These always-online games create artificial economies, but depend on real servers, which need to make money. So the instant people stop buying things, everything they already bought disappears. That's a fable economists tell their children to scare them at night. Or maybe so that they don't feel bad about ripping suckers off.
They tried the same thing with Rock Band.
I didn't even buy the game, and this message makes me want to punch them.
That wasn't telling players that they couldn't play online any more, or that they couldn't buy new songs any more. That was telling them, "This thing you thought you bought on the device you think you own? Nope and nope." But there's a slight social difference between Rock Band and people who pretend to have pets on Facebook, because the backlash forced EA to leave it online. They didn't even have the guts to apologize, claiming that the message officially delivered to every player in a way which absolutely fits with their past behavior was a mysterious accident.
Turning Games Into Chores
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The defense of the indoctrinated (criticize any game online and you'll find that even the worst title has cultish devotees) is to say, "Just don't buy the in-app purchases." I presume they also say "just don't breathe" when someone farts. But it's not a matter of choice when the atmosphere is so poisoned that solid chunks of shit are congealing out of the air to splatter all over our favorite hobby. If someone leaves a burning bag of crap outside my door, I don't think it's okay because it was free. And uninstalling Dungeon Keeper 4 is even more annoying than disposing of the dogshit, because I didn't go into that paper bag expecting to find free candy.
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"It's free to play, kids! Take it out once every eight hours to level up!"
In-app purchases change the core mechanic of a game, and we've seen the tragic results. Instead of aiming to make something that's fun to play, games like Angry Birds GO are engineered to balance on the very cusp of the phone-flinging frustration curve, annoying you so much you want to spend money but not quite enough to stop playing. Their perfect customer isn't an entertained player, it's an addict justifying their own empty wallet in online forums.
We understand that the franchises we love only like us for our money, but they're mercenary in the same way the A-Team is mercenary: They need the cash, sure, but they're also a tremendous amount of fun and you don't mind paying for the entertainment. Modern games might be free to play, but they're expensive in wasted time and frustration. In the old days, developers had to make a good game and sell it to each player once. In-app purchases have freed them from both of those limitations.
Behold more appalling electronic mistakes with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare's Advance Order Madness and The Worst Romantic Lessons from Video Games
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Luke McKinney writes about red shells and psychopaths, tumbles the most exciting videogame character this year, and responds to every single tweet.