I Am Not A 'Cancer' On The Game Industry

I Am Not A 'Cancer' On The Game Industry

I can already predict the comments on this article. You will tell me I'm a horrible person. I'm a cancer on the games industry. Everything I've ever worked on is terrible. My existence offends you.

I Am Not A 'Cancer' On The Game Industry

I have worked as a professional game developer for over 10 years. For the past year and change I have been working on my indie studio Quarter Spiral where I am making Enhanced Wars with two co-founders.

But that's not why you hate me.

Why you hate me is that I work as a free-to-play design consultant. I advocate for free-to-play games at conferences and online and I help companies design free-to-play games. Just last week, Kotaku ran an article about one of my talks: an entry for the Evil Game Design challenge at Casual Connect where I presented a vision for a free-to-play version of Super Mario Bros. 3 on mobile phones. The response was entirely predictable.

Whenever I post up something online about free-to-play, I get a tired response from Gamers. I asked Kotaku if I could respond to last Wednesday's post to talk to all the Gamers out there who think I am a cancer ruining the industry. I know it's hopeless; it is impossible to change someone's mind on the internet. But I wanted a chance to explain that I am not a cancer on the games industry and if anything, my accidental career as a monetization consultant is a side effect of the true problem affecting the version of the games industry that Gamers hold dear.

I Am Not A 'Cancer' On The Game Industry

You see, game development is a business and businesses in a capitalist society are ruled by market forces. I wish I was one of the privileged few who are able to self-finance their dream game for years on end with no concern for sales or profits. But I'm not.

The majority of game developers make games with other people's money. This generally means some sort of public or private investors. Thanks to the advent of Kickstarter, now we get games that cut out traditional game publishers and are financed directly by fans. But games like those published by Electronic Arts are paid for by the people who own stock in the company. At the end of the day, these investors do not care about artistic integrity, Metacritic score or DRM solutions, they only care about stock price and return on investment.

On the flip side, games are made by teams of game developers. Some are tiny, like my three-man indie team on Enhanced Wars. Some are gargantuan, like the hundreds large SWTOR team. Like me, most of my closest friends are game developers and as a whole, we are a group motivated by our passion for video games. Every programmer who is working 80+ hours for weeks on end to bring you electronic joy could make more money and lead a more balanced life working on banking software. But we are not inspired by banking software. We are inspired by video games.

When a developer loses her job, she needs to find new work. More and more, jobs are coming in the form of games that do not cater to the core Gamer who reads Kotaku.

Game developers spend years pouring blood, sweat and tears into games specifically targeted at Gamers. These games are well received, get high review scores and sell millions of copies. But then financial results are released, investors learn that these games did not meet sales expectations and layoffs ensue.

Take Square Enix for example. Over the past few years Square Enix has released some fantastic games for Gamers. In March, they reported physical sales of Sleeping Dogs at 1.75 million units, Hitman: Absolution at 3.6 million units and Tomb Raider at 3.4 million units. These are three fantastic games for Gamers, all with Metacritic scores of 80 or above. (Kotaku loved Tomb Raider, for example.) They all failed to meet sales expectations. Hard working, passionate game developers across different studios in Square Enix got laid off.

There are two sides to this equation. There is the money Square Enix invested in these games specifically as well as other R&D projects, canceled games and company overhead. And there is revenue from the games we Gamers purchase. A company must be responsible for the money it spends. If 3.4 million physical units fail to meet expectations, then Square Enix must deal with the consequences.

I Am Not A 'Cancer' On The Game Industry

This is how capitalism works. Companies fail, and people lose their jobs. Game Job Watch estimates that over 3,000 people have lost their jobs in 2013 at companies including Crystal Dynamics, IO Interactive, United Front Games, Harmonix, High Moon Studios…the list goes on and on. Only the fittest game development studios survive.

When a developer loses her job — when she's got rent to make and bills to pay — she needs to find new work. More and more, jobs are coming in the form of games that do not cater to the core Gamer who reads Kotaku. Gaming as an industry has been expanding outward for a long time and increasingly, the "Gamer" is becoming a less relevant part of the overall gaming pie as more dollars are spent on free-to-play games for mobile/tablet, PC and now consoles too.

Just take a look at one of the darlings of the free-to-play world, CSR Racing. The heart of the team at Boss Alien came from Black Rock Studios, a Disney owned game developer that scored high marks on Metacritic for Pure and Split/Second, both 80+ rated games. When Disney shut down Black Rock in 2011, members of the team formed mobile focused studio Boss Alien. Within 18 months the team was making headlines because of the jaw dropping revenue it was reporting with CSR Racing. From a Gamer's perspective, CSR likely falls far short of being a "real" racing game. There isn't even steering! But clearly, not enough money was being spent on "real" racing games for Disney to keep investing money in Black Rock. But as Boss Alien, the same game developers made the right game for the right players with the right business model.

Free-to-play is not always well executed. Like any business model, for every League of Legends or CSR Racing there are hundreds of games that deliver a poor quality experience for the player. Like any business model, it has advantages and disadvantages, good fits and bad. I may be able to imagine a way to turn Super Mario Bros. 3 into a free-to-play game, but I do not think it is possible to take a cinematic masterpiece like the Uncharted series and deliver a single-player, free-to-play game that is not fundamentally broken by the process.

But I do believe that free-to-play has a number of advantages for players and developers alike. On the development side, a free-to-play game lowers the risk involved in making a game. A developer is able to release a high quality game that represents a fraction of the total vision, and if players think it is fun and justify it by spending money, the developer can continue to improve the game for months or years on end. If the game does not find success in the marketplace, it is far better to release a game and fail after a year of work than it is to fail after six years of blood, sweat and tears.

I do believe that free-to-play has a number of advantages for players and developers alike.

As a player, free-to-play lowers the risk of checking out a game. I am able to try a game by spending only my attention. So when The Drowning is released after I have been following it for months, I can decide within five minutes of installation if the game is worth spending my limited downtime on. I do not have to rely on reviews, spend $US60, or wait for the inevitable Steam sale. I can make an informed decision whether or not I should play based on how much fun I am having.

Most importantly, a successful free-to-play game allows game developers to forge a direct relationship with their players that keeps a game going strong for years. As a personal example, back in high school I considered RTS to be one of my favourite genres. Many a night was spent using a friend's father's office as the LAN party location for games of Warcraft II and then StarCraft. But in the 12 years between Brood War and Wings of Liberty I moved away from high school, from LAN parties and from RTS. I mainly played single player games. My relationship to Blizzard and Starcraft had been severed over the long wait for a sequel, and when Wings of Liberty was released I did not feel compelled to spend my attention on it.

League of Legends, on the other hand, is rapidly approaching its fourth anniversary. Since its release, the game has seen frequent updates big and small that keep the game fresh for its loyal legions of fans. I fully expect League of Legends to still receive updates eight years from now. The idea of that game's development studio, Riot, going dark for years in order to make a League of Legends sequel seems unlikely since from a studio that "aspire[s] to be the most player-focused game company in the world."

I Am Not A 'Cancer' On The Game Industry

When I left my job at BioWare San Francisco, I had saved up what I thought would be enough money to fund a year as an independent game developer. Once I stopped drawing a salary, I quickly learned that I spent money faster than expected and that running a game studio, even at three people small, is more expensive than planned.

Coming off of the free-to-play Dragon Age Legends, I started speaking at conferences about the lessons I had learned working on my first free-to-play game. I was trying to build awareness for Quarter Spiral as we developed our tech stack.

The unintended consequence is that developers started approaching me asking if I would consult on their games. They had already made the decision to make a free-to-play game as a result of the market forces that have for years been pushing developers away from AAA console games. In many cases, developers ask for my help because they are making their first free-to-play game and they want to avoid the sorts of mistakes that become obvious only after you have operated one. Thanks to consulting, I have been able to keep working on indie game development and Enhanced Wars for longer than the originally planned year.

I believe that the forces driving developers to the free-to-play market all comes down to supply and demand. From my anecdotal experience as a Gamer, there are too many games to play. In 2012 I purchased 187 video games. When a game like The Last of Us comes out, I have the deep urge to buy it. But then I look at my backlog: shrink-wrapped copies of Uncharted 3, Ni no Kuni, Sin & Punishment and Okami (on PS2) all of which I fully intend on playing some day. Then I think about my Steam library. Do I really need to buy The Last of Us if I haven't even installed my copies of Darksiders II, Hitman: Absolution, Cannon Brawl, Mercenary Kings, Orcs Must Die, Dear Esther or X-Com: Enemy Unknown?

The supply of unique, high quality games being developed for Gamers is too great. Greater than the total demand for those games, as measured by dollars spent on (non-used) copies. That is why studios get shut down.

When I was younger and had all the time in the world to play games, I did not have the money to buy them. Now that I have money to spend on games, I have very little time to play them. I buy games I know I won't play because I want to support the developers. I want more games like Mark of the Ninja to exist, so I do not mind buying it even if it may be months or even years before installing.

The supply of unique, high-quality games being developed for Gamers is too great. Greater than the total demand for those games, as measured by dollars spent on (non-used) copies. That is why studios get shut down. That is why people get laid off. That is why developers move to free-to-play. Gamers like you and me are not spending enough money to keep them in business, meanwhile CSR Racing, Puzzle & Dragons and Clash of Clans are bringing in money hand over fist.

So if you hate me because I consult on free-to-play games there is only one way to make my job obsolete. You have to vote with your dollars. You have to make working on pay-to-play games a viable alternative. So go buy a shrink wrapped copy of Dragon's Crown. Buy into early access for Cannon Brawl on Steam. Support Enhanced Wars on Kickstarter. Game developers will only be able to keep supply

Ethan Levy is a 10-year veteran as a game designer and producer. He has worked at developers including BioWare San Francisco and Pandemic Studios. He is the co-founder of indie studio Quarter Spiral where he is hard at work on Enhanced Wars and pays the bills as a free-to-play design consultant.


    Citing market forces as a justification for exploitative free-to-play models is reductive, because (a) consumer opinion and consumer backlash are market forces, which can make otherwise profitable business models unattractive, and they're every bit as relevant in the equation as short term revenues; and (b) clearly there are a number of profitable industries, such as organ harvesting, which are nevertheless abhorrent to society - designing a free-to-play game is obviously not in the same league but nevertheless market forces are not a full and complete justification for any profitable activity.

    If someone is selling guns to terrorists, we don't expect that the way to make it stop would be to make it more profitable for them to sell the guns to the government instead; we shut them down. Society is a market force, and it can exercise that force by withholding legitimacy from undesirable behaviour.

      It may not seem like it on the internet, but the "market force" of backlash and consumer opinion is so meaningless compared to the number of people that either don't care, don't mind, or just don't know what's going on that I see that as being completely irrelevant as an argument because in the long term it's going to mean nothing.

        Counterpoint. Xbone backlash.

          I knew that would be the first reply if there was any. It's exactly the same thing just on a massively different scale as console launches get talked about my a much broader group of people than just people on gaming websites.

          If Microsoft stuck to their guns (which they should have, purely for integrity) and let the internet keep spluttering on, it would have died down. There still would have been more people who didn't care, and people who didn't say anything because the level of pure hatred was ridiculous. There were people who defended their original ideas but got completely hidden or branded as nuts or Microsoft employees by everyone else who couldn't look deeper than "it's different!" and "it's not what we wanted!"

          As much as the general mind of the internet likes to think of itself as a human saviour and the defender of all that is good and right in the world, it still means nothing in the long run. The only time most people voice their opinions is to complain about something, remember that.

            MS couldn't stick to their guns and wait for it to die down. Based on pre-orders, their competition was looking at getting an early market share of 90%. Obviously that could have changed over the course of the generation, but they'd spend years playing catch up when they want to lead. They also hate losing early adopters because they provide a critical mass of users to bring on their friends for online play.

              What are you talking about 90% market share? All pre-order day one alotments were sold out for BOTH consoles within the same time period.

                Doesn't mean much if the reports about Microsoft's allocations being much lower than Sony's (stores reported being given an allotment of 15 XB1s compared to 60 PS4s) were accurate. Whether that's trying to create artificial scarcity or due to issues in manufacturing are down to how much you like conspiracy theories.

                Polling of buyer intentions on Amazon was giving Sony a predicted 94.1% share in the week after E3, until the poll was mysteriously shut down a few days early without explanation. It got so bad that in Canada - one of the lucky few countries where the XB1 will fully work as advertised - pre-order sales of the XB1 were behind OUYA sales by the end of June(!).

                In terms of where things are now, according to a VGChartz:

                Up until the week ending August 24 the PlayStation 4 currently leads in the total number of pre-orders in the US with about 600,000. This is up significantly since E3 where there were only 75,000 pre-orders. The Xbox One is still lagging behind with 350,000 pre-orders. This is also way up since E3 where there were only 45,000 pre-orders.

                The overall market figures according to market research firm Strategy Analytics are:

                ...14.2 percent of consumers are very or somewhat likely to buy a PS4 within the next twelve months compared to 9.5 percent who will buy an Xbox One. If the results were reflected in sales data this would imply that sales of PS4s would be nearly fifty percent higher than Xbox One.

                Update: Just to put those figures in perspective, the current overall share between the PS3, 360 and Wii is 30.4%, 30.4% and 39.2% respectively. Compare that with say, 2008 (the first year both the PS3 and the 360 were competing without any significant supply issues) where it was 21.7%, 29.8% and 48.5%.

                Last edited 29/08/13 9:28 am

            While I appreciate the MS backed down due to getting MURDERED on preorders, I definitely acknowledge that preorders are pretty much limited to enthusiasts.

            Yes, there is some bleed effect, where casual folks looking to buy a console do a quick google search and filter down the basic gist: Xbone the devil, PS4 messiah, and then don't stop to critically examine why The Internet is telling them, this. And yeah, there's going to be many people asking their 'gamer friend' what the go is with the new consoles, and depending on what kind of vitriol he (invariably he) spits back at them, that could influence their decisions.

            And yes, sometimes they're going to look at the facts for themselves and rather than seeing 'bright digital future', they're going to see a box that can't do what they currently enjoy, which is swapping games between friends and using the console when the internet goes out. I actually had self-proclaimed 'non gamer' coworkers expressing this disbelief to me. "What, the console only works if you're connected to the internet? That's stupid, who hooks their xbox up to the internet?" Yes. Really. Those people are out there and they buy and play games and think that how they operate is normal.
            They are NOT in the minority. Don't we all remember the discussions about MP vs SP, with the figures being thrown around that 50% of games sold never show up online, not even to phone home or calculate achievements?

            So yes. I think the hard, dollars-and-cents result of MS policies would've been bad. Very bad. They would have ceded market share dominance very convincingly. But I don't think it would've been the 3% the preorders were threatening them with.

            Pretty sure they knew that, but even so, sitting at a table with investors, telling them, "Well, we probably won't shrink to 3% market share, it won't be that bad," is still a very bad place to be.

      This is just a roundabout way of saying "if you don't like what they're doing, then don't contribute money towards it", right? Which goes for just about anything.

      Your argument seems to lose a lot in reading, so I'm going to put it in a third person perspective and see if it makes any more sense.

      X: So, how excited are we about Ice Cream Heroes ? It's coming out at the end of the month.
      Y: Well, I was pretty excited until I heard it was going F2P..
      X: Yeah, but you still get to play the game free - like no money at all.
      Y: But it's not the whole game. You still have to pay to play certain parts of the game.
      X: Yeah true, but you can play through the entire game without having to pay a cent. Sure, you get to miss out on the Double Cornetto missions, but you can still grind enough XP with Single Scoop to take on the boss Movenpick Monster. And no, you're not mooching any more Guest Passes off me this time. Not after DDO and TSW.
      Y: It's the ethics of it ! They draw you in and then BAM!, you have to pay to access an area that is locked - that's just exploitive!.
      X: You mean, like shareware ?
      Y: Well...
      X: Listen, if that bothers you that much, why not just buy the full game ? There it is, full life membership. You'll never have to worry ever again about missing out AND you get a cool Double Wafer armour and a +2 Chocolate Flake.
      Y: Well, I'm not sure I want to pay full price, I mean in six months time, I might not want to play it any more..
      X: You mean, like every other game in your collection ? Honestly, it sounds like the problem is with your perception, not the purchasing. You have both full purchase and pay as you go models, and even the choice to not pay at all.
      Y: Look, it's like selling guns to terrorists...
      X: Whoooooa. Stop, just stop. The dramatic leap of logic aside, I'm gonna give you a few moments to think about that one. Unless you're going to try and link in the Nazis as well ?

      Essentially, (and this is not pointed solely at you, but the argument in general) it appears the entire argument is a tantrum about not getting a free game.
      The author went to some decent lengths to point out the pro & cons of traditional gaming business models, a model than in any other industry, would be classified as unstable.

      One last thing:
      (a) consumer opinion and consumer backlash are market forces, which can make otherwise profitable business models unattractive, and they're every bit as relevant in the equation as short term revenues;
      One thing you learn very quickly about consumer feedback, is it is rarely about what they actually get, but what they think they are not getting. In short, customers are fickle bitches.

      The latest XBone debacle is a perfect example
      Microsoft could have quietly pointed out that most people have left their PC's on and connected to the internet 24/7 for the past decade, without any of the immature hysteria that erupted over this 'radical' development.
      Instead, they bit their lip and catered for the moron minority. Again.

      So consumer backlash isn't always indicative of a misstep, especially when you consider just how resilient humans are to change.

      Last edited 28/08/13 3:56 pm

        The Xbox One did not compare to the PC in that way. I can still play my PC games offline for as long as I want. Xbox One plan was for 24 hours.
        It wasn't a problem for me but I still objected for the sake of others not so lucky.

          Granted, I probably took a bit of a liberty on that example, and you raise a good counterpoint.

        simple but well put. a lot of rage surounds F2P games but you get what you pay for. most gamers are savvy enough to see if they are getting ripped off.
        F2P is like AAA title DLC if you want extras on a game you pay a bit more money to get a bit more game. the modern gamer has massive entitlement issues.

      Best reply [email protected] gregT and Mandriod you are wrong sure some may think that but there is a far more sinister reason which i elaborate on below.

      I don't have a problem with free to play in theory, in the same way as I like the basic idea of Communism. In the real world I want it to die like a cancerous disease that must be eradicated with nuclear force and its really only for a single reason, the integrity of the game.

      It doesn't matter how many people do a good job with free to play, 9/10 will be revolting psychologically tuned monsters made in such a way so that players are forced to pay to stay competitive or get the full experience and milk players who don't know better. Its a disgusting practice down to its very core.

      Now its just devolved into abhorrent cas grabs like final fantasy all the bravest or Dead space 3 and the evolution of FEE TO PAY.

      Games in the F2P genre have turned away from being so much fun and making the players want to give you money into manipulative fun sucking vampires attempting to nickle and dime the players wallets into oblivion.

      Jimquisition made a video about this specifically and explains it rather well.

      Now i didn't read the article nor do i care too as I don't want excuses from the proverbial devil. It doesn't matter how many games studios die, that is there fault and fucking over consumers to keep your ill managed bloated studio alive is not the way to go.

      When i look at muppet studios spending 100 million to develop a game i laugh. Compare Final fantasy 13 to Tales of graces F or Xillia.

      A) One spent 10's of millions on marketing and bloated visuals removing all the parts that made it famous in the first place for whatever reason.

      B)Then look at Tales, which has very modest yet still delightful visuals, that aren't super high res or pushing the system to the brink of a meltdown. It gradually tweaks the combat and various things within the game, but only slightly and with careful forethought trying to make the game as fun and enjoyable as possible at 20% of the cost and with honest expectations of units to be sold.

      The problem is that most studios are going for route A). They think they every game they make will sell call of duty levels, that if they make a game created to a checklist of cool features it will suddenly become "fun" and to make it all worse they think no matter how shit thier game is it will sell like hotcakes and make boat loads of cash like in the ps2 and PS1 days.

      This doesn't work anymore, the internet is around. People are getting savvier, they know a dud when they see one and won't blinding accept you dumping sewage on their head and calling it a halo or gears killer.

      So we are headed for a games crash and all these failing studios cough (POS square enix) think free to play is their salvation (they should just close shop instead) and that in a nutshell is why i despise the entire premise.

      Last edited 28/08/13 4:37 pm

        "Now i didn't read the article nor do i care too [sic]"

        This sums up your rant perfectly, as well as previous rants I've read from you. You really don't understand the way the different systems and forces interact with each other. You've set your own conclusion in stone, unsupported by the facts, and you reject every opportunity to learn anything new that might conflict with your conclusion.

        The problem is, every time I've heard you blast your rants around here, they've been wrong, and you've been completely pig-headed about it. Why not do yourself a favour and actually read the article, and try looking at things from an objective viewpoint before you reply, next time?

          Jesus has spoken. See the light. Stop being a douche.

          I pretty much stopped reading as soon as I read the line quoted.

          If im so mistaken point it out? What exactly is factually wrong in my "Rant".

          Poorly managed studios like square enix, turn to free to play games to extort money from consumers for an often undeserving product through manipulation to keep them "afloat".

          This isn't an opinion is pretty much fact.

          You disagree and give no reasons as to why and instead try to personally attack to move away from the lack a single shred of evidence or information at all that you so bountifully provided.

          It's not relevant if i've read this particular article completely, it doesn't tell me anything I haven't already seen/heard or argued with others before especially when it is filled with fallacious lies like this one.

          "The supply of unique, high quality games being developed for Gamer's is too great. Greater than the total demand for those games, as measured by dollars spent on (non-used) copies. That is why studios get shut down."

          Give me an actual example of a great game that hasn't sold well this gen because of competition and i'll tell you why that's hilarious bullshit.

          Game studios are shutting down because they can't make good games, when they spit out clone shooter #4 that has all the elements from cod gears and halo and expects it to sell 10 million copies when its a soulless mess of a game that is entirely un-fun to play.

          This is evidenced by the fact that GOOD GAMES ARE STILL SELLING, we have borderlands, skyrims, fallouts, fables, call fo duty halo, gears of war, last of us.

          All the games these days that get 9/10 reviews are typically fantastic games and sell well. The games that get 3 or 7/10 are usually garbage and in a world that has many great games people don't buy garbage, period. However there is always room for another great game.

          So when these developers that can't make a good game to literally save their studio turn to free to play we get an equally fucking shit house F2P game. We don't get a team fortress 2 or league of legends (which i supported since BETA), instead they make rubbish games where spending $100 will make your character far stronger than any free player, where the game becomes PAY TO WIN. Or as i stated before it goes even further and locks away real content behind absurd pay walls where buying everything will cost you 10x what it would have if they just sold it as a regular game and is designed to manipulate the gamer into spending.

          You can not argue contrary to this, no matter what you say or bring to the table these are facts. The Atrociously bad F2P far outweigh any positive ones 10-1 and its for this reason the genre is treated with such vitriol, because it god damn well deserves it. So in this sense is is a cancer, it has invaded the body and is about to take over, but if we can remove that cancer we might just be able to save the fraction of healthy tissue remaining.

          PS zombie i'm rarely if ever wrong, the fact you think i always am shows how little you actually understand of what I write, like most here on Kotaku that have a serve lack of reading comprehension.

          Last edited 29/08/13 10:02 am

        You lost me when you brought up anti-communist crap.

          Basic reading comprehension fails you yet again.

          The way i worded only stated that i liked the basic idea of communism, nothing more and nothing less. The fact your too stupid to realise my wording indicate i wanted F2P to die since it was the focus of the paragraph and not communism, which was a comparison of "on paper theories". It shows why i have such disdain for the stupidity on kotaku and why all i ever seem to be doing is responding to morons such as yourself.

          Last edited 29/08/13 10:02 am

    Yup, didn't address the issues at all.

    The reason F2P is hated, isn't because big haardcore games aren't maing any money, it also isn't because game studio need ot make money. It's the way it goes about making money.

    People hate the predatory behaviour of the F2P model. If you want people to start respecting you and the work you do, start by getting some morals and implementing them into your F2P model.

    Don't allow 6 year old kids to buy $600 worth of in game crap.

    Don't charge people for items that are required to play competitively online.

    Don't claim your game is "free", when you can't actually complete it without paying.

    Once you start to recognise the reasons why people think your business model (and by extension, you), is scummy you might be able to change it, if that's what you really want.


      Maybe I'm getting old and my definitions for words are 'out of the loop', but what he described sounds more like greed than capitalism. To me, capitalism hinges around making a better product if you want to see a return, rather than an average product that charges you extra if you so much as sneeze.

      "Cancer?" No, I wouldn't go that far - but I still have the same reaction to most "Free"2Play games as I would to a restaurant/bar that charges extra for ice in a drink. I walk away and don't come back.

      Last edited 28/08/13 1:47 pm

      Exactly. Free to play isn't license to charge for everything forever. I'm willing to concede that a F2P game needs to push me a little to make the sale but that doesn't mean taking it to the extreme, aggressively wringing every cent out model is ok. The slot machine like continuous payment models he presents aren't healthy and a lot of times aren't necessary to ensure profit.

      These are all fair points, but they're not intrinsic to the F2P model, they're just misuses of it. They would be good reasons to hate certain implementations of the F2P model, but not to hate the model itself.

    If people don't like F2P, maybe they shouldn't download F2P games. Companies have to make money, and if they're making money then good on them.

      Yeah this was kinda my first thought. Why carry on about F2P 'ruining' the industry? Seems to be a completely different market to me. It kind of comes across to me like telling someone selling beef to stop it because they prefer chicken.

        I think the 'ruining' part comes from taking previously popular franchises like Age Of Empire or Command & Conquer and making them into free-to-play games, ruining them for some people who would rather just purchase the game and have all the content available to them.

          If it's done right, they probably could still purchase all the available content... It depends on the F2P model. Some times it's a gate, sometimes it makes you stronger, sometimes it speeds up the game, sometimes it adds more content... I know which one I would like.

            Well here's an actual example: Marvel Heroes. 'Free-to-play' game that sells additional characters, total cost of currently available characters is $249.97 USD. That's for 12 more characters, some skins and some random cards. And I'm sure more characters are on the way. Starting roster? Four free characters.

            Or a few years ago you could have just bought Marvel Ultimate Alliance for standard rrp. It might have had a couple of DLC's for bonus characters but it's base roster was 25 before adding any console exclusives.

            Both games have similar gameplay (Heroes is online).

            To me, Marvel Heroes is ruined by it's business model.

              That's a great example of a bad model.
              A good model might be something like Dota2, which costs nothing to play, and all the real money items are visual only. And yet valve can afford to run it. Granted, we don't know the profit numbers for Dota2 or even if it's operating at a loss while other parts of Valve prop it up, but I somehow doubt it.
              There are plenty of examples of a good F2P model. I believe Tribes is pretty popular. You can unlock skins and extra weapon slots and upgrades. It will probably cost you some huge amount of money to unlock everything, or you could play without, or buy a starter pack or something like that.

              I remember playing Blacklight for a while. That had a similar model and was a great FPS game (terrible patching process). That had huge weapon customisation system. You could earn points by playing to unlock new guns and mods. It was much cheaper to temporarily unlock an item, such as a particular gun for 3 days than it was to unlock it permanently. But you could also spend real money to unlock items permanently (which was much cheaper than farming the points).
              The kicker here is that you were paying to speed up unlocking things, but apart from perhaps a bigger variety of choice, a paying player had no advantage over a non-paying player.
              So with this system it would also cost you hundreds of dollars to unlock everything, but since you can only use 2 weapons at a time you never need to unlock everything. And if you want to try a new weapon, the points cost for a 3 day "rental" is very low. An hour or 2 of gameplay would allow you to rent a new gun or extend your rental for another 3 days (or however long it was).

              TLDR: There are good and bad F2P models.

                Precisely. Hating on F2P because some companies implement it badly is as illogical as hating on video games because some of them are bad.

    I don't think you are a cancer on the industry - and that's a terrible thing for you to be called.

    And I'm in agreement - the industry is seeing a trend to free to play gaming and with the advent of fast internet connections, games will see constant updating of new features and monetization options.

    And this isn't immune to buy to play games either - with things like Call of Duty offering so many ways to buy to get ahead and to add more to the experience. And lets not forget Skylanders.

    The old model wasn't broken, but it is slowly but surely getting replaced. I love Square Enix titles, and I am hopeful for Thief, but like you, I believe that innovation is slowly being squashed by market forces outside of the core gamer who reads Kotaku.

    As a plea to all gamers out there - if you want innovative, original games that don't require a free to play model to compete, than buy them new and recommend them to your friends.

    Calling out to your notation on Tomb Raider - Crystal Dynamics lost a few members on a team that wasn't working on Tomb Raider, but on another title that wasn't announced. Secondly, the team is working on a sequel to that title. And thirdly, there are monetization options both in game and outside of it - with options to pay more for outfits as well as multiplayer and singleplayer content.

    Games like Tomb Raider are a hybrid - offering a premium experience that is content complete, but in addition offering extras for gamers who want more from the experience.

      Why is that a terrible thing to say? Nobody is wishing he had cancer, they're just saying that his philosophy and the way he encourages others to behave acts like a cancer on the industry. I'd say the same thing about ratings obsessed parent companies on news outlets.

        It's a pretty insulting thing to say, I don't think there's any question of that. There's nothing particularly cancerous in the gaming industry, the problem core gamers have is they're no longer the centre of attention and the focus of development efforts any more. The industry has grown drastically, the typical gamer is different to us and likes different things. Many games now target the new demographic, it's really not a big deal.

        There are still plenty of games being made for us. There's no reason at all, besides pure unadulterated selfishness, to bemoan the fact that games are being made for people different to us as well.

          But where is the unspeakable insult there? You can argue it's an unfair judgement, and I could understand if he took it personally, he totally should if he has any sense of professional pride, but ultimately it's just an assessment of his impact on the industry.

          I think his way of doing things celebrates shaking people by their ankles and taking whatever falls out. I also think that's terrible for the long term good of the industry. I'm not some self-proclaimed core gamer jealous that I'm no longer the key demographic developers aim for. I never have been and after all these years I think it's safe to say I never will be. I don't get outraged at on-disc DLC. I've supported plenty of microtransaction driven games. I'm just against the 'never let them leave the store' mentality he champions.

            His way, or the way you've seen other F2P games do it? This is a distinction I've been arguing for for ages: bad F2P games don't mean all F2P is bad, it just means bad F2P games are bad.

              From my experience trying DA: Legends, I'd agree with calling it "his way". I only played through two maps, before thinking "Could they be any less subtle about this?" and firing up a new Warden in Origins instead.

              His way. I'm a fan of free to play games done in a way that's fair for both sides and healthy for the industry, and like I've said plenty of times I understand that a micro-transaction driven game has to give players a shove (if they're super nice they essentially become donation driven games). Even when they're less than perfect I don't mind free to play. I'm not holding out for an unachievable ideal situation or a deal where I can play everything I want without putting a cent down and they never ask me for money.
              However a fair deal doesn't appear to be his goal. From what I've seen of his methods he deals in the straw that breaks the camels back. He adds a financial element to everything he can right up until he hits the tipping point where too many people will stop playing. No real regard for the integrity of the game, no sense of respect for the players beyond their numbers on the graph, just a pure 'how to get the most money out of this as possible' view of the situation.
              You can charge them an extra 50 cents to restart from the midway checkpoint. Are players willing to put up with that? Enough are that it's a gain. Do we need to be taking 50 cents from them at that point in order to be successful? Who cares.

              He presents this in part as gaming's salvation. If Tomb Raider had micro-transactions clawing every cent out of it's fans it could have done as well as expected. True, but that ignores the actual problem. They over invested in the game, it's as simple as that. I liked the game and if they were going to over invest in something I'm glad it was that. However no matter how much money they manage to bring in it doesn't change the initial mistake. That's the real problem and it needs to be fixed not compensated for.

              He also justifies himself by saying 'business is business'. It's true, game development is a business, but you rarely hear anyone who isn't an asshole use that line to justify what they're doing. It's the get out of jail free card for people screwing you purely because they can. People who actually believe in what they're doing usually justify it by explaining why they're doing it rather than falling back on 'business is business'.
              Artistic vision is not automatically against business either. You can be in the music industry without being part of a boy band. You can make money producing The Dark Knight instead of Transformers 2. The Mona Lisa can make enough to justify painting it without dressing her up like a NASCAR driver. Schindler's List didn't need to swap Schindler's factory for a McDonalds just to make ends meet.
              I'm not saying a good developer will never have to make a compromise to get funding, but it's not a choice between gutting your game into nothing more than a cash grab and not releasing anything at all.

              It's easy to shrug it off because I don't enjoy the types of games he's targeting right now. I can tell myself he's only milking idiot Facebook and iPhone gamers out of their money. However at the end of the day, at face value, what he's doing works and that's very dangerous. Most games I play can be modified to work on his system and some of the people who fund those games are very open to his way of thinking. Tapping into that 0.001% who are willing to pay $1 per reload in Battlefield works... for those 0.001% of players... for about a week, then it crumbles.
              I'm a firm believer in producers being able to charge whatever they want for their product and sell it in any way they want, as long as they deliver on their promises, but that doesn't mean I have to be happy that he's championing a smash and grab mentality.

              I'm not saying he is a cancer on the industry out of any sort of rage, jealousy or fear that I may not be the one true demographic (again, can't stress enough that I know I'm not). I'm saying it because like cancer, if what he champions spreads and becomes popular in other parts of the industry it's going to cause irreparable damage to the industry.

              Last edited 28/08/13 9:03 pm

                I still think it's an unnecessary insult, but at least you're not misdirecting your discontent like some others in this thread are. Criticism where it's due and all that. Carry on =)

    I understand the logic and arguments behind free to play, but will always prefer to pay for a game, and get all of it at once. If a game is "free to play", but includes extra purchases that are offensive (offensive in the sense that the transactions are either core game items or more game areas) than, for me, I have no desire to support it. Team fortress 2 and Planetside 2 are games that both do this idea properly. Purchasables (and that is now a word) are limited to cosmetics, or in-game items that can also be achieved bu playing the game, and aren't a huge advantage.

    Pay to play (and here I'm talking about an upfront cost, not a subscription fee) will always be my preference, for the simple reason that I know what I'm paying for, and getting. I can go anywhere, and do anything (DLC sometimes causes problems here, but that's a different issue), and not have to worry about digging out my wallet to boost my experience when I find myself blocked half way in (Again, some offensive DLC aside).

    While both models have their problems, both can (hopefully) co-exist. as long as developers realise that there is a large segment of their audience that doesn't want to pay for parts of a game half way through. Ethan, you're not a cancer on the game industry, you're an innovator. While I may not agree with that direction, any innovation is welcome in this time of "New madden/CoD this year, look at all the same game features as the last one". Keep pushing the industry on new ways. When people stop innovating, the game industry becomes stagnant, and games suffer.

    Also, does the article cut off mid sentence? It seems like an odd end to the article, unless I'm missing a clever "can't keep supplying content" gag.

    I personally think too many people (both gamers and developers) confuse Free to Play with Pay to Win.

    There are many Free to Play games out there that are purely Free to Play, you can pay money for in game items that are purely cosmetic or whatnot, but nothing that will give you an edge over anyone else.

    Sadly a game I am enjoying right now (War Thunder) is rigged towards Pay to Win... You can buy aircraft that are fully upgraded and it does give an unfair advantage over everyone else that is just playing the game for fun.

      I wouldn't have called War Thunder a pay to win game. There a a few planes that can only be purchased with golden eagles but they don't seem much better than the standard, just that they earn XP faster.
      You can pay to advance faster and get a full upgraded plane rather than grind to unlock the upgrades, but the upgrades are all available to the free to play people as well, it just takes longer to unlock.

      I normally consider pay to win having higher powered items that you have to pay to own, you can't get them any other way. If war thunder introduced the Eurofighter as a new tier plane and it was only available by paying that would be wrong but I don't mind the model so far. Then again I'm not sure how much grinding it takes at higher levels so it could get more pay to win later

    The problem?

    I have to pay 200 bucks in a free to play game to get the full experience I should get from 60 bucks.
    THAT is my problem with F2P models.

      Why 'should' you get it all for $60, exactly? If the game was a $60 purchase instead of a F2P game, what makes you think all that F2P content would still have been available? You seem to be confusing the ability to participate in a growing stream of content over time with the ability to purchase a fixed amount of content in one go.

        That's true, but you can obviously see when that isn't the case.
        See: Marvel Heroes, Neverwinter, etc, etc

        If Free to Play was good to the consumer, instead of punishing it (Hell, where are the hybrid games - ie pay 60 get everything, or piecemeal it?) then there wouldn't be a problem.

          Agreed, there are bad F2P games out there, but there are good ones too. I just don't think condemning F2P as a whole is the right response to bad implementations, is all.

            The problem I have is that the bad implementations are currently heavily outweighing the good ones, and it's still making money - encouraging others to do the same.

          It looks like the new Killer Instinct is taking a 'hybrid' approach, and opinions seem to be mixed, despite offering the best of both worlds in my opinion. You can download the game for free at launch and play the entire game in all modes with one character, and from there you can choose to purchase individual characters at $5 a pop, the initial lot of 8 characters for $20, or an 'Ultra Edition' pack which includes the 8 characters, extra character accessories and costumes (possibly classic costumes, if the rumours are correct) for each character, and a port of the original Killer Instinct arcade game for $40.

          To me, this seems like the perfect way to handle this particular game, and fighting games in general. People can try the entire game out with a baseline (read: balanced, jack-of-all-trades) character if they're not sure about it, they can purchase individual characters if they're only interested in some of the roster, they can buy the entire game with all characters as you would any other game, and old-school fans can get some interesting additional content in the way of the 'Ultra Edition' pack that isn't disadvantageous for anyone else if they wish. All choices are compatible with each other for online play as well, so there's no segmenting of the community whatsoever (although I imagine core players will become VERY good at countering Jagos online :-P), free-to-play gamers can try the game out for as long as they like and buy additional characters only if they wish to, and the core gamers can have the full game they want regardless.

    Five links to the Enhanced Wars Kickstarter page. I hope that one fails.

      Yeah, the shoehorning of that link several times is a bit insulting. I wouldn't go as far to say I wish it fails though.

      Last edited 28/08/13 2:35 pm

      That's unnecessarily hostile. The links are for convenience, nobody's being forced to follow them.

    Free to play games remind me of my relationships. Getting into them was free, or at worst the cost was 99c for some day old flowers, but the price thereafter was always massive.

    Now I just pay someone a 'predetermined fee' and life is good.

      Only communities like Kotaku can produce prostitution jokes this subtle.

    While I find it saddening that such things are said to game developers who are only trying to make ends meet, I will agree with the above comments. The consumer backlash does not come from the model per se, as many people love the idea of being able to play a game for free, it's the restrictions put in place by the model. Developing a game where it is nigh pointless to play without ponying up money, creates a negative environment. Knowing that in order to play the game how it's intended to be played, you have to provide your credit card details, and usually, by the end of it, end up paying more than what you would have payed if it'd had been a set cost.

    My example on a previous article of where F2P has worked brilliantly is RIFT. RIFT allows you to play the game, obtain every bit of gear, and everything in the game, without paying a cent. It does not sit there, forcing you to pay, nor does it ever really shove the 'ULTRA MEGA SUPER DELUXE MEGA PACK FOR ONLY $200! DON'T PAY $3000!' every time I login. Instead they have the options to purchase gear, boosts, services and everything else that I could want, in a nice little store located at the bottom left hand corner of my screen, out of the way.

    My friends, started playing SWTOR recently as that has also moved over to the F2P model, however after playing it (and grinding far too much for the level I got to), I realised how badly they had set up the model. Almost everything is restricted, as though because I'm a free to play player I'm some kind of peasent, I'm a lesser being compared to the almighty super gods that paying players are. The game also doesn't really entice me to spend the money either, utilising a poorly made and shoddy looking shop and pretty much binding me to death with retrictions that force me to pay, to the point that I just gave up on the game. I liked what Bioware had done, and I liked the whole 'self story' aspect of it all. But I think it was probably a much nicer environment back when it was only a subbed game. The freemium aspect of it all, practically killed all the excitement and fun.

    While I understand that it is hard to cater to everyones needs, and large companys are generally much harder on squeezing money out of people. You still need to treat the customer right, and with a lot of F2P models, they don't. That is why most people hate the idea, and that is where the hatred and backlash comes from. Not the model, but how it's been set.


    imho it's pretty simple. The large backlash about F2P games seems to come from the vocal minority such as tech savy gamers.
    The industry would not pursue F2P models if they didn't work. No matter how much you hate it, apparently, the majority of games like it. Candy Crush is a perfect example, that soul sucking disgrace of a mobile F2P game charges $41.99 for some unlocks and power-up.
    My wife enjoys it and hasn't spent a cent. However clearly, on a global market scale, those prices and that model makes sense, and evidently profits.

    The real issue here, is whether F2P is done properly, or not. There are a lot of different ways to implement F2P and some are truly terrible.

    But at the end of the day, if people are willing to pay for those kinds of games, then good on the developers, they've found something that works.
    If you don't like it, don't buy/play it. Simple.

    People bitch and moan till the cows come home but they only real difference we can make is to vote with our wallets.

      I was going to read yours, but, like you, I couldn't be arsed either.

    I prefer games that exist because the creators thought it would be a lovely thing to make not games that exist to wage psychological war on me for my money.

      I think that's the ultimate problem with F2P games. It reminds people of the Pokies and makes them feel like they're just designed to make money, not to actually be a game that developers loved making.

    What a persecution complex. I'd say Plunkett, Hernandez and their ilk are a more offensive cancer on the gaming industry.

    I hate this guy for being so melodramatic — reddit is the new 4chan, the majority of comments come from a combination of entitled, aggressive 'n abusive people, and outright trolls.

    Why he's reading so much into the impassioned rantings of people without any real identity and who will just as quickly call someone a cancer for posting a picture of their cat is beyond me.

    Last edited 28/08/13 1:53 pm

      THANK YOU! My god does it get annoying when I see people whining that the bad people on the internet said something mean. That is how the internet works, people are given anonymity, of course they are going to abuse the shit out of it.

    I don't think F2P is inherently evil, but I prefer to know what I'm paying up front, rather than being an endless font of income for the developer. It's gotten to the point where I avoid any game marked as "free" or where "in-app purchases" are listed.

    For example, I haven't yet played Candy Crack or Plants vs Zombies 2, even though I played PvZ extensively.

    TF2 nailed free to play. Id still rather it premium.

    I'm not going to lie, I hate some developers because of what they've done to games I fell in love with. However, as much as I hate them, I can understand why.

    Developers are essentially like what rock stars were back before rock / metal became popular. They put in a crapload of work, are totally under appreciated, and when they make it big, many of the "hardcore fans" of the genre deride them as sellouts and a disgrace.

    I'd like these people to try that life for a while. Working hard for peanuts (if they even get that) HOPING to get noticed by a halfway decent studio. Then when they get their dream job, working hard as hell, knowing that they've got a deadline and also working with the fear that at the end of the project, they'll be out of a job again.

    I personally dislike the F2P method (for the most part) but I can understand the 'why'. As much as people want to think that the consumers are 'the driving force' behind everything, they couldn't be more wrong. Consumers are easily manipulable and for the most part, complete rubes. Look at the iPod and the explosion of the Apple empire. There were better devices out there than the iPod (hello Creative) and yet, because of the "stylish" look and the hipster advertising, people bit at the carrot on the end of the stick.

    You may want to think the consumer is smarter than this, but I guaran-dam-tee you that you could sell them a sub-standard product all by making it look shiny and stylish, and advertising it as being 'too good' for the plebes.

    The problem with F2P is that at a basic design level games need to be designed with gameplay which encourages (or forces) gamers to fork over money as a key element of the game. Instead of looking at a game and saying “how can we make the best experience possible so it sells X amount” it becomes “how to we design the gameplay so that a key element will make us money”.

    Obviously there are no absolute rules here and I bet 100’s of great non-F2P games don’t get off the ground because the “best experience possible” doesn’t look like it will turn a profit, but the idea that it’s not ‘best possible’ but ‘most profitable’ when designing gameplay clearly results in an inferior product the consumer.

    Imagine if the movie industry implemented this kind of model the kind of rubbish you would see released. If instead of paying for a movie it was free, but then certain scenes were intentionally made worse, with better versions for customers willing to pay or you had to pay money to get a good ending. Scripts being written from the ground up not with the artistic intention to tell the story in the best manner possible but to tell the story in a manner which extracts extra cash from the consumer.

    I have far less issue with monthly fees or even a free trial followed by a subscription model, asking developers to produce a product good enough that at the end of the month gamers are happy to pay again. My problem starts once the best possible gameplay is being toned down in order to extract a profit. THAT’S when it becomes a “cancer”.

    Last edited 28/08/13 2:09 pm

      I'm currently working on my first F2P project and I can't agree more with your opening paragraph.
      Previously, games "sold" on how "good" or popular they were - now, "selling" has to be factored in to the gameplay itself. It's injecting the marketing in to the game, rather than it being a separate entity.

      Rather than just doing as good a job as we can to please fans, or trying to realise our vision of fun, we have to concentrate on "priming" the player to spend (a.k.a. getting someone emotionally invested, then slowing down game progression enough to frustrate someone in to spending money). Check out http://deconstructoroffun.blogspot.fi/ for commentary on this kind of practice.

      I'm doing my best but I can't help but feel the only good F2P model are vanity only models, like League of Legends (so I hear, haven't played), and Path of Exile (which I have played, and love).

      I can't help but feel like a bit of industry cancer myself at the moment (or at least a carcinogen).

        To put it perhaps too bluntly, that's an excuse. You don't 'have' to concentrate on priming players to spend to design a good F2P game. What you 'have' to do is design F2P mechanisms that work with your desired gameplay mechanics without infringing on them. It can be done, it's just harder to design well.

      The movie industry does do similar to what you described, with directors cut or special editions that you pay more to see than the standard version. Certain scenes in the standard version are worse, and you pay extra to see the better scenes. Sure, you're not paying mid-movie for the difference, but everything else you said seems to apply.

      The problem you described in the first paragraph, however, is not intrinsic to F2P design, but rather to bad F2P design. It's possible to encourage players to spend money in a way that doesn't compromise the core gameplay elements, and there are success stories out there right now that do this.

    Free to play can be done well, when it isn't pay to win. Look at League of Legends or Team Fortress 2 for example. I'm happy as long as the quality of gameplay and game design comes first, and that goes for any gaming context; whether it is story, graphics, microtransactions, DLC, if they all work with and around the game theory, as opposed to substituting it, I'll invest time and money into the product.

    I think calling Levy cancer is a bit extreme. There is simply disagreeing with his point of view, and then there is absolute bullshit bullying. I don't think Levy is a bad guy; I may not agree with his ideas, but that is absolutely no reason to hate him.

    Last edited 28/08/13 2:12 pm

    I’d prefer to buy a car for $20K that is fully functional, than get a car for free but then have to have the car salesman sitting in the passenger seat constantly offering to sell me my 4th and 5th gears and high beams.

    I’m fine with other people signing up for their free cars and going through this rigmarole but it starts to become concerning when all major car manufacturers start dedicating resources to this way of pricing and even when I buy my $20K car now, I still have to have the salesman in the passenger seat.

    Whether or not he's a cancer is one thing, but I think we can all agree that SMB3 article was grotesque. Absolutely disgusting.
    Very well done, of course. Evil doesn't mean poorly made, after all.

    What the heck... So hate for F2P on here. Sure there are developers who abuse the model, but when it's done right I'd say it's a very reasonable way to do things.

    People should stop automatically assuming 'free-to-play' means 'pay-to-win', because the good F2P games are definitely not.

    So... why not make games with a smaller scope? Why do AAA games nowadays need to cost a hundred million dollars to make in order to be profitable? Why does every game need to have multiplayer? Split the SP and MP, reuse the assets and sell them separately. Or, speaking of reusing assets, go the Blood Dragon route - make a new game with old assets as a spin off or something, and sell it for a reduced price.
    We hear all this talk of AAA games being too expensive to make... and then we hear about GTA implementing a full online mode, Destiny with its ten year plan for a fully evolving, living world, and SqEnix launching another MMO. All I can ask is "What warranted these?"

    Cut the scope down to something manageable; not everything has to be an epic.

    Last edited 28/08/13 3:14 pm

      What's wrong with the GTA model? Rockstar only make exceptionally high quality titles under the GTA name but only do so every few years and in doing so ensure the GTA brand isn't damaged or diluted and that consumers are always clamouring for more. As a result every GTA launched goes on to smash sales records.

      Spending $100 million making 1 game every few years that rakes in billions and then spending less to experiment making other games (Max Payne, LA Noire, Red Dead Redemption etc.) which then fuel the design for your next $100 million game that will rake in billions seems like a very sustainable model.

        Perhaps GTA was a poor example, given the way Rockstar handles its projects, and the fact that it's got the funds to pull it off; however the online multiplayer part seems unnecessarily extravagant (imo - obviously). Quote from IGN paraphrasing Rockstar North:

        Grand Theft Auto Online is a dynamic and persistent online world for 16 players that begins by sharing gameplay features, geography and mechanics with Grand Theft Auto V, but will continue to expand and evolve after its launch with new content created by Rockstar Games and the Grand Theft Auto community.

        Sure, sounds pretty cool. But wouldn't you have been happy with just a basic co-op a la SR3 or GTA4? I mean, if you hadn't heard about GTA Online? Sure, Rockstar has the cash, so they can do things like this. But what has Bungie been doing lately to offset Destiny? How will they fund ten years of development on a single title? (Rhetorical, unless you have sourced information)

        And don't forget that LA Noire and Red Dead still cost $40m and $100m respectively. They weren't cheap games, by any stretch.

        But, does it really matter which behemoth I choose to exemplify my argument? My point was not that big-budget games are always a waste of money, or that they're always going to fail. My point was that not every game has to be a GTA or a Final Fantasy Online or a Halo or a MGS or a CoD (heaven forbid!). Not every story is an epic, and not every game need be, either.

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