Free-to-play farce: Publishers pushing indies to implement pay-to-win tactics

Free-to-play farce: Publishers pushing indies to implement pay-to-win tactics

Mobile publishers are piling increasing pressure on indie developers to implement aggressive monetisation structures in their games, focusing on pay-to-win tactics that disregard the foundations of the game's design.

That's according to reports from a clutch of studios with first hand experience. Italian studio BloodyMonkey, for instance, approached publishers with an upcoming sliding puzzler called Pablo Cavarez.

Initially planned as a free-to-play game, Pablo Cavarez would give players the first handful of levels for free and allow them to unlock the rest of the game for 99c / 69p.

But in speaking to Pocket Gamer, BloodyMonkey founder Paolo Taje said it wasn't enough for some publishers.

Clash bang boom

"We approached different publishers during the development, but all of them required some form of free-to-play mechanic (virtual currency, sell hints, ads...)," Taje bagan.

We decided to self-publish the game and stick with the initial design: no artificial gimmick

"We decided to self-publish the game and stick with the initial design: no artificial gimmick, just one world free to try and all the rest of the game unlockable one time and forever."

The other developer which has reported a similar encounter, Cliffhanger, told its story to Strategy Informer.

Creative director Jan Wagner said his upcoming game Aerena: Clash of Champions was turned down by unnamed publishers on the grounds that they "only take pay-to-win games".

Wagner retorted that he thought the pay-to-win model was "a race to the bottom in terms of quality" and was - unsurprisingly - told by some publishers to never contact them again.

The plural of anecdote isn't data, naturally, but it's unlikely that Cliffhanger and BloodyMonkey are the only two indie studios have conversations like this with publishers.

US Correspondent

Representing the former colonies, Matt keeps the Pocket Gamer news feed updated when sleepy Europeans are sleeping. As a frustrated journalist, diehard gamer and recovering MMO addict, this is pretty much his dream job.


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Broken Crayon
Just to chime in from an publisher perspective...

As a publisher that WILL support the premium business model, I do have to admit that we're completely guilty of at least asking developers to consider the F2P option. HOWEVER, we're also completely against the 'pay-to-win' model (simply due to our market focus).

That said, when developers opt for the premium model, we let them know up front that certain markets are very likely going to tank - and as a result, we can't afford to devote the time and money into those markets we could otherwise (i.e. - expect extremely low download counts with US markets for iOS, Google Play, to a lesser extent Amazon, almost no worth in localization to the Asian market which otherwise is often just a valuable as US, and little worth in much of Europe -- in other words, expect less money -- but for many developers money isn't the goal, the goal is the experience of sharing your idea (hehe, to be honest, from the publisher side, our goal is more focused on money, but I'm happy to support developer goals - and since the goal of both is still to get as many people to see the work as possible, it works).

**Long story short - Like @Dmitry said - "If you want to make money, you should listen to reasons from publishers"... that's our focus... but if that's not yours, don't let a publisher bully you into it, there's still a nice middle ground that a lot of publishers don't like to wander into.
Tom Ricket Partner at Inert Soap, LLC
We've certainly heard the same thing from publishers, even when our product (we recently released a tower defense game called Man at Arms, for example) really doesn't work with F2P. And Dmitry, you may be right -- it may be that in the current market, that's the way to make money. It doesn't stop us and other indie developers from wanting to use what we feel is a different business model. Our personal first big commercial experience was when we worked at Blizzard North creating the Diablo series, and that may have tilted us toward wanting paid, quality apps. So ... who knows; we may fail if we refuse pay-to-win behavior, but so it goes.
Dmitry Gubanenkov Business Development Manager at Mystery Tag
If you want to make money, you should listen to reasons from publishers.
Dedan Anderson
yes because publishers never fail.
nadav bar kama project manager at NAFNA CREATIVIDAD TECNOLOGICA SL
buen hecho paolo! the game video shows sweet polish and fun! go for it!