"The mere existence of real-money purchases puts an ugly cloud over the player's experience, with the persistent nagging feeling of 'My game could be so much better if I just spent a few dollars.' That alone feels terrible"
- Developer Playsaurus explains the decision to abandon free-to-play for its second Clicker Heroes game
Clicker Heroes developer Playsaurus has decided to move on from the microtransaction-based free-to-play model uses in the original Clicker Heroes, instead opting to make its a sequel paid, single-purchase game.
The developer explained its decision in a post to the Clicker Heroes 2 website, boiling the decision down to both ethical and game design reasons. The decision falls on the heels of a rather heated industry-wide discussion on the role of microtransactions in the modern game industry.
Playsaurus points out that introducing real-money transactions into a game ultimately limits both the game's design and the changes developers can make following a game's launch. The post describes Clicker Heroes 1 as a "Frankenstein of a game" because of this, saying that the potential backlash from paying players kept the team from changing certain elements that could've improved the game overall.
"People paid real money to get the current state of their game where it is at, and they've developed an expectation that it would be good for a long time. If we make changes to the game that are better for the game but *feel* worse for any one particular player at any stage of the game, we get backlash from that player," says the post. "We've experienced this many times in the past. As a result, Clicker Heroes 1 is kind of a Frankenstein of a game, our hands always having been tied by the fact that we couldn't easily change things that people paid for."
Beyond game design, the developer says the decision is based on ethics as well. Though much of the recent microtransaction debate centers around the arguably addictive practice of buying random-chance loot boxes, Playsaurus says part of the reason it is leaving free-to-play behind is because real-money shops appeal to that same kind of addiction.
"Games are inherently addictive. That alone is not a bad thing, until it gets abused," reads the post. "In Clicker Heroes 1, we never tried to abuse players with our real-money shop, and for the most part we designed it without the shop in mind so that you never have to purchase rubies to progress. Despite this, we found that some number of players spent many thousands of dollars on rubies. I can only hope that these people could afford it, and that they were doing it to support us, and not to feed an addiction. But I strongly suspect that this is not the case."
The dev explains that its saw some players spend thousands of dollars on in-game purchases in Clicker Heroes and the possibility that those individuals could be spending beyond their means and feeding into an addiction doesn't sit well with members of the dev team.
"We really don't like making money off players who are in denial of their addiction," explains the post. "And that's what a large part of free-to-play gaming is all about."
The dev does note it has no plans to change the monetization system in Clicker Heroes, specifically saying that "it would destroy our studio if we did", but says that it does offer unlimited refunds to players unhappy with their real-money purchase.