I’m not much of a fan of “free to play” games although I don’t consider them to be the worst thing to happen to gaming either. What I can say is that I feel very little sympathy for parents moaning about the bills their children have run up through in-app purchases.

They’re games aimed at children with free and paid for elements. We’re not talking about something with the complexity of, say, an A-10C Warthog simulator:

Any adult capable of legally signing a contract for a mobile phone should be able to discern whether the business model used is going to be a problem for their child or not.

Being technologically inept is fine but there are consequences for it, much like being illiterate. Some things are going to be hard or near impossible. Either learn how the modern world works or ask someone for help. The shame is in remaining ignorant, not in asking for help.

I’m not trying to say that creating games designed to exploit the situation isn’t scummy. It absolutely is. The reason I see little justification to give more criticism than that is because, really, it’s how our whole economy works. A 2l bottle of branded soft drink can be had for around a pound at the supermarket much of the time. A 500ml bottle costs about as much (sometimes more) at the newsagent.

“Exploitation!” I hear you cry. Of course it is – our economy works by exploiting disparities. Information disparity, time disparity, etc..

In this case the games create a disparity in emotion. To the developers it’s not important whether the player finishes the game or not, only whether the player pays or not. Putting progress behind a paywall exploits the player’s emotional attachment to the game – either quit or pay to continue. It’s not exactly rocket surgery to figure this stuff out and I don’t consider it unreasonable for a parent to be able to determine what the “catch” is.

The game is free – what’s the motivation behind that? Is it a developer who wants attention in order to promote other games? An open source project? Or is it freemium?

If it’s the latter consider whether paying for a traditionally priced game might be better. Parents care about their children enough to kick up a fuss, as they should. Wouldn’t it have been easier to apply a little critical thought to avoid all the trouble in the first place?


Recording of this post.

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