First things first, I know this isn’t strictly about indie gaming. Sod it though. I want to bring this up for two reasons: first, the term indie has become largely meaningless; second, this is the kind of crap I really don’t want to see happening in smaller-scale games, the kind that you might broadly classify as ‘indie’.

What am I talking about? Well it’s that lovely spectre of microtransactions, in-app purchases, ‘freemium’. Excuse me while I put all my money in a bucket and vomit on it.

Free-to-play? Sure it can be a good business model, if extremely limited. I’m a massive fan of League of Legends, I’ve put a fiver in here and there to buy a skin or two and I’m very happy with how that game approaches in-game purchases. Trouble is, that model only ever seems to work with MOBAs… and even then only a few.

Loadout, a rather good free-to-play third-person shooter appears to be dying – having recently just shut down it’s Australian and South American servers – and apart from Team Fortress 2, which I assume is doing ok, I really can’t think of any other free-to-play games. OK, Lord of the Rings Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic, but they’re failing… at least they have dwindling numbers and I can’t see them still existing in a few years time. Also that’s probably more of a problem with MMOs as a genre, not just the free-to-play model (here is your scheduled snark at ESO moment).

So how does “The Games Industry” – and here I refer to the monolithic entity, spewing a cloud of panic, mistrust and *shudder* marketing wherever it goes – react to this issue? Maybe they should leave the free-to-play model well enough alone. Perhaps they should concentrate on making very few, excellent f2p games to try and retain some popularity and profit.

Nah, that’s far too long sighted. LET’S FRONTLOAD OUR SHITTY F2P GAMES WITH AN INITIAL COST AND KEEP THE GODDAMN MICROTRANSACTIONS ANYWAY. Hurrah for the “quick buck” tactic. Hats off, pats on the back all round, you slimey shites.

Dubbed “fee-to-pay” games by The Escapist’s Jim Sterling, these games are pretty much the worst possible result of a push into the free-to-play model of games. All the pay, none of the free. That’s the line taken by RollerCoaster Tycoon® 4 Mobile™ – yes that’s its official name, about as subtle and reassuring as Dracula using the pseudonym Alucard – which will set you back £1.99/$2.99, for the privilege of both waiting for things to happen and being able to pay to speed them up.

Not only is RollerCoaster Tycoon® 4 Mobile™ (i’m going to keep doing this® you know™) one of them fee-to-pay games, but it’s also managed to cling onto another type of game, again pithily names by Mr. Sterling as free-to-wait, coined in his review of the abominable Dungeon Keeper Mobile, but also covers games such as The Simpsons™: Tapped Out, Farmville™, the upcoming Family Guy™ clone of Tapped…

I had to stop that paragraph, it was making me too sad.

There’s one thing that I hope comes out of all this: the game flops, spectacularly. No-one buys it, no-one pays to stop all their customers from vomiting everywhere – in the game, not real life badum-tish – everyone (and by this I mean everyone responsible for that hideous business-model) involved in the project is fired and sets up a company together whose sole purpose is to spend the rest of their days atoning for this crap-sack of an excuse for a game. I think these are reasonable demands. Oh, and that everyone who has ever genuinely described a customer as a “whale” realises what a gargantuan cock-hole they are.

About The Author

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Ben is pretty damned nerdy. If he isn't playing video games, then he's probably rolling some dice to hit goblins and thugs or designing, running and crewing a host of LARP systems. He lives in Brighton, because it's nice there. You can follow him on twitter @benrlmeredith

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  • Antiscenium

    I think the inherent problem here is that the F2P model has proven itself very profitable which inevitably means the trend will continue as long as these companies can remain solvent while churning out dreck. In most cases I would hesitate to even call some of the most popular mobile F2P titles ‘games’. The illusion of passive progress and accomplishment seems to activate something in people that keeps them coming back and most heinously, compels them to spend money on utter nonsense. When it comes down to it though, I think most people just don’t care. Shoddy developers are making money off of people with enough disposable income to shrug off a few dollar a month (I have to believe that the average person isn’t spending hundreds of dollars on Clash of Clans) and the temporary satisfaction it provides is enough for them to justify the expenditure.

    When King’s trademarking fiasco went down I implored my mother to stop playing Candy Crush Saga. She’s never spent a dime on the game but I wanted her to support my idealogical boycott. I’m pretty sure she’s still playing that game.

    I share your utter hatred of the F2P model and tend to shy away from most titles that include in-app purchases. Hopefully the apparent profitability doesn’t start to infect other facets of the industry (I’m looking at you, Dead Space 3).