H recently introduced me to CCS, which I knew was F2P, but not in any particularly insidious way, until I hit a certain level where the difficulty went from 0 to 100. Now normally in my old age I tend to quit a game when it gets inordinately difficult – and therefore less fun – but it occurred to me that I had hit a kind of paywall that was designed to extract money from my wallet in a seemingly innocent fashion.
Most of the apps on my iPhone are of the pay-first variety. I paid dearly ($9.99) for perennial classics that I play all the time, like Carcassonne and King of Dragon Pass. This model makes sense to me, particularly because they are known quantities. Carcassonne is a great board game, and KODP I know from its PC origins. I’ve gotten far more than $9.99 out of both. But in-app purchases, especially from a game that has no real pedigree?
I suppose I should really say that if it is free, I expect it to stay that way. I’ve played a lot of TF2 on the PC and not paid a cent, despite a certain deal of incentive to do so. There is a certain unspoken contract there that I will not be forced to pay anything I don’t want to. I would happily pay to play TF2, but I’ve never been required or even asked to.
I buy most of my PC games off of Steam and GOG nowadays. I still refuse to play MMOGs because I’m waiting for one that makes sense. The vast majority of game apps for the iPhone disinterest me until they are board game reworkings like Elder Sign: Omens or Ticket to Ride, for example. The unofficial Dominion app, which I’ve played to death, is merely a precursor to the official F2P, which will have monetization qualities.
Anyway, back to the original link, which details “monetization tricks” peculiar to F2P games. I’m not for or against such tricks – interested in them as a rhetorican, yes, of course. Obviously some percentage of the player base for CCS pays out for powerups that allow bypassing levels. These powerups are very transitory things – they don’t last. If I bought a hat or a special weapon on TF2 I would always have it, unless I traded it away or abandoned the game. And yet this transitory nature doesn’t bother some people.
This reminds me of why I got into rhetoric – trying to understand why people are persuaded to do seemingly illogical or inadvisable things. I do know that once something is perceived as coercive, it loses most of its persuasive power. CCS seems coercive to me at the moment, but Bioshock: Infinite, which cost me near $60, doesn’t, despite its 10 hours of play. Well, I suppose that’s the difference between raiding a vending machine and visiting a museum – it’s the quality of time spent, not just a dollar value.
Really what I think we are seeing in the gaming world is a scramble for new ways to make money, and if psychology can be bent to squeeze a few more dollars out of the average “gamer” – wow, how the definition of that word has changed – then psychology it is. The question is how the player base will react to such tactics. A “gamer” can be anyone now, not just us geeks, and thus gaming developers are faced with a very complex audience.