victims from their hard earned cash.

Erik Yuzwa
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I bet Zynga's already talking to him.

Dave Mark
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This model is as old as people. We have always had wants, desires, and needs... both physical and emotion. Going back to the original "if you give me food, I will give make you a tool", this sort of transaction is a necessity due to "specialization and division of labor".

This commentary is not as much vile as it is realistically pragmatic. The important phrase here is "...or else the game can't go on." As an industry, we can't hold ourselves to some unrealistically lofty noble standard of "we don't want to exploit people's desires" and simultaneously bemoan the unfortunate layoffs of our colleagues (or ourselves). If games don't tap into some level of emotion or other psychological "hook" of our players, we ALL get laid off.

To designers... ask yourself the following:

* Why do you make your game fun?

* Do you believe that by making it so, you are exploiting your customers' desire for fun?

* Would you feel better about yourselves if your game was NOT fun and, therefore, didn't mess with the dopamine, norepinephrine, adrenaline, and even oxytocin of your players?

* What job would you perform, what would you eat for dinner tonight, and where would you live if your game did NOT sell because of the above?

Bottom line: Customers want; we provide.

Samuel Batista
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Thank you Dave, what a simple, and morally unbiased view of game development. People want, we provide.

Theshigen Navalingam
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Here we go again.

Aaron Casillas
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I've playing LOL, never thought I'd spent 45 bucks, I did it over wanting an identity in the game.

Sean Parton
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@Henry Goffin: Perhaps the unfortunately telling difference between casinos/hard drugs and this approach in free-to-play games is one is highly regulated/illegal and the other is poorly understood/not largely regulated. Perhaps a "dun dun dunnn" moment is coming up for our industry, because once things start getting extremely hairy, the law-hammer will inevitably start dropping around the world.

@Dave Mark: A very nice comment. The fun thing is that humans don't always sit well with straight rationality; that's why this subject is so easily emotionally charged. Everyone's line where you go from just being fun ("good") to being abusive ("evil") is not something that can easily be defined, and clearly varies from person to person. That's why a lot of people hate free-to-play on principle, and would rather that games only had up-front costs: they're afraid that the lack of transparency can be too abusive, and that straight forward and simple transactions are more easily weighed. We've seen this effect for years in a lower furor with paid DLC.

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Is this all from the same interview? He seems to go back and forth on one very important issue for and against cash shops in current games.

"Selling advantages is seen as evil. That's over for free-to-play games." and "Games can sell them this at the onset, and give them paid access to better battle reports, and more experienced units."


"If you hide from the players what other players are actually paying for, you can get more money without making players angry." and "In Settlers Online the game allows players to see their friends, but in a controlled environment. Here, they monetize avatars and guild creation."

So it's OK because it's your friends that can see you? I'm not against cash shops in online games and I think the business strategy is a good one if implemented correctly. But it seems like Weidemann is saying one thing and doing another in Settler's Online.

Duong Nguyen
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Certain people have addictive tendencies, they become hopeless addicts because of their brain hardwiring to simple risk reward type games. Society basically found out they had to limit access to gambling because of this. This isn't any different, eventually there will be legislation. The gambling and peer pressure impulse isn't new and it isn't some novelty just discovered by MMOs or the social games. It's been around forever, but not so pervasive as this. China already have strict MMO laws and I'm sure we all have had anecdotal acquaintance of the hard core WOW addict who plays 8 hours a day.

Henry Goffin
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For the "we provide" crowd: here is a simple and rational test. If you put a screen in your game, a screen which was readily accessible, which said "You have spent this much of your real money on this game", would the majority of your customers be pleased or horrified?

If the answer is "pleased", then you have nothing to worry about. I'm concerned with the number of developers for whom the answer would be "horrified".

Capitalism, division of labor, etc. is all based on rational fair trade. When you directly appeal to basic human desires, you are intentionally creating and exploiting an asymmetry. Without any moral judgement, I submit that only fair trade has positive economic value. Selling people things that they don't actually want, but are powerless to avoid due to irrational human behavior, has strongly negative economic value.

Bruno Dion
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""We do exploit them, but they should not feel like they're treated in a bad way," he added. If they do, then players[junkies] will dislike the developer[pusher]."

It's nice to see a young industry taking cues from a well established business...

But seriously, it's a pretty big contrast to ear this guy who is seeing gamers as a bunch of lazy, sinful, moneybags and then watch Jane McGonigal's TED talk about how gamers are at their best when they game.

One is obliviously more hopeful and positive than the other for the industry.

Alan Youngblood
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"Game design is not about game design anymore -- now it's about business," said Blue Byte executive producer Christopher Schmitz.

RIP-Games. That quote above just killed them. People used to like video games because they were a consumer good that wasn't so soul-less and money-leeching like every other consumer good.

@Dave: always focus on the bottom line, and that's all you'll ever get. In fact, someday it will hurt you badly.

@Carlo: You've got the right idea. Appeal to virtue, or desires instead of simply "exploiting weaknesses" of people. Good business...and listen close @Everyone...involves taking one's passion and skills and meeting another's needs or desires.

"We do exploit them, but they should not feel like they're treated in a bad way," he added. If they do, then players will dislike the developer.

>Do I really have to point out how much this sounds like a textbook case of abusive behavior? Well yeah, apparently I do. That just happened.

Again a message @Everyone: there is a cost to everything. Even things that are "free"; especially things that are "free." Costs can be anything you give up for something, not just money. That means a cost could be $1, $100, $1,000, the time you could have spent with people who care about you, your pride, your dignity, your integrity. It's hard to pay with things that create human decency and then expect them back for cheap someday.

Paying the bills is great and should certainly happen. I make no comments that negate making payroll. but exploiting people for your own financial gain...well I won't warn you anymore. Chances are you wouldn't listen anyways. Just realized there's an implied "I told you so" coming in your future when thing take a turn for the worse.

What good is it to gain the world, if in the process one should lose his soul?

Dave Mark
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Just a note (invoking Wittgenstein here)...

We have been trapped by the original article into using the word "exploit". It has inherent negative connotations. We kinda need to set the boundary between "sell" and "exploit".

Adam Piotuch
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What works in one industry, doesn't necessarily work in another. It takes more than simply exploiting a group of people to create a sustainable source of income for your company. If you follow this methodology, it doesn't mean someone else will as well. Someone else will provide a better experience to compete with this that doesn't exploit the weaknesses of players. The real trick is to create fresh experiences, new games constantly, Not create one experience and milk it; simply changing minor things in the game doesn't create a new experience. Look at Mario as a success that directly opposes this methodology.

Almost every 'Mario' game is a completely new and fresh experience even though the branding is the same. The branding simply serves to alleviate the idea that the game is not fun for customers. When you see Mario on the cover of a game, you know that the game is likely to be memorable and enjoyable because you have experienced another 'Mario' game that is fun. Each Mario game, whether it's Galaxy, Kart, Bros., Paper, Smash, Party, RPG, or dozens others are completely different in gameplay from one another, and each are masterfully crafted. Simply put, changing minor things in a game removes familiarity of the experience and will only serve to repel your current customer base. But providing new fun experiences to a customer base that trusts you because of past experiences is where the money is at.

Look to Mario as a friend who you enjoy spending time with and will take you on new exciting adventures every time you see him, and look to Teut Weidemann if you want to model your business from a beat up car that constantly needs new repairs. Every time you fix something on it, something else goes wrong with it.

George Monroy
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A fool and his money are soon separated

Dan Felder
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Frankly, one of the reasons many players hate virtual goods is that they keep dying to players who are less skilled than they are (or perceived so) but have frickin' huge weapons and armor. This is seen as 'unfair' in game terms - and players HATE this.

The easy way to make monetization of virtual goods more accessible is to offer them in a competition-friendly manner.

There are two approaches to this. One, let the weapons and armor not just be better versions of existing ones (5 damage instead of 3) - let them be equal to the other weapons in the game, just very different. Metal Drift's variety of weapons are all excellently balanced, but players who have played the game longer unlock a larger variety of weapons and upgrades to try. Alternatively, you can make a super-weapon... As long as you make sure it has a fatal flaw. Give the Uber-Armor a weak spot that deals double damage - giving skilled players a chance to fight back.

The other is to simply sell upgrades that do NOT let you hurt other players. Upgrade someone's traveling speed in an MMO and they'll get around the wilderness much faster - but it won't help them overly much in combat. Give them the ability to know how many secret areas are nearby, or warp back to town at any time, or just the decorative ones of different costumes, races and clothing.

With these approaches your monetization strategy can actually add to the experience of the game rather than being a necessary evil that detracts from the fun.

Mark Morrison
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it's all about the users experience IMO. there are users who don't want challenge and reward, and they will pay for their fix through a simple click. it's a capitalist world, and this only motivates the diversity of choices in any market place = good thing.

the inherent flaw with the attitude in this article (in my opinion) is that it defines what "user experience" is in the free to play space. this studio may be very skilled, but as long as their main goal is to exploit the weakness of the consumer, that's where their user's experience will end. that's not how nintendo and atari forged the first roads to drive on. we’re talking about games and entertainment after all….and not oil or carpet manufacturing.

additional context here should be: the interactive media world is not a chinese internet cafe, people tend to buy what's on the shelf; and finally, why can't we aspire to create compelling and fun user experience while still making money. making money is essential to survival, but following the 1990s GM/Ford way of thinking is only going to fail eventually.

@Adam Piotuch - Brandon is a Gamasutra journalist. You might want to re-read the article before posting again.

Thomas Lo
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Developers should not talk like drug dealers ...

Adam Piotuch
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@Mark Morrison

Thanks, my bad. Sorry Brandon. Error Corrected.

Dan MacDonald
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Why does this seem like the light and dark side of the force? Where is Yoda when you need him?

Gregory Kinneman
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"Game design is not about game design anymore -- now it's about business,"

I don't think this was ever true. It was the military-industrial complex that provided the tools for computer games because of the investments in computers, and it was their successful transition to commercial profit (through Pong and Atari) that made them a modern medium. Look at how Gauntlet (1984) had health that counted down over time so that players had to keep spending money to keep playing. Clearly that wasn't a game-design choice, it was a business one.

As Dave said, this is nothing new. Finding ways to entice people to spend money is called marketing, whether they're included in a game or in promotional materials.

Dave Mark
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@Adam (and others)

The "beat up car that constantly needs repairs" falls down pretty quickly when you consider buying gas, oil, wiper fluid.

More to the point of the topic, however, are after-market customizations such as:

* leather seats

* fancy rims

* kickin' speakers

* satellite radio

* turbo chargers

* gas mileage packages

* rear spoilers

* racing stripes

* bumper stickers

* cute little pine tree air fresheners.

None of those are included in the cost of the car. None of them are necessary. However, they all "exploit" some of the same notions that the original post mentioned. e.g. vanity, envy, sloth, pride...

To wit: if you want to trick it out so you look cool whilst cruizin', you pay for it your own damn self.

Regarding the more general claim that "anything that requires ongoing payment is exploiting the user", I submit:

Cable TV

Internet service

Mobile phone service

Subscription-based web sites

Just sayin'.

Larry Rosenthal
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maybe, finally the gamez industry has grown up and can face its own delusions.just like scott pilgrim.:)lol

welcome to the new world.

Jarod Jett
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"RIP-Games. That quote above just killed them. People used to like video games because they were a consumer good that wasn't so soul-less and money-leeching like every other consumer good."

Are you just choosing to ignore the litany of terrible cash-in games that have been around since the launch of the medium, or what?

Carlo Delallana
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All i'm saying is that we balance it out. Appeal to the breadth of human desires (positive and negative) to create a balanced experience. If we don't then it's a race to who can create the strongest addiction response for the cheapest price. Who ends up benefiting in this scenario?

Michel McBride-Charpentier
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Don't these companies have PR people smart enough to think it might not be a good idea to publicly announce to your peers and audience that YOU'RE EVIL. I know a lot of these companies are full of sleazeballs but what I find incredible is that there are people like Weidemann who actually think they're doing something right.

Aaron Truehitt
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Making money isn't evil. I think it's unfortunate that us as a human race still fall into these stupid "sins" they listed and give away money like it's nothing.

I'm addicted to good stories, character developement, and gameplay. I guess that's just me and a few other people who see outside the box. Kinda like books..make a book about self help that appeal to the senses and you'll make millions. Make a book with good character and story and you are not noticed as well.

Chris Rock
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I agree with Carlo Delallana and I'd say that in fact much of gaming appeal can be described as sinful or virtuous depending on one's perspective.

The perspective of social gaming is disturbingly cynical, so sin is the obvious descriptor.

J Benjamin Hollman
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Please please please let this be satirical performance art.

These people are not game designers. They are virtual meth dealers. You can nitpick about all the little differences and technicalities you like, but switch out the nouns and you will literally get the exact same techniques and rationalizations. And just like meth dealers, once they have turned social games into a universally despised tar pit for the dregs of society, they will cash out and deny responsibility for any harm they've done. Then they'll move on to the next popular poison of the moment.

I love games as a broad and varied medium and appreciate and respect them all as art, but I'm not naive enough to believe that all games are inherently good and deserve to be defended. As extensions of human expression, all artistic mediums, not just games, are capable of immense positivity and empowerment, as well as limitless depravity. And mediums that rely too heavily on bringing out depravity never last long. Consumers may never get smart, but eventually they always get wise. Exploit and abuse them at your own peril.

If you actually care about the medium and its future, break out the tar and feathers and drive these bottom-feeding parasites out of town. For the love of god don't put them in front of a massive audience at a major conference. Their disease is contagious.

Michael Kelley
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Lol @ every got-a-computer-for-10th-Bday, pseudo-intellectual fourth-generation suburbanite making absurd drug dealer comparisons and bemoaning the death of the industry for its need to *gasp!* make a profit.

Among my various experiences coming of age in the city, I've never had to disarm a high-off-his-own-product would-be-murderous game developer of a .38 with hollow points at point-blank range.

So maybe, just MAYBE, the techniques and rationalizations used by game developers and drug dealers aren't "literally... the exact same" and your comments, like the majority of comments here, are pretentious hackneyed hyperbole.

I know, I know, I'm just being nitpicky and technical.

Jason Schwenn
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Why don't these people just skip the middlemen and start selling crack?

Christopher Enderle
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"A sucker's born every minute." At least on the business side our industry seems all grown up now.

Snark aside I just want to second Sean and John's sentiments. I don't think this type of business is going to be ran out of town anytime soon, though, especially when major companies are falling over each other trying to buy up and copy this type of stuff. Look at it from the CEO's perspective: they get to rake in money while the industry is basically completely unregulated and when the hammer comes down they golden parachute while the company collapses and the employees end up on unemployment. Better release your cow clicker now before the nanny state comes in to spoil all this harmless fun!

Mark Venturelli
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What John Hollman said. And fuck these "game designers".

Vijay sharma
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I guess this is what I did in my recent games Pixel Planet for facebook. I got good results. Now I am releasing it next week for Iphone too. The guy is right.

Mark Venturelli
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@Vijay Sharma

Being "effective" and being "right" are two very different things.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Larry Rosenthal
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Looks like any "industry" ya know?

Pinocchio-Pleasure Island

Chad Wagner
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I love seeing discussions that follow talks like this, because they always highlight interesting expectations. In what world does more money not equal more "success" in endeavors? How is that perceived as "not fair?" (ironically, a person that has more money to pour in to a game may, in fact, have more of a real life than a completely focused gamer -- at least until they lose their job) Gamers, myself included, will often say they want their games to be a haven from the real world where skill alone can triumph.

I hate to get philosophical, but what is the "meaning of life" in a MMORPG? It always amounts to material gain, in some way. Even if you reward players with non-direct benefits like more information about the world, greater travel speed, etc. -- what would a person use those advantages for? Why, to make more gold, buy more weapons and armor and defeat other players! In the end, all of the mechanics and options in these games are applied to get ahead on this single axis. As in the real world, it seem that something analogous to religion is necessary -- a deeply subversive world view that claims something else is important in this world. Probably experiences, stories, discovery of special information...but with the constant question of which approach is "valid." Then, as in the real world, the could monetize each "world view."

And we wouldn't want the games industry to have an ugly family member, like gambling industry (or the old arcade industry). When the law steps in, they may be as hard up as Vegas and Atlantic City. Hard times there. People seem to like it just fine when the benefits of the outright theft are spread around -- beautiful hotels, fantastic shows, cheap food, etc. Won't the free-to-play games industry spread some of the wealth around? We'll all benefit from the vice. Ugh.

Sean Parton
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Your analysis of player motivations in MMO's is patently wrong. There have been a great wealth of articles and analysis's on the subject matter, where many people find enjoyment by exploring, and the combat of overcoming enemies is merely an engine to support the former. Others are there primarily for social reasons, the whole idea of talking and hanging out online with others.

While these sorts of approaches for players is most common with MMO's, they can apply with other games. In fact, pertaining to the subject at hand, many people play these free-to-play games as simple methods of generating discussion with other players in the same way an MMO player would (such as by helping each other out materially in game, or discussing some other interesting event or completed goal).

Carlo Delallana
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An argument against appealing only to our "survivor" instincts. This is even more impactful given our connected society.

The Empathic Civilization

Michael Wenk
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I don't really see that is just specific to free to play MMOs. Any game that tries to have an ongoing payment will have to do the same. So regular pay per month MMOs, games with DLC, games with an online pay component, example Xbox Live, have to connect with me in such a way that I am willing to pay for them. Sure I'd love for them to be free. But since I'm not willing to work for free, I don't see that I can ask others to do so, even if they truly love what they do.

This becomes a balancing problem, and its the balance of making a game fun and all that means vs monetizing it and all that requires. Of course there's some overlap, monetization features would not sell well unless they add some manner of fun, but it is a balancing act. However there's a natural check on this. If a game is not fun, especially in a free to play model, I as the consumer am not going to play it. So the game has to be fun. After that it becomes value and that is pretty subjective when you drill down into it. Is spending 3$ for a Blade of Glory a value? Well subjectively if it brings me enjoyment that I would equate 3$ for, then yep. If not no. And if the seller tricks me in such a way that I feel cheated, then guess what I'm not likely to ever buy from him/her again. Weidemann seems to realize this, and that is good. However, if he were to get too greedy, then he's likely to lose customers and ultimately lose money and fail.

Lots of these comments seem to imply that focusing on morally negative motivations is a bad thing. However, I don't think so. I think the key here is how much you focus on any single motivation, good or bad. Like everything in life if you focus on any one of them too much it is bad and will likely cause you to fail at the goal of keeping me as a recurring revenue stream. Focus on the noble too much? You'll make me feel like I'm in some syrupy story and want to wash my hands. Focus on my evil motivations? I won't continue cuz I will feel bad and will want to wash my hands. The key here is to connect with me, the whole me, both the good and bad. If you do that well, you're likely to create a game that I want to play because it both relates to me and allows me entertainment and to escape. And then its my decision whether what I pay for it is worth it to me - the value proposition.

I'm glad to see designers focusing on both the good things and the bad things that motivate, that will cause them to connect better to their customer base and as such produce a better game that is likely more fun.

However, I don't think it really will get them what they want - more money in the long haul. Not because it won't work, but because I doubt they'll stick with it.

John Petersen
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If it ain't about fun anymore, then screw everything Ubisoft. Uberloss.

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Thanks for the article, that's a really interesting way to think about player incentives! Of course nothing the article describes in execution is an actual sin (players want virtual wealth, oooh eeeevil) but that's ok. Games are great for letting us imagine worlds without the real moral boundaries we need to function as human beings. GTA anyone?

Hanneke Debie
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I really liked the article, and I do think that there is a future in F2P games. I have played a couple of them, and there are a lot that are way beyond the cheap 'slot machines' such as Evony that we are familiar with. Some of these games deliver a high quality experience to everyone. For paying members there are mounts, experience boosts, vanity upgrades...What you rarely see is a F2P that actually sells powerful equipment to its players, or sells gold. They mostly sell vanity items and time-savers. This means that non paying people get the same experience, they just have to pour some more time into it to reach the same level.

And it works!

Keep in mind, that when a player enters a world and notices that much power can only be attained by paying, they will be turned off...even if they wanted to pay initially. They key is that when 'functional' things are sold, it is stuff that non paying people can reach too...with just some more effort.

Also, keep in mind that good F2P titles have to keep innovating too, just like MMorpg's. You want to keep your players, so you have to offer new stuff to do and explore every once in a while.

No, I don't think F2P games are evil. Take a look at some of the latest titles and you'll see that some of these games can even compete with subscription titles and have interesting gameplay innovations.

Maojie Zhou
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Great article. Really hit the point how to monetize F2P games!

One point not quite agree. "If you hide from the players what other players are actually paying for, you can get more money without making players angry." People are love to show they are rich in front many people, why will you hide the power of money? The more effect of your pay feature present in front crowd, they more it will lure players to purchase.

My two cents