I did some more soul searching on free games and why they make me uncomfortable. This is a scatter-brained follow up to last weeks post: (Free vs Paid) * (Gamer vs Developer) = ???

Free games fall into a few different categories. But Freemium games are the ones that I have the greatest distaste for. The games where you have to pay for “valuable” content or accelerated progress. E.G. Most facebook games and Asian MMOs.

Tim Rogers said it perfectly in regards to The Sims Social. “Here is a game mathematically designed to make you uncomfortable in each of its core mechanics.”

a big chunk of paid features in free games can be considered “paying for convenience.” Which would follow that playing the core game is inconvenient.

Editorially: Fuck that.

Freemium games are designed to make you pay as you play, that’s their business. But I find that it’s not because you think they deserve it, but through psychological extortion. I’ll get to that in a second.

I can’t say all free games are trying to twist your arm. League of Legends never demands my money and I only spend what feels good to me. They deserve it. I can experience the whole of the game without paying anything.

Freemium games aren’t innately evil. But they are the tools of evil people. If we took a species of dog, and trained them to rip off people’s balls. When you saw one of those dogs, you would run like hell cupping your balls (Sorry ladies. I’ll make an analogy for you next time.) It’s not the dogs’ fault they are ball rending monsters, they were just made that way by their masters. The master’s of freemium games are evil and by proxy, their dogs appear evil.

I don’t remember what parts of that analogy were about games, but stop ripping my balls off and I won’t fear your business model.

Free games are not free games. Free games are all the crappy parts, of a possibly-good game, for free.

Freemium is all about tricking the players into thinking they are getting a free game and then making them pay as soon as possible. I would rather do my best to tell you what you are going to get before you agree to buy it.

So I guess my heart is somewhat settled on this. I don’t want to make a mico-transaction game unless I can make it free of evil. Selling content to own is much better than selling simple progression gates. Letting users try content before they decide to purchase it is another great practice. And finally, let the players know upfront how much of the game is available to them before you pull the rug out from underneath them. Stop using evil design to figure out when you can trick players to pony up. Just ask them to pay for value.

Of course I live in a magical dream world where people make games as a form of expression and entertainment. Everyone else lives on money.


P.S. I have a lot of friends that make a living off of these kinds of games (hi,) and I might be one of them some day (soon.)

Point is, I don’t hate the player, I hate the game.