Peter Molyneux understands why many gamers are wary of touch, mobile and free-to-play gaming, and has warned designers against “burning through” their audiences in pursuit of a quick buck.
Speaking to USGamer, Molyneux said he’s not going to let the negative reception to free-to-play stop him – he’s just going to try and do it right.
“Us gamers have been abused by Facebook gaming and mobile gaming for so long, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it,” he said.
“There’s been a lot of negative push-back from people saying they’re scared that Godus is going to come to mobile, and we’re going to turn into these analytics-driven monsters.”
Molyenux said new kinds og gaming like mobile and free-to-play are “creating millions of new gamers a year”, but these new gamers are only exposed to “very caustic free-to-play models that are abusing them”.
“I want those gamers – we all want those gamers. This industry has dreamt of being a dominant entertainment industry for decades,” he said.
“The ridiculous thing is there are people designing games around less than 5% of the audience, and monetizing them so harshly and cruelly that we’re burning through those people.”
Despite these failings, Molyneux said the industry simply must embrace new business models, because the way consumers relate to digital media is changing.
“The world’s a changing place, and we in this industry cannot ignore it. We can’t say that paying for something up-front is the only way to consume something. That’s a short-term way of thinking about it,” he said.
“Fundamentally, being able to play and tempting people to spend money, in the same way that a supermarket tempts you to buy more than the cigarettes you came in to buy, that’s really the art that we need to focus on. If we get it right, then people will not do the very thing we’re doing with free-to-play right now, and saying I’m not going to spend any money, and spending money is cheating. That’s obviously destructive.”
Molyneux acknowledged great games like League of Legends and Dota 1, which make loads of money as free-to-play title without being perceived as robbing their players blind. He compared this kind of spending, which he likened to investing in a hobby, to the “addiction” monetisation of social games.
“A lot of those mechanics in those games are monetizing of addiction. And if you monetize addiction, that’s like monetizing drugs. Addictive drugs, cigarettes for example, that’s a great way of making money, for sure. But are they something that’s going to grow? I think it’s something that’s constrained.”
“Candy Crush I’m a huge fan of, but the amount of money they charge for things is unbelievable. They’re not giving value. You buy the lollipop thing, it’s like £5, and it lasts about a minute. It’s unbelievable. A lot of those mechanics in those games are monetizing of addiction,” he said.
“And if you monetize addiction, that’s like monetizing drugs. Addictive drugs, cigarettes for example, that’s a great way of making money, for sure. But are they something that’s going to grow? I think it’s something that’s constrained.
“What I think about, what I want Godus to be is like a hobby. If we make it like a hobby. I love my hobby, my hobby’s cooking and I love buying crazy, ridiculous gadgets for my kitchen that I hardly ever use. I love buying an incredibly sharp knife with which I end up in casualty 15 minutes after getting it. I love that. If I can get players of Godus into that mindset, that’s a healthy place to be.
“Hobbies are a great thing, whether it’s gardening or cooking or stamp-collecting or gaming. After all, the ridiculous thing about all this is the price of triple-A games. $60, for Christ’s sake. That’s an impossible amount of money. You compare that to films, TV, to any other medium, it’s so over-priced.”
“We are going to end up continuing to pull out huge wads of money from the enthusiast audience, which is about 20 million people — but that’s not getting any bigger.”
The take home message seems to be that free-to-play and other non-traditional business models, as well as new platforms like mobile and social, are necessary if the industry wants to grow – but that the way many games currently exploit those markets is ultimately destructive and self-defeating. Molyneux wants Godus to tap those markets in a way that won’t leave players feeling gouged.
The full interview, accessible through the link above, contains interesting discussion of Molyneux’s approach to feedback-driven design, and how Godus released with 75% of its content missing, like “Call of Duty without guns”.