In a blog post that is very likely to send ripples through the industry, Cliff Harris, a game designer and programmer (Elixir Studios, Lionhead), makes his case for why the games industry, specifically the segment that makes free-to-play games, requires some form of governmental regulation. In particular, he voices his agitation against companies, and developers, that use insidious techniques to persuade customers to spend large sums of money in the game, e.g through in-app purchases (IAPs).
Cliff uses examples such as Star Citizen’s massive crowdfunding, and the ‘tacky’ and ‘dubious’ marketing strategies of free-to-play games such as Game of War, to question the ethics of these methods to ensure customers keep paying real money for virtual goodies.
Through the experiences of an insider among the F2P cmompanies, Cliff expands on the aggressive, often creepy, psychological persuasion these companies use to ensure its biggest customers keep spending. And it’s some scary shit. As such, he argues that such mass means of advertising and “convincing” should be taken as seriously as any other form of addiction.
His suggestion, then is to implement regulation on the part of the government to ensure that these companies aren’t allowed free reign of shady marketing practices, urging the government on behalf of the games industry to “[s]ave us from ourselves.”
It is evident that the widespread, often unrestrained spending by users on IAPs are becoming a serious issue. If it has reached such a level that the industry itself (or at least parts of it) considers it just as problematic, maybe it’s time all of start demanding that the industry doesn’t fall victim to the corporate shills, and retains gaming as an art form and a unadulterated form of entertainment.
Let us know what you think of these questions, and their implications for gaming.