On some level, we all know that free-to-play games — and the cash shops that support them — can be a little iffy, morality-wise. Do they offer choices for time-strapped gamers? Or are they exploitative and predatory to those with no impulse control?
Ask the makers of such games — while they’re still making them, at least — and 100% of them will give the first answer, while none of them will ever admit to the second. Until today, that is.
Clicker Heroes maker Playsaurus is working on Clicker Heroes 2. The original was a free-to-play game, but the second will not be, retailing instead for $29.99 (with a refund offer in place for a full year after purchase). The reason isn’t because free-to-play didn’t work; instead, it appeared to work too well, and that’s something Playsaurus is concerned about.
In a blog post titled “Why Clicker Heroes 2 is abandoning free-to-play,” developer Fragsworth offers rare frank talk about free-to-play. He starts by saying that games are “inherently addictive” and that CH1 “made a lot of money” from “whales.” Neither of those are inherently bad, he argues — “If you’re rich, please be my guest” — but he’s worried that too much money came from people who couldn’t afford it. His general thoughts are summarized thusly:
“We really don’t like making money off players who are in denial of their addiction. And that’s what a large part of free-to-play gaming is all about. Everyone in the industry seems to rationalize it by shifting the blame, assuming way too much cognizance on the part of their victims. People can make their own decisions, right? But it just doesn’t sit well with me. Despite very few of our players having complained, it felt wrong when we started doing it and it still feels wrong now.”
Fragsworth also acknowledges that game design can sometimes take a back seat to balancing out real-money items, such as “nerfing” an item that people paid cash for. As he puts it:
“Clicker Heroes 1 is kind of a frankenstein of a game, our hands always having been tied by the fact that we couldn’t easily change things that people paid for.”
So, out goes F2P for CH2, though no changes will be made to CH1. Kudos to Fragsworth and Playsaurus for making what had to be a difficult decision.