I’ve previously tried to avoid talking about the ethics of F2P because, whilst I believe the vulnerable need to be protected, I don’t think it’s a serious issue and mostly the reaction and anger it invokes is somewhat silly and overblown. However, I did just write a piece for GamesIndustry International (nee GamesIndustry.biz), which is my first in a new column series on the future of games, entitled The Future of Games: F2P Is Not Evil Nor The Only Solution that calls for calm from both those for and against the model.
The piece went live yesterday, on the same day that Jon Jordon, the editor-at-large of PocketGamer.biz and one of the smartest people writing about the games biz today, gave a talk at F2P Summit with the somewhat grandiose title of Morality in a Big Data, Frictionless Payment, Free-to-Play Mobile Gaming World. The talk applied both art history and philosophy to question what an IAP is and how our players feel towards them.
Jon asked should we “wring the money” from our “users” or should we aim to “delight” our “players”? What is the most important metric: Retention or revenue? I have a strong belief that to make a successful F2P game that you must make a good game. Of course what is “good” is highly subjective and personal, but without players enjoying that games you make they’re simply not going to keep playing and if they’re left feeling remorse after an IAP they certainly won’t keep on spending.
It’s clear in my mind that players are becoming more attuned to what F2P is and with that understanding it will become ever harder to convince them to spend money on impulse that they will live to regret. So more than ever, F2P necessitates making games that love their players.