free-managed-services.jpgWhen it comes to discussions surrounding free to play, people often focus on monetization tactics based on their experiences as a player. Folks commonly get upset based on the disruption of the historical precedent that games should have a price tag, that you pay, then get the game. It's understandable, as it's hard to be a savvy consumer when the value proposition is often so heavily distorted, making it supremely unclear how large the air quotes around "free" really are. In actuality, that's among the least gross things about giant free to play titles from huge developers who have turned game design into modern-day factory farming, harvesting user data more aggressively than the worst PC spyware of the early 2000's, all to fuel the fires of selling as much IAP as possible.

The following article is from a game developer I've known for close to a decade now. To the best of my knowledge, from following iOS development since the launch of the App Store, it's totally accurate. I've heard similar things from developers who have also gone through the ropes of hopping from one game studio to the next. This is the first time I've actually convinced someone to write about it.


I am a senior producer at a free to play games company. I have worked for several of the big name companies. It is almost certain you have or are playing a game I have produced or worked on in a major capacity.

Highway Signpost "Freemium"

This isn’t an article about the evils of free to play manipulation to get you to spend money. This is about how we can target you, because we (and our partners) know everything about you. We know where you live, we know your income level, we know your relationships, your favorite sports teams, your political preferences. We know when you go to work, and where you work. We can target an event to start for you when we know you have a long weekend coming up. We own you.

It didn’t start this way. I was originally a console game producer. Layoffs, mergers and what not eventually got me associated with mobile games. We were very early on the iPhone making what you would call traditional games. 99 cent arcade titles. These games did very well, they were reviewed nicely and players generally loved us. We started working on larger more ambitious projects, our team and department was doing great.

stars1We had a game that had a whole bunch of levels you could 1, 2 and 3 star (this was still at-least a year or two before Angry Birds). There was concern, both with the team and upper management that if the game was too hard, it would not be successful. The only UA channel we had was app ranking and user reviews (again this was 2008). One of our engineers came up with a rather simple solution that today would seem like a joke. We could have a JSON file online that contained all the level information. Then we could update the file to make a level easier (or harder). This way we could watch user reactions (mostly app store reviews, Twitter was still pretty basic at this time). This worked great, we were able to balance the game in the wild.

During a meeting about the game, the guy who ran our website brought up some interesting information. He started watching the web logs and seeing all the connections to the JSON file. Unbeknownst to him (or our team) he was getting us a DAU. For the engineering and production teams, this was just a neat thing to know, a feel good “look how many people love our game” statistic. The CEO saw something else. Pretty quickly we started getting more requests for what our users were doing. Upper management was disappointed by our lack of answers. I found a new service online called Pinch Media, they were an analytics tracker. I got the team to integrate Pinch into a few products and finally I had answers. Of course then more answers were asked. Around this time, free to play started happening. Suddenly, Marketing and our bosses demanded to know more than ever. In response to the pressure to explain our user base, I ended up building an event matrix. I had no schooling in this, so I was just making it up as I went along. My first matrix was awesome for a game developer. It was full of all those cool stats like “How far has the player run” or “How many bullets has he shot”. But this did not impress my bosses. They wanted to know how we could get the player to buy more stuff, tell his friends to play the game (and thus I learned about cohorts, all I wanted to do was make games).

Time passed, Free to Play became a thing. I went from company to company. Each time, every new project became less and less about how we can do cool things, and more about how we can track and target users to get the most whales possible, boost chart position and retain users to shove as many ads on them as possible.

facebook_like_thumbAll of this already seems bad. But along the way, a major thing happened. Facebook. I forget when I did my first Facebook required app, but it was a game changer. Facebook has changed how it has worked over the years. Today you can’t quite get as much information (easily) as you could with the first API, but you still get a lot. We collect as much information about a player as possible, thanks to Facebook we have a ton. Even users who don’t really use Facebook or fill it with “fake” data actually tell us a lot. You might not use Facebook, but your connections give you away. If you play with friends, or you have a significant other who plays, we can see the same IP address, and learn who you are playing with. When we don’t know information, we try to gather it in a game. Have you played a game with different country flags? We use those to not only appeal to your nationalistic pride, but to figure out where you are (or where you identify). Your IP address says you are in America, but you buy virtual items featuring the flag of another country, we can start to figure out if you are on vacation, or immigrated. Perhaps English is not your first language. We use all of this to send you personalized Push Notifications, and show you store specials and items we think you will want.

And if you are a whale, we take Facebook stalking to a whole new level. You spend enough money, we will friend you. Not officially, but with a fake account. Maybe it’s a hot girl who shows too much cleavage? That’s us. We learned as much before friending you, but once you let us in, we have the keys to the kingdom. We will use everything to figure out how to sell to you. I remember we had a whale in one game that loved American Football despite living in Saudi Arabia. We built several custom virtual items in both his favorite team colors and their opponents, just to sell to this one guy. You better believe he bought them. And these are just vanity items. We will flat out adjust a game to make it behave just like it did last time the person bought IAP. Was a level too hard? Well now they are all that same difficulty.

Moby-Dick-610

Every day we collect a ton of data. I don’t even know the size of what we collect anymore, we have entire divisions to instrument and analyze the data. These days I just send over a basic question, and the team pulls the data, and runs the query. No longer do we use off the shelf systems like Flurry. Now it is all in house. There was a game a while back that generated something like 20 gigs of player data a day. Right now another Producer is reading that number an laughing, as their game does 100 or 200 or 300 gigs a day. We keep everything we can. And we are not alone. Normally I implement 20 to 30 different 3rd party SDKs into a game. Some of these help us track events or crashes, some are ad networks, others more demographic data. All of these networks are gathering as much, if not more data on you. Worse yet, they are all networked. Let’s say your in some app that wants to know if you are Male or Female, and what age range you fall under. Well that app shares that data with it’s ad network. Guess who else uses that same ad network, we do! Now we have that data, without even asking for it.

Every time you play a free to play game, you just build this giant online database of who you are, who your friends are and what you like and don’t like. This data is sold, bought and traded between large companies I have worked for. You want to put a stop to this? Stop playing free games. Buy a game for 4.99 or 9.99. We don’t want to be making games like this, and we don’t want another meeting about retention, cohorts or churn.

  • siryami220

    Shit, I'll buy a game with no IAPs for $4.99 or more if it means that some douche slapping his dong around under his work desk isn't trying to find more ways for me to spend money on a game. This is downright creepy.

    • Khan Amil

      Yeah, 'cause remium games never track player behaviors, as they never offer IAP, right?

      • Zwilnik

        There's a huge difference between tracking gameplay data to improve the game so players have more fun or you can create expansions to the game that they'll want and data mining every bit of personal information you can on someone just to grab the maximum amount of money.

      • siryami220

        Thank you for this.

      • Khan Amil

        Totally agree on this. Doesn't mean that premium games don't use the same shitty tactics outlined in this though.

        And they don't only track gameplay metrics.

      • thecactusman17

        They are the same thing. The usage is different but they gather the same data.

      • PhasmaFelis

        The usage is critical. It's the difference between "trying to make a game as fun as possible" and "trying to make a game *less* fun so the player will pay to make it fun again."

      • Tallgeese

        Yeah. Me buying more "premo games" is hardly going to stop some CEO from demanding you or someone else make more money now that they have the (game) genie out of the bottle. How about we make this shit illegal and force them to make better games we want to pay for? So it's my fault you guys have "stumbled" into collecting everyone's data and hidden the actions in legalese and you want us to fix it because ultimately "users made us do it?" I appreciate your article and getting the word out, but this is clearly just another wall street-esque "we could do it so we did" ¥£%€up that should result (but won't) in CEOs being punched in the d1ck in not-so-nice prison. There are no penalties for doing bad things when you're really really rich!

    • MrAlbum

      Agreed that the practices outlined in the article are creepy, personally creeped out at the mental image your joke ran through my head Dx

      • siryami220

        Dx my strange sense of humor is... well strange.

    • fdisk

      Buying premium games doesn't solve this problem. Look at games like Hitman Sniper; I paid $2.99 for that game and it's trying to sell me shit all the time. There's a rifle in that game that costs $25; that's over ten times the price of the actual game!
      There are tons of games that you pay $4.99 for and end up trying to sell you stuff anyway, it's a shitty practice and it feels even more insulting when it comes from a game you already paid money for. I now actively avoid any game on iOS that has "in-app purchases"; thank God Apple made a policy of flagging them now.
      These assholes are having their cake, eating it, and getting paid for it.
      Ultimate this comes down to the developers; if as you claim in the article you are a producer sick of this practice then start your own studio and hire like-minded people who love games and are OK making a good amount of money without being obsessed with hoarding it like every CEO seems to be.

  • slamraman

    Great article. Second best this week after Desert Golfing.

  • Anonomation

    Big Brother is watching.

    • Tallgeese

      I'm pretty sure George Orwell would be so happy to know anytime an independent multi-national corporation collects all our data someone will yell "big brother is watching" and confuse people as to which entity is actually the problem and which is the solution.

      • Shiro

        BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING!!!

      • Tallgeese

        Hahahaha ^_^

  • spader623

    First, I think this was an awesome article and showed more about how F2P really gets into everyone's lives and makes them buy more. That said, I'm curious who 'we' is that wants us to buy more premium games. The author, the anonymous guy, doesn't say anything about that until the last paragraph. So is the problem the Bosses want more money and the people like anonymous don't like it but are forced to?

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      Typically speaking, "we" are the people who got into game development because video games is a life-long passion for them who have since been forced to do the whole super-gross corporate free to play thing to pay their mortgage because that's where the money is right now. If people bought premium stuff like they do IAP in free to play games, the people up top calling the shots will follow the money in that direction.

      • BaronKrause

        People acting like $9.99+ for a premium game is "crazy money" sure isn't helping things either.

      • Tuzzo

        I agree. And yet thousands of people in the last couple of days have spent $40-90 for yet another shallow expansion to a shallow FPS (talking about Destiny The Taken King, if it wasn't clear).
        But spending $4.99 on Warhammer 40k: Deathwatch (which is awesome and very deep) must be thoroughly thought about because reasons 🙁

      • http://www.suzumakes.com Keith Crescenzi

        Deathwatch YES! It's a game that you buy, you play, you beat it, it ends. It ENDS. It was an awesome play. But it also ran Rodeo Games out of business :/

      • Tallgeese

        Because a lot of Americans think they can't afford to waste their money on things like that when there's a free or cheaper alternative (also why most go to Walmart). Our middle class dying. You did read the part about how the whole thing was a giant net to sell people's information (what they can afford but probably don't want to lose) but also primarily aimed at leeching off of the "whales" because they are the only ones with discretionary income...?

      • Toney

        The problem is that a few whales make up for tenths or hundreds of regular users. God knows how many whales are out there. I still cringe every time I see full golden hearthstone decks...

      • Andre Fairchild

        funny story. i know a friend who actually have a deck of 80% gold cards... and he actually never spent any real money on it. he just played hearthstone like... almost 12 hours a day

      • flashbackflip

        Sounds more sad than funny tbh..

  • Dailon Huskey

    Snowden already let this be known when he talked about angry birds. Already knew it but this article is great and will inform
    Others.

    • InTheAir

      You mean South, right? Could you give more information about it?

      • Tallgeese

        There's a South Park episode dedicated to explaining why free games aren't really free. I haven't watched it yet... Lemme see what I can dig...

      • vicsark

        Terence and Philip Free 2 play
        Canada FTW 😉

      • Tallgeese

        It's an episode called "Freemium isn't free" and it can be seen for free on Hulu. Because the freemium model is free. Free. Free. Free. I thought I read recently about that somewhere...

      • Dailon Huskey

        That's it! Explains it all and it was that episode that made me decide to not download any more of them.

  • spsummer

    Wow, great article. One of the better reads on TouchArcade in a while. Very informative

  • Mike Walko

    I've never had more confirmation I'm an outlier of ftp games than this article. I've never seen an item I've wanted to buy, I've never had events run during a time I can play them, and I've never had someone I don't know try to friend me on facebook.

    • spawn12345

      You didnt spend enough money then so they dont care about you.

    • Gamer1st

      Same here.

    • http://entrepreneurialblog.com Niclas Johansson

      No, the vast majority is exactly like you. The whales are the outliers.

    • Toney

      F2P is all about hunting whales, not regular users.

  • CrazedJava

    This is why I don't even play a game as a "free player" if I don't like their IAP tactics. It just gives them more data and you become part of the churn as they look for that % that will pay.

    The only way to win is not to play.

  • handhoney

    I'm really glad I've never linked my Facebook account with my YouPorn account. Else I might be getting sold virtual Brazilian flagged gag-balls.

    Don't hate. I am who I am.

    • Ragn4rok 74

      Hahahaha! Oh wow that was spectacular!

    • visualplayer

      In reality/gonna be who I be/and I don't feel no faults/for all the lies that you bought/hate on me hater!

    • flashbackflip

      If u r using Chrome consider them linked anyway bro' lmfao! Don't be so naïve

      • http://crumpled.com Richard Call

        Good point but: Any browser. Any page with any facebook content. (like button, share button, discussion)

  • uFinKnow

    I have no doubt it gets even dirtier than this. Disgusting.

    • Toney

      I'm willing to bet this isn't even the tip of the iceberg.

  • icepulse

    It's why I'm a total non-entity; no FB account, never associate any social media acct w/ a game, etc.

    • Martymcsmartie

      Are you John Connor?

      • http://matt-curtis.me/ Matt Curtis

        Who's asking?

      • Martymcsmartie

        Just an honest motorcycle cop..

      • Nergal

        So you like bacon?

      • Stormourner of the Nature

        hasta la vista, baby

    • JPhilipp

      As the article mentions, they also look at your IP to check out who else may live in your appartment. So best make sure you live alone, too! There's other data too they could correlate, like time of day play patterns, which could reveal a lot about your current situation... not to mention the choices you make in the game.

      • Press2Play

        Ok I should pack now and live in the cave.

      • Modjular

        Nothing that drastic. Just go find an Amish community to join.

      • nicoper

        Live alone in the woods, nobody else in a 20km radius, be you own isp and get an "untracable" IP, bounce all connections through 20 different countries selected at random each hour.
        Also write "John Apleseed" or some other generic name on you door and mailbox, just in case the freemium devs use Google Maps or something similar to track you.
        You can also start buying everything with cash, and burn your fingerprints off you fingers so those can't be traced from the cash you payed with, never show your face to anyone.
        Then you can play Candy Crush without being spied on as much.
        Or you could just say "Screw this, I won't play freemium".

    • negitoro

      Some times, it doesn't even matter. Many games now come integrated with a wide array of analytic packages that track everything you do in the game. This is on top of so many of the other things they do like cross reference you via ad networks or check your IP.

      Of course, most of this data isn't necessarily tied to you, specifically, but tracked nonetheless.

      Unless you're playing everything offline 100% of the time, somebody has a profile of you, guaranteed.

  • Dailon Huskey

    No Facebook for me never been on it and I only have one FTP game that I play and that's FF Recprd Keeeper and it never spams me about buying anything. As a result I buy something every once in a while but that's because I find it to be a very fair FTP game. But all this clash of clans, angry birds trash I have never got into it. But PT Barnum said it A sucker is born every minute!

    • Modjular

      That's the key right there to how ftp should operate. They should respect you as a customer, so you feel obligated to purchase it, instead of psychologically coerced through other manipulative ways.

      • Dailon Huskey

        I'm guessing they have researched this and found it draws less whales than if they manipulate and hence why majority are not fair at all. it's like gambling except you have no chance of hitting a jackpot so by that logic you would be better off taking that 200$IAP to Vegas 🙂

    • flashbackflip

      They do not spam u in game. They sell yo data to google and it spams you with its adwords network. Peace

  • Tasslehoff Burrfoot

    What a magnificently scary article. I suppose I'm just as blind to some of these tactics as the next but this is mayhem. What a great article though and thank you for literally scaring a little poo out of my bowels. Preciate ya

    • Thomas TC Allen Compton IV

      That's why, I as a game designer, have sworn to never implement such disgusting tactics in my games. In a game or two I might have IAPs, but nothing to gather or track personal data, or things that help push ads on my players.

  • fabianb

    Great article, thanks author for sharing this with us!

    • VirtualBoyFreak

      And congratulations to the anonymous writer for the way the article is written. Beautiful... Albeit scary, but beautifully written indeed.

      • Tallgeese

        yes, thanks!

  • Quazonk

    Just another reason for me to march down the street flying the premium gaming flag while playing the Benny Hill theme song on the trumpet, throwing handful after handful of coins out of my pockets while a troupe of premium game producers trail behind me, catching the coins in hats.

    • Tallgeese

      Whoa, wait, are you a job creator? That can't be. The news told me you had to be a big head of a company to create jobs...

  • curtneedsaride

    Thanks for sharing. The last few sentences say it all for both gamers and developers: "You want to put a stop to this? Stop playing free games. Buy a game for 4.99 or 9.99. We don’t want to be making games like this, and we don’t want another meeting about retention, cohorts or churn." Guess that just leaves the executives who may or may not even care about gaming. And they're probably the ones reaping most of the benefits, huh?

    • Tallgeese

      reap

    • Nergal

      One person can't stop a flood. Even if every single person on TA only bought premium games that would be a drop in the ocean. There is no stopping the freemium money train, not even Mad Max could do it

      • curtneedsaride

        Oh I have no doubt. I've seen way too many casual gamers playing their CLASH Of Clans and Candy Crush like its the newest, coolest drug on the streets. I've been able to introduce some to premium titles, opening their eyes a little. It's just unfortunate that this state of the gaming culture is the only kind of gaming that young kids may have ever known.

      • DBrown519

        That is why I went back to console gaming.

      • Stormourner of the Nature

        of course you can't stop the freemium games because no one has the power *nods*

  • paulocmc

    If u buy the game the company will have ur data the same way and trade the same way, and If u dont Facebook already did it.

    • MrAlbum

      I think the theory with premium economics is that the upfront purchase of a game gives developers a good portion of money, meaning all the data-gathering tactics of these free-to-play titles to maximize IAP is unnecessary because you already got a customer's money, if they didn't pirate the game, which is a tangentially related issue (kinda/sorta). What purpose would tracking that data serve? Sure, it's not an absolute, as premium multiplayer games might benefit from these data acquisition practices in their own way, but that would be an exception, not the rule, IMHO.

      • Tallgeese

        I don't think (besides achievements and leaderboards) data-tracking within a game will help you make a better game BECAUSE I think feedback from players and play testing will do that a lot better, but then we wouldn't have "all the metrics" and other marketing grab-assery and where would we be without that? How about asking the players "what would you like to see in our game?" I imagine that whale example probably had some other digital things he/she would have like created for them and would have paid for. Instead let's just stalk them and guess.

  • paulocmc

    If u buy the game the company will have ur data the same way and trade the same way, and If u dont Facebook already did it. I mean, i buy games every week, mostly on sales or big releases, but not for those reasons.

  • Bool Zero

    Great article! I have to wonder where the legality of this data mining falls under though. It seems almost dangerous the kind of profile one can build off of these analytics and I can only imagine if these queries towards this information got into the wrong hands and were used for more nefarious means...

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      If you read any EULA, you're agreeing to all of this.

      • Dailon Huskey

        Good point. When you play a free to play game and you select agree without reading you are actually agreeing to this type of stuff. Legally you allowed it.

      • Martymcsmartie

        See South Park: Human Centipad. Soon we'll all be eating cuttlefish.....

      • Tallgeese

        Haha just saw this episode too! Sorrrrry, Kyru-san!

      • VirtualBoyFreak

        LOL'd, I always "read" those 96 page-accept-or-go documents. Specially when it's an App Store update policy and they do ask "are you sure you've read it?" :-p

  • vic_viper_001

    O.O
    Lucky for me, I never use my Facebook account for anything, and only play two F2P games that I barely even care about. Now those games are going bye bye!

    • InTheAir

      What are they, since you can't make a good generalization unless you read the EULA and it's a big giant legal mess (Making sure the EULA is readable is a good way to know if they're try to hide something from you). And remember; not all people are like this! (Which is really any AAA company or indie scammer)

    • chrisbrady

      And they already know everything they need about you. Congrats for helping them.

  • raresloth

    I think only big companies with deep pockets can afford to do this. Even if an indie tried doing this it would require so time... (until the tools automate it).

    • Tallgeese

      I think like the author of the article said you can already get the tools for this. Big companies make them in-house.

      • raresloth

        You can, with a price! I would say most small indies can't afford to pay monthly payments for analytics... Especially if they don't have tons of users. There's also a lot of time overhead in making sense of the data (ie. data analysts)

      • adhi christanto lius

        And that is why small indie games is hard to reach the top. Since we are losing against the big budget all kinds of data being analyzed 🙁

      • negitoro

        Depends on what you need.

        Some services like Flurry are free. They're not top of the line but you can certainly track a lot of things out of the box. Things like IP data, Facebook profile data, ad network data, etc are also free.

        You're right that the big cost is really in making sense of it. But smart companies can get a big chunk of that effect just by limiting their analysis to the bare minimum.

  • Zeillusion

    I told you guys.

  • diaskeaus

    Its not too difficult to realize why so few companies today produce truly heroic and epic games, when their bosses have literally become villains. Once upon a time, so many game companies tried to win your heart; even the companies that back in the day, actually cared about that kind of culture, today they are a bygone myth.

    Shame on you, and shame on us.

    • alduinslayer

      What about Nintendo

      • Tallgeese

        Nintendo's new CEO is a financial executive and was a banker for nearly 30 years. He's trying to make Nintendo more profitable and they're starting to make more apps. Hopefully making great games is also in there somewhere, I wonder if he even likes games... Anyways look forward to some more F2P pokemon cash-ins like-a de Poke Chuffl.

  • MrThickDick

    There are easy solutions to get people to buy more games, stop putting them on sale right after they're released, there are many examples of games dropping price within a week of being released, and it pisses people off. Another way to change things is to change how people perceive mobile games, they're rooted in .99 throw away games but they've become much deeper experiences and should be treated as such. Also, if you're going to release a game for a premium price then tell your customers upfront there won't be a sale for X amount of time or if you're going to stick to a price permanently, let people know and they won't be as hesitant to spend money on a game if they know it won't go on sale right after being released, if at all. Buying more games isn't stop free crap from being released, the only thing that will is when people smarten up and quit supporting them.

    • Andrew Fretz

      Developers already do ALL of that stuff and still fail though. It's not nearly as easy as JUST DO THIS ITS SO SIMPLE!

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        They could just make Crossy Road.

      • MrAlbum

        They could just exploit their user base. Eyoooo!

      • MrThickDick

        Where, are you referring to some forum only a handful of people read? It should be in the description of the app on the store but there's no mention of anything about proving at all.

      • Andrew Fretz

        Where? in the description of the app on the store. Plenty of games do it.

  • Farid Belkacemi

    Very interesting... Thanks for sharing Eli !

  • iValerio90

    I told you.....

  • islesfan

    Want me to "buy a game for $4.99 or $9.99"? Ok, SELL ME ONE! Seriously, there are so few games that sell up front rather than freemium. Even the ones that do, just go freemium later. I bought MC5 up front, Asphalt 8 too. Now what? About the only studio still doing worthwhile premium games is 2K. I have them all. I even bought WW2K, and I have zero interest in wrestling (love the game though).

    • Dailon Huskey

      Agreed. Don't like wrestling own the game and I buy every square and 2k premium I can to support the fact they are producing real games

  • Zeillusion

    If you guys can access corporate emails and underground trade information you'll gasp in fear. I don't really think most can comprehend what your online database consists of. It's quite scary.

    • Tallgeese

      preach

  • vicsark

    So creepy.
    Weirdly enough I did just finish watching the XMas Black mirror episode when I read this.
    Uuurgh.

    Great job publishing this kind of "J'accuse" piece on TA.
    I guess it's the only silver lining of not having all the big F2P studios advertise on TA. You don't depend on them for your survival and they don't have leverage on you.
    Hopes it gets some traction.

  • profhuggybear

    Fantastic article, but I doubt the masses will understand this. I try and tell my friends and coworkers about a great game and they will roll their eyes in disgust or disinterest if I mention it costs anything. Sadly free to play ruined the mobile app economy. Now every chud out there complains if an app isn't free. Where do they think these things come from? The goodness of app developer hearts? Free to play is here to stay and unfortunately nothing is going to change that with society's current behavior. I weep for the future.

    • Stormourner of the Nature

      would they roll their eyes in disgust or disinterest if I was in your place?

    • negitoro

      I don't think you can really blame free to play. That's just where the market settled. It's just kind of like how Gmail didn't 'ruin' the market for email providers or Wikipedia spoiled things for encyclopedia publishers everywhere.

      We all love free for nearly everything else. Let's face it - we all complain when an article we want to read is hidden behind a paywall. Many people also likely won't ever pay for music or porn ever again. We expect things like free text messaging as part of any cell phone plan. People love free.

      All these things affect an industry but just ones we don't care about as much and whose products we don't appreciate enough. Like every industry, enthusiasts are the ones who buy the premium products and everyone else just pays however little they can or want.

      This is just human nature. These are not people in the market for a premium product and there's no reason or benefit to claim free to play is the death of a market that likely wasn't going to really exist anyway.

    • Stormourner of the Nature

      what's wrong? you can't answer the question? I guess what you said about your friends and coworkers isn't not true ;P

  • ZeeMonkeyMan

    You'll never get your grubby hands on me you evil little sell out!

  • Timmy2x

    I knew that big tt girl who friended me wasn't in my history class!!!

  • Far_Out

    Wow, all my fears and suspicions are true and a LOT more advanced, involved and creepy than I ever imagined. I'm an old-school player who started in the 70's and I just want to buy the damn game! Even the guys who do this for a living hate it!

  • Timmy2x

    Sucker born every second, personally I wont touch anything that looks like bs or smells fishy live and learn.

  • DemoEvolved

    You better believe paid games track the shiz out of you -- because you are already a whale for paying up front

    • speedyph

      GREAT COMMENT U ARE RITE ABout that 😁😁😁😁💯💨☕️🐸

    • Martin Meier

      Nah, there are tons of premium games that doesn't track or mine your data. Every game that doesn't require an internet connection is unlikely to do so. If you want to be completely sure, just switch your phone into airplane mode whenever you are starting a game and/or disable your Wifi connection.

  • http://adamsimmersive.com Adams Immersive

    I'll just sit quietly in my corner making/buying/playing the kinds of games I want to exist. The rest of the depressing world can go over there....

  • JCho133

    Christ

  • McGannahann

    Wow

  • Dailon Huskey

    Explains by ea ruined FIFA and now want me to sign in to Facebook all the time.
    Ea is the king of swine

    • Nergal

      and they're taking over the industry. There's this awesome thing we all love called video games , and this cheap, money grubbing, hateful company EA. They crushed all the competition and now all we get COD regurgitated 10 ways to Sunday.

  • Press2Play

    Wow while reading all the comments it seems like all people are whispering, this is creeping me out.

  • MLM043

    I have literally never purchased as an IAP, maybe I just hang above the curve. But I've bought plenty of premium games

  • Schpank

    I like owning my games, not them owning me. No matter what they tell you, F2P games are inferior. Grift is in their DNA. Their structure, and by extension, fun-factor, has been compromised to support milking you dry. They'll never be as enjoyable as a premium game because they're designed to block you, slow you, disadvantage you, hook you, direct you, and shake you down. There's a reason home computers and game consoles destroyed arcades. The App Store would love to acclimate you to IAP schemes and make them "commonplace gaming", but as long as there are devs that sell quality premium games, that's where my money goes.

    • Thomas TC Allen Compton IV

      This is why, especially being a game designer myself, I will play games like Candy Crush, but never buy IAPs. I won't for the simple fact that I know they have an algorithm that gets the current state of the game after move and generates candies in a way that disadvantages the player. The new candies that drop are far from randomly generated, and this is to make you fail, get frustrated, and buy plays and power ups.

  • Liv Games

    Wow. Thank you for sharing.

  • Mr Forsyt

    Part of the problem is that we as a society now monetize art so heavily. It's no wonder the industry went to free to play crappie games, so many programmers are happy to sell their artistic soul just to have a guaranteed check at the end of the day. They don't create games in their spare time or go into like a musician who understands they might not make it. No programmers for some reason demand they are artists but then treat the product they make from start to finish as a product. And no, I shouldn't say programmers. There are lots of great Indy studios and games that have been released by single developers and small teams. Those people had a vision/passion and they risked it all to make it happen. They didn't whine and cry about long hours or risk, they kept their eye on their art, they let passion reign. I know when I make posts like this they are not popular. But I just do not see things the way the person who wrote this article does and my hobby does not blind me. The person who wrote thst article and the industry are not in trouble because we are too cheap to spend $5 or $10 on a game. The industry is in trouble because far too many people who work in it do not understand thst art is not a guaranteed pay check. As always I am sorry if this offends, but I am not trying to anger or troll here. I just have a very different view of things and I believe blaming the consumer isn't the right answer......artists don't worry about consumers.

    • Mr Forsyt

      And now the developer is going to use all his data powers to ruin my life......I knew I shouldn't have given in and played a free to play title, stupid hearthstone.

      • Tallgeese

        If an artist didn't have to worry about money I think things would be better off. You could say there's no incentive to create but I think creation is a necessity outside of the need to make money. It's something that an artist feels needs to be done.

    • Thomas TC Allen Compton IV

      I fully agree. I started my own indie studio right around finishing my bachelors degree program. I make games because I love all the facets of art involved from the aesthetic, to the sound, to the design in general. If you claim to love what you do then you wouldn't be complaining about the bottom dollar, or about jeopardizing their ethics just to appease corporate ass hats that don't truly appreciate your passion/work.

  • azzamckazza

    You don't own me. I always have the power to delete FTP crap - which I do.

  • Seppo Helava

    So here's a thought: Don't like the games you're making? Stop making them.

    Seriously. Here's the problem - no amount of entreaties are going to convince *players* to do different things. Game developers are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to convince them to do things that appeal to their cognitive weaknesses.

    It's easy to blame the player. But it's bullshit. The problem is the developer. The problem is the idea that players are there to be squeezed dry via frustration and misery. The problem is the idea that huge games can be funded on the back of a miniscule percentage of people paying exorbitant amounts of money. The problem is developers who have totally lost sight of the fact that games can be fun and interesting.

    And that problem is *you*. Yeah, I'm talking to you, developer who lambasts the system while working in it. You, the guy who thinks they hate what they're doing but gladly accepts the paycheck and continues doing it. It's your fault. It's not the player's.

    If you hate the games you're making, make different games. Sack up, and make the difficult decision to stop making garbage. Oh, it's hard? Too bad. That's when your morality is actually tested. You either do the thing you evangelize, or you're a hypocrite.

    I made F2P games for six years, and you know what, I think it's *fantastic*. I think the things that the business model enables are absolutely wonderful. Continued iterative development on a game that players enjoy? Fantastic. Massive distribution at little cost to the players? Awesome. Continual, long-term engagement in games that people love? Unbelievably great.

    All of that is saddled with a bunch of Zynga-era mercenary garbage that a lot of companies see as the be-all end-all of F2P, and that's incredibly sad. Because there's a whole generation of passionate designers whose talents are being thrown in the garbage making mindless Skinner boxes as wage slaves to metrics-fueled analytical non-game bullshit.

    And you can say, "Oh, but that's the only way to compete!" Nonsense. You *choose* to pursue the dumb money. You *choose* to pursue the short-term gains at the expense of building a long-term trust between you & the players. You *choose* to exploit people's Facebook profiles to squeeze them for every possible cent.

    That's on you. That's what you are doing. That's what you acknowledge and *support* every day you go to work.

    "But I need my job!" Well then great. Keep doing it, but stop complaining about it because you're the problem and you're propagating it.

    If you don't like it, DO SOMETHING BETTER. If you think that the current state of F2P is garbage and you're making garbage F2P games, YOU ARE THE PROBLEM.

    It is *impossible* that the current state of F2P is the be-all end-all of games. There is no way that unsustainable exploitation of frustration and misery is the inevitable future of games. Someone will create something *better* that utterly destroys the current crop of banal, soulless exploitative crap, and then everyone will go chasing them, because so much of the game industry appears to be totally unable to actually grow a spine and build better things.

    But let's be clear. The current problems with F2P are the fault of people making shitty F2P games. That's not just the head honchos and the data analysts. It's the designers who've accepted this as the status quo. It's the producers that schedule this garbage. It's the artists who draw the same big-headed yelling guy app icons. Everyone involved in the development of these games, who reaps the paychecks - everyone is making a decision that this is what they want their lives to be and that this is what games should be.

    If you don't like it, make something goddamn better.

    • Earth Vs. Me

      Well said. Your words are considerably more insightful and persuasive than the author of this article. Far fewer typos too.

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        Roasted.

    • Tallgeese

      I agree with a lot of this. But the author and hopefully others getting the word out there is the first step in derailing this Frankenstein's monster train. Yes, he should have thrown up his hands and said "£u€k you" so many times to so many bosses who keep insisting they push the envelope, but that's not an easy thing to do. Asking him to make something better in the face of this monster and so many other economic and societal stressors is great but it's a gamble (and we're not all Notch as much as we want to be). In this industry and other it feels like it's either get on the F Train to F Town or enjoy "making it" on the tracks. I think we're going to finally binge and purge this monster, but we've got to help each other understand the beast to defeat it.

  • Dailon Huskey

    Guess it's no coincidence these games are the ones that are "top grossing"

  • jgainsbrugh

    I guess in some ways it's always been this way. Think about the old cabinet games. I'm not sure how they tracked data back in the day, but I know they worked hard to make sure people were shoveling in as many quarters as possible. They would get you addicted with pics of scanty clad women, pleasing lights, and sounds. But console gaming changed that. You didn't need extra quarters if you owned super Mario or other cartridges. So that's what we need: ownership of the game. Rather than pieces of the pie.

    • Modjular

      Eh, I think there's still room for ftp games. Ideally, the player should be respected by the company so that the goodwill produced makes them feel obligated to support the company with a purchase.

  • Piph

    Powerful stuff!

  • Art Salmons

    The addictive mechanics behind F2P are bad enough. But the value is even worse. You can buy a Triple A game with a $200 million budget for $59.99 still, but for some reason these horrible, cheap Flash games want you to buy $100 worth of virtual currency just to keep playing. It's insulting.

  • Fogwoman Gray

    So if I buy the game, I can TRUST that all this crap isn't going on? Why? Why wouldn't they farm this same info from me? When I pay for a mobile game, instead of constant ads I get constant upsells which are just as irritating - why I deleted all the Angry Birds games. They aren't tracking all this info on those games? I have trouble believing that.

  • Toney

    WOW. This is soul-shattering. I'm definitely going to bed with a frown.

    • Stormourner of the Nature

      good night

  • Hampus Jensen

    "And if you are a whale, we take Facebook stalking to a whole new level.
    You spend enough money, we will friend you. Not officially, but with a
    fake account. Maybe it’s a hot girl who shows too much cleavage?
    That’s us."

    So you're breaking Facebook's terms of use? Any you do it to spy on a user and gather data they didn't volunteer to you? Pretty sure there might a legal issue there...

  • adhi christanto lius

    "We don’t want to be making games like this, and we don’t want another meeting about retention, cohorts or churn". Is what I felt when I heard a discussions about retention and other things. I am a completionist player before being a developer, and I rarely want to repeat what I have finished playing. The only reason I am playing a game is I need to finish it, not because I felt I want to get back to the game. I am always confused with the word retention.

    • Tallgeese

      They want to retain players as in if the game was an MMO or something akin to it.

      • adhi christanto lius

        The problem is not all developers want to only make MMO. But since we are working for them we should just follow what they want 🙁

  • Earth Vs. Me

    No one has any data on me other than my IP address and my playing habits. I don't mix Facebook and mobile gaming.

    • Martin Meier

      Yes. Especially when you look at the releases yesterday/today. Every 10 F2P games there's one premium game, or even less. Something like that. It's horrible. I am out of choices soon.

  • Cesar Ramirez

    It's challenging to meet someone who's shelling out money for apps, let alone someone that buys the IAP 's.

    I'm wondering if it's an age thing? millennials? Who are prone to buying IAP's?

    • apolloa

      Yet look at the top 10 most grossing games on the Apple and Google stores and the majority are freemium games.

    • Tallgeese

      We often call them "whales." Wikipedia tells me this is "slang for a high roller at a casino." We often consider whales to be rich people who will buy any/all of the IAPs, but sadly they may also be poor addicts who have more difficulty than most in resisting the urge to spend. There isn't a specific age group. However most youngins don't have scrill and occasionally we see articles re: game companies refunding IAP of children who have racked up exorbitant sums playing Smurfs games and the like (and most kid-targeting apps now allow parents to toggle IAP). There's a good Last Week Tonight about Casinos (and addicts) on Youtube and I heartily recommend South Park's "Freemium Isn't Free" episode (free currently on Hulu) for more information. For all your mobile gaming news please stay tuned to IG - uh - TouchArcade.

  • negitoro

    While this sounds super creepy and insidious, this seems like to me, no more than pretty much what other kinds of marketing has been doing forever.

    I mean, companies have been collecting our info forever. Even back in the day, its almost certain that companies collected data on me the old fashioned way. Junk mail, telemarketing calls, all targeted to some degree.

    Online just took it to a new level.

    For example, ads on websites, on Facebook and so on are already plenty creepy. I see ads on websites, for example, based on random things that I've looked at. A while ago, I was preparing to propose to my girlfriend and you better believe half the ads I was seeing online were of diamond rings and jewelry. I barely wanted to surf the web in front of her for fear of spoiling the surprise.

    Now, when I visit websites that I commonly frequent, they know what I like shopping for, what places I'm thinking about going on vacation to, what kind of activities I'm into, and so on. They know when I leave things in my cart, when I looked at a hotel online or reading restaurant reviews.

    Forget what I do in my games - companies have been tracking what I've been doing in my LIFE. So is this really so shocking?

    If we haven't complained that Amazon is crunching my data to try to pitch us a new video game console or travel companies use our history to try to get us to book a plane ticket to the place they know we like, why would we be shocked when they track our playing habits to sell us Buckets of Gems at $49.99?

    • Tallgeese

      I don't think it's so much as shocked as appalled. We don't want them to be going to such great lengths to be the fake girl who friends us or able to know so much about us. The information gather-able can be our habits, tendencies, who we hang out with, who we identify as publicly, who we are secretly. They may know us even better than we do. It could be a powerful tool for good but it's being used to separate us from our money and it's also apparently killing what we consider to be "good games."

      • negitoro

        I just think that it's hard to appalled by such behavior in this day and age. Our general privacy has already been severely compromised by pretty much everything we do online. It's not that it's a fantastic development but like I said, marketing collecting data on their customers is something that's been going on forever. It's just that companies used to use less effective methods for data collection.

        I will say that the "fake girl on Facebook" is really a little much but that companies will unlikely care so much about me or you or 99.999% of their players but even then, this isn't anything new. Think about how business deals are often done and at least some of it is research to 'butter up' the clients. The higher end the client, the more lengths companies go to get their business.

        So really, I'm just saying that this is something that simply sounds super super shady when you spell it out loud but it's one of the truths of modern life really: That companies are constantly looking for ways to sell you stuff more effectively.

        And most of the time, we tolerate it, if not outright welcome it. For example, Netflix uses user data to considerable advantage, basically predicting what kinds of shows we love and giving it to us. It's why their shows are so great, so often. A company has an idea of exactly how I'm spending my time and what I watch and do ... and I love it.

        Yes, it's being used to see how you spend money but that in itself is not a bad thing. This also means that the game experiences are being tailored to individuals over time. They make their offers and games more tempting to a player which actually is not really a bad thing because a player needs to see the value before plunking down the money.

        Consider this: if one of your favorite games ever released a new DLC specifically tailored to make you jump and buy it, it's not because they hypnotized or somehow tricked you - it's because they made content they knew you'd love for the sake of making your spend on it. I have to say that I've spent some money on customization items before and it's only because those items made me say "That's f**king awesome". This doesn't change simply because the game is Free to Play. Free to Play doesn't make a game good or bad.

      • Tallgeese

        I agree with you. There is a bonus side to this and it's The Machine that alerts you when people are in danger from the show Person of Interest or helps you remember when you forget something among other things that would augment us in ways I can't even think of... The flip side of that machine is another omnipotent predictive machine that controls people like pawns for the benefit of the shadowy few, or becomes self-aware and destroys humanity (maybe not so-much that last part)...

      • Tallgeese

        Also they're using that data to make better brain hack games for the newer gamers and not really experiences that I like, if they really wanted to make better games they would be taking risks not trying to figure why I seem to be spending extra time on the screens with the hot ladies...

  • Dawn Stung atoms

    I don't want an anonymous producer telling me what games I shouldn't play when he himself continues to make the games he thinks we shouldn't play.

    Just as game publishers and developers have the access to our profile, we as users and players have access to the internet articles and posts that expose the "evils" they do. Some of us may get turned off by what goes into McD's burgers, but most of us shrug it off and continue to consume them. Same goes for F2P.

  • Andre

    hmm whatever, looks like a conspiracy to me.. Mulder help us please !

    • Derprozess

      Haha, good one! He will, starting next year 😛

  • Saberkin

    Nice. Wish there was a "favorite article" function.

    • Tallgeese

      Me toooo! Then this thread could go on forever and ever and ever and ever

  • bryan james

    You own NOTHING, I only play games on PS4!

  • Jonathon

    And then they get upset with us for blocking ads.

    • Stormourner of the Nature

      of course if we block ads that's isn't our problem

  • Derprozess

    We'll never know who this guy is but for me, he is the Snowden of mobile video game industry. Great article, I'm glad I'm a (small) part of this comunity because I can read such amazing articles. If free-to-play wasn't really my "thing" so far - now I can say 100% I won't touch any free-to-play game for the rest of my life.

  • Silas Knight

    I just don't understand the universal vitriol against data collection. As an end-user, I want my experience to be personalized. I look forward to the future where all my ads are video games, geek loot, and movie trailers. I hate 95% of the ads I've ever been exposed to. But there are 5% that I actual enjoy watching. I buy stuff off the internet, and I would much rather have someone try to pitch me a product I may actually want, or use my time and their advertising dollars to inform me about a video game or movie that I might actually purchase. Game companies want to give me a sale when I've got a three day weekend coming up? That sounds awesome. If it means never again having to sit through commercials for diet pills, out-of-state restaurants, and miracle meds for problems I don't have, then take my data, please.

    • http://halfgeekstudios.wordpress.com/ Huy

      It should be an opt in system. One should NEVER assume that your pov in life is the correct one.

  • http://halfgeekstudios.wordpress.com/ Huy

    As a dev myself, what's mentioned in this article is 100% possible/real, certainly for bigger games companies with the budget & manpower for data analysis.

    Freemium feels all wrong to me as a gamer and developer, yet the masses have embraced it, fully rejecting paid games (on Android, certainly a truism but getting truer for iOS too). Sad reality of mobile gaming.. something I hope never make it big for PC, the last sacred gamer paradise.

    • Stormourner of the Nature

      I ain't rejecting paid games ;P if I was a billionaire I would buy every paid games (only if there's 500 GB iOS devices)

  • Aaron C

    Great article! I'd love to see a producer/engineer from somewhere like Facebook or Google dish the dirt on all their dodgy social mining techniques too!

    • Tallgeese

      Did you not watch Captain America 2: THE WINtEr SOLDIER!??! DO YOU EVEN LIFT, BRO!?!?!?!

  • predator8u

    I love the passionate game dev cry for change at the end... Poor guy. This really should be regulated some how it's ruining the industry that was built on "this is cool" and is turning it into "play the stupid human against itself for $$$". All the while playing into our "investment complex and gambling addictions.

    Mobile gaming is the "only" future proclaims TA at lest once a week. Can't wait...sarcasm...

  • Martin Meier

    Here's a dev who created his own personal hell and now complains about burning in it.
    He "stole" data, lied to his customer base, misused the trust of his customers, made it possible for companies to sell tons of personal data.
    But it's so horrible now to do this job.

    I've read the article thrice, but what I'm missing is a sign of regret. He doesn't seem to be sorry (a single bit) about messing with all his customers before. He steered the ship on a reef and now he's coming and making demands (!), telling those people he exploited earlier to drag that ship off the reef? Damn, that's more than shameless, and unapologetic.

    • Tallgeese

      I feel like we're telling this guy to go to hell even though he just spilled the beans. I mean anger is understandable, but the dude could have just said nothing and gone about his day... I am unhappy with his solution too and an apology would be nice but he wasn't exactly alone in doing this... I think it's time I invoked Godwin's Law (please don't) and say we should blame all the people (noooooooooo) (wait) (he didn't do it! He resisted! What a champ!)

      • Martin Meier

        Lol, I see your point, but bringing up Nazi in this debate would be overreacting. And no, I don't wish him to go to hell, because he sounds like he already is in one. But to get out of it, you need responsibility and try to change things, and not just ask a comunity to shell out a few bucks.
        You can't confess something and then point your finger at others just to solve this mess. That's what I've meant with "shameless".

      • Tallgeese

        100 agree! And you got the Godwin thing! I think that's his brain trying to make what he's done somehow ok by shifting the blame.

  • https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLx4DC4EuNoEvbLSspozfITc98t0Rx9QpB GayGenocide

    Filtering in the stupid is what makes scams fly. But this is exactly what makes gaming with invisible partners so fun.

  • Andre

    I do believe 'real developers (big and small) will be more than happy to remove 'ANY' free game and iap from the market, there should be a day 0 , everything from the start.. DEMO + FULL GAME !!!

    • Tallgeese

      I like demos!

      • Andre

        me too , let's back where it's all started !

      • Tallgeese

        Yay! Then we can see how crappy it would be right at the start! I think if they made a game that was crappy after the demo people would catch on really quick to that sort of thing...

  • Ron

    You know...premium games mine our data too.

  • Caleb Tote

    Sites that have links as backgrounds are equally as evil as the topic discussed in this article.

  • visualplayer

    Here's a question I don't see asked often.

    For a premium game like, say, DQ8, how many copies need be sold to turn a profit at the 9.99 price point and provide starting funds for the next game?

    • Andrew Fretz

      I would venture to say that it doesn't get asked because there is no standard answer. Do you have a 3 man dev team or 3 floors of a corporation working on the game? Do you advertise? Do you run servers that support the game? Do you have a publisher? Your question quickly loses relevance when you consider the differences between one developer and another.

      • visualplayer

        Then make it specific and give specific answers so we can see a range.

        This kind of question is vital in this discussion. We have people actively exploiting whales, a tiny percentage who can spend a lot of money. The rest of the 99% can spend a specific and more limited amount. Is the premium game market viable with the current audience? I'll be pilloried here but a lot of games I think should be chargnig higher prices if my economic feel is any good.

      • Andrew Fretz

        Make it specific..... ok. I guess you could read my previous response or just ignore it again.

      • Tallgeese

        He wants to see specific examples, eg. taking DQ8 and seeing how many copies SquEnix would have to sell at such and such a price (specific prices) in order to be profitable, from there we could make a chart (price/copies) which shows the curve (I think that's what he meant by range), doing this with several games (obviously we would have to take into account things you mentioned, like differences between advertising budgets, team sizes, all that overhead stuff) we might get an idea of whether or not we think they should try charging less to reach a wider audience. I'm certain there's someone in charge of this already for each developer, as setting a price point is a pretty essential part of marketing.

  • http://www.gamesbrief.com Nicholas Lovell

    Are you sure that paid games don't do this too?

  • apolloa

    Knew about this, you can thank the internet for it, makes it incredibly easy for you to be data mined heavily, and that data bought and sold, it happens across all platforms INCLUDING iOS despite what Apple may say. And don't forget Apple gets a 30% cut from every IAP made. I think Google is around the same.
    As the Producer states, don't like it don't play free games.

    I am laughing at the comments on here stating 'scam' and 'illegal', because it isn't. This is all above board, they jut have to follow data protection guidelines, but they are allowed to sell and mine your data, no doubt it's in the terms and conditions we all agree to.

    • Martin Meier

      I'm experienced in reading law, and I've read a few EULA in my life. For me, it's hard to understand them in a couple of parts, so what would you expect from the 12 - 16 years old girls and boys? For them it's like reading cyrillic script or egyptian hieroglyphs. I know most don't bother to read them anyway, I still can't blame them for some shit they are agreeing to, clueless.
      And those are quite strong in numbers on iOS.

      • apolloa

        But it's not illegal is it. And with the amount of information they know about you, I would think they know how old you are and so what adverts to target you with. It's the same as the adverts you get during children's programmes on the television.

      • Martin Meier

        Agreed.

        I just wanted to point out thank you can't blame a bunch of people for not reading / understanding the EULA. Some people simply have no experience or clue. I know it's neither the devs fault that some people don't understand the EULA they agree to, but in my opinion, it's definately a system that gets exploited.

      • apolloa

        I understand your point. Lots of things are exploited though if there's money to be made. I think it's disgraceful how your data is mined and sold, but I live in the modern world where you have to accept it's what goes on. Capitalism at it's best I guess.

      • Tallgeese

        Hello! Did you mean capitalism at its:
        a. Worst
        b. Buy junk bonds!
        c. "Best" (for the smallest percentage of total population)
        d. Creepiest
        e. Child Predator
        f. Child Alien
        g. Child Schwarzenegger
        h. Most unregulated
        i. Quickest toast
        j. never tell Howard your name
        k. Draxx them sklounst
        l. The best way to win is by total warframe of mind
        m. "Maximum" thumbscrews
        n. Pac Mam
        o. Thought coins
        p. A voucher system for the elderly
        q. soylent but deadly
        r. Double guns but for hotdogs
        s. Best because now we finally have pizza for breakfast!
        t. You forgot Cookie Crisp, dum dum
        u. Too many Crooks
        v. Mank ind
        w. Kindest to the rich people
        x. Most fun-loving
        y. Child Terminator
        z. Clearly reserved for Xebra

  • Docrailgun

    You're a troll, Big Time Game Producer. This is BS and you know it. You may well be able to track our information but that doesn't have to influence our buying from F2P games.
    I'm guessing you just hate free games and are out to hurt them where you can.

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      FWIW I've heard very similar things from a bunch of different developers, with the stories often too specific and easily linked back to publish.

      • Martin Meier

        I doubt that the majority of gamers will learn something from things like this. Mindlessy consuming everything in line of sight. It ignites a strange feeling, the fact that - today - the protection of personal data is practically non-existent. Wo protects us from stalkers that we're exposed to, without our knowledge?

      • Tallgeese

        "Who watches the Watchmen!" Had to say it, bro! Don't line me up like that!

  • http://codeworxstudios.com/ Hunter Mayer

    Buy local, buy indie. Small teams in full control of their IPs rarely have time to incorporate all this and or take action. It's a huge dev time sink and expense. I know I keep trying to get more info in our games (after several years I think I finally know how many people are playing right now! now I need a nap.) We have gotten to the point of knowing some of the cool things developers want to know and even finding out where a level gives people trouble, etc. and fixing it on our servers without an update... But that's a lot of freaking work too.

    Maybe fewer trackers in a game being sold for more would be enticing... But we got here because collectively we voted with our wallets in many respects... (or 'did not' vote in this case)

    The evolution of this data collection is fascinating though. The path to the dark side is illuminated, and I am glad I get to decide when I stop.

    • Tallgeese

      I think the point is you don't get to decide. You can be in the modern world or you can live in the forest (good luck doing the latter). Do you browse the internet "for free?" Do you use Gmail/Facebook/Twitter "for free"? Do you use a smartphone? Do you use "free" non-gaming apps? Have you ever signed up for a contest? Have you ever used a "customer loyalty card" or a credit card? Have you ever shopped online? Have you ever gotten a job and had to submit to a now standard-in-some-states drug, background, and proof of citizenship check, except of course when buying a gun via the "gun show loophole?" If it makes money and isn't technically illegal or no one sees it (or those who do are persuaded not to) it's all good, baby! Your vote doesn't matter in the face of the uneducated masses!

  • Magnus_Soderberg

    As the CEO of Triolith Entertainment i have to say that this is the wrong way to make F2P games. Yes some data is needed or rather a lot of data is needed, but the data should be used to make the game better so you as a player likes the game more and from that you might want to buy more stuff. You should not use the data in a way to just push sales by using unethical methods.

    • Tallgeese

      Can the same result not be achieved through play testing and customer feedback?

  • Ohgr

    "Stop playing free games. Buy a game for 4.99 or 9.99. We don’t want to be making games like this"

    By all respect, but if you don't want to make this kind of games, just stop making them. Stop serving people that gather informations. You are not enslaved and you made yourself guilty and now you say "stop playing free games"? Quit your job and do an actual gamedev job with the right motives, which are not money.

    • Nitx

      But actual game dev jobs also collect data. Everybody collects data and unless people are using illegal means to collect the information there is absolutely nothing wrong with it imo. The fact that this "producer" thinks premium games would stop the information collecting makes me question his whole article.

  • http://www.fabian-t-gonsior.com Fabian T. Gonsior

    There are "free2play"-games where you only get an user Avatar when you connect to facebook. Now I know why. We truly live in times of Digital Culture Wars, We truly do. They want your money and they will do everything for it.

  • Nitx

    Guess who else collects data about you ? Everyone. Amazon , google , Microsoft , Apple .. You go online you put your information out there to be used. Is it bad ? I don't know its how you look at it. I don't care that Amazon knows I love videogames and puts recommendations for what kinda games I might be interested in based on my previous searches. Your mobile games cant look at the personal information that isn't already easily available out there. These 3rd party SDKs don't run on magic that they will hack in and access information which you don't already have available publicly.

  • Joshua Richards

    20 Gigs? 200 or 300 or 400 Gigs? Yeah, right there I'm calling complete BS, at least on those numbers. Unless your game app is pulling HD video on each player, and magically bypassing their data cap, that's not happening. heck, even if they were, you can't upload that much data -- on most users' upload speeds, that would take WEEKS.

    Now, I get that you can pull user data from other sites, but let's not throw around ridiculous claims like "20 gigs per day" and then try to top it with hundreds of gigs. Really? Text ain't that big, homey. And your bosses want customer data, not HD video of them placing their monkeys on your tracks.

    Just saying.

  • Drew Rothman

    So the upshot is "we collect gobs of data on you with the nefarious goal of… presenting you with offers to buy things you actually might enjoy!" I mean, yeah, data mining is creepy, but it also means the consumer is more likely to be advertised things they are interested in. It's a win for both sides unless you're the sort of person who just wants stuff for free, no?

  • http://twitter.com/Echtze1t Echtzeit

    Well, guess what? I've played a ton of F2P games and yet you have failed miserably. You haven't been able to convince me to buy a single piece of IAP. So go ahead, keep collecting my data, know when I'm taking a dump and play your games. Good for you! I won't ever pay a single dime for your crap, now more than ever. How does it feel to know you have failed at your single purpose in life?

    • Martin Meier

      They are earning money with you by showing you video ads and banners, and they sell all kinds of data from you. You pay, but just not with money. You pay with your gaming behaviour, with your Facebook or Twitter account info and various other things.
      And they aren't eager to convince you to buy stuff, they want the whales who spend several hundred up to 6k on mobile games per month. They haven't failed when they rake in the money via those whales.

  • AJ

    Marketers gonna market.

  • Darth Alpha

    Hands down---if I like a game, I will play it regardless it's free or not.

    So I will play free game if I actually want to. For instance---there is only ONE fucking Dragon themed game that's good, and it's Dokkan Battle. I have no choice.

    I used to play only "free" games, but I quit most of them. I only use apps and play games I WANT now. (Though if it's like steam sale and I can get cheap 5-game package including one or more of the game I want...I will probably buy the package XD)

    • Darth Alpha

      Simply put---play the game you would enjoy playing.

  • blackdreamhunk

    thank you for the info

  • AndyNPC

    F2P and microtransactions are the greatest sin in game development. Even TF2, which is supposedly the most "fair" use of microtransactions, primarily generates it's income through random item crates which are designed to take advantage of the gambling addict player.

  • Vince Metzler

    As if purchasing premium titles will stop these actions. This is capitalism. Once a business figures out a way to make cash nothing will stop them short of laws. Even then, it comes down to risk vs. reward. Blaming the consumer for a practice the bean counter and executive caste built in-house is bad pool and nothing but apologia.

  • broham opa

    Typical alarmist bullshit. This guy actually thinks he's dropping pearls of wisdom by telling us that f2p game companies run analytics on their users. Oh please, don't shatter my world view and reveal that almost every other company with an online product does the same.

    "We know where you live, we know your income level, we know your relationships, your favorite sports teams, your political preferences. We know when you go to work, and where you work. We can target an event to start for you when we know you have a long weekend coming up. We own you."

    Holy shit, what a cringeworthy attempt at ingratiating yourself to the reader. Learn how to write for adults, not easily frightened children.

  • melancholicthug

    That's it, I'm deleting every woman from my Facebook. Even my auntie.

  • asdf

    WTF is a "UA channel" and a "DAU"??

  • Naldo

    I think every single app does the same thing in terms of analytics performance. That's more UX related than other evil reason.

  • Gurgel Mångben

    In the era before effective DRM (eg Steam), only a small fraction of gamers paid for games; the rest pirated. Today, only a small fraction of gamers pay for freemium games, the rest ignore the pleas for money or stop playing. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

  • Matthew Doucette

    This should make bigger news, if we all really cared about our industry.

  • Michael Pohoreski

    Great write up on Free-to-Play, er, Free-to-Exploit (the player).

    *You* are the product. The game is just a facade to sell you out.