Friday, May 15, 2020

An alternative to freemium - our games

What alternative offers to freemium?

One issue on mobile phones, mostly Android, is to be discovered. And it is even more difficult for premium applications. They are devices where persons want to try and can quickly go from one application to another. Of course, applications can be refunded, but it is not the same as being (seemingly) free.

So what about a free version?

When it is possible, there could be a small free version, and a bigger paid one. You can see what we mean with our THGE games. Both versions are fully playable, without ads or in-app purchase, but the free one has fewer levels and less music. It is a difficult game, so most persons will probably never need to buy the paid version. But buying the paid version could be a simple thank you after playing the free one. Also, the levels are not the same.

Sometimes it is not possible to have a free version. In that case, a demo could be proposed. Clearly not a full game, but giving enough of a taste of the full game. It is what we tried to do with our bigger game, NYAF. The full game contains a lot of music and hand-drawn graphics and is rather big. The demo contains one level of the main game, and one limited version of one minigame, but still offering some sizeable gameplay. Furthermore, the demo contains a code that gives the game for free for the first 20 persons that find it.

And maybe you need to stay freemium. The game is done in a way that it is not really possible to offer a demo. In that case, the best approach would be to have support purchases. For instance, one purchase to remove the ads, if any. Or one or several cosmetics purchases (limited) that have no consequence on the gameplay. Eventually, a purchase to help the gameplay, making the game without this purchase the demo itself. It should be very clear that the game without this purchase is not the normal game.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

How much should I pay for a Freemium?

Asking for money in a freemium is not scandalous, if it is not mixed with too many advertisements, and within limits, which often are not there yet.

When you play something, you should always think that it is the result of work, so merits some support. Then how much is that game worth to you?
- Is that something that brightens your day for 10 minutes every day? Then think about it like a daily cup of coffee.
- Was it a great experience for 2-3 hours? Then it was like watching a movie.
- Is it something nice for your kid...

Then think about the limits. Big games on PC and console costs around 60-70 €/$ when they are released. Some freemium offer repeated purchases, for a one time use (if you restart the game you can't get it back), at 99€/$. That is much too much. That means that in just 4 purchases you could basically buy a console and a game for the same price. And you still haven't purchased the game...
Now some games offer one or several purchases giving or not bonuses, or simply removing ads, between 1€/$ and 10€/$. If they are definitive, it's perfectly fine.

And a tip for all parents: never allow your purchases on any phone or tablet to be without a password. When asked if you want to save your password to make future purchases easier, always say no. BTW it is also a good thing without kids, it gives you extra time to think about your purchase.

Guideline for studios and publisher

As written in the introduction, what we propose here are labels that can be claimed by publishers to guarantee their customers some quality. So basically everyone proposing a game respecting these labels can simply ask for them, and receive either the Piggy Bank or the Book, or both.

The Book labels are somehow easier to follow. If your game is simply a game and might deal with something not ethical, like fighting, without any ethical or educational response, simply don't use a label. That does not mean that your game is unethical, but simply not addressing any ethical aspects. That could be important for parents to encourage them to watch what their children play, which they should always do!

The Piggy Bank labels are either simple or not:

- free games and Premium games (so with an initial price only) without in-app purchase or ads gets automatically the gold Piggy Bank.
- the same with IAP that gives additional content which is not needed by the game gets gold as well.
- the same with reasonable IAP and/or Ads get either silver (the price does not change much and the ads are very reasonable and can be removed) or bronze.
- freemium games can also get the three labels:
  • Gold if there is one or several one-time purchases, that are definitive (i.e. can be restored), reasonable ads that are removed once a purchase is done,
  • Gold too if the IAP are for clear additional content, definitive,
  • Silver if there are more in-app purchase or ads,
  • Bronze if there are no infinite in-app purchases and the ads are not impacting the gameplay. 

Simply said, a commercially ethical game should not cost too much to its customer. And in all cases shouldn't have the possibility to ruin its customer, like too many freemiums do!

So what about games with in-game economy, like Roblox, or freemium games such as Fornite, that would probably be quite costly with another model? It is much less of a clear cut, but as most of them are now, they shouldn't get a label without some safeguards for their customers.
Roblox and Fornite are quite ethical, you can play pretty much everything without paying something, and the in-app purchases are mostly reasonable. But you can spend a basically unlimited amount with both of them, and we believe it is not ok. Especially are both are very popular with kids.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Ethical Workplace

Another aspect of Ethical Game is from the other side: how the game has been produced. Did its creation respects the persons that worked on it?
Video Games studios are well known for long hours, crunches, discrimination, mostly toward women, and various other issues.
Some of these issues, like the long hours, could be helped by having Unions, while some others, like discrimination, would probably need more involvement and responsibility from the companies' owners.
And maybe here a label could help as well. Not so much as a guaranty, as the others should be, but more as an engagement. So a bronze label would mean "we try to be a fair workplace", a silver label "we try hard to be a fair workplace", and a gold label "we make sure we are a fair workplace". It would be more like a "Fair Trade" label.

It could be for instance:

Bronze: "Coming from a fair workplace"
Silver: "Coming from a fair workplace - respecting all our employees."
Gold: "We engage ourselves to be a fair workplace - ensuring diversity, tolerance and respect towards our employees"

Then it might be something needing a different structure. So part of the Ethics of game, but not something that would be mixed with the other 2 types of label. And probably too much of a responsibility for the current small initiative.