Monday, 26 March 2012

Pay to Win Taken to the Logical Extreme? - Flight Control Rocket

 99 cent app, fifty dollar moneysink.

I touched upon the "pay to win" model before and even talked in depth about things like "pay to play", but as I read this article that was on the PA Report I found the desire to say a little more about buying the way to glory.


For a basic Cliffs notes of the article let me say the following: the first Flight Control game was a simple yet enjoyable app for the iPad. The sequel seems to have realized that people like playing this game, and pretty much crammed in as much stuff into the store as possible as an incentive for players to buy it. You can get currency in game, but using real life money is the fastest and easiest way to generate huge amounts of it. From there you can buy a bunch of stuff that helps you get higher scores with less effort: the example was the person writing the article scored 20,000 without the aids, a score that he says is "well above [his] average." After spending some money on unlocks, he easily made 31,000 on his first attempt.

Certainly one can make the argument that if the player doesn't want to spend real money on any upgrades that they can then grind, but one person who reviewed the game stated that, "my mental math says it'll take me at least a dozen hours to obtain one of the top-tier robots without spending any dough, which is especially silly considering this game costs real money to begin with." That kind of grind for top tier goods might be acceptable or even expected in large scale games, but remember that this is an iPad app: something that generally is meant to be played as a distraction, eating up a couple of dead minutes between classes or car rides.

There's also the fact that the game, as far as I'm aware, doesn't have separate leaderboards for those who did and didn't buy with real money. The game only recognizes the highest score, and considering that having all the upgrades means that a player is going to be doing markedly better right out the gate, it's unfair to the idea of competition. Again, remember that this is an iPad app, some (myself included) would argue that leaderboards for this are kind of a moot point, but there are people that take such things incredibly seriously. Whether or not they should is a matter for another debate, but setting that aside it means that if you want to see your name on the daily top ranked, it means you have to invest either upwards of fifty dollars or tens if not hundreds of hours into this title.

To me, this isn't defensible; this is NOT what games should be, regardless of their platform. I'd be just as irate if this kind of gimmicky crap showed up on the PC, the Xbox 360, the Playstation 3, or the Wii. What scares me is that games like this might make people think they can actually get away with such abhorrent marketing practices. Unfortunately, every person that spends even a dollar more beyond the purchase price is only offering companies like EA and those that would mimic them all the more incentive to think that "if you make it cost more, they will buy".

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