Now that he’s not bound by a PR department and can say what he wants, former SOE/Daybreak and current Pixelmage Games CEO John Smedley can tell everyone what he really thinks about free-to-play and microtransactions. And he was so shy and reserved before!
Speaking in a Reddit AMA earlier this week to promote his company’s new game Hero’s Song, Smedley had some harsh words to say about microtransactions:
I don’t like Microtransactions because I worked on too many games with them. They change the feeling of development to one where you feel like you have to worry about the business instead of the gameplay. That leads to tons of compromises. I hated that. I also hated defending stuff we did to make money to our players.. because they’re right.. they know we spent too much time focusing on that stuff.
That’s pretty damning, coming from the man who ran a company that jumped whole-heartedly into the free-to-play/microtransaction pool. He’s not wrong, of course; it doesn’t take insider information to realize that some microtransactions just don’t feel right, that they’re clearly meant to be for the benefit of the company, not the player, and talk like how they “give you freedom to play how you want” is pure spin.
Not every microtransaction or game with microtransactions is bad, though, and we could all come up with some good examples. I wonder, though, if SOE/Daybreak, as big a company as it was, had to “go too far” with some of its decisions to justify its larger budgets for its games. Smaller, more focused, games, like Warframe or Path of Exile, can probably do a better job with their microtransactions than huge, sprawling AAA F2P MMOs that have to recoup their plus-sized development costs.
In any case, Smedley promises that “there will be zero selling of any microtransactions in any Pixelmage Games game including Hero’s Song,” so it’s not something he’ll have to worry about at his current post. Of course, he used to say he loved free-to-play and microtransactions, too.