Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login

This is a pretty good take on what being a small indie dev is like. I've been through that exact cycle, of building a portfolio of games, having some big hits fund growing the company, then taking on bigger projects before the inevitable collapse. In our case that collapse actually came from our primary platform disappearing (thank MS for buying Danger) and our failure to pivot well enough into the new hyper competitive iOS market.

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.

It isn't just that you'd be paying for extra queens, they'd also start you with less pawns, or make the board twice as big (or something) so the game takes longer, to encourage you to buy queens.

That's the real pitfall, when that dynamic actively makes the core game design worse.

Initially I found the model you describe as repulsive. Could there be a future in games that were actually somewhat enjoyable to play? Or would that all be well optimized at manipulating you through a combination of impatience, greed, and misery to hand over real cash to keep going?

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.

I agree with you on all points.

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.

This is a really interesting story: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/11/03/how-natural-selec...

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.

Site doesn't work right now, but has an awesome 503 error, powered by [0].

    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) 

    HTTP Error
    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.


[0] - https://code.google.com/p/parchment/

Heh, I actually clicked the link hoping to see a cache of the 503 error.

You can play it here: http://error.rockpapershotgun.com/

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.

Ha, nice. Try talking to all four guys.

Now you've made me sad that I can't see the 503 error.

Or the monthly subscription model, although that becomes a hits based game also, just that people will commit to far fewer monthly recurring games than one time purchases.

You don't have to buy coins to play Triple town in the long term. Playing the way, I naturally do, I accumulate coins over time. At this point, I have basically an unlimited amount. I've never spent real money on them.

I have to agree that there isn't a sure thing. Dan Cook is a very smart guy, but even smart guys can get the wrong perspective and end up running into a wall.

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.

I have not played Triple Town but free to play model that generates revenue by asking users to pay for unlocking things is here to stay.

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.

I also haven't played Triple Town, but I want to note there are multiple ways to go about free to play. I love the model Valve does with TF2. A player will be able to unlock a large amount of weapons through achievements and drops without spending any money. People may argue about balance, but there are no weapons which 100% outshine each other. Being a paying user doesn't really affect how well you'll do in game. Dota2 takes this further and you only pay for cosmetic items, with your character's ability having absolutely no correlation with how much you've spent on the game. LoL takes a different approach: You can spend money to unlock characters. However you steadily earn money from matches. I'd call this a middle ground. Most social and free to play games on phones and facebook take in my opinion the worst path: Paying directly and dramatically influences your ability in the game. I dislike this approach for a variety of reasons. The biggest is the ways it influences other design choices. I'd love to have a little game revolving around growing a good farm or city on my phone, but all the games I know about take the social approach. This means I have to go and wait around for something to build unless I pay, instead of having fun playing a little game. Imagine if tamagachi used the pay to win approach? That rich kid in the playground would've had an awesome pet, and everyone else would be left with a starving pet.

I agree, I have tried a few games with the wait or pay to advance dynamic. I much prefer to be able to progress as much as I want when playing, limited by the time I have to play rather than when the game wants to halt my progress.

The other issue is that it seems like often paying wouldn't be much fun either as it makes the game to easy.

The reason people argue about balance is because they think weapons completely outshine each other. It's subjective, but you do have tournament results and other metrics to look at.

I don't think the argument above has to do with the model of "unlocking things". The difference in League of Legends (and DotA2/TF2) versus most other contemporary (especially mobile) F2P models is that most of what you buy (your example being Champions) are permanent unlocks. I haven't heard a lot of arguments against that model. You're paying for a digital version of something that you now own, you keep, you collect, and you can essentially use forever. To me that's very different than buying something consumable (e.g. coins) or energy based that is literally spent and then gone, at which point you're expected to pay more.

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.

Not only that, but, in DotA 2, it doesn't actually affect the game. It just looks cool.

Even buying champions in LoL (you can buy skins too) doesn't affect the game really because every week the champions you get to play for free rotate, giving everyone a chance to play whichever they like and secondly, they are balanced so that it doesn't really matter which champions you play if you're skilled. You are really paying for a different experience.

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.

I that It's awesome for developers to make a living. I really want the gaming industry to flourish, and I want people to be able to live off the work they do. In that context, I can totally empathize with developers doing things differently so that they can survive.

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.

According to [the review on toucharcade](http://toucharcade.com/2012/01/20/triple-town-review/) you could, at that time, unlock unlimited turns for $6.99.

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.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | DMCA | Apply to YC | Contact