So I totally hear his rationale from a game developer's point of view, I really do. But though I'm a developer, I'm also a customer, and I just can't swallow the coin model for games.
I've played Triple Town and thought it was pretty cute, and yes, I'd probably pay 99c for it, maybe even up to $2.99. But I'm not signing up to a lifetime of paying coins to continue playing it long term.
One fundamental issue is that by design, coin based games are going to be 'gamed' to encourage the use of coins, and fundamentally I don't want to participate in a game dynamic where I'm paying for game experimentation with real dollars. It is like me playing a game of chess and having the constant option to drop $20 to buy another queen. Sure it isn't absolutely necessary to win, but it sure helps. Having that dynamic in games just turns me off.
Now I understand the problem of running a sustainable business all too well, having had my own game company go under, but I don't believe this is the solution. I'm not sure what the right one is, and on that front I applaud them for experimenting, but as a customer I personally reject it.
That's the real pitfall, when that dynamic actively makes the core game design worse.
After thinking about it more, this model is just in its own little boom cycle, and it will go bust too. I've played some of the top grossing in-app purchase games on iOS and they are down right aweful. The audience that is shelling out this money are "newbies" to one degree or the other.
Just like people who sit in casinos pushing a button all day, the audience for these games will never disappear. However, the market for normal games will not vanish. Players will get burned out on these things a lot faster, because a) its on their phone not in a distant casino and b) they don't win money playing them.
I think Valve has the right model, sell in-game items that are not mandatory in order to play the game successfully.
At the end of the day, your player has to want to play your game. If I developed games, I would be asking what keeps a player around for years rather than how do I monetize the player over the long term.
There are exceptions in these games, some that allow you to speed things up with money but you never really need to until you get tired of the whole game anyways. But those games seem to operate as advertising for other games made by the same company (you occasionally get a popup when you launch the game linking to their other new game of the month). So they're only tolerable because they're not trying to extract money from you as much from that particular game. Sort of the exception that proves the rule.
An alternative way to get a continuous stream of revenue is to develop a fan base so devoted that they are happy to donate money or preorder years in advance just to keep you afloat.
503 - Service Unavailable
An Interactive Fiction by Horace The Endless Server Technician
Release 1 / Serial number 110707 / Inform 7 build 6E72 (I6/v6.31 lib 6/12N)
You are standing at the entrance to Castle Shotgun. The gates are securely locked, with an unappealing sign on the front. The sign reads "Whoops! RPS is having a bit of a wobbly. Don't worry, we'll be back soon!"
To the left of the gates is a large opening in the wall, which Jim is leaning into. John is perched on a small rock nearby, while Alec and Tim are standing on the other side of the gates. A pile of magazines is scattered in a corner.
You can see Jim, John, Tim, Alec and a Refresh Button here.
For some reason, I the #content container has a width of zero.
Try running `document.getElementById('content').style.width = null` in the console to fix that.
Personally I look at the game business as a sort of "innovator's hustle," where most of the effort is going towards the novelty aspects - even in the design. Traditional/historical games have lasted by remaining captivating for lifetimes, rather than 40 hours, so raising the bar for long-term retention is not an impossibility, provided that a way to market the design over an equally long time exists. But it's far more straightforward to push for marketing-immediate elements(graphics, storytelling, ad campaigns, etc.) and that's led to an industry characterized by budget escalation.
From this angle, F2P's profit engine is primarily running on the basis that more novel and more appealing games can be made via a change in the business model. If the innovation stagnates, so will the market for F2P. But the business model isn't directly at fault for that. Tactics like blind conversion of every existing type of video game into a F2P straitjacket are what make it a fad, one likely to recede to a more reasonable level over time, but not one that goes away entirely.
One clear example is, League of Legends. Where you start with set of free champions and you either play or pay to unlock more of them. One can argue that, Valve's TF2 and Dota2 are in similar vein. You of course, don't have to pay to unlock heroes - but you pay to buy cosmetic items (so as you can look cool in-game). So, while you may dislike this model, it looks like it is here to stay.
The other issue is that it seems like often paying wouldn't be much fun either as it makes the game to easy.
More importantly I agree that this model heavily encourages the developer to design around that methodology (well described as "gamed" above).
To be fair, in this specific example - if I recall in Triple Town, the main thing you bought was unlimited play-time ("turns") for $3.99 (which follows the more positive unlock model). After that you could buy the standard coins (the shitty model), but given the design of the game I never understood why you would.
So, the three models of free to play that I see are:
1. pay for perks - this is the traditional "you pay and you get something you can use", be it guns or coins or whatever. The danger with this model is that it is a very fine balance to prevent this from becoming pay to win.
2. pay for cosmetics - DotA 2 or skins in LoL or hats in TF2 or whatever you have. Buy things to change the look of your stuff in game, but buying things has no effect on your success or the gameplay. IMHO almost all free to play games should support this in some way.
3. pay for experience. The things you buy in game don't give you an advantage in the game but instead alter the play style or how you experience the gameplay. League of Legends gives you weekly tasters of the different gameplay experiences the different champions have to offer and you can pay to keep the ones you like best. I believe that this is the model (coupled with #2) that ultimately makes the very successful free to play games stand out from the merely moderately successful ones.
However, as a consumer, I don't want to be part of that model. I don't want to encourage that kind of behavior, and I don't buy those games. As someone who does play many games, I love the boxed software model from a consumer standpoint.
At some point, I think video games need to start costing more. I think indie devs are really selling themselves short with their prices. I don't have any data to back this up, but I see plenty of games that take years to make by dedicated independent developers sell at launch for less than half the price that games normally sell for.
I feel that indie games are being artificially devalued, and that's hurting indie devs. I am willing to put my money where my mouth is and pay double what I pay now for most of my games. I just wish others would as well.
Paying a dollar to play it a little longer to see if it's sufficiently addictive, and then 7 dollars if you want to keep playing it long term, doesn't seem so bad to me - I like the idea of being offered the choice.