Sunday, August 18, 2013

Game Developer Request for Ethical F2P

Game developer rant on!

Been playing a bunch of Plants vs Zombies 2 and really enjoying it.  It’s a free-to-play game and bunch of reviews have positively reviewed it especially in the area of how the in-app purchases aren't needed for skilled gamers.  While that is all good I wondered if my nephews, ages 6 and 4, have played it and while they loved the first one I sort of hope they don’t play the sequel for the sanity of my sister and brother-in-law.

PvZ2 has IAP ads and notifications everywhere. Buy this plant, unlock this gate, get plant food, get coins, buy stars.  These are everywhere and nowhere in the game does it tell you that these things can naturally be unlocked (with skill and / or grind).  The problem I have is how these are marketed in a game that has children as a target audience.  F2P games have done this in the past but it didn't dawn to me how ethically broken it is (never played Smurfs village but I could imagine its IAP ads being just as bad).  Kids don’t have the credit card but when playing the game they’ll come across these obstacles.  Gaming is all about overcoming obstacles, so I don’t really blame kids at all asking their parents to help them overcome this obstacle.  ‘To win, ask Daddy to press buttons!’ is all they will understand and I can easily see parent’s succumbing to these requests since it’s only a couple dollars here or there to the benefit of their sanity (Are we there yet?)

So to fellow game developers, practicing or aspiring, I issue this request.  Similar to how some shooters have a low-violence / no-blood mode; every game, especially those aimed at kids, should have a ‘no micro transaction notification’ option where players will never be asked to spend money or see any buy options in the menu.

Note: I am terrified for parents with the release of Disney Infinity since I kind of want them myself, especially if they do Marvel / Starwars crossovers. It print’s money!

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