几乎所有的微软发行的独家报道都突出了某种类型的应用内部购买。例如《Forza Motorsport 5》。尽管玩家可以在《Forza 4》和《Horizon》花钱购买虚拟汽车，但在这一代中系统更是移向了前景。你那真正的现金货币在游戏菜单上始终都是可行的，现在游戏内部的货币的价值 是受限的，伴随着减少的胜利奖励并且大多数有价值的汽车都贴上了高价标签；免费游戏模式已经面目全非了，从而将推动着你去花更多钱但却只是坐在Lotus F1汽车的方向盘后面。
在零售购买中，合同是不同的。你已经支付了一个溢价，从表面上看来这是包含享受游戏所必须的所有内容。关于这点，免费游戏惯例会让人觉得具有剥削性。Size Five的设计师Dan Marshall说道：“免费游戏的传播者会坚持这是关于玩家的选择。他们将坚持如果你愿意的话便能够略过所有微不足道的内容，但事实却并非如此。从一开始游戏玩法便偏离了位置去适应免费游戏机制，并最终破坏了整体游戏内容。这是关于你如何想办法让玩家花钱，而不是如何让玩家获得乐趣。”
全价游戏的微交易并不是什么新鲜事物。一旦宽频速度考虑到广泛的数字发行和无缝的发行后计费系统，业务模式便会开始深入主流零售游戏。艺电的《教父》便是属于最早的例子之一。从东方MMORPG世界中借来“刷任务或付费”机制，游戏允许玩家购买游戏内部的钱去推动他们的帝国命运的发展。《教父》可能是付费增值的首个“病例”，但《FIFA》的Ultimate Team模式将其变成是游戏中最具毒性的变革。Ultimate Team通过“贸易卡”而向许多玩家收钱，如此玩家便能够在线控制构造好的团队。这很有趣，玩家也很喜欢，一部分是因为这让他们觉得是公平的且适当的——在运动场上交易世界杯贴纸的孩子们现在可以在《FIFA 09》中交易虚拟人了。
我们很清楚为何这种模式如此吸引发行商。2012年9月，育碧的世界在线总监Stéphanie Perotti对投资者说道：“免费游戏是一种非常灵活的业务模式。玩家有能力花费比在传统模式中更多的钱。”当玩家在微笑地支付双倍费用于Ultimate Team模式前，他们已经支付50英镑于《FIFA》上了，这似乎就是一个值得效仿的模式。
但《FIFA》的Ultimate Team模式却是特别的。这是区别于主要职业模式的游戏组成部分—-这是一种选择性的加入，而不是根深蒂固的游戏内容，就像Dan Marshall所提到的妥协式“抢钱”手段。
通过在免费游戏《Clash Of Clans》中漫长的时间创造添加干扰与破坏能够创造一个自愿用户，而在零售游戏中，理想的状态通常都是伴随着本身就是奖励的游戏玩法的一个流或整体的沉浸式体验。只要你能够支付79便士，便会不断出现提醒内容告知你能够获得什么而走出该片区域，盈利系统将破坏反馈循环。《Crimson Dragon》是《Panzer Dragoon》的替身，但是游戏那如电影般的快速节奏却被分割成一些冗长且乏味的大块内容。在《暗黑破坏神III》中，许多玩家发现寻找战利品的整体吸引力被网上拍卖屋给破坏了，在这里玩家可以花钱购买到所有道具。前《暗黑破坏神III》游戏总监Jay Wilson写道：“这可能会破坏道具掉落的自然感，让某些玩家觉得游戏缺少奖励。”所以根据玩家的反馈，拍卖屋被删掉了。
Zee-3（创造了《Magnetic Billiards》）的Ste Pickford在谈到玩家受挫时说道：“这是游戏设计师已经了解并领悟到的问题。这也是我们为何会添加像滑动难度关卡等新功能的原因，如此玩家便能够略过一个boss或困难的战斗，或者像任天堂的Super Guide，或者在新的《马里奥》游戏中，当玩家于一个关卡中失败过多次时提供给他们白色的Tanooki西装。这会让玩家觉得他们购买了游戏，并有权去访问游戏中的所有内容，即使他们并不是那么擅于玩游戏。”
开发者似乎希望他们的游戏能够足够慷慨。Turn 10的Dan Greenawalt便解释《Forza 5》的代币系统允许那些想要获得捷径的玩家通过‘作弊手段’而支付名义上的费用。也许该工作室相信这是真的—-对于《Forza 4》是如此，但是《Forza 5》明确的设计导致游戏频繁地尝试着鼓励玩家掏钱包。
当然了，游戏必须让人感到惊讶，但这并不意味着每年要加倍预算的投入。Marshall说道：“奇观可以源于不同形式。这不只是映射于角色模型的眼球上的内容。就像《No Man’s Sky》在VGX Awards上大出风头便是一大奇观。这是会让你大吃一惊的美术设计。这是带有曲折并吊足你的胃口的编剧。这是让你在忙于工作时也恨不得跳进游戏中的机制。这便是奇观。这是只有游戏产业能够做到的。这是我们需要专注的内容，并且做到这点也并不昂贵。”
对于某些游戏来说，可替代的选择也许只是彻底地包含免费游戏——至少基于这种方法玩家知道他们在哪里，并且设计并不需要妥协。Games Bried的创始人，同时也是免费游戏盈利著作《The Curve》的作者Nicholas Lovell说道：“任何创造性过程都是艺术，游戏设计也不例外。传统的付费模式已经创造了一个难以管理的创造性方法，并导致了高调的失败——想想RealTime Worlds和37 Studios。这也导致了游戏虽然卖的不错，但却难以满足内在的期望，如最近的《古墓丽影》。免费游戏业务模式能让公司创造出较小的体验，保证市场需求然后继续去支持它。”
因为索尼是在2005年创造出这一理念，所以《英雄联盟》基于后一个模式而成为世界上最大的一款游戏。如果《Forza 6》或《Gran Turismo 7》是免费游戏并适用于世界上的每一台Xbox One和PlayStation 4，那么这些游戏将从那些愿意购买他们喜欢的汽车的休闲玩家身上赚到多少钱？
The next-gen cash grab: why ‘paymium’ fundamentally compromises console game design
By Edge Staff
The name is as ugly as the concept. ‘Paymium’, where you’re encouraged to buy content in a game you’ve already paid for, has been lurking in the shadows for years, but it’s become overt with the arrival of a new generation. This is particularly true on Xbox One, where the model has been embraced wholesale, with developers even compromising design to make the cynical system work.
Almost all of Microsoft’s launch exclusives featured in-app purchases of some kind. Take Forza Motorsport 5. While players could pay real money for virtual vehicles in Forza 4 and Horizon, the system moved to the foreground this generation. Your real cash currency is forever visible in the game’s menus; the value of in-game currency is now limited, with reduced prizes for victory and huge price tags on the most desirable cars; and the Free Play mode has been gutted to force you to spend more money just to sit behind the wheel of a Lotus F1 car.
Internet forums are filled with gamers reacting with indignant horror to the paymium creep, while game sites post hand-wringing editorials on where it will lead. Players’ reactions to Forza 5’s use of the model were so hostile that the game was patched within a month, slashing car prices by up to two-thirds and upping the prize pots.
The problem is fundamental, though. Paymium means pairing two diametrically opposed business models. In free-to-play titles, there is an understanding that the basic experience is free, but in return the studio can encourage players to pay for certain elements throughout the game. Indeed, free-to-play titles are designed from the ground up as monetised systems, their core compulsion loops built around concepts of friction and conversion. Everything is geared towards getting the player to the point at which they’ll spend.
“We call it the threshold of engagement,” Chris Wright, CEO of research company GamesAnalytics, says. “We have done a lot of work to understand what motivates players to spend money and when that crossover occurs. We find there is an optimum point in all [F2P] games where players who spend money exhibit a very different behaviour. These players will become very engaged in the game, change how they play and often become advocates, driving viral activity. Getting players to this point and not pushing them to spend too early is very important.”
In a retail purchase, the contract is different. You have paid a premium price, which is ostensibly for all the content necessary to enjoy the game. In this context, free-to-play conventions can feel exploitative. “F2P evangelists will insist it’s about player choice,” says Size Five designer Dan Marshall. “They’ll insist that you can skip all this nickel-and-dime stuff if you want, but it’s not even remotely true. Gameplay is bent out of position right from the off to accommodate F2P mechanics, and the whole game crumples flat as a result. It becomes about how you get the player to pay, not how you get the player to have fun.”
Microtransactions in full-price games aren’t new. As soon as broadband speeds allowed for widespread digital distribution and seamless post-release billing systems, the business model started creeping into mainstream retail titles. EA’s The Godfather was among the earliest examples. Borrowing the ‘grind or pay’ mechanic from the eastern MMORPG world, the title allowed players to purchase in-game money to boost their crime empire’s fortunes. The Godfather might be patient zero for paymium but FIFA Ultimate Team made it viable as gaming’s most toxic revolution. Ultimate Team charged for packs of player ‘trading cards’, the constructed teams available to play with online. It was fun and players loved it, in part because it felt fair and because it felt like it belonged – the kids who traded World Cup stickers in the playground could now trade virtual men in FIFA 09.
Mass Effect 3 and Dead Space 3 microtransactions followed, and in February 2013 EA’s chief financial officer, Blake Jorgensen, told delegates at a media and telecoms conference that the company would be putting paid-for content into all its titles. “Consumers are enjoying and embracing that way of business,” he declared.
It’s easy to see why the model is so appealing to publishers. During an investor call in September 2012, Ubisoft’s worldwide online director, Stéphanie Perotti, stated, “Free-to-play is a very flexible business model. The player has the capability to spend more than in a traditional model.” And when players are already paying ￡50 on FIFA before doubling that on Ultimate Team with a smile, it must seem like a model to emulate.
But FIFA Ultimate Team is special. It’s a part of the game kept separate from the main career modes – an opt-in extra lots of players have come to enjoy, rather than the entrenched game-compromising cash grab Dan Marshall mentions.
Indeed, there are key differences in the structure, psychology and game design philosophy of free and paid-for titles. Jamie Madigan, who blogs at psychologyofgames.com, talks about free-to-play games and the concept of ego depletion. “F2P systems hinge a lot on hitting us when our willpower is exhausted,” he says. “Recent research has suggested that willpower is like a muscle: it gets worn out and needs time to regenerate. While it’s low, our brains are more likely to rely on the faster moving, less demanding systems; we become susceptible to irrational decisions and routine biases, so hitting us with offers after mentally demanding tasks or portions of a game is effective.”
Interruption and disruption via lengthy build times in the F2P Clash Of Clans can create a willing customer, whereas in retail games the desirable state is usually one of flow and of total immersion, with the gameplay being its own reward. The constant reminders of the things you could achieve if only you would pay 79 pence will drag you out of that zone, and monetised systems disrupt the feedback loops. Crimson Dragon is a Panzer Dragoon sequel in all bar name, but the game’s swooping cinematic pace has been dissected into tedious grindable chunks. In Diablo III, many players feel the whole appeal of hunting for loot was destroyed by the online auction house, where everything was available for a price.”[It] can short circuit the natural pace of item drops, making the game feel less rewarding for some players,” wrote ex-Diablo III game director Jay Wilson. The auction houses are being dropped based on player feedback.
Even if the implementation of microtransactions genuinely has no effect on a game’s design, it can still fundamentally damage the relationship between player and developer. “From a buying psychology perspective, you risk breaking the trust of the player,” explains Oscar Clark, a specialist in free-to-play mechanics. “They bought the game by paying an up-front [cost] based on an expectation of utility. In-app purchases can undermine this sense of invested value, unless you can clearly demonstrate that the additional spend is bringing them something amazing.” For the sceptical player, the gameworld is no longer a virtual environment in which to abandon oneself; now it’s a shop, and the creator is just another salesperson.
Once commerce enters the scenario, so does suspicion. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is filled with collectible trinkets that are hidden throughout its world. Is that to offer replay value and to reward exploration, or are they there so that Ubisoft can sell desperate gamers a Time Saver pack revealing the locations of undiscovered items on their map?
But publishers don’t really want to answer these questions. When we approached Electronic Arts, Ubisoft and Microsoft for comment, the first two failed to respond, and Microsoft declined. The philosophy at the moment is to implement microtransactions quietly, then apologise and tweak the economy only if players complain. In this way, it is hoped the modern paymium model will creep into games largely unnoticed.
So if paymium is something to be furtive about, why do it? Some game developers talk about using microtransactions in order to expand the audience. “There’s a lot of players out there, especially players coming from mobile games, who are accustomed to microtransactions,” Dead Space 3 producer John Calhoun told CVG in January 2013. “They’re like, ‘I need this now; I want this now.’ They need instant gratification.”
But there are other ways to appease those players. Call Of Duty: Ghosts has redesigned its multiplayer unlock system, making all weapons available to players of any level so long as they can amass the Squad Points, which are given out for completing operations in-game and ranking up. It’s not instant gratification, but it’s closer, and it doesn’t break the systems built for players to enjoy.
“This is a problem that game designers already understand and appreciate,” Ste Pickford of Zee-3, creator of Magnetic Billiards, says about player frustration. “This is why we have relatively new features like sliding difficulty levels, so players can [skip past] a boss or difficult battle, or Nintendo’s Super Guide, or giving players [an invincible] white Tanooki suit in the new Mario game if they fail a level too many times. There’s a sense that the player has bought the game, and they have a right to access all the content, even if they’re not very good at the game itself.”
Developers seem to want their games to be generous, then. Turn 10’s Dan Greenawalt has explained that Forza 5’s token system is to allow players who want shortcuts to access ‘cheats’ for a nominal fee. Perhaps the studio believes that to be true – it was true of Forza 4, certainly – but Forza 5’s clear design compromises result in a game that makes frequent attempts to encourage withdrawals from players’ wallets.
A better defence for Turn 10 and other developers is the sheer brutal cost of game development. With each new technological advance, the costs of triple-A development are increasing, but sales from retail games remain relatively static. EA’s Jorgensen has forecasted a five to ten per cent rise in development costs on eighth-gen platforms. Passing that cost on to players, they might argue, is the only way to support the failing development model.
But it’s unfair to pass the buck. Shouldn’t the burden instead be on Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo to lower licensing fees, and on publishers and developers to better manage product development? “New technological and creative solutions, and changes in the idea of how games should be sold, mean that budgets can come down,” Rebellion co-founder Jason Kingsley says. “While some areas of development, such as making a high-quality main character model, have become more costly, who’s to say you can’t make smaller games sold at a lower price point that provide a triple-A experience? Game design is more about creativity than money.”
If the thriving indie sector has shown us anything, it’s that creativity can win out over technology. One of the most highly rated games of the next-gen launch window has been Resogun, a 2D shooter that harks back to Defender. Minecraft has made millions from charming chunky visuals. DayZ and State Of Decay each provided more post-apocalyptic tension than Resident Evil 6 and Silent Hill: Downpour combined.
Certainly games have to amaze, but that doesn’t necessarily involve doubling the budget every year. “Spectacle comes in many shapes and forms,” says Marshall. “It isn’t just the level of bump mapping on a character model’s eyeballs. Spectacle is No Man’s Sky stealing the show at the VGX Awards. It’s art direction that takes your breath away. It’s scriptwriting with twists that make you gasp. It’s mechanics that have you itching to play while you’re stuck at work. That’s spectacle. That’s what the game industry does like no one else. That’s where we need to focus, and it doesn’t have to be expensive.”
The alternative, for some titles, may be just to embrace free-to-play entirely – at least this way players know where they stand, and the design needn’t be compromised. “Any creative process is as much art as science, and game design is no different,” says Nicholas Lovell, the founder of Games Brief and author of F2P monetisation book The Curve. “The traditional paid model has bred a bloated and difficult-to-manage creative approach, which leads to high-profile failures – think RealTime Worlds and 37 Studios. [It also leads to] games that sell well but fail to meet internal expectations, such as the recent Tomb Raider title. The free-to-play business model enables companies to create smaller experiences, validate the market demand and then to continue to support it.”
Sony once suggested the notion of Gran Turismo as a platform in its own right, a base game into which you’d slot your favourite cars for a real cash price. Of the 1,200 cars in GT6, how many will you drive? Will you stump up for a GT-R or a LaFerrari, knowing you’d never race in any other car anyway? Would you be excited to try different cars every week on a short-term trial basis?
Since Sony floated the idea in 2005, League Of Legends has become the biggest game in the world based exactly on the latter model. If Forza 6 or Gran Turismo 7 were free-to-play games piped into every last Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in the world, how much money could those games make from casual players willing to buy their favourite cars?
Paymium is a tax forced onto players by an inefficient industry, and better alternatives are available. It will take players rejecting the model entirely to force developers in that direction, but perhaps it will only take a few more Forza 5s – games so abundantly compromised that they need their economies rewritten from scratch – to turn the tide against paymium for good.（source：edge-online）