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Premium

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When, if ever, is paid premium content in a free browser game unethical? When is it perfectly OK, or is it always OK? Please be respectful of other opinions.

 
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I think it’s fine. I mean, developers need to eat and have a roof over their head and stuff, too. So, I don’t fault developers for including premium content. However, it’s annoying and obnoxious when they shove it down your throat.

A lot of the MMOs do that, and that’s part of why (I think) people hate them so much. The user should be see the value of premium content themselves, which makes them much more likely to make a purchase. Basically, what Emily said in her keynote.

One of my favourite games is an iOS runner, called Jetpack Joyride. It has premium content, you can purchase coins. But the game is so well made, that you never have to buy them. You just have to grind a little more, a little longer. It’s also not shoved into your face. If you weren’t looking for it, you’d never even know it’s there. The game is very well made, and the developer respects the user, so for those reason, I’ll probably end up making a purchase anyways.

 
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unfortunately, i think that developers need to start being realistic and realise that they wont make money making games.

:( sorry to have to say that

but they will have to get a job, because makeing flash games isnt profitable, only something you do for fun

 
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How do you know?

 
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Thread derailed in 2 posts.

I also completely disagree, I believe you are misinformed Galdos. Many people can make a living doing it and many others use it as a platform into a larger career.

Originally posted by Moshdef:

When, if ever, is paid premium content in a free browser game unethical? When is it perfectly OK, or is it always OK?

 
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Originally posted by Moshdef:

Thread derailed in 2 posts.

I also completely disagree, I believe you are misinformed Galdos. Many people can make a living doing it and many others use it as a platform into a larger career.

Then don’t comment and further it. :P

Do you agree or disagree with what I said? I think it all boils down to how much the developer respects their users.

 
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Originally posted by Moshdef:

Thread derailed in 2 posts.

I also completely disagree, I believe you are misinformed Galdos. Many people can make a living doing it and many others use it as a platform into a larger career.

Then don’t comment and further it. :P

Do you agree or disagree with what I said? I think it all boils down to how much the developer respects their users.

 
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I agree with what you said and I think Draw Something would be another good example of a game with Premium similar to Jetpack Joyride. I don’t want to put my own opinion into it too much, but I do think that there is a line somewhere and that it can be unethical at some point, but I also don’t think premium content is inherently wrong. There are MMOs that come to mind that include plenty of premium but do not do it in an invasive way whatsoever, and games like Gemcraft and Kingdom Rush also include great premium content that made me feel more like I was getting a bonus for tipping the developer than anything else.

Do you think it can ever be “wrong” and if so, when? Being annoying and invasive could possibly be construed as wrong on its own, but I mean when (if ever) is premium content actually unethical.

 
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If the game mechanics are made in such a way that forces someone to make a premium purchase, then yes, it’s unethical.

 
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When does coercion become force, the way you understand it? Do you find restrictive energy systems unethical? I can’t see a way for a game to literally force a player to buy the premium, but do you mean force in terms of continuing to play the game or to be able to keep up within the game?

 
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blegh. i hate when they (like adventure quest worlds) take away all the good stuff and you are forced to pay in order to have fun or compete against other players. premium content sucks :(

these developers should rather join gaming companes if they enjoy making games, otherwise there isnt much of a future for them. sorry :(

 
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Energy systems are understandable and if handled correctly, are fine.

The first example that popped into my head about unethical premium purchases: You’re in a maze and you have the exact amount of keys necessary to open enough doors to get to your exit. Only if you follow the EXACTLY correct path will you be able to exit the maze properly. If you make a single wrong turn, you need to purchase another key because there’s no way in-game to get more keys.

 
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I think you have both raised two very different issues when it comes to premium content. On one hand, I don’t think it should ever feel like you are getting some kind of barebones or abbreviated version of the game without paying, if the game is supposedly free-to-play, while a bunch of other paid players are playing the FULL game. I don’t know if I would call this unethical, but it’s certainly disingenuous to free players.

I also agree that energy systems can be OK if they are in no way exploitative or overly-restrictive, but it seems like a grey area even when you use a term like “handled correctly”. Can an energy system be unethical when it is not handled correctly?

 
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Originally posted by adv0catus:

If the game mechanics are made in such a way that forces someone to make a premium purchase, then yes, it’s unethical.

I don’t think this makes it unethical, so much as annoying. My personal opinion is that it’s unethical when it’s designed to get addicted players to spend way more money on the game than any sane person would. A player pays $25 for stuff in your game? Fine. A player pays $75 for stuff in your game? Okay. A player is paying $500+ for stuff in your game? Now you’re just taking advantage of him.

 
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That’s really interesting, Bob. I honestly hadn’t thought of that yet and I’ll think about it more before I decide how I feel about it. I’m not completely convinced that the amount of cash could change my mind on whether or not the premium content is actually wrong, but at the same time exploiting a known addiction could indeed be viewed as wrong. One thing to note is that apparently the industry term for players who spend that much in a game is “whales”, and that alone leaves a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.

 
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premium shops are the worst.

you can play the entire game and get the best weapon but others can buy from a specail store and own you from the beginning. they dont have to put effort into gaming.

 
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Originally posted by Moshdef:

That’s really interesting, Bob. I honestly hadn’t thought of that yet and I’ll think about it more before I decide how I feel about it. One thing to note is that apparently the industry term for players who spend that much in a game is “whales”, and that alone leaves a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.

Yeah, I may have ranted about it before. :D And don’t get me wrong, I know developers put a ton of time, effort, and money into games. And I don’t blame them for trying to make a boatload of money, or Kongregate for trying to make lots of money, it’s clearly an easy temptation to fall for. I see the counterargument: “What’s wrong with people with lots of money spending it on our game if they want to?” And I think Emily and Anthony are both great people, and I appreciate all the things they’ve done for Kong and helped me with personally in the past. But I still don’t think it’s right. Check this out: http://www.scribd.com/fullscreen/84728657

An excerpt: “First Advice #1 Make sure players can spend $1,000+”

 
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Bob, Emily also talked about how big spenders seem to consider the games they play as their hobby (as a replacement to say, fishing) and I commented in the MMO thread about how that mentality still is new and “taboo”.

 
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I also think it’s a compelling argument, adv0. It might seem outrageous or weird, but many people spend alot of money and time on their hobbies. I agree that it will become more accepted as more people have digital hobbies.

And that’s actually where I got the term “whales” from, Bob. I also love this site and I love making games but I’m just being honest about how this particular aspect of the industry makes me feel.

 
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Just like online dating. 10 years ago, people would be like, “Ew, you met him/her online? Are you crazy?!” Now, something like 1 in 5 marriages start from an online dating site.

 
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Originally posted by Moshdef:

I also think it’s a compelling argument, adv0. It might seem outrageous or weird, but many people spend alot of money and time on their hobbies. I agree that it will become more accepted as more people have digital hobbies.

I don’t know. I think it’s more of an addiction thing then a hobby thing. If a person is blowing thousands of dollars on gambling, you don’t normally refer to it just as a hobby – it’s a problem! Same thing here in my opinion.

 
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Normally I don’t think it would be completely fair to equate buying in-game content in a game you love to gambling, but then again there is a recent gambling game on Kong that has an option to pay like 2000 kreds. You must not be too pleased about that one, Bob. I’m not too sure how I feel about it, and I even considered ranting but then thought better of it. I’m not too sure about the implications of a game like that with premium content, but isn’t it basically gambling for kids? Couldn’t that be construed as illegal, or at the very least DEFINITELY unethical, especially in a framework that is known to be addictive?

But I’d stick to my guns: I don’t think it’s fair to compare it to gambling in a broad sense. Still something to consider when it becomes a problem for some people, because I will not deny that it definitely becomes an addiction/problem for some (or many… or most?).

edit: And what adv0 said below is an important distinction between gambling and actually paying for something.

 
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Originally posted by BobTheCoolGuy:

I don’t know. I think it’s more of an addiction thing then a hobby thing. If a person is blowing thousands of dollars on gambling, you don’t normally refer to it just as a hobby – it’s a problem! Same thing here in my opinion.

Why is it the same thing, though? When you gamble, you’re spending money with the hope of getting something in return. You can spend $1,000 gambling and walk away with nothing, having nothing to show for it. Premium purchases are different. You spend $1,000 and you get a really, really good weapon, set of armour and a bunch of other shiny things, plus you never have to worry about the energy system again. Are those tangible objects that you can touch and hold? Absolutely not. But you’re still getting a return for your money. You’re still getting something. Even if it means nothing to you, to the buyer, the items have value and it’s worth it to them.

 
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Sure, I didn’t mean to equate buying online goods to gambling. I was more just comparing them in an addiction sense, which maybe isn’t super accurate, but somewhat of a parallel I think. But then again, when you gamble, you get the thrill of a chance at winning money and maybe some money. Isn’t that just as real as getting virtual equipment for a character?

But anyway, I think my main point is that when you take advantages of people’s addictions, it’s wrong. And I think that definitely is what is going on with most ‘whales’.

 
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Bob, I think if you’re inviting a discussion about addiction and how it is similar between gambling and some of these games then that’s exactly what I intended this thread for! Addiction is a very serious subject and purposely exploiting a person’s addiction is definitely unethical, and I happen to think you are right to draw this comparison.

How fine is this line between ethical and unethical when we are talking about premium content in games? This is what I’m trying to wrap my mind around. I know some games that walk the line but I still can’t seem to define the damn line in my own mind. I don’t even know how grey this is, or if it actually can be cut down into some fairly basic and strict terms. My opinion is that there is a line, but I’m asking these questions because I still can’t decide where that is.

I also have to say, I think Bob’s earlier comment shows how important the distinction is between a problem addiction and a harmless hobby. This applies far beyond video games, but of course can be specifically applied here.