Anyway, I don’t really want to talk aboutDiablo III. It’s just kind of a big-profile example of a problem facing all game developers. The point was brought up in a panel with the Romeros at Salt Lake Comic Con, reiterating a position Brenda Romero has stated on numerous occasions. While it was mostly applicable to “free to play” games, as I recall they mentioned the Diablo III auction house as another example. The problem with these games is that the designers are forced to serve two masters – game design versus maximized revenue stream. Guess which one wins out when the suits run the show?
This is hardly unique to anybody. Any kind of game that is intended to extract money from players as they play – instead of acting as a product that you pay for up front – is going to face exactly this problem. With a product, it’s straightforward – you make the absolute best game possible that players will absolutely love, and they just can’t help themselves but want to buy and tell their friends about.
But when a game is more of a service, a recurring revenue generator, things get… weird. To make the game successful, you have to keep asking the player for money. You have to keep providing them motivation to part with their money. To borrow an analogy from the Comic Con panel, to pay for the free meals at your restaurant, you may have to charge for the plates and utensils – not to mention exorbitant charges to use the restroom! While many of the goals to make the “best game possible” run parallel to making “the most profitable game possible” (after all, if the game sucks, nobody will spend any money on it…), there are points where the two may diverge. Lots.