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Can free-to-play be effective without being exploitative?

"There are lots of ways to implement free-to-play, and most of them are detrimental to the core game design." - Rami Ismail of Vlambeer discusses why he still isn't a fan of the free-to-play space.
"There are lots of ways to implement free-to-play, and most of them are detrimental to the core game design."
- Rami Ismail, one half of Dutch indie studio Vlambeer, discusses why he still isn't a fan of the free-to-play space. Ismail has spoken out before about "evil in-app purchase stuff," stating that these monetization techniques more often than not take away from a game's core design. Talking to free-to-play consultant Will Luton, and as reported by PocketGamer.biz, Ismail reiterated his thoughts, noting that the most successful free-to-play titles are those that exploit players. "The problem we see is that, the way to efficiently do free-to-play is to exploit people, or to exploit the psychology of people in a way that is often perpendicular or opposite to core game design," he says. "That is something we worry about because we see potential in implementing free-to-play in a good way," he adds, "but every game we've seen that tries to do that has been a financial failure." Ismail is keen to stress that in-app purchases in a game do not automatically lead to bad game design, but he says that "the solutions that are being implemented at this point show really clearly that the most efficient way to do in-app purchases is exploiting people as much as possible." He concludes, "A lot of games currently in the App Store are not necessarily good games, and just happen to gross a lot because they get a lot of attention, they're free, people can play them, and they're built in such a way that they get people addicted and spending money."

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