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Free To PAY

Weekend Deals photo
Weekend Deals

Weekend deals: Tip your hat to 25% off Phantom Pain

Finger cross on PC port not sucking
Aug 30
// Dealzon
(Update: New deals now available for MGSV, added in below). Of the two AAA titles releasing on September 1st the big one is Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. PC gamers are getting discounts up to 23% off at GMG dropp...
Evolve photo

2K does pay-to-win lite with Evolve app

Because who doesn't love pay to win?
Jan 30
// Robert Summa
Obviously, 2K loves money. I mean, they're a company, so that's what their primary function should be, right? Well, with video games it can be a little tricky. You can love money, but at the same, you still have to respect wh...
Upgrade Complete photo
Upgrade Complete

Upgrade Complete 3mium pokes fun at awful free-to-play games

And ends up being oddly enjoyable
Jan 19
// Jordan Devore
Did you like DLC Quest, conceptually? You might also dig Upgrade Complete 3mium, a short browser-based game that parodies the worst aspects of free-to-play gaming. You're forced to play the crappy lite version of the game and...
Not 'free' photo
Not 'free'

Google will stop calling games with in-app purchases 'free' in Europe

Healthcare communist socialist PC police
Jul 18
// Steven Hansen
As part of its investigation into unwanted in-app purchases, often by children, the European Commission has laid out guidelines for developers and the app stores themselves to follow. By the end of September, Google will...

Dungeon Keeper photo
Dungeon Keeper

EA's Dungeon Keeper ads are indeed misleading, ASA rules

We could have told you that
Jul 03
// Brittany Vincent
A complaint against Electronic Arts has been upheld by the UK's Advertising Standard Authority concerning marketing for its latest mobile free-to-play version of Dungeon Keeper. The complaint was made in regards to an email c...
SoulCalibur & pay-to-win photo
SoulCalibur & pay-to-win

SoulCalibur producer discusses 'pay-to-win' model in Lost Swords

Apparently this is why there's no multiplayer
May 19
// Kyle MacGregor
The term "pay-to-win" is oft thrown around by critics of free-to-play games, but you rarely if ever hear developers turn the phrase when discussing their own games.  Apparently Namco producer Masaaki Hoshino has no such ...
Tap tap tap tap tap tap photo
Tap tap tap tap tap tap

Someone made a LEGO robot to play their freemium game

Fight the power
Apr 16
// Steven Hansen
Smart man Uli Kilian went ahead and made a robot out of LEGO that plays the free-to-play Jurassic Park Builder while he sleeps or is otherwise away from his iPad. Tapping dinosaurs every few minutes earns in-game currency (or...
Lord of the Rings photo
Lord of the Rings

LOTR Online selling level 50 character boosts

To win, insert credit card number
Dec 15
// Harry Monogenis
So yeah, you can now legitimately buy a level 50 boost for your Lord of the Rings Online characters directly from the developers via the MMO's online store until December 19. They've named it the 'Gift of the Valar' and ...

Jimquisition: Fee to Pay

Jimquisition happens every Monday!
Jul 29
// Jim Sterling
It's time to talk about why "optional" microtransactions in games aren't really optional, and why they're especially gruesome in games we already paid for at retail. The rise of "free to play" elements in games that are not ...
Ultima Forever photo
Ultima Forever

Ultima Forever reduces freemium prices due to fan outcry

Now the game doesn't gouge you quite as much
Jun 14
// Chris Carter
As we all know, freemium models tend to do more harm than good if they're not well designed. There's a very fine line between "wanting to monetize your game" and driving players away, and in the Canadian beta for Ultima Forev...
Next-gen photo

Epic: Microsoft, Sony to fully embrace F2P for next-gen

We knew this day would come
May 09
// Jordan Devore
At the Game Horizon conference, Epic Games VP Mark Rein warned of the looming free-to-play console storm, reports Joystiq. "The next-gen consoles are going to be fully embracing the free-to-play and these IAP-type business m...
Freemium photo

EA: customers want freemium games, so shut up

Flog that horse until it's only bones!
Apr 03
// Jim Sterling
Electronic Arts has justified its blind charge into the free-to-play market by suggesting that, though the ever-classic "vocal minority" dislikes such games, everybody else loves them. Upset about the restructuring of games l...
Battlefield Heroes photo
Battlefield Heroes

Aliens invading Battlefield Heroes

They're in it for the money
Feb 28
// Conrad Zimmerman
Extraterrestrials are landing in Electronic Arts' free-to-play game Battlefield Heroes, and there's a trailer for it here which I have to admit to having found a bit charming.  But what's kind of funny about it is the m...

Trends of this Generation: Digital distribution

Feb 20 // Daniel Starkey
This may not seem like that big of a deal at first. After all, where people buy their games has never really been that big of a deal, but if we really think about everything that’s changing now, almost all of it can be traced back to, in some way, the rise of digital distribution on the back of burgeoning broadband networks in almost every section of the globe. To truly understand just how important this is, you first need to understand a bit about the game industry itself. Generally speaking, most developers operate through a publisher that creates the physical discs, encodes them, creates the packaging and ships them out to the retailers. And that all takers place after the console manufacturer (Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft) approve the game for publication on their system. Everyone in that process gets a cut of the game’s final sales -- devs, pubs, console manufacturers, the shipping infrastructure, and the retailers. If the game is successful, then that translates into least money on the developer’s side for investment in future projects. Developers still risk almost everything while the potential rewards from that gamble are gobbled up by everyone else. Now, in many ways, this system helps subsidize the cost of consoles, and does provide extra capital to publishers who occasionally bankroll projects that might not otherwise ever see the light of day, but many developers would still prefer to see the largest percentage of sales come back to them as possible. While certainly not the first platform of its kind, Valve was able to get the ball rolling with the completion and distribution of Steam in 2003. Through it, players could search for, purchase, and download any games that were currently available. Valve, in some sense, acted as a publisher of sorts, by taking a small chunk of any sales -- after that though, the developers were allowed to keep whatever else was left. There was no retail store to deal with, and because Steam was only available on the PC, there was no one to approve of and license the game for distribution. That one change started a revolution, whose effects are becoming more and more apparent every day. After the release of the Xbox 360, Microsoft established their digital storefront called Xbox Live Marketplace. Nintendo and Sony followed suit with the Wii Shop Channel and PlayStation Store, respectively. While the console crowd was a few years behind, their entrance into the digital distribution market would be no less influential. In the years since, each of their stores has seen an exceptional list of exclusives, and in an era where multi-platforms are the norm, that is no small thing. Fez, Journey and the entire BIT.TRIP series, were for a time, at least, exclusive to a different platform. While none of these stores completely overthrew the traditional publication model, they outlets seemed to favor smaller, cheaper games that were a bit more successful than their full-priced, AAA brethren. A new set of price points became the norm -- $5, $10 and $15, certainly a far cry from the $60 gamers were accustomed to paying. At those prices, consumers would be a bit more likely to take a risk on an untested product- even one that they had never heard of. Indie games like the ones I mentioned earlier plus dozens of others have become more and more common. In many ways this matches the general trend we’ve seen in all forms of media over the past decade. Instead of buying whole albums, customers can pick and choose tracks they like. People can get Netflix and try out all kinds of movies and television shows with very little financial risk. Ebooks and the ability of authors to self-publish online has given many, many more people a variety of options for media consumption. The real game changer here, the bit that has already started changing how the vast majority of people plays games has really only gained traction in the past two or three years. Games like Temple Run have been downloaded tens of millions of times, with Angry Birds recently topping one-billion downloads. That reaches a level of cultural ubiquity of which most can only dream. The PS2, the single most successful game console ever, has been around for 12 years and moved 150 million units. Android alone has 500 million devices in hands, with 1.3 million more activations per day. These numbers are absolutely ludicrous, and while I know many “core” gamers aren’t too thrilled about it, Nintendo and Sony, with their relatively modern handhelds, are still light years behind the new face of the market. It’s difficult to say exactly where all of this will end up, but portable gaming is here to stay, and the old guard has never seemed more incompetent and more resistant to change. A few closing thoughts If there's one thing that we should really be taking away from all of this, it is that this past generation has been nothing if not superlative. Our medium is growing, and it is doing so at an incredible rate. Yes, retail sales and the like have been in decline and yes, more than a few studios have seen their doors close earlier than they deserve, but the mainstream adoption of gaming in all its forms is incredible.  These days, everyone's a gamer.
Gaming trends photo
This changes everything
Leading up the possible PlayStation 4 announcement on February 20, I've been looking into some paradigm shifts we've seen over the past generation. This is stuff that will likely be with us for a while; these are things that ...

Trends of this Generation: Gamification

Feb 19 // Daniel Starkey
The Xbox 360 got the ball rolling on gamification with Gamerscore. Sony and Valve added their own achievement tracking systems. Each of these companies, in one form or another began rewarding players for in-game accomplishments with a cute sound effect and a small bit of text. There’s a lot of commentary and discussion about whether or not achievements and systems to track them have been good or bad for the industry as a whole; there can be no doubt that Valve, Microsoft and Sony have some major precedents, creating, in essence extrinsic motivators for in-game tasks. “Gamification.” People devote quite a bit of time to explaining and trying to understand how achievements can be used to encourage certain kinds of actions for the player. Since the discussion began among academics and game designers, countless people have implemented these subtle psychological tricks into their systems and into their software, especially in the realm of social media. Websites like Klout and the prevalence of social games have only accelerated the spread of these techniques. Hell, Raptr even gamified games themselves.  Gamification is used to help add to traditional MMOs, free to play games, not to mention the potential real-world applications. It’s a big world out there. And, bit by bit, we’re turning it into one big game. I'll admit to falling into the gamification trap, to a degree. Earlier this generation I was steered way from Wii games because there was no way to track my progress and show it off to friends. I use services like Yelp to try to get some of the badges, and that encourages me to check-in everywhere and earn coupons.  These kinds of achievements are a sort-of sucker punch to our ancient monkey brains. They use little traits that we have picked up over the years to help us combat laziness. When we receive small rewards for things, we're more likely to keep doing them. It help keeps us engaged and active, and is a small safeguard against boredom.  The issue here is one that relates to a lot of free-to-play titles, in that players are drawn in, then kept there by manipulating the natural way their brains are wired. It is disingenuous and manipulative, but as I see more and more studios closing their doors or getting bought up by the juggernauts, I can't help but think that for many it's their only choice.  Achievements and such aren't universally bad, though. Valve, forever the innovator, has layered them into its games in ways that encourage exploration, unique ways of play or even using them to reinforce the events of a game.  For example, in Half-Life 2 there's quite a few achievements for finding random things. This is used to encourage more lateral thinking as well as exploration of the environment. In Portal 2 (minor spoilers ahead) there's a chapter called "This is the part where he kills you," a character that says "This is the part where he kills you," and right before "he" kills you, an achievement pops-up with the same message. Similarly, at the end of the game, there's an achievement called "Lunacy" with the text "That just happened." Anyone who has finished the game knows just how ridiculous that scene is, and having that little friendly sound effect accompanied by some hilarious text, only serves to reinforce the experience.  Achievements are something I guess I've learned to live with. I don't really like them, but at the same time, having some method of tracking progress on a website like Fitocracy has actually been pretty good for me overall. I've used gamification to my own advantage whenever possible and I feel like I'm steadily becoming a better person because of it. That said, I know now to avoid those products which I feel will try to manipulate me into investing more than I am ready or willing to.
Gamification photo
Achievement unlocked!
Leading up the possible PlayStation 4 announcement on February 20, I've been looking into some paradigm shifts we've seen over the past generation. This is stuff that will likely be with us for a while; these are things that ...

Dead Space 3 has microtransactions because mobile gamers

Jan 25 // Jim Sterling
Of course, Visceral is still stressing that micro -- sorry, in-app purchases -- are totally optional.  "There’s also the hardcore Dead Space players, who are reluctant to spend money outside the purchase of the game. Honestly, most of the dev team are that way, we’re kind of old school, a little bit older. So not only are the micro-transactions completely optional, but all packs are available to purchase using in-game resources that you find. "So, your scavenger bot will go out, and sometimes when he comes back he’ll deliver ration seals. You’ll start to accumulate ration seals at a pretty steady clip throughout the game, and everything that can be purchased with real world dollars can also be purchased with ration seals." On the surface, that sounds reasonable, but I refuse to think of microtransactions as an optional feature when the game constantly reminds you about them. It might be optional to take Dead Space 3 up on its offer, but it's not optional to have the offer constantly there, trying to demolish the game's atmosphere by reminding you you're playing a videogame, and it's a videogame that'd really like more money. It's not optional to have a game drag out the accumulation time of resources, hoping you'll get impatient enough to drop some cash. Microtransactions work by attempting to psychologically beat the consumer. The system is adversarial, it tries to hold out longer than the player, who likewise is attempting to see if he or she can resist until the game absolutely has to give up the goods. You can't just choose to brush past that.  Dead Space 3's entire currency and weapon system has been dramatically altered, now cynically designed to support its own little economy, and that wasn't an option. I'm currently playing the game for review and I'm bound to an embargo, so I can't say much. All I will say is that this particular topic of discussion is not on my list of favorite things about the game.  Interview: Dead Space 3 producer on micro-transactions and keeping the horror alive [CVG]
Dead Space 3 photo
Visceral reads from the Big Book of Not Making Sense
Visceral Games has justified the controversial microtransaction system in Dead Space 3 by claiming mobile gamers expect them now. Well, that's a totally reasonable ... wait, what? "There’s a lot of players out there, es...

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