Super Meat Boy is coming to iOS, but creator Ed McMillen isn’t throwing it up there without a jab at the current crop of mobile games. Slamming the free-to-play model employed by many titles, McMillen has attacked the kind of business model that treats consumers like farm animals.
“To us the core of what is wrong with the mobile platform is the lack of respect for players, it really seems like a large number of these companies out there view their audience as dumb cattle who they round up, milk and then send them on their way feeling empty or at times violated,” he recently blogged. “There is an ongoing theme these days to use a very basic video game shell and hang a ‘power up carrot’ in front of the player. The player sees this carrot, and wants it!
“All the player needs to do is a few very rudimentary repetitious actions to attain it, once they get to it, another drops down and asks them to do more … but then the catch … instead of achieving these ‘goals’ by running on the tread mill, you can instead just pay a single dollar and you instantly get to your goal! better yet pay 10 and unlock all your goals without even having to ever play the game!”
McMillen then called the freemium model, “a slap in the face to actual game design and embodies everything that is wrong with the mobile/casual video game scene.”
I’ve recently found myself quite supportive of the free-to-play model, when done right. Games like Tribes: Ascend and Blacklight: Retribution are focused on creating a fun core game that’s worth playing, then adding premium enhancements in a way that you want to buy them, rather than feel you need to.
If anything, I’d say that’s a more respectful way of making a game than a fair few retail games, some of which demand an up-front $60 entry fee and still add free-to-play accessories masked as “DLC.” Paying for cheats and level ups in a game I already paid for is a bit less respectful than a game where I can set my own price tag.
Still, the vast majority of freemium games are pretty crap, and exist solely as money sponges for their creators. We need more Ascends and Retributions before the model takes off, but I hope it does. I see genuine potential in such games, especially compared to the current “AAA” space.