Open Letter to Gameloft and MLP Mobile Game Devs
Below the cut.
I was quite excited when I first heard about the My Little Pony mobile game for Android and iOS. As you can see from my blog, I’m a huge fan of My Little Pony (MLP). I’m also a huge gamer as well. I know game developers, including people that are/have worked at Gameloft. The MLP game was my first foray into Gameloft games, and from what I’ve seen and read, it plays very similar to other Gameloft games.
What I’m referring to is the need to pay to play. Though the app is free to download, at some point the player hits a wall where they need to use real money currency (gems, in the MLP game) to continue. For example, you need to get Rainbow Dash and Rarity in order to move forwards in the game. Rainbow costs about $40 worth of gems!
I understand that Rainbow is a very popular character and that she’s tacked on to almost everything brony. I understand that some people are completely willing and ready to shill out this much money for some pixels, but Rainbow is locked from purchasing until you reach a pretty high level. You can’t tell that she’s expensive until you’ve gotten to a point in the game where you’ve already bought statues, fed Spike gems, and purchased, among other ponies, Rarity.
As a seasoned gamer, it feels like a slap in the face that I’m expected to pay ever-higher tolls to progress in a game. I’ve played many ” ‘ville” games by social game company Zynga—as well as Zynga-esque games—and they don’t work on this model. The option of paying your way through is to skip grinding for quest items or money or to buy purely cosmetic items, like Christmas sheep. You don’t need to have holiday animals, you don’t need to buy the real world currency, you don’t need to pay to play. But Gameloft games require you to pay.
If the game was, say, $5 in the Google Play and iTunes App stores, and Rarity and Rainbow Dash were on sale for bits (in game “free” currency), then I wouldn’t have such a problem, nor would many other people who play this game. Fluttershy is for bits. Why can’t the rest of the mane 6? Or why can’t ponies have both a bit and a gem cost? Having both costs would allow players to judge whether they want to grind for bits or take a shortcut and pay with cash.
I understand that you’re a big company that needs to make a profit. I understand that you need to pay full time, part time, and intern employees. But your current model of making money via in-game purchases is making players unwilling to give you a penny.
I know that you can push updates and change the game. The values of ponies and income from buildings are all in a .obb file that’s easy to edit on Android devices. Lots of people have hacked your game so that they can actually complete the game.
I know that piracy means that you’re not going to get money, but there’s always going to be piracy. Valve, makers of the Steam digital game sale system, understands this. CEO Gabe Newell spoke up about this (here). He said that piracy is a service issue, and not a pricing one. Piracy in countries such as Russia and Australia are the more popular option because it’s the more valuable one. It’s easier to pirate a game from your computer than to wait 3 months after it’s released. It’s easier to edit a .obb file than to shell out $40 for a pony.
I would have gladly paid $5-10 for gems to buy content for your MLP game, but my value of $1 seems to be a lot higher than you’re value of $1. I don’t feel that Princess Celestia is $60-90. I don’t feel that I need to pay roughly $100 to complete a mobile game. People do pay well over $100 to complete/progress in other games; just look at Blizzard’s Diablo 3 real money auction house. Items routinely sell for $250, the maximum price. Why would someone pay $250 for a digital item in a game that they already paid $60 for? Because they feel that that item has value to them. They have the choice of grinding for hours for a legendary drop or to take a shortcut and buy it. People buy gold on the World of Warcraft black market because they don’t have the time to grind for it. But they know that their money spent is a representation of the time they would have otherwise have to spend to get them the “hard” way.
People are willing to grind to buy Rainbow Dash and Rarity, but you removed the choice to do so. You can “grind” for gems, but you might make 2 a day, if you’re lucky. Rarity is, if I recall correctly, 80 gems. Nobody is going to grind for over a month for a pony they need, especially when they need to spend gems in other quests as well.
Please reconsider your model. People will continue to hack your game and keep from paying you money if you don’t change. You’re going to lose customers. The MLP game is extremely popular, but it’s also showing the more negative practices of your social and mobile games.
I’ll gladly talk to you more about this, so do feel free to contact me.
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