Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Lure of In-App Billing

So since I updated Jungle Jumper with In-App Billing, my download numbers have gone down, my bug reports have gone up, it has become way more difficult to use one code base for several app stores and I have not sold a single "Remove Ads" product in the game.

I don't like In-App Billing. When I originally wrote out my values for Lonely Giant Games, one of them was "Make games without hidden costs, e.g. In-App Purchases." I since changed that to "Make games without hidden costs, e.g. pay to win." I did this because I thought it would be nice for people to be able to upgrade Jungle Jumper to an ad free version with an In-App Purchase - and I still do to some extent, but it is a slippery slope.

As soon as I decided on this, I though that I could also make the new world, that I'm planning to build for Jungle Jumper, something you could buy, and maybe you could buy a few extra costumes as well.

So what's the problem with that you might ask? It's not like you can "pay to win" by doing that. No, but you are making your game into something that it is not supposed to be: A shop. Games are suppose to be a place where you go to have fun and you're transported to another place. What you are basically doing is smacking the users in the face with reality, when you are suddenly interrupting them by asking them for money. In the end you are breaking their suspense of disbelief, and that is simply one of the worst things you can do in any form of entertainment.

There is also the fact that Jungle Jumper is a game for kids as well. And I'd like for parents to not have to worry when their kids play my games. I know you can set up parental control stuff to avoid kids buying from the Play Store, but I think a lot of parents still don't know that.

"Let not the lure of the dollar signs lead you astray from good game design my children." 

We've seen some beloved game series like Diablo and Dead Space flirt with variations of In-App Billing with bad results. I truly hope that this is only a phase while publishers are enamoured with the idea of micro-transactions everywhere. I think it's important to have higher aspirations than to just make a game that earns as much money as possible.

As for myself, I'm going to take In-App Billing back out of Jungle Jumper as soon I have time to make the next update.

In-App Billing is crap, whether you're a gamer or a developer. But it's easy to forget that when you're on the end that will receive the money.

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