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App store payments will have increased competition (kalzumeus.com)
331 points by laurieg 58 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 282 comments



Was listening to Ben Evan's podcast earlier today and he had a stat from the Apple / Epic trial that shook me a bit - in a given month in 2016 something like 0.05% of Apple users were spending in excess of 450 USD on in-app purchases. And that was 54% of App store revenue.

This is basically addicts gambling. Its the sort of numbers you see at Casinos and online casinos, and ... i dunno. It saddens me. Yes the vast vast majority of players have a "bit of fun", most never pay for anything, but all the profit comes from the addicts.

Even in IOS App Store. Which really did look like it was trying to avoid that.


My father died recently in his early 80s, and I took possession of his iPhone and audited its contents. He had several active subscriptions to official-sounding apps like “Find my iPhone Pro+”, some of which charged $200+ a year. I think this is where some of those numbers come from.

There is a whole industry of knockoff apps designed to deceive the tech-illiterate, and Apple seems like they don’t give a shit - even when these apps seem to be violating Apple’s trademarks - perhaps because at the end of the day they take home 30% of that.

Aside, as long as these apps continue to operate on the app store and grift seniors, I will never buy Apple’s “this walled garden is to protect users” argument.


I always remember those apps whenever Apple rejects a submission for “App Store quality” because they prefer a different style app page header.


I recently bought an iPad for drawing and I can't help but laugh when people advocate for apple's walled gardens after spending a day in the app store. It's just full of scams and clones and ad riden Spyware. Seriously no one believes that appstore is any better than play store these days right?


A lot of companies prey on uniformed seniors, and the disabled.

A relative works with people with slight Develmental Disabilities, and his clients are targeted by the same apps. It's almost like they have a sucker's list of emails?

I know 501c3's pay for lists of individuals who are easy targets.

That Cars for kids is playing right now on my radio. A few years I researched it, or as much as I could on the internet. All that money, and 1 four bedroom ranch style house in the Sierra Foothills.

And I can't even watch those Humane Society commercials.

I once heard Shriner's hospital has enough money in their war-chest to last another 20 years, even allowing for expensive breakthroughs in medicine.

I sometimes wonder if morals are completely absent in most entities.


This is what happens when a country morphs into Ferenginar. In the U.S. one ought to have very little trust whenever money is involved.


Sorry for your loss. This is straight up predatory behavior and should be illegal. My parents in their late 70’s fell for the same deceptive type of apps sounding like they are from Apple. These devs should be named and shamed.


The entire app store is full of stuff like this. I wanted an app that would do a better job of making flat perspective images than the built in editing features of iOS Photos. Every one of them wanted an in app subscription of $60-$200 a year.

Wanted a leveling app (use your phone to check if something is level). Tons come up, all of them "pay us $60 a year to unlock this app".

Same with dB meters

I don't so much mind that these apps exist but I do mind that the App store for whatever reason, being hacked, gamed, etc, surfaces the scammy stuff to the top.


It’s especially infuriating because it seems like that’s an easy problem to solve. It’s unreasonable to allow subscriptions above $50 a year. And if developers do insist on a higher price, then Apple could audit them.


My Netflix subscription is upwards of $200/year and that's one of the cheaper ones. MotoGP Videopass is something north of $300, Microsoft Gamepass is somewhere in the triple figures.

I don't own an iPhone so none of mine go through Apple but my point is there are any number of legitimate subscriptions well above your arbitrary figure.


Valid point. I think higher price subscriptions could be manually reviewed by Apple to prevent abuse.


Yes. Not a hard to solve problem. Thing is apple profits more from higher subscription and even abuse so their incentive to fix is not there or they drag their feet to gobble up as much as possible. Apple used to be safe, now it’s rampant with scams and fake apps. I removed my credit card from my apple account so I no longer have any surprises.


All subscriptions are reviewed by Apple.


Then somerhing’s broken in their review process. Nefarious pp clones continue to scam people with subscriptions and crazy fees


Seriously, from a company that famously wouldn't allow flashlight apps because they provided the "official" one, this is just silly.


This seems reasonable. Anyone remember the $999 “I am rich” “app” that was just a button that did nothing?


It was a large ruby stone or something I seem to remember.


This is exactly why I tend to profoundly disagree with a lot of people in tech who very strongly advocate that Apple should be less restrictive in what software can be in the App Store and what software can be installed on iPhones.


It's those addicts that would be willing to use an alternative payment mechanism if that was made easy and there was some benefit to them. That might be why Apple is so strident here given that 54% of App Store revenue could easily vanish.

Also, the number was .5%: https://www.ben-evans.com/benedictevans/2021/7/8/app-store

I'm also not sure if "addict" is the right term. If someone likes to go to a high end restaurant once a week, they'd likely be spending far more than $450 a quarter on food. Do we call them addicts even though they probably only represent .5% of the population as well? We only live once, so who are we to question how people spend their money?


>I'm also not sure if "addict" is the right term.

The difference between these games and a high end restaurant is that, at the restaurant you get what you order.

In the games, you roll a die and have small change to receive a big payout.

I would have no problems with the games if you could just choose the high end loot and pay for it.


> In the games, you roll a die and have small change to receive a big payout.

This is untrue of most games with IAP. You are usually buying in-game items to speed up your progression through the game, or to give you some advantage.

In practice, I imagine the brain mechanics are much the same as a slot machine though. I once saw a senior couple sitting at McDonald's next to each other, both on an iPad, slowly tapping away at the screen of what looked like a Clash of Clans/other town builder game. The dead look on their faces as they tapped away reminded me of addicts at slot machines. While the gambling aspect isn't the same, the dopamine hits I'd say are largely identical.


Have a look at the Top Grossing free iOS games. They all rely on random drops from loot boxes (perhaps in addition to timers)


Fortunately most PC games have moved away from paying for anything that gives you an in-game advantage, and instead have moved for paying for "skins" or cosmetic items for game characters. It turns out that people care enough about this that it's a substantial revenue stream, and enables a number of widely-played games to be completely free, and playable in just as effective manner as those who spend money.

It's a similar desire to wear the latest fashion, not last year's or last decade's fashion. Art designers for these games are charged with creating new stylish character skins and effects that people would be jealous of every season. I'm perfectly fine with this as a monetization model.

One exception is Blizzard, who charges $60 for Overwatch and then also sells loot boxes with cosmetic items. There are other games like Path of Exile that are completely free (and aren't battleground PvP games) that rely entirely on money from players buying cosmetic items. (OK, to be fair Path of Exile does allow some small in-game advantages from buying stash tabs i.e. more inventory space, but it didn't feel like a huge advantage compared to the number you get by default.)


High end restaurants don't use casino-style tricks (random rewards or non-rewards) to get you hooked.


High end restaurants absolutely do those! They track customers looking for whales, and track various random gifts and upgrades. "Monsieur? The maitre d' says he put the corner table aside for you. Please enjoy a small bisque while you wait, our compliments. And I believe it is your wife's birthday, perhaps the pianist can play her favorite song?"


Yes to whale-seeking, but this is otherwise not a valid comparison. Fine-dining patrons are not basing their visits around the hope that "this time they'll get the free appetizers."

Put another way, I'm reasonably sure that gambling addiction support groups outnumber fine dining addiction support groups by a few orders of magnitude.


Now you are equivocating on 'hooked'. They certainly do intend to get you hooked so you come back again and again.


No, but low-end ones do. cf Domino's Surprise Frees (https://surprisefrees.dominos.com/) program.


Personally I don't see that as getting people hooked, more so incentivizing online ordering.

My theory is Dominos has figured out that online orders are much more efficient to take than phone orders. As such they are doing everything they can to nudge people to order online. So no I don't think it's to get people hooked on Domino's pizza because of a roulette you can play when you order, I think it's a "nudge" to get you to order online.

Regular Joe wants to order a pizza and goes to call Dominos, when he looks up the number he sees the promotion but only if he orders online. Even though Regular Joe usually orders over the phone, he orders online this time, even winning some breadsticks for his trouble. Regular Joe now orders online whenever he gets Dominos.


> Personally I don't see that as getting people hooked, more so incentivizing online ordering.

Not much different than the Phone then. I can assure you there are at least a few dozen people who buy Domino's once a day thanks to this promotion.


At that point they're winning regularly and it acts more like a 50 cent discount on each order, with no way to win big either. If you want to get hooked on that you can just pick your own random day of the week. So whatever, not predatory in the way that going for whales usually is.


Online orders save staff time, and are much less error-prone.


Food is different. At the end of the day you can only eat so much, even if you're paid to eat. There's a physical consumption cap. This is why 'sharing a meal' has historical significance. Food is inherently anti-greed.


Furthermore, sweepstakes are regulated and always require "no purchase necessary". Mobile games are the wild west.

You can enter simply by mailing a self-addressed stamped envelope to Kalamazoo and waiting two weeks, it's just as easy as ordering a pizza online.


Are all businesses to be compared to high end restaurants?


I may be ignorant but I don't know many businesses who operate mainly on dopamine hooks other than tech and gambling.


Um...

* pharmaceuticals

* alcohol

* soft drinks

* tobacco

* fashion

* media (film, tv, publishers like Buzzfeed, People, etc.)

* half the useless shit I buy on Amazon


High performance automobiles


Is it coincidence that high end restaurants usually involve lots of alcohol?


If anything given the cost of high quality ingredients, high end restaurants might even be losing money on food alone, and may depend on alcohol sales to make up the difference.


I really really doubt that.


This is true, or very close to true (some just break even on the food rather than actually taking a loss).

Certainly if everyone became tee total the restaurants could not afford to stay open at the prices they charge for food alone.

Source: my brother spent 20 years in fine dining up to executive chef levels.


Most restaurants are garbage, convenience places relying on massive ads and such to succeed. Pretty much all fast food falls into this category. Sugar and cheap oils making up tons of calories to get people coming back.


High end restaurants use social status tricks. What's the difference?


Games as an entire concept use these tricks. mobile games aren't fundamentally different. The difference is that there was always a spending ceiling until mobile came along. Even if that spending celing was still something absurd in a few cases, like $2000 of train simulator DLC.

Regardless, people spending this much money are likely old enough to choose to gamble (or stealing their money, which is a different issue altogether). So I'm as concerned for them as any other gambler/alcoholic. Wish them the best but I don't care to bring the government in and regulate everyone's behaviors (My country historically tried and failed with alcohol. And is slowly losing similar efforts with drugs).


Most (US) cities already have regulations against gambling and I don’t see people having underground casinos where they are losing their life savings. AFAIK there is even regulation against e-gambling like online poker.

Microtransactions give the brain the same chemicals but without the possibility of a cash payout and are engineered to take as much money from the user using techniques casinos don’t have access to because they exist in a physical space and not digitally inside a mobile phone without having to offer cash payouts for winners.


>and I don’t see people having underground casinos where they are losing their life savings.

well, it wouldn't be very undergrounds if you saw it, no? I have little doubt that they exist, even if I cannot prove it. Underground betting rings is almost a cliche in modern media.

>Microtransactions give the brain the same chemicals but without the possibility of a cash payout

no, games do that (outside of like, Steam Marketplace where you can apparently sell digital items yourself. So the money traded IS the rush). MTX are a monetization taking advantadge of that dopamine rush. And nowhere close to the first one.


> regulation against e-gambling like online poker.

nit - playing poker against other people isn't gambling, it's a game of skill. Much like chess, if you're better, you win and can earn a living. No one earns a living playing roulette.


I’ve spent a lot of time in illegal poker rooms (and games in places like hotel rooms that are semi-legal). I can assure you people lose a lot of money in them.


> Wish them the best but I don't care to bring the government in and regulate everyone's behaviors

"We live in a society"

And people's behaviour is a function of their environment: blaming "personal responsibility" and leaving it-at-that is a position taken out of either ignorance of how society and complex-systems operate, or out of callous disregard and suggests you lack empathy.


>blaming "personal responsibility" and leaving it-at-that is a position taken out of either ignorance of how society and complex-systems operate, or out of callous disregard and suggests you lack empathy.

It is indeed lack of empathy. 2 years ago I didn't even HAVE $450. Let alone $450 to spend on any gaming whatsoever, regardless of ethical pricing. These are premium entertainment, not some base good nor even a (IMO unethical) attempt to promise riches like a lottery/high APR credit card/high interest loan/gambling. There is no premise that you'll be making your money back unless you're trying to flip a free mobile game account (which is against pretty much every services' TOS, if you want to get legal about it).

So again, best of luck improving themselves. Addiction is rough and it's not easy at all getting out of it. But people spend hundreds recklessly on so many items, legal and not. Or on items that are long term detrimental to our health (e.g. fast food, cigarettes, alcohol).

I don't think they should all be left to the governemt to decide. Because historically that hasn't stopped the actual addicts (given that I know/knew several friends on already illegal drugs). At some point you need intervention of self and close loved ones. Making all mobile game MTX illegal won't solve these people's problems


There is a third option: believing that I have no moral standing to intervene in other people's decision-making process, no matter how much I think they might benefit from it.

We all live in a society, but that doesn't mean we all have to agree about everything, or even that we're all on the same team. To me it just means we're willing to co-exist peacefully, and resolve disputes via due process. From there I really don't think I have the right to tell others how to spend their money, or whether or to whom to sell their kidneys.


> The difference is that there was always a spending ceiling until mobile came along.

Gamers spent huge amount of money on Steam and were even proud of it. There was whole.vulture of "Inpaid more for games I am better then you" as dumb as it sound.

And there are the people who hate mobile games the most.


True, I have run into internet commenters like that.

It's an interesting quandary. one person paying thousands for games for "clout" despite never playing 90+% of them (almost exclusively digital, so of no resale value compared to collecting physical copies), vs. one person paying thousands for a few single games they likely play way too much.


Thanks for the number check - too late to edit now. (Ben arrived at a number of a milion people so I think it was all a little fuzzy)

Addict is a difficult term. As patio11 points out elsewhere most definitions of addiction include desire but inability to give up, plus some degree of harm. Helping addicts is a individual task, but I think social policy has a role to play in harm reduction.

I like Richard Thaler's idea of Libertarian Paternalism. Yes we support each persons individual right to fuck up their lives. But we should set the defaults in life to be ... in the best interests of the patient as it were.

So, each month we take taxes out of our pay packet, oh and yes, by default you pay 8% into a pension. New job? You are automatically enrolled in a union. Want to get out. Fine, fill in the form. (P.S. that one changed the course of British Politics for a century)

We can question how people are persuaded by others to spend their money. We can question the polluters who muck up the rivers, so we can also question the polluters who pollute our minds.

I am sure is an unpopular position, but, at the bottom level, I find it annoying that supermarkets put kids toys and chocolates right next to the checkout.

(Perhaps better advice is - you are human - you will get addicted to something. booze that something carefully)


If people make there own money. Then fine whatever. If the set of gamblers has a large crossover with the set of people on welfare. Then people paying taxes have a right to be grouchy.

Like watching a who Person is always out of money and gets a lot of hand outs; blow all the money on scratchers.

I have a family member whom I only buy food for because every dollar I give them goes straight to scratchers. She once won big. 150 out of the 100 dollars I gave her. she then proceed to buy our kids expensive crap.

Umm that was so you had food for week.


.5% is half of the 1% who can easily afford an expenditure like this for fun. Or if you don't go to bars 2 days a week the same for top 10% earners.

I think your fitting your own narritive to these numbers with no data.


A couple of years ago, when I was playing Pokemon Go daily, I showed up to a raid with my son. I started chatting with some of the other people there and one guy mentioned that his monthly budget for the game was $100. Another guy chimed in to concur. It was kind of eye opening. I had been wondering how the game could be free, and it was at that moment that I realized that the game was mostly paid for by hard core players who were spending to level up faster and get rarer Pokemon (through buying incubators for eggs and such).

Pokemon Go doesn't really have a gambling aspect to it though, so I can't fault it in that area, nor am I really sure their model is a problem - since the people spending the money are choosing to do so for their own entertainment. It does feel a bit odd though, and ultimately it did hurt the experience of the game (since you do better if you pay more).


I argue it has a hidden gambling aspect with raids. Most of the desirable pokemon comes from raids, and of course you want desirable stats. There are about 3 levels of gambling here that get people hooked in:

1. Catching the pokemon at all. There is only a probability with each throw that the ball catches the pokemon 2. Getting good stats. It's easy to get mediocre stats from the raid pokemon, which are randomly generated and not known unitl catch time. 3. Getting a shiny. It's something like a 5% chance from a raid that the pokemon will be shiny. And of course you don't know until after you spend your raid pass.

Niantic gives you only 1 free raid pass a day, so in order to get more chances at shinies and good stat pokemon you need to spend money.


These are really good points, I'd forgotten about the shinnies and the stats. I was always less concerned with stats because I would usually get one that was good enough. However, I knew people that had to get the latest shiny when it came out. Some of the shinnies would only appear in eggs too, so you would need to hatch a lot to have a good chance of getting one. Thinking about it more, the game definitely does seem to have some hidden gambling aspects in it.


It's definitely gambling, people are obsessed with shinies and hundo (100% IV). Every time they raid or hatch and egg, it's a dopamine hit.


Pokemon go is a top 10 grossing mobile game

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_highest-grossing_mobil...

I don't know WHAT people are spending on since the core loop of the game isn't monetized, nor is there any stamina system that locks people out of the core loop like many other japanese mobile games. But they have a lotta people spending a lot of something.

Honestly a bit surprised that I haven't heard of some non-Niantic titles trying to compete. I know part of it is purely on the pokemon brand, but there clearly must be some slice of the market to cater to outside of that.


Incubators to hatch eggs, Passes to do more than 2 raids a day, extra storage for pokemon and items, different clothes for your character. All of those can be purchased with in-game money, but they also have special cash only events.

I paid $100 4 years ago, that I still haven't used up. Though I can see how someone could go overboard with it.


$100/month is a very reasonable amount of money to spend on a hobby!


Depends on income.


It does, but the US median annual wage was $34,248.45 in 2021 (mean average was 54k but that's skewed by high income people). Spending $100 out of a monthly income of $2800 isn't unreasonable for a lot of people.


I worked on Pokemon GO until a bit after launch. One of the things I liked about the game was there wasn’t really a way to “whale out” and that the company made most of their money from a wide group of players paying a few dollars rather than the typical Zynga-style whale game.

Has it become a lot worse now?


$100/month for entertainment is actually pretty reasonable. Going to the movies every Friday night probably costs more.

I spend ~$200/month on just fitness related subscriptions, but would balk at spending any money on Pokemon. Different people, different hobbies.


> This is basically addicts gambling.

A bit tangential, but there is some serious cognitive dissonance here on HN (and more broadly in the tech world in general). When Apple/Google does this -- facilitates some kind of arguably degenerate behavior -- it's "evil." But when OnlyFans does it -- sex addicts, lonely guys, social weirdos that need friends collectively spend millions of dollars on parasocial fake OnlyFans relationships -- this "empowers sex workers."


Although it may seem counter-intuitive, the fact that the behavior on OnlyFans is so transparently "degenerate" makes it somewhat immune to that sort of criticism. Everyone knows what people go there for. The problem with Apple is that it holds up the AppStore as a pinnacle of morality (many of their AppStore rules are specifically around creating the perception of a moral store, such as no porn), and Apple the company itself portrays itself as a moral company, but then at the end of the day they are making the majority of the AppStore's money on a vice like any other (often times on children, as many of these games are geared towards that audience). A candy store that secretly sells cigarettes will always receive more criticism than a bar.


> A candy store that secretly sells cigarettes will always receive more criticism than a bar

You make a great point that I didn't really think of! Apple definitely tries to massage their optics. Could also be why Apple's store is also more criticized than Google's, even though there's a lot more garbage on the Play Store.


The HN umbrage also seems to stem from the fact that Apple uses those optics to justify their monopoly over the App Store.

We need absolute control over our platform -> so that we can control the user experience -> so that we can make the iPhone ecosystem a more private, secure, safe, high quality place

If it turns out the reason they need absolute control is so that Apple can milk whales in the same way Zynga did... well, IMHO people are entitled to call hypocrite angrily.


I personally think the fact that Apple built their platform literally from the ground up is more than sufficient justification for them to maintain as much control over it as they please. Shouldn't we all just say "Hey, thanks Apple for advancing the state of the art so tremendously far" and leave it there?


Apple seems to disagree strongly with this position when it comes to paying royalties for patents on components they rely on from other companies in the iPhone (that’s supposedly built from the ground up). I’m not sure why no one ever thought to tell Apple that they should just thank these companies for inventing the critical radio technologies that their entire platform rests on and pay them whatever these companies think is appropriate.

It’s so fascinating how other people’s inventions are “obvious” and not worthy of exorbitant fees, while our own inventions are unique and clearly deserve special protections.


No? Software platforms are always going to lead to a few competitors at best. It's a natural monopoly scenario and smartphones are pretty much a saturated market at this point. There really isn't much room for new competitors and the barriers are extremely high. Why should Apple be able to abuse consumers and devs?


There's plenty of room for new competitors who can properly innovate on the platform, much in the same way that there was plenty of room for Apple when they brought out the iPhone amid Blackberries. Anyone who can do the same should be promptly thanked and not further interfered with. Or do you think we have nothing to be grateful for?


The phone market was drastically different in 2007 vs now.

If you want to make the case that launching a new mobile phone platform is as easy now, I'm all ears.


It seems like you're saying there is no more room for innovation/paradigm shifts in handheld computing. Do you really think that's true? Phones will be more or less the same as they are now forever?


I think there's a ton of room for innovation/paradigm shifts in handheld computing.

I think that very few of them are significant enough to flood over the moat Apple and Google have built.

Among those? Screen-less mobile computing (glasses/HUD) and true conversational AI agents.

But the rub is that (particularly within the Apple ecosystem), a competitor has to not just be better (on day 1, vs the 14+ years of iPlatform evolution), but better enough that people are willing to jettison the entire Apple platform for a competitor.

Which means Apple can release later, with less quality, and still retain most of their users. That's the evil genius of pivoting to a platform / services company.

Google to some degree, albeit to a lesser extent, since their services aren't as tightly coupled to first party hardware.


You could have said all of this about RIM in June of 2007. How is the current situation any different?


Lets take a step up the value chain: Qualcomm also literally built their dominant position in 3G/4G/5G radios from the ground up. Is that more than sufficient justification for them maintaining as much control as they please? Because I remember Apple being pretty peeved about having to pay a % rake to Qualcomm, complaining that it was unfair.

You could repeat that for any product that has a dominant player somewhere up it's value chain.


If that was the world we wanted, then we all would have cheered as Microsoft steamrolled over Apple in the 90s, and we all get our software from the Microsoft Store today.

That's not the world I want to be living in.

Competition breeds excellence. Monopoly breeds complacency.


Complacency breeds competition though.


Only when the barriers to entry permit competitors. Everything Google and Apple have done in the last 10+ years was to ensure that is not the case.


Large, wealthy companies and rich investors also exist on the market. They routinely fund innovative ideas that have the potential to disrupt established players. Absent any government interference, how long do you think Google or Apple will remain household names? 10 more years? 40? 100?


> Everyone knows what people go there for.

I don’t think so. I’ve talked to people who use onlyfans and most are truly delusional. In that they think the site runner cares about them and responds just to them. It’s almost harder than physics sex work because few people think the prostitute cares about them.

I had people swear that when someone wished them happy birthday, they cared because “they didn’t have to do that.”


>>> It’s almost harder than physics sex work because

I know its a typo, but I now have this image of Carl Sagan dressing like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, that I cannot get out of my head :-)


You're saying that you know multiple people who think of OF creators in this way?

Curious. Would you describe them as lonely people?


I don’t think so. They are friends who I play games with and know socially. None of them have significant others, but seem to have non-sexual friends and they aren’t particularly gullible.


Apple wants to have their cake and eat it too.


It's both, of course - the app stores empower developers, OnlyFans empowers sex workers, both take advantage of a small subset of consumers. Just like there are whales playing Genshin Impact, with a whole lot of people paying nothing/a tiny amount, there are lots of people ogling Amouranth for free on Twitch/youtube/whatever, with a tiny percentage spending way too much on OnlyFans.


It's almost as if one of those is a relatively small platform whos creators are almost exclusively young women, and the others are two of the largest, richest conglomerates in the world, who's creators are software development houses, (software development is a well-paying career) and that there's some sort of difference between the two groups.

Hm.


Except two of the largest, richest conglomerates also provide value outside of the said degenerate activities.


What exactly makes consumption of porn—or, alternatively, compensating women for the production of porn—a “degenerate activity”?


Id's say "degenerate" is a catch-all for any activity which produces a supernormal stimulus, far in excess of what our Neolithic biology would be prepared for. Excess food, drugs, sexual novelty, and gambling all fall into this category.


You could certainly describe excess consumption of food, drugs, and/or sexual novelty as degenerate behavior. But GP appears to simply be referring to either consumption of or payment for pornography as a degenerate activity.


The argument is any modern pronography represents an excess in sexual novelty compared to the baseline.


That is more or less a completely indefensible position given the wide gamut that exists today.


If you take the baseline to be a Neolithic life experience, then I don't think it's indefensible at all.


TBF, I've heard opinions all over the spectrum for OF. Many supportive, many not so much. Sex work is pretty much as controversial as usual.

Also, the idea of OF isn't that one dude spends thouands to a million dollar coporation, it's that thousands, maybe millions, spend like $10 to see curated boobs, which mostly goes to a single creator (at most. a dozen people managing their social media).

I'm not a vehemently against mobile games as many parts of the internet, but it is a different dynamic altogether.


OF isn't manipulating their customer base. It's pretty clear what you're getting into when you go to their site.


Right but they depend on their degenerate “whales” just like anyone. There’s a big difference between going to the strip club a couple times a year with your buddies and being the guy who shows up at 11am on Tuesday with his paycheck but the strip club is happy to take all of the addict’s money.


I guess I need more data before fully forming an opinion then. I don't care about whales who intentionally seek out certain things to blow all their money. My concern is folks getting tricked into those situations via manipulative techniques.


What's a manipulative technique? Is getting a guy more and more sexually aroused to separate him from his money a manipulative technique?


I don't know precisely, but maybe we can start with building entire research teams who specialize in brain chemistry to have them create complicated engagement strategies which are inserted into "free" apps targeted at kids.


I mean, this applies to literally anything people do for leisure


I never seen degenerate to be used for mobile gaming whales. Why so much hate toward customers of OF?

But like, going to strip bar with guy friends is no better in anything.


The difference is who this money goes to. In the gambling/iOS whales scenario many people are paying one big mega Corp. At least the social weirdos are paying the content creator directly.


FWIW, I've seen many discussions about how OF's biggest spenders are people like that in many OF-related threads on HN.


I think you are making a connection that I can't find. Care to elaborate?


Could be that HN is more inclined to use OF than play mobile games heh


I think you might be under the influence of a biased set of observations. Most average Americans do not hold women who show their boobs on the Internet in high regard, and use words significantly more coarse than “sex workers” to describe them.

But it’s just a subset of course of the bigger problem of the “Twitter take” often being light years away from the “average take.”


Most average Americans are hypocritical mysogynists who enjoy porn but disrespect the creators.


Agree.


Lots of different people on HN, I don’t know that the same people have both those beliefs, it could just be the people with the strongest beliefs express those on each topic


Supporting people using OF is about supporting a safe place for sex workers, your tangent seems as you say, tangential.

Para-social relationships are potentially troubling, but have nothing specifically to do with OF: they exist on YT, Twitch, insta etc.


I've seen equal criticism of both.


> sex addicts, lonely guys, social weirdos

AFAIK, all kind of guys use and pay for porn. Not just social weirdos.


> sex addicts, lonely guys, social weirdos that need friends collectively spend millions of dollars on parasocial fake OnlyFans relationships

Wow this an extremely hostile take on OF. What a vapid, overly opinionated and negative view of sexuality. Do you really think that P0rn is used for lonely social weirdos that need friends? Is that a genuine take on the purpose?


> Wow this an extremely hostile take on OF.

There's dozens of studies on parasocial relationships and how unhealthy they can be[1]; dozens of studies on how heavy porn consumption lowers libido and is overall not great for you[2]; and dozens of surveys on how my generation (millenials) and younger (zoomers) are more lonely, having less sex, having less friends, and less happy than previous generations.

[1] https://digitalcommons.lsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3...

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5039517/#:~:tex...).


> and dozens of surveys on how my generation (millenials) and younger (zoomers) are more lonely, having less sex, having less friends, and less happy than previous generations

There is no causation link here.

There are plenty of other massive social upheavals going on that are likely tied into this. The pandemic. Political acrimony. Impending impact of climate change. Helicopter parenting. Economic difficulties and uncertainty for younger generations. Facebook and other social media. Celebrity obsession. Abuse of addictive patterns in gaming apps.

We’ve created a world where people’s real life prospects are dwindling and yet there’s cheap, easy, and unlimited access to virtual dopamine generators. While porn is certainly a contributor, I don’t see any evidence that it’s an outsized one or that it deserves to be singled out from the myriad ways we’ve ruined things for future generations.

Also and more directly to the point, GP was addressing GGP categorizing porn consumers as “sex addicts, lonely guys, social weirdos”. The vast majority of the western world—including women—consume some amount of pornography. They just do it overwhelmingly in private, which is why such a stigma exists. Paying for it is not necessarily indicative of it being a problem for these people, in the same way that paying for music or other media isn’t. It’s just a changing of the norm to one that is frankly an extreme improvement for the women who do this as a profession.


You'd have to eliminate all media to eliminate parasocial relationships, not sure what that has to so with porn. The most intense parasocial relationships are probably with politicians and celebrities, not porn stars.

That second link discusses correlations and calls for further study which you've translated to "porn causes Millennial's problems" in your summary, which is not a reasonable takeaway.

People with healthy relationships and healthy bodies are almost certainly going to have less time for porn, for one thing. It's hard to put in porn viewing hours if you are hanging out with platonic friends or going for a walk with your crush.


> you've somehow translated to "porn causes all life's problems" in your summary.

This seems a bit uncharitable, I don't think I've done this at all.


Well you said people are "lonely guys, social weirdos" for engaging in this activity, and then there are studies saying society as a whole has less physical intimacy this generation than any other.

It may not be intentional, but it is indirectly saying that these activities are major contributors


The power balance is way off, it's taking advantage of miserable people. Mostly men in this case.


Yes. Mostly yes.


Agree 100%

--

So, how do you control optics? Large marketing dept? Positive PR? Buy positivity?

or has the world really changed?


I felt that way too, but I have mostly changed my mind. My wife, who has a FT job, a purse company, and 2 kids, plays a SHOCKING amount of Maple Story. She never pays money, but at a reasonable-for-her time value of money, I'm sure she'd be well into 10s of $K/year of cost. Is that malfeasance on the developer's part? I dunno. I'd generally prefer she play less, but she is an extremely functional adult, and she gets to make her own choices.

Thought experiment: if she spent 10X less time but $2K/year on the game, would that be more or less troubling? If she took that trade, she'd be an addict by your lights, but she'd be spending 10-30 min rather than 3-5h/day, and I'd be THRILLED. It's interesting to me that we are generally totally fine with something that sucks up (or alternatively, makes enjoyable) all or more-than-all of someone's free time, but we get upset when it takes even trivial amounts of their money.


That's actually part of the problem I have with this model. These companies are charging you to reduce the amount of time you have to play the game to achieve the goals set in the game. They could make a game where you get the same satisfaction in 30 minutes as you do in 3 hours now, but then they wouldn't be able to charge you for the shortcuts.

I have my own gaming addiction (with games that have complex systems), but I find the mobile gaming model perverse and manipulative.


Ultimately, entertainment is just "A time waster". Games from their core commercial history involve ways to get more money or time (often both) from a player. including:

1. Arcade machines meant to be overly difficult to extend playtime and each quarters

2. early console game made to be extremely difficult with punishing systems (limited lives, lack of save states, etc) that artificially extend the playtime of what's not ~3-5 hours on an emulator with these features

3. early online computer games inflating engagement with horrendously low drop rates, and requiring groups to be formed to very slightly accelerate the rate at which content can be cleared so they can keep a monthly subscription up. Bonus points for the group forming an in-pressure to stay engaged, possibly after you've tired of the grind.

4. splitting of the game into 2 or more "versions", which have minimal differences but require both versions to truly gain completion or some specific rare item. Again, bonus for forcing social interaction amongst peers to give pressure to buy the game (or a different version so you can interact).

5. in the realm of 4), sometimes rereleasing a "director's cut" a year later at full price with cut content (that you can argue was cut purposefully) in order to get more money out of 90% the same content

6. DLC that includes anywhere from cosmetics that used to be available in game to the direct "time saver" item packs that is now often contributed to mobile games.

We're just at the newest iteration. And much of the west is already moving from #7 being taled about today (stamina systems and random chance at drops) towards 8) Battle pass structures to encourage playtime and give extra rewards on a pseudo-subscption system. An interesting combination of 3) and 6).


Do you have examples of #4?


Pokemon is the biggest example and it's been ingrained in fans for 25 years to

1. choose 1 or buy 2 versions of a game that is 90% the same (example, Gold or Silver, whose differences are in some dozen pokemon exclusive to one version) 2. a year or two out, receive a 3rd version with extra content charged at full price (Crystal). Often acting as the "definitive version" for that generation.

It's not the most common model, but a few other franchises outside of pokemon have definitely applied their own take on it (often Nintendo related ones).


Pokémon since the first game.


I played the 1 and 5(?) generations of MMOs (if we call it text MUD, UO, EQ, WoW, post-WoW subscription, freemium).

It was already night and day seeing where game design re: funding was going.

I decided I'd never play another MMO without a good answer to one question: "Am I enjoying every minute of this?"

Not "Am I enjoying the rewards?" or "Am I enjoying the thing that happens after 4 hours of doing something?" Every minute.

Because a game should be fun. Always. Otherwise, it's a waste of my time.


I've been getting into SplitGate the last few weeks, I've been using my one hour a night of free time on it. Every minute has been a blast, but it has put a real dent in my progress on my side projects . :)


IMHO, non -inventory / -peristent shooters have a pretty high efficiency by this metric. You drop in, enjoy yourself, then drop out.

(said as a UT / TFC / Tribes fan)


Does your wife sleep?


> if she spent 10X less time but $2K/year on the game,

Does that matter? Is it a meaningful option?

If she made that trade, she'd have free time, and there are a milion more addicting options (plenty of which are free!), so the steady state would likely be the same time spent on similar whatever, plus the $2K/year. Or, if she finds a better hobby (yay), no need to pay $2K/yr!


>Does that matter? Is it a meaningful option?

depends on how you value time. Which seems to change based on age. At 14 it wouldn't matter, I'm happy spending hours grinding. Now at 27, it's much more ambivalent.

>she'd have free time, and there are a milion more addicting options (plenty of which are free!), so the steady state would likely be the same time spent on similar whateve

maybe, maybe not. I've had friends who quit big mmo's just play other MMO's. Some just moved to a new MMO, some moved to new hobbies. Sometimes even more expensive (oh boy, I'm SO glad I'm not a car junkie. Geez, the money and time spent on parts... not to mention the danger. ), some "productive" and even profitable (e.g. I helped give some tips to a friend learning to program and said he quit Lol, which I remember him playing pretty heavily even before college).

Too broad to assume.


> Which really did look like it was trying to avoid that.

How? Apple literally did everything it could to incentivise this behaviour. It blocked upgrade pricing to incentivise in-app micropayments. It relentlessly promoted lootbox filled games ahead of discrete experiences with sensible pricing. The layout of the store was totally biased against titles without this structure.

Apple 100% steered towards a whale economy in the app store, and didn't give the slightest toss about the human misery that resulted in because it made their monthly results look a bit better.


I don't know why you're downvoted. It really does seem like Apple not only facilitated this, but continues to implicitly encourage it.


As someone who used to build f2p games, it's not addicts gambling. It's very rich people who don't even think about the sums of money a f2p game is designed around. At $BigF2PCo we even set up a wire payment system for these players and direct chat with customer support and the development team. They expect a white glove level of service.

Game addicts can exist at any monetization level. Governments have been passing laws to further regulate f2p and protect those players. Total money spent is not a reliable way to identify them.


While not to that extent - I play Hearthstone (poorly) via the app store but have enough disposable income to buy packs to get the good cards when they're released so that I can play the game and enjoy it.

Now this only adds up to dozens of dollars per release, but I suppose that puts me above $150/year, which feels to me like a reasonable level of support for the company to continue to offer a product I want.


Its worse then gambling. When you gamble at a Casino, atleast there a chance you can win money (albit rare). With the mobile gaming pay to play inapp purchases, you never win that money back.


And even if you do win the "prize", if the casino shuts down, say goodbye to your hard won PNGs.


Addiction is a real problem, but I don't think the absolute dollar amount is a good way to tell. There are some people that don't even notice $450 a month. While there are also quite a few people that spending $20 a month would be detrimental to their life.


I was also thinking: what if those people are perhaps kids of super rich parents, for whom spending $450 on mobile games is nothing compared with their other expenses?

How do we distinguish addicts who cannot resist spending money they can't afford to spend, from genuinely super rich people for whom any number smaller than thousand is effectively zero?


> Even in IOS App Store.

Chuckled. "Even in". The app store is derived around squeezing whales. Apple is the best at facilitating gambling addicts dumping cash into IAP in the world. "Even in" I guess speaks to their public image.


I don't think the App Store looked like it was trying to prevent this. It favored low-priced titles from a very early point which led to the race to the bottom where eventually everything was 0.99, and then eventually everything was "Free" and loaded with microtransactions. They only later on added an indicator so you could tell it was "Free*" and not Free.

And why would they prevent it? When a gambler spends $450, Apple gets $135.


A friend worked for a company that has games where you farm in villas and say words to friends.

He said in those games sometimes for months product managers would be focused on certain users (often 1-3 users) rather than the larger audience. He said there was an old lady who was somehow spending 5 digits dollars a month on their platform and he was kinda the dedicated developer for to her for quite some time. Features were built keeping just that user or few users in mind. Specific plot changes were added, resource changes - sometimes across games where this user would play. He said pricing of purchases were also changed for that specific customer compared to others. (This is the gist. It’s been some time so I don’t recall exact details)


Honest question. Is that legal? To follow a particular user around and ramp up prices targeting them?

It seems unethical. I wonder if certain juridictions have laws that companies are breaking here.


Price discrimination is a legitimate and important part of any business.


With the design of the search and the choice of titles that they push on the App Store editorially, I don't think it looks like they're trying to avoid gambling-type behavior at all.

If they were responsible about it they would allow you to set preferences to filter out titles which have IAP. Also it would be granular; you could configure so you can see or not:

  1) Titles which have one-time IAP for permanent feature unlocks.
  2) Titles which have set-price recurring subscription IAP.
  3) These are the evil ones (not universally so, but unbridled they are. I agree with the general conclusion of Kongregate's CEO as summarized in the article linked for this overarching discussion.) These should even have some sort of account lock-out that's harder to override available: Titles which have some sort of endless in-app currency.
For those last ones, it would also be responsible of them to have it so you can setup with an account-level monthly budget which has, say, a 24-hour minimum cooldown to override.

Otherwise, yes, they are basically encouraging addiction just like casinos and probably ought to be regulated as such since they're not self-policing at all.


A responsible Apple would also push these features editorially on the App Store. They'd write up articles about how they encourage responsible spending and have features to help you navigate the App Store and IAP responsibly.

Perhaps the default experience would include features like:

  1) The first time you spend more than $100 cumulative on IAP for Endless-IAP type items, a popup with a link to an article about available spending controls comes along with it.
  2) You get a similar reminder every additional time you cumulatively spend $100 on IAP for Endless-IAP type items (across the whole App Store). This could be disabled, of course.
  3) A more urgent reminder comes up at the $1,000 cumulative mark. It encourages setting an account-level monthly budget. It takes more work to disable.


Also, I think there's something to be said for scale and context when it comes to regulation of this sort of marketing. Another poster here put it quite succinctly saying, I'm paraphrasing, "You don't expect them selling guns at the candy store."

So the App Store is something which a large subset of the global population has shoved in it's face, just for having a phone; which society expects of them. It's not people seeking out a "gambling-type" experience.

There's a greater onus of care to be a responsible player. I guess then they'd sell less of the self-help and counseling apps on the store too though.


Another thing which would be a responsible play by Apple: For those unlimited-in-app-currency purchases, have a no-questions-asked automatic refund process which is available for 30 days after purchase and causes the app to be either permanently removed from your library or made unavailable for reinstall for a minimum of 90 days (and perhaps all other apps with unlimited in-app currency).

This would show Apple's commitment to avoiding encouraging regrettable addictive behavior on their platform.


So pay-to-win gets a lot of bad rap, and it's not entirely unearned... but I've really come to appreciate the value of microtransactions if you're a busy working individual.

In the traditional multiplayer space, the players with the best stuff and most progression are lifers. Those real addicts: The people who are online all day every day, whenever you sign in. A lot of them are kids, and I used to be one back in the day. But as a full-time employee with a wife and a kid, I can't ever compete with that.

Pay-to-win games give people who work good jobs a way to compete: If I know that an item it'll take me three weeks to grind out will cost me $20 to buy outright... I make more money working in real life, so why not buy it in-game instead of wasting my time grinding.


Pay-to-win games give people who work good jobs a way to compete: If I know that an item it'll take me three weeks to grind out will cost me $20 to buy outright... I make more money working in real life, so why not buy it in-game instead of wasting my time grinding.

That's exactly why I hate most IAPs: developers intentionally make parts of the game annoying so you'll be tempted to pay to skip them.


TBF. all online games are annoying regardless in terms of respect to time. At least you have a choice here between saving money or time, instead of neither with an MMO.

Guess that's just the literal cost of wanting a game that constantly updates. People can argue that single player games are the best bang for their buck, but it really depends on if you're the kind of people who will play a snigle game dozens of times or if you're one who want to mostly experience the main content once.


> If I know that an item it'll take me three weeks to grind out will cost me $20 to buy outright...

Why do you think that desirable item takes 3 weeks of grinding to acquire? Pay2win is bad because it incentivizes developers to make their game an annoying slog, then turn around and sell the player a solution to the problem they just created. They’re not helping you by giving you the option to pay to skip part of their game; they’re the ones responsible for the grind you’re trying to avoid.


How traditionally are we talking? Traditionally, many genres of games haven't had progression for someone to have the most of. That guy who played a billion hours of Quake, or Halo 3, or Starcraft 2 doesn't have anything you don't have. Hell even the likes of League of Legends, it doesn't take that much IP to buy any one champion the free way, and you can't buy power for that champion. I guess you could say you're paying to win by buying the strongest champion in that patch with cash each time, but honestly if you really have that little play time you're probably hurting your performance more than helping it by champion hopping that much.


I probably speak mostly in the scope of MMOs: Games that are fairly grindy by default, and always have been, and have social/competitive aspects. Generally they've always had items and tiers that take weeks or months to grind out, and the idea of paying your way through that is often looked pretty far down upon.

But if you're making more out of game than in-game, it's just good time management.


It's the red queen effect though, as soon as you make the IAP, you quickly advance, but then you will soon hit the next plateau. So you're stuck again unless you keep making IAPs. If a game is pay-to-win, you have to keep paying and paying and paying. It's not like you can pay once and then you're good.


I mean--it used to be that you bought the game and you got the stuff and you had to ladder up within the context of a single game in order to get to the good stuff. Why should grinding be rewarding at all, except to put players on an external addiction loop rather than one based on the moment-to-moment fun of the game?

Counter-Strike was never my game, but during the course of a match you could ladder your way up to an AK (absolutely reasonable for most gameplay) within the first couple rounds and it was pretty difficult not to be able to get an AWP at least for a while if you wanted to. I played FireArms Half-Life and The Opera instead, where you built your loadout and everybody had access to everything, save for in FAHL specific skills that laddered up throughout a match themselves.


Why not play games that don't suck?

You pay $20 to win? For $15 I'll call you a winner. Visit my OnlyFans.


I spent a bit more than $100 on in-app purchases this week, simply because the apps I wanted to use were pretty limited out of the box. They are “free” unless you want the full experience. I don’t like that it is SaaS’d and gamified. Heck, I almost uninstalled Tetris when I found out they wanted a subscription to permanently remove ads, which I’ll never do for such a simple game. But my point is that it’s normal these days to spend $15-$30 per app, which isn’t necessarily unreasonable, it’s just done after download. The industry has essentially shifted to an unlimited free trial model. Though, the devil is in the details and it’s more devious than that.


In gaming they are called “whales” and they are actively targeted. https://youtu.be/xNjI03CGkb4


Wouldn't that count things like ordering coffee in an app? I spend perhaps far too much money on coffee ordered through my iPhone. That's an in-app purchase, right?


Are Apple taking 30% of your coffee purchase? Wow.


I would guess in this case it's just normal merchant fees (no larger than 5%). But I don't know how this all breaks down. It's not like they take 30% when you use Apple Pay at a store. Ordering coffee in an app seems more like an extension of that.


It reminds me more of alcohol purchases where the top 10% of drinkers (aka alcoholics) account for more than half of all alcohol sales in the United States.


Addicts, or simply that 0.05% of iphone users are likely multimillionaires and this is just normal spending for them.


This isn’t just from gaming apps and gambling though. I purchase all of my media via the itunes, pay for streaming subscriptions, icloud, and sometimes subscribe to premium productivity apps.

In my household this has approached $300/mo at the highest, but is typically around $80-100/mo.

That is all without a single in app purchase in a game.


These stats are similar to but much more extreme than alcohol, where the vast majority (~90%) of sales go to a tiny minority (~10%) of "consumers", aka alcoholics.

I wonder how many industries have the facade of normality but are propped up by this kind of ugly secret.


In a given quarter, 0.5% had spent 450 USD or more (i.e. an average of 150+ per month).

(Note - this is isn't necessarily the same 0.5% each quarter, so it doesn't mean that 0.5% of app store users are spending at least 1800 per year.)


Came to say exactly that. It is abusive, particularly of younger players.


Happy to chat about it, HN, since otherwise I'd just be playing more Genshin Impact.

My capsule review of the game nobody asked for: if you like Breath of the Wild, you'll likely enjoy it a lot. It is not as pure of an exploration game at BotW is, and the emergent game mechanics that made BotW such a joy, a toy which produced its own unique stories with every player, are mostly absent. The exploration doesn't tie in closely with the plot like it does in BotW.

But, other than that, it's an extremely, extremely effective game. Excellent art and music design; the graphics compare favorably to anything I've ever seen in an AAA game if you like this anime-inspired visual style.

I find the combat similar to single-player WoW with more interesting strategic choices (regarding party comp, etc) and less interesting tactical choices. Harder encounters are fun puzzles to solve.

While the actual story in the game is nothing we haven't seen done better before, the character interactions are an extremely interesting Chinese take on Chinese/Japanese/Western fantasy tropes. Someone could get an East Asian Studies thesis out of it fairly easily. It's amusing to "read" with that cultural commentary lens on; the localization is also surprisingly well done (including both English and Japanese, to the extent you credit me with being able to perceive that).

The metagame about how to progress as quickly as possible, and where to invest your resources / how to harvest them efficiently, also pushes my buttons very effectively.


I learned all I want to know about that game while my 11 year old was playing it. Sounded like BotW with annoyingly long and useless grinding to get weird crystals or something that are needed to buy better weapons (or buy loot boxes of a sort with low good loot chace, IIRC).

It didn't sound horrible, because he seemed to like the gameplay, but I didn't feel any desire to get into a game where you can pay for benefit (I tend to the other end of the spectrum, repeatedly punishing deaths until you get better, like Dark Souls).

He probably spent a total of ~$80 on the game, over 4-6 months. I don't count that as too bad, as it's not much more than buying it and an expansion would cost, and it provided him a lot of entertainment. That said, the reason it as only ~$80 is because I was controlling the purse strings.


That's the rough part with acquiring characters (or anything) through the equivalent of cash-funded roulette: you can set out to spend a certain amount to attain something you want, but it might not work, and if you're sufficiently unlucky it may turn into an order of magnitude more spending than you originally intended.

While you could of course commit to only spending $X and dealing with the results even if they're unsatisfactory, this can be surprisingly difficult psychologically, combining the best of the gambler's fallacy with the sunk cost fallacy (among many other behaviors very cleverly inspired by the game's developers) into one.


Digital cash funded roulette is such a predatory practice. I believe it should just be banned altogether, there's no good to come of it.


Worse for me, as I'll likely ignore the pay route and go the exceedingly long and grindy route, and if I feel they've made that far too punishing for the rewards, I'll likely feel the game isn't rewarding enough to play. I'm not really interesting in proving to myself that I can pay money to do better than other people, so it doesn't help me enjoy games that are competitive in any way, and if it's a non-competitive game, I just feel like I'm being manipulated, which also saps the enjoyment out of it for me.

I don't mind purely cosmetic offerings being present in games, and I'll even buy a few. But if I feel like I'm competing on a field that's stratified by money, it just kills the enjoyment for me. It's the same reason I stopped playing Magic: The Gathering back in the mid nineties a few months after when it was first released. It was fun when we all had starter decks, but after friends started collecting special cards, I saw where I thought it was going an opted out. The realization just sapped a lot of the enjoyment out of the game for me.


I feel like that a lot, so called pay-to-win games (or perhaps pay-to-progress) aren't my thing either for similar reasons, even though I could afford them. I've played GI for a bit, but very casually (even more so as it doesn't run on Linux, so I've only played it on mobile myself), and as long as I am finding things I enjoy, for example the music, voice acting, and UX, I don't mind the game's profit model, but I definitely will end up playing less when/if I reach the point(s) to where I am increasingly penalized for not paying.


At some point I hope this model evolves to engage content creators.

Clearly the biggest "draw" for these sorts of games is new content, and that is a sort of sunk cost with developers who pay people to create new content so that they can monetize it.

However, when it shifts into something like an MLM scheme where an "end user" can develop new content and then deliver it through the game engine, and then the game engine owner and person who developed the content "share" in the monetization (one by game sales etc, the other by in game currencies) then games like PoE and others can grow diversity without hiring.

The incentive alignment is pretty clear, really avid players can both improve their own playing experience (enrich themselves in game) by doing this, and the game developer gets more people playing because there is such an interesting mix of things to do an see.

At some point this evolves into market exchanges where people who can conceive compelling stories find others who are skilled at art or puzzle design and they can form a group for the purposes of delivering a bit of gameplay content that they share in the rewards from.

If you are having a hard time visualizing this, consider WoW for a moment. Let's say Bliz had a way for an avid player to "design" an NPC, write their back story, their interaction dialogs, and the quests they would give in the execution of their "story". An artist teams up with this person to provide textures for either an existing character type, or potentially designing a completely new kind of creature for this. All WoW quests have a fairly fixed set of game mechanics choices to work from so putting those together in ways that are interesting might be the role of a third member of this ad-hoc group. Once completing the story line you have access to a vendor NPC who will sell you various items for WoW gold (pets, spells, recipes, etc). If the "team" that came up with this whole package got a cut of the WoW gold that the vendor received for their wares, that would provide an incentive to this team to make their content compelling. That may be all the incentive they need. And Bliz gets a quest chain + vendor + content that enhances game play for all players and keeps it fresh.

Sort of like the virtual gig economy where players add content to the game in exchange for in game currency.


What you’re describing sounds a lot like Second Life, which launched in 2003 and is still running. (Incidentally, to tie it back to Genshin, Second Life recently banned gacha-style transactions on its platform [0])

[0] https://ryanschultz.com/2021/08/02/second-life-bans-gacha-ma...


I'm familiar with SL. And yes it has some of the elements of this, what it doesn't have (or didn't when I last looked at it) were constrained physics story lines and a questing model tied to in game currency. Mostly it was around converting "real" money to "Linden" Dollars[1] to facilitate in-game transactions.

[1] And at the time (2008) there were sites that would convert your Linden dollars back into cash.


> If the "team" that came up with this whole package got a cut of the WoW gold that the vendor received for their wares, that would provide an incentive to this team to make their content compelling.

There's have to be careful thought as to how this works, as the incentives might work out to a lopsided amount of content that maximized the thing that resulted in designer compensation.

Since the resources used aren't really an internalized cost in most cases, the NPC needs to be balanced against an idealized cost/value system that is often judgement based, meaning that a lot of work is required assessing if the designed asset is good for the system or not.

The simple example would be an NPC that if you walk up to grants you ten minutes of immunity for 1% of your wealth. Not only will something like that be extremely popular on it's own, if the designers get a percentage of the received gold, they are incentivized to make it always used. Maybe that means making it easily available almost all the time, and only taking 0.1% of wealth, so people use it even more often. But the real question is, does that break the game? The designers can be entirely motivated by profit, and not care about overall game function and health. The only way to combat this is to either carefully align incentives such as game health to function which is tricky (everyone might love the immunity boon for the first week and always profess to like it but end up playing less because of less challenge and engagement) or to have the game runners carefully assess and tweak all submitted proposals, at which point what you're getting from the public may not be worth it.

Maybe it would work if it was more just a nice kickback for contributing though. Design a module or something and submit to be accepted into core, and if it's accepted into the core you get a set amount of game currency which is predefined at certain amounts based on contribution, and a one time payout. Then the monetary incentive is to appease the game runners and provide something useful for the game, which aligns with any altruistic incentive to improve the game you're playing.


Its a fair point, and as I was saying in another response consider the "App Store" model where this new content is given to the internal team to review before releasing it. Clearly something that unbalanced the game like this would be rejected.


So Minecraft, Roblox, Rust, and other mod-friendly and sandboxed games are close to what you are describing. Centralized games like WoW is almost like the opposite.

In order to support custom content creation and integration, the game needs to have a specific type of asset and tooling pipeline that can be community-driven, something that's more or less determined at the conception of the game.

I agree with you in that we do need more big studios stepping in this direction. It takes guts for these CEOs and CFOs to say to their investors "Yes we will have first-class mod support, LAN support, and give the players the tools necessary to alter the game with their creativities."


> So Minecraft, Roblox, Rust, and other mod-friendly and sandboxed games are close to what you are describing.

Yes they are. There are also 'total conversions' in the gaming community where a game had nearly all of its assets replaced to become a new game. The pieces are all out there, but they haven't yet combined into a single thing yet.

We often think of ideas as being these amazing things that spontaneously spring into existence, however they are more often the amalgamation of a bunch of things that have emerged on their own and then contextualized in a way that unifies them into a cohesive whole. My thinking is that distributed game economies are going to be such things.

One of the early things about WoW was the emergence of "gold farming" which exploited legitimate game tools (questing, mailing gold to other players, in game transactions) and demonstrated you could earn real money off players by selling them virtual goods. Personally, I think that was the point when game product managers said, "Hmmm, that is money we could be making" and the "freemium" model was accepted as a legit model.

They still keep 'game flow' and 'game assets' in house however, but the curated app store model has shown business people how you can let third parties make stuff and then give them a platform to sell it and skim the profits. When you combine these two models in games you get this new thing.


That's a very interesting point about WoW. I was not a hardcore WoW player but I did play on and off in my high school years (Vanilla + Burning Crusade).

I remember selling 1000g for $50 USD at some point. Then a month later the average price for 1000g dropped to $15. It seemed like the price would eventually match the absolute lowest of 3rd world labor cost (until WoW tokens were introduced). So that pretty much aligns with your point of management finally giving in to the new model.

> the curated app store model has shown business people how you can let third parties make stuff and then give them a platform to sell it and skim the profits.

After being involved in both kinds of work fields (content vs platform), I can say that it's really a grass-is-always-greener-on-the-other-side thing. When we were making in-house contents we would think how nice being a platform is (no creativity involved, just skim off other people's success). But when we made our own platform, we often felt the insecurity of not having our own contents and people jumping ships. Plus, licensing headaches and dealing with lawyers became a norm.

The only kind of platform that doesn't have this issue is one that is a near monopoly (cough App Store). Netflix, after realizing the rise of their competitors, went to town with in-house productions and declared "Content is King".


I like Breath of the Wild, but trying Genshin Impact was like having a root canal done on my brain. After around 30 minutes of playing it I had to put it down, grinding a game for the promise of being able to buy microtransactions is not a effective way for me to spend my time. Maybe it's just because I'm not an MMO fan, but Genshin feels like a regression in the genre of JRPGs.


I'm of two minds on it. On one hand, yeah. Grind for a chance (a low one, even among other mobile games) of pulling a favorite character can be a discouraging model. And having no end in sight can be disenheartening for those wanting to binge on a compelted game.

But on the other hand, JRPGs tend to not get major updates, and are now taking 3-5+ years per game to meat that criteria. Unlike fighting games, you can't make meaningful character DLC post release that would mesh into the game. The very closest I've seen to this in modern times is Kingdom Hearts' 3 DLC letting you play as 2 additional characters... for one specific boss fight each out of a ~5 hour DLC of a 30-40 hour game.

Meanwhile, new characters, events, and areas drop monthly for Genshin. Without a direct subscription cost if you treat the game as a JRPG with some 4-5 playable characters gotten in story (which is average for a modern JRPG) and ignore the new characters other JRPGs don't have the option for. There are some very niche benefits and workaround of issues most JRPGs have today in Genshin.

----

I don't really have much of a point here. Just rambling on some musings that I wish console JRPGs could take lessons from. I guess I just miss those days where is didn't feel like Final Fantasy (and ONLY FF) was the only big JRPG in town pushing graphical boundaries, and Genshin gave me some of those vibes. Moreso than any JRPG in the 2010's outside of FF and KH. Tales of Arise coming in a few weeks gives me some hopes, but I want to hope this isn't just a one-off fluke in the genre.


CRPG.


I think the distinct lack of enemy diversity is what kills it for me. Even the boss designs are overall lackluster. A bunch of cubes casting spells, or an ice/fire flower. I go to challenge this water goddess thing and instead I fight water squirrels and crabs. That and I can only kill about four bosses a day for rewards.

First going in I thought I would be playing with friends and fighting bosses. Now I've been told not to do that because you don't want friends stealing your chests. Maybe I'm doing things wrong.


Enemy diversity is just part of another big issue for me: General gameplay diversity. Most of the stuff the game has you do outside of story content is just fighting the same enemies or boss types. There's no unique dungeons or bosses, the "domains" you need to farm for gear are all just waves of enemies, daily quests are just killing enemies, etc. There's rarely any unique mechanics or novel ideas that actually change the way you play, which makes the game get stale fast.


Just a heads up, you're the only one who can open your chests in Genshin Impact. The most that other players can do to your detriment is pick flowers.


Strong disagree, if you like BoTW and are looking for similar you might get tricked into liking it for a bit until you notice how incredibly lackluster it is both at being BoTW (and at being interesting otherwise). The lack of emergent mechanics is a huge deal, but even the basic exploration sucks. Mondstadt is an utterly forgettable area (OK, the town is kind of fine, but the surrounding countryside is samey and unremarkable), and while Liyue is more interesting, it's mechanically awful as suddenly the verticality of the scenery increases massively so now your 'gameplay' consists of micromanaging your stamina meter as you tediously scale mountains. I quit before the new area so maybe it's better, I suppose?

And the non-BoTW elements are bad too. The 'strategic' choices in combat involve knowing what you're going to fight, matching your elements to that as best you can (oh, by the way, the two guaranteed free fire element characters are awful at actually delivering fire damage, so hope you gacha-ed one of the good ones if you need fire element). Where's the interesting strategy there? And then the actual fight is just spamming your attacks and rapid-fire switching characters so the elemental effects stack. Also, quite likely you're fighting a boss design that is literally a cube (there are multiple of these).

The 'meta-game' is knowing which bosses/domains/whatever you're going to grind x times today to maximise the chances of dropping one of the hundreds of materials you need to level up whichever character/weapon/skill you're targeting at this point. It's not exactly complex, the game tells you what drops you can expect. It's just a tedious grind, and it's cynically designed to keep you coming back to the game day after day (for people who haven't played: you can only grind these bosses/domains x times per day, and it doesn't take long before grinding up the materials you need to level up something requires multiple days of this grind. You can, of course, pay IRL money to grind a few more times in a given day. Oh, and you can only grind certain things on certain days of the week. So monday you're grinding for a weapon upgrade, tuesday for a skill upgrade, etc. It's incredibly obvious manipulation.)

And then after all that, the game levels up the world as you progress. You start out the game hitting level 10 hillichurls with your sword 5 times to kill them. After hours of playtime and leveling up and forging advanced weapons, you're now hitting level 60 hillichurls with your sword 5 times to kill them. Wow!


I've seen it announced a thousand times on the trains in Tokyo, and I'm always drooling at how beautiful it looks, but assumed it was just marketing and not the real gameplay. I'll give it a try, thanks for the review!


Do you think this will have any impact on aps that are not pay to win games?


What is the interesting Chinese take on it?


This blog post is published tomorrow, just a funny heads up :)


Different time zone: Time zone in Tokyo, Japan (GMT+9)


Ah, good call. Forgot he's in Japan. My mistake.


> Gacha games are named after the onomatopoeia describing vending machines in Japanese malls and arcades which dispense toys and trinkets for, typically, 100 to 200 yen (about $1-$2). The pool of trinkets is displayed prominently on the machine; which trinket you get is effectively randomized. If you had your heart set on a particular one, you might spend much more than $1 on getting it, and some children (and adults!) very much do. Many very successful games have a monetization strategy which descends from a variant of this.

I am sorry to say this as someone who usually agrees with 'patio11 on everything, but both gacha and the "monetization strategies" inspired by it (be they hawking in-game currency or trying to mine email addresses) sound like a terrible idea.

I don't want gacha, or any of these monetization strategies in my ideal consumption model. I want to look at a toy in the store and buy it while knowing what I am getting. This gacha model sounds like it's incentivizing gambling from a very young age.

Am I too close-minded? Idealistic? Missing some crucial part of the article? I'd like to hear, because nothing seems good about this at the moment.


This was posted to HN a little while ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fIuhg0bjvQI [1h 41min]. It's long, but very much worth a watch if you're interested in gacha.

One of the conclusions reached is that the amount of money a game like Genshin Impact can make over time can fund development far in excess of what a traditional shipped-and-finished game could afford (even with expansions/etc). This improves the experience for everyone, > 90% of whom don't pay for the game at all. It seems like a win to me. It just requires a change of mindset: enjoying the game while accepting that your in-game resources are limited and "completion" is impossible.


> the amount of money a game like Genshin Impact can make over time can fund development far in excess of what a traditional shipped-and-finished game could afford (even with expansions/etc). This improves the experience for everyone

This relies on 2 premises that I find very unlikely. That A) the additional funding is actually spent on improving the game and B) that this doesn't create a downward pressure on the games industry that essentially all games race to the bottom for whales, draining all possible investment funds and crowding out genuinely good games that would be designed by people who genuinely love games instead of being designed by addiction psychologists.


> the additional funding is actually spent on improving the game

Developers are actually incentivised to continue to add content to the game as much as possible, lest the whales get bored and move to something else. Genshin impact has seen many updates which add entire new regions to the map, complete with quests and new characters. This isn't something BoTW would ever be able to justify.

> all games race to the bottom for whales ... crowding out genuinely good games

I don't think these are mutually exclusive. Whales are also people and also enjoy playing good games. Genshin Impact is a good game by any measure. Its gameplay and core game loop were clearly designed by people who love games. The fact that characters and items are unlocked using a gacha system doesn't take away from this.


> incentivised to continue to add content

Content designed for people with gambling and hoarding addictions, not content designed to be good.

> Whales are also people and also enjoy playing good games.

There are really objectively shitty games with 4+ stars on the Play Store. "People enjoy casinos" seals the coffin in the gaming industry as far as I see it.


I wouldn't use star rating as a measure of game quality or popularity. Do you think Candy Crush is an objectively shitty game? How about Clash of Clans? Which games here https://sensortower.com/ios/rankings/top/iphone/us/games?dat... are objectively shitty?


My reading is that "successful" means "makes a lot of money for the developer". It sounds like your concern is about the effect on the consumer, which is covered in a separate footnote.

https://www.kalzumeus.com/2021/08/27/app-store-payment-compe...


As an avid Genshin Impact player, I think this style of game needs to be heavily regulated. Besides endless grinding for slightly better random stats on a few items, there is little endgame progression possible outside of rolling for new characters in the "gatcha", and the prices are insanely high!

I find that this setup generates a compulsion in me to spend money for "one more roll". And while I've never been to a real casino, this resembles accounts of gambling addiction. At a minimum, these games should be rated 18+. There's no way it's healthy for kids to be exposed to mechanics that amount to unregulated gambling before they've even developed some modicum of self control.


Experiences can be compelling without being addictive, which is a distinction I think sometimes lost here. Civilization is compelling and I for one have lost some sleep to Just One More Turn, but one rarely loses one's job or family over Civilization, which is not true of gambling addiction. Inability to stop despite sincere desire to stop, negative impact across multiple outside-the-activity areas of life, etc, are diagnostic criteria for addictions of all sort for basically this reason.

As a parent, I probably wouldn't encourage my children to play either WoW or Genshin Impact or similar until I had a strong bead on their level of self-regulation capacity.


I think the difference here is that Genshin only has variable rewards and allows you to pull levers for them with real money. Civilization (for the right player) has bottomless gameplay time, A game like WoW has a fixed subscription cost (with cosmetics) and a bottomless gameplay time; what Genshin Impact adds to the danger list is the “gacha” style gameplay progression where you gamble with as much money as you are willing to spend for game items, stat boosts and characters, many available for only a limited time.

I have no doubt this model is much more lucrative but it feels like there is a slot machine standing in the way of what is otherwise a very impressive fusion of different ARPG ideas.


> I think the difference here is that Genshin only has variable rewards and allows you to pull levers for them with real money.

It's even worse than that. You can only earn a relatively small amount of gatcha currency in-game. Once you've exhausted that pool for a given patch, no amount of grinding will get you more and the only way to "pull the lever" is with real money.


>but one rarely loses one's job or family over Civilization, which is not true of gambling addiction.

debatable. Maybe not with Civ specifically, but I remember huge scares in the MMO days over some people literally playing themselves to death from malnourishment. In particular this was targeted towards dedicated gaming cafes in Korea from what I remember. Addiction can be just as deadly even if it "only costs $10/month"

I imagine it's more common than expected, mmo's have just become "more accepted" over time as it acclimated into society.


> There's no way it's healthy for kids to be exposed to mechanics that amount to unregulated gambling before they've even developed some modicum of self control.

I don't disagree but TCGs are basically unregulated gambling for kids and it has been the case for several decades.


Incidentally, it's heavily regulated in China, where the developers are based. It's only a free-for-all overseas. There are regulatory limits on how many loot boxes a player can open, etc.


Literally "I can't control myself and want the government to do it for me" lol. Grow up!


I mean, that's why we outlaw heroin sales. Sometimes free markets have a natural tendency to evolve towards predatory exploiting brain quirks to extract money out of people, and we need some roadblock to have an entertainment industry that isn't nothing but casinos.


The Genshin Impact behavior, as described, sounds like a true nightmare. It's like when you skimmed through the Epic lawsuit against Apple and they described all the "features" that Apple is "preventing", I just wanted to throw up.

On the customer side, who the hell wants this stuff?


well, it's a monetization model and not a gameplay feature for a reason. Financial incentives will always be at war with the consumer ideal of "free and constantly updating, no strings attached".

I don't think anyone "wants" to pay for this kinda stuff. But many have.


The customer probably just wants a button they can click in-app to pay for stuff.


I know I am probably not your average consumer, but I am not looking forward to this at all.

I like having a single place that my payment info is stored and processed, and I trust Apple with it. With this new world order everyone and their dog is going to be asking for my credit card details and who knows how well or safely it is going to be handled/stored.

For small purchases I really don't want to have to enter my credit card details.


It'd be a choice of paying a bit more with less hassle (via Apple) and paying a bit less with more hassle (via a 3rd party). But at least there will be a choice.


I don't think it'll shift as quickly or as hard as you expect. I imagine this will just be where some companies strongly urge users to use their native payments, but there will be some small "use apple pay" button (possibly mandated by Apple, possibly not).

On top of that, many may not bother at all. setting up a payment vendor isn't trivial. Some may be happy to let apple keep 30% of the gravy for that convienence.


Worrying about credit card safety is silly. Your bank shoulders that burden. In the US you are legally not responsible for significant credit card fraud.

I'm much more concerned about monopolistic behavior. The solution to payment security isn't to choose one company and make them the gatekeeper.


The real issue is that I am lazy, and my credit card number is also used for recurring payments on things that are important to me.

So if there is credit card fraud, and I have to get a new card number, I end up having to remember the 10+ places it is used and update them before I find out because my water is turned off (for example).

I have ADHD, I already have enough on my mind, I don't need to add additional complexity or burden to it.


The situation you describe where you don't have to surrender payment information to individual merchants already occurs on the open Internet: payment processors like Shop Pay, PayPal, and Apple/Google Pay are often offered on all kinds of merchant websites. PayPal implemented this idea of a centralized subscription manager long before the App Store even existed!

If Apple was not the sole payment provider on the App Store, that same open Internet-like situation would emerge where these payment processors would compete with each other on features, convenience, and merchant fees.

Instead, we're left with Apple's App Store payment monopoly where they charge up to 30% just for payment processing while the industry-standard rate in the rest of the payment world is more like 2.5%.

Apple's rationale for this huge fee is that the App Store isn't just a payment processor, it's like a "retailer" or a "storefront" – therefore, a larger cut of the sales is entirely justified, and in their mind reasonable. You'd thank your lucky stars if Walmart ever agreed to give you 70% of the retail price to sell your toaster on their shelves.

I think that rationale falls apart when you're talking about the App Store as the only way to install applications on an operating system that's part of a duopoly of general purpose computing that's a near-necessity for modern living with no serious alternative (which is the major distinction between the Apple App Store and other closed software ecosystems like game consoles).

To me, you're overstating the inconvenience of the off-App Store experience. For one thing, important things like your water bill or rent payment don't go through Apple's App Store payment processing system in the first place, so I don't see how allowing the kind of subscriptions offered on the App Store to lapse is any sort of problem.

You don't have to run around and update payment in 10 places, you can just let them expire on their own and these subscription services will just contact you asking to turn the money spigot back on.

For example, my YouTube Premium subscription's payment method failed recently and they just emailed me to tell me about it. They didn't even cut off service. In other words, it wasn't hard, it wasn't painful.

YouTube Premium is a great example because it's a product that costs 30% more if you decide to pay for it through the App Store. I can't see how the convenience of centralized payment is worth a 30% price hike for any service. My 5 minutes of inconvenience every time my credit card numbers change/expire (once every 2-5 years maybe?) saved me $65 annualized.


If Revolut is available in your country, you can use it to create disposable virtual cards for one-time transactions.


seems like by using Apple Pay / google pay your fears would be assuaged?


Apple Pay still sends a credit card number to a website. Where it may be used like any other credit card number. Same with Google Pay.


pretty sure at least apple pay uses a dynamic security code, and not just a raw card number that can be saved?


Yes

> After you authenticate your transaction, the Secure Element provides your Device Account Number and a transaction-specific dynamic security code to the store’s point of sale terminal along with additional information needed to complete the transaction. Again, neither Apple nor your device sends your actual payment card number. Before they approve the payment, your bank, card issuer, or payment network can verify your payment information by checking the dynamic security code to make sure that it’s unique and tied to your device.

> Like with in-store payments, Apple sends your Device Account Number to the app or website along with the transaction-specific dynamic security code. Neither Apple nor your device sends your actual payment card number to the app.

Note that this can be prefaced by 'usually' - some banks, instead of generating a new unique ID for Apple Pay, will use the CC number itself, or will at least augment the device ID with the payment card (I noticed this as receipts showed the last 4 of the card, despite using Apple Pay).

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT203027


Sounds like a good opportunity for "Log in with Ethereum" and stablecoins


> There’s an interesting discourse about whether gacha games are anti-consumer or not which I don’t have enough space to do justice to here. Broadly I think they have some challenges similar to gambling, insofar as many adults gamble recreationally and enjoy it, while some are clearly harmed by it. I used to think that free-to-play games’ dependence on whales was strong evidence that they were a negative development, but I heard an argument from the CEO of Kongregate which changed my mind. Distilled to its essence, it is that “Many whales are simply employed professionals who enjoy what they enjoy, and professionals historically spend a lot of money on what they enjoy. Why should we have contempt for this in a video game when we don’t if it is e.g. figure skating or wine?” I recommend reading or watching the entire talk if you’re interested in this topic.

I find it pretty disingenuous to put this in the footnote and brush it off as "not having enough space", and then went on to justify it with an opinion from someone who clearly has stake in this space.

Equating whales with professionals is just completely missing the point, and is simply marketing speech that masks the underlying problem.

A lot of mechanisms in Gacha games are engineered dark patterns whose sole purpose is to make money. They are basically there to exploit those who are psychologically more susceptible.

It's ironic that the author uses Genshin Impact as an example and then went on to say something about spending more money in Gacha game is a reflection of professionalism. In Genshin Impact you can power up A LOT by spending money on Gacha because you can get substantially better equipment that is otherwise unavailable through normal game play, or you can power up your existing characters, too. Can someone instantly become better at skating with a better pair of skates?


Actually, one of the reasons Genshin is lauded by it's player base is that you can clear the hardest content with free to play characters. The 5 stars have way flashier looking abilities and get more face-time in the narrative, and are generally a bit more meta, but are not leaps and bounds stronger. So Genshin has at least proven that "selling broken OP characters" is not a necessary ingredient to making a $2B hit. That said, other gacha games are definitely all about selling that power.


Would it not be more profitable to process all payments for all internet transactions, rather than one app store?

Ditch app stores, fully integrate the web as a platform, then bake Apple/Google pay into the browser/OS, and just be the payment processor for all transactions.

This would also make it much easier for web developers to fetch payments from their apps, no third party API needed. The boost in volume from this factor alone should be considerable.


Apple already has baked in Apple Pay to Safari for a cut of all transactions.


Apple Pay doesn't take a cut.



I'm not sure what exactly you're including/excluding under the 'Apple Pay' umbrella here, but what do you call the merchant discount rate?


We're building this at our startup - a universal app store in WebGL. Primary use case is for game developers (Unreal Engine, and later Unity). No 30% fees, applications work everywhere.

For users, clicking a link is much easier than installing an app.


One of the better things Apple does with their position as a middleman is give customers more control over their relationship with app creators of all kinds. If the customer is unhappy about their experience, iOS gives them what amounts to a one-click "get off my phone and get out of my wallet" button. Compare this to the notorious New York Times cancellation rigamarole where cancelling a subscription required a phone call to a person whose job was to talk you out of cancelling. This level of autonomy is clearly valuable to customers: behold the widespread dissatisfaction about subscriptions vs. one-time purchases. People don't like the experience of being strongarmed into a business relationship any more than they like it with interpersonal relationships, and rightly so. However, because Apple exerted the degree of control that it did over what shape a customer relationship mediated by their app store could look like, it hasn't been clear exactly _how_ valuable that control is to consumers.

Once app creators have options for customer relationships other than Apple's app store, I expect that we'll find out exactly how valuable that autonomy is to customers, and I'm personally fascinated about what the answer might be.


I find this to be equally true for Apple's hide my email service and Apple Pay.

When I have to give my email out - to sign up for a service, or make a one time purchase online for the receipt etc, Apple provides the option to use a unique anonymized email alias that forwards to my iCloud account.

When I want to unsubscribe from any of these services, I control it directly and can just delete email alias for that service instead of going through unsubscribe flows which don't seem to work half the time.

I love using Apple Pay for a similar reason. It has that, it just works, quality, especially when ordering packages.

There's absolutely zero friction and never any fixing of incorrect auto filled forms. I get the same experience everywhere and its always seamless.


Regarding hard-to-cancel subscriptions:

I always thought this should be the credit card company's responsibility. High-end credit cards like AMEX and Chase Sapphire already have so many cushy perks, what's so hard about also adding something like "We'll guarantee you can 1-click unsubscribe from anything <=$30 month and underwrite any risk of these going to collections"?


The proposed plan for monetizing this relies on a misunderstanding (deliberately crafted by Apple) of the app store changes. If you obtain contact information from within the app, you can't use that information to steer monetization.

Here's a quote from the new policy:

> Developers cannot use information obtained within the app to target individual users outside of the app to use purchasing methods other than in-app purchase (such as sending an individual user an email about other purchasing methods after that individual signs up for an account within the app). Developers can send communications outside of the app to their user base about purchasing methods other than in-app purchase.


I would pay more per app to a third party App Store that promised platform independence- that is, I can take my App Library with me to android from iOS or from iOS to android, where supported, like I do with steam windows/Mac/Linux.


Exactly. I own a lot of game licenses via Steam and Epic. I expect to be able to use those licenses no matter the device I'm using. This alone is why app stores should be de-coupled from hardware vendors.


This is not a new situation, Facebook platform games went through all those gaming-the-gamers phases 10 years ago. If devs start baiting people to give their address, soon all the devs will do that and apple will ban it because reasons. Very few people will give their email anyway. Overall the impact will be minimal. Also, surprised that apple hasn't banned those gacha things yet.


With respect to the author, I found the article a bit overwrought and folks may bounce before getting the gist.

tl;dr Apple will be more generous in allowing developers to message their customers about payment options outside the app. This is a big deal for virtual game economies (and others!) because now Epic can email/message you about a fortnite vbuck bundle sold from their website, where epic can pay their payment provider, say, 3% plus $0.25 for a $10 transaction rather than the 30% App Store fee, saving $2.45!

The revenant Apple text:

> To give developers even more flexibility to reach their customers, Apple is also clarifying that developers can use communications, such as email, to share information about payment methods outside of their iOS app. As always, developers will not pay Apple a commission on any purchases taking place outside of their app or the App Store. Users must consent to the communication and have the right to opt out.

Very exciting stuff, and Patrick is right that this messaging will be rolled out quickly by games and others.


> folks may bounce before getting the gist

Agreed. I had to read it more than twice to get what he was talking about. I'd say that the the only reason I bothered is that I usually like patio11's insights so I figured it was worth trying to understand it.

Since I'm not a gamer, I got distracted trying to understand a lot of the game stuff and why it was so relevant to what he was getting at.

ps, I like your tl;dr :-)


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