Super Meat Boy dev slams mobile tactics

Edmund McMillen says too many companies show lack of respect for users with manipulative designs, in-app item purchases.

The mobile gaming scene is fraught with anti-gamer business practices, according to Super Meat Boy developer Edmund McMillen. Writing on the Team Meat blog recently, McMillen offered a scathing analysis of the current state of the mobile game business.

McMillen isn't too pleased with the current state of mobile gaming.

"As many of you may have noticed, there is a whole sh*t load of wrong out there these days, from abusive and manipulative money making tactics, to flat out stealing," he said. "To us, the core of what is wrong with the mobile platform is the lack of respect for players. It really seems like a large number of these companies out there view their audience as dumb cattle who they round up, milk, and then send them on their way feeling empty or at times violated."

McMillen clarified his claim by lambasting mobile games that force their users to slog away at repetitive actions or use real-world money to acquire in-game items.

"There is an ongoing theme these days to use a very basic video game shell and hang a 'power up carrot' in front of the player. The player sees this carrot, and wants it! All the player needs to do is a few very rudimentary repetitious actions to attain it; once they get to it, another drops down and asks them to do more… but then the catch… instead of achieving these 'goals' by running on the treadmill, you can instead just pay a single dollar and you instantly get to your goal! Better yet, pay 10 and unlock all your goals without even having to ever play the game!"

McMillen then offered a damning take on this particular design choice. He said, "Words cannot express how f***ing wrong and horrible this is, for games, for gamers, and for the platform as a whole. This business tactic is a slap in the face to actual game design and embodies everything that is wrong with the mobile/casual video game scene."

Despite his disdain for the business practices of the mobile game sector, McMillen and Team Meat are currently working on Super Meat Boy: The Game for iOS devices. The developer concluded his update by saying that Team Meat is approaching development on that project with "very open eyes" and that his goal is to make Super Meat Boy: The Game a title that respects players.

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Discussion

113 comments
grokh
grokh

he is absolutely right, in the old days a game would have tons of content and gameplay + after finishing the game and stuff to unlock.nowadays they sell  you 60% of the game and the remaining 40% is made into 100 different dlc content that you have to pay to get. making the full game go well over 100 euros if you want all the content.i hope all the vultures that  keep taking advantage of gamers by ruining what games stand for lose all their money.

WeWerePirates
WeWerePirates

This is shocking news. A one hit wonder indie game developer has said something half way SENSIBLE about the game industry.

theKSMM
theKSMM

These practices are largely a result of the crushing flood of games that have appeared in the iTunes App Store. The massive competition for any particular app to get noticed created a rush to the bottom in terms of price, and it wasn't long before games that were worth $4.99 to $9.99 were slashing prices to reach the magical $0.99 price point.

 

Then in-app purchases allowed developers to offer an app for free with the possibility of getting paid on the back end of the transaction. Now many free games are demos that have to be unlocked with a purchase. Or they're grinds to collect coins, unless, as McMillen says, you just want to pony up for your coins.

 

That may be a good way to get exposure, but it's probably not the best way to make a game. It works especially poorly for core gamers like us who aren't just playing whatever game the web is buzzing about this week, but are looking for high-quality product that makes the best use of our devices...and we're willing to pay a bit more for that experience.

 

I'm not exactly thrilled that Square Enix prices their App Store games at the same level as PSOne Classics, but I do hope that we don't lose the talented developers who are willing to put a little more sweat into making their games great even if it does mean that it costs a bit more.

Szeiden
Szeiden

Now days when I click on an app in the appstore that looks interesting, as soon as I see an in-app purchases tab I click the back button. I don't even look at what the in-app purchases are. I'm just so sick of these manipulative devs... Yes, some apps actually make legitimate use of in-app purchases but that's rare these days. =/

GuilhermeHQ
GuilhermeHQ

" view their audience as dumb cattle who they round up, milk, and then send them on their way feeling empty or at times violated"

 

This only happens because people allow it. Period. 

jamo-guilmo
jamo-guilmo

as an ios developer i agree with how f@cked up pay to win tactics are. however micro transactions in of themselves are not a bad thing, infact its the only way any of us small indie devs have chance at making profit.

KnightSparda
KnightSparda

The real problem is that some gamers actually are "dumb cattle"...

Dedakiss
Dedakiss

Eddie's my dude, he always comes out with good articles

Maxor127
Maxor127

Sounds like he's describing gaming in general.  Every microtransaction and overpriced DLC.  Every piece of hidden content that's locked on the disc until you cough up more money.  Every piece of exclusive pre-order bonus.  Every map pack that splinters the online community.  As long as there are stupid people willing to waste money, nothing will change.  It's just going to get worse, and I'm sure it will eventually lead to me quitting gaming completely.

Lotus-Edge
Lotus-Edge

And people... really don't care. They'll gladly pay a small fee to not have to actually try....

Shawshoe
Shawshoe

I truly hate buying a game, firing it up, and within minutes, being assaulted with prompts to spend yet more money on some crap dlc.  Dragon Age, Fable 3, NCAA; those are just off the top of my head.  I have never felt more insulted than, while playing and enjoying Dragon Age, a guy showed up at the campsite hawking dlc.  I couldn't believe it.  It so broke the spell of immersion that i just quit the game.  The freakin nerve.  McMillen is right - they do think we are dumb as cattle.  Thing is, if I like a game, I will seek out the dlc on my own.  But they want to cram it down your throat with a sledgehammer. 

firehawk998
firehawk998

I agree wholeheardly  with Mr Mcmillen. This practices should be counted as fraud pure and simple and also however buys a game then buys all the upgrades in the game without actually playing the game at all is waiting to be rip offed.

keech
keech

I'm so glad to see the indie game movement getting so much momentum.  Even 5 years ago people like Edmund McMillen and Jonathan Blow would of never had a means to call out the "big business" types that are partaking in shady business tactics.

 

I can only hope the indie game movement continues to grow and eventually acts as something of a counterweight to keep the bigger companies in check with their practices.

EvilShabazz
EvilShabazz

" It really seems like a large number of these companies out there view their audience as dumb cattle who they round up, milk, and then send them on their way."  Welcome to capitalism.  This is the way any publicly listed company operates.  This is what MBA schools teach.

IHEARTDOGS
IHEARTDOGS

knew I loved this developer.. SMB = modern-day classic 

NadCAtarun
NadCAtarun

Edmund McMillen is a great game designer and we should all commend him for calling out those who see gamers as cash cows.

Geertwillers
Geertwillers

I understand his point and it sucks that this is the way it works, but on the other hand: the consumer is to blame for this since they seem to spend money on all this crap, meaning it seems this is what they want. If people stop spending money on this crap it will die out, so the market regulates itself. 

 

Again it sucks that it's shoved in your face, but only the consumers have the power to kill it. Companies won't stop because of a higher ethical goal or artistic integrity. :p

redskinStu
redskinStu

Achievement is so important in games. I still remember the night I FINALLY beat Resident Evil 2 quickly enough for all the secret weapons. I didn't even want to use them, I just wanted to SEE them. Now, the Tofu Survivor...never beat that one. Maybe someday...

marty352
marty352

...and this is the reason the casual market is bad for business. We have lost sense of direction and it has turned into another money train.

moonlightwolf01
moonlightwolf01

The worst part is that these tactics are then getting noticed by the big publishers like EA who start implementing them into big budget games, anyone else notice how you can totally pay you're way to the top in Mass Effect 3's multi-player for example

100proofsoco
100proofsoco

Agreed! To many we are simply a coin purse they can open and pilfer from at will.

leeko_link
leeko_link

I agree with McMillen, game companies nowadays are money whore, they make a game incomplete on purpose only to ripped you off with DLC later or force to buy a game new to get online pass (something that should had been free to begin with).

dragonsama
dragonsama

Super Meat Boy The Game - Respecting gamers while kicking them in the balls because of how hard it is.

 

Regardless it is a great game and everyone should play it.  Get on Steam, Get it on X-box Live Arcade, Get it in the Store, Just go get this game it is one of the best games to come out in the past 10 years!!

Catalyst222
Catalyst222

Its not just casual/mobile gaming doing this. The big players are just as guilty. EA for example in Battlefield 3. You don't have to bother trying to unlock everything for all your classes. You can just buy an unlock kit.... WTF is the point of playing the game then?

Ardiendos
Ardiendos

What if I was to say this blog is a cheap marketing tactic to get gamers on this guy's side and therefore more likely to purchase his games? It's not like he has nothing to gain by slamming a method of game design that differs from his own as it makes his look superior.

 

Not saying I don't agree with him, but y'know I'm not gonna label his practices a shining example of how game developers should operate.

shadow580
shadow580

I find it very annoying to have just bought a game on iOS and then there is a shop tab in the game staring me in the face. I ask myself, didn't I just buy this game 1 minute ago? At least put this garbage on a hidden menu or something, don't dilute my game this way.

MOwens9512
MOwens9512

He's correct in his assessment of the casual/mobile gaming industry.  Now I'm not totally blaming them for having the opinion of their audience being mindless, in fact I kinda agree.  After all, most people play these games during their in between time (in between work, school, etc) and don't really want to do much that works the mind or reflexes.  They just want a quick and fun diversion.  But once you start getting into it, they definitely throw out carrots for you to chase, and unfortunately most go for it.  It was/is like that with the games you see on Facebook too. Hell I got caught up into it for a while but once I noticed I was paying for power ups I had to pause and stop what I was doing because a free side hobby and/or distraction turned into a paid activity just like that.  I'm glad that he has that attitude; hopefully it'll spread to console and PC developers and they'll make sure not to turn their mediums into an outrageous cash grab.

pamplinas322
pamplinas322

his kind of thinking needs to be applied tbyother developers.

1234ritchie
1234ritchie

 @Vodoo Yes!! I too have noticed this - Glu Mobile need to be shut down if not regulated more heavily. They essentially beg you to spend money and even make most of the items unavailable unless you are willing to part with your cash, sometimes equating to the same price as some "proper" games.

 

Couldn't agree more with this article at all.

warhawk-geeby
warhawk-geeby

Can't say I'm a huge iOS gaming fan, but I have a lot of respect for Mr McMillen.

 

Man couldn't be speaking more sense.

TheRedRussian
TheRedRussian

*cough* FarmVille *cough* CityVille *cough* ZYNGA... a huge violator of this marketing "strategy".....

 

There should honestly be a law about this. Come on guys, let's lobby.

mattcake
mattcake

iOS games were much better without in-app purchases, simply because their position in the charts dictates their sales, and the only way to maintain that position was to keep updating the app (for free). They got more sales, we got more content for nothing, everybody was a winner. Strange thing to change.

Vodoo
Vodoo

In-app purchases was the single biggest mistake that Google and Apple could've made. It's essentially dlc for mobile devices, except this kind of dlc is basically necessary if you want to proceed in the game. Glu Mobile is, imo, the biggest violator of this type of practice. Every single game they make uses this tactic. The sad part is that they are actually one of the few companies that make top-tier games for mobile devices. If it weren't for the in-app purchases or having to install loads of other crap on your phone to get credits, these would be some of the best games available.They actually have a $200 option available to purchase in-app. WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE??!!!

BludshedX
BludshedX

Yup, games on the iPhone AppStore are completely wrought with this crap. Worst part is this isn't just something that they add to games. As soon as you play one of these games you can tell, right away, that it was designed AROUND this money making principle. It's disgusting and is slowly killing the industry, not only creativity and ingenuity.

 

First thing I look at now is if a game has in-app purchases. If it does, I move right along and strongly suggest everyone do the same. I'm all for supporting developers, but this, at least IMHO, is not the most ethical way of charging gamers.. worst part is, it makes new games exactly the frickin' same as all the others! collect coins.. for this.. grind for xp for that.. pay extra for your guns.

 

QA and ethics are mere old wives tales in the land of mobile gaming, at least on Apple's AppStore.

Mega_Skrull
Mega_Skrull

I like this guy. He's not afraid of telling the truth about this whole, sad consumer=cattle trend. I love when devs stand up against these practices that are not so obviously wrong to the cattle itself, and I wish more devs would do it.

z50macdaddy
z50macdaddy

It's still good to know that some game studios still care about their audiences, instead of shoving over-priced map packs, one time used costumes pack, and character that need to be unlocked with some stupid code down our throats.

juggernaut5
juggernaut5

@Philly1UPer

naaaa..your wrong..this is more like forcing you to pay if you wanna injoy the game.

in COD ive never been forced to buy a mappack.i can injoy the game withoud it.ur dumb

arc_salvo
arc_salvo

I agree with this guy.  It's because of this scam-like behavior (plus the pay to win design) that made me stop playing facebook games, which are often similar to mobile games or exactly the same.

D1zzyCriminal
D1zzyCriminal

So true. Penny Arcade calls them 'Smurfberries'. You get a free to play game, then you pay money so you dont have to play the game. Its mad.

deadmonkey76
deadmonkey76

@Edmund McMillen is absoluty right. I am glad to see some one who has brain to speak out against mobil games the majority suck and a rip off even if they are free. by the way super meat boy rocks thanks for the great game

ExplicitMike
ExplicitMike

Is nothing new but I agree is stupid as hell. What's the point of trying to beat a level if you can just pay to beat it. Defeats the whole purpose of gaming. It's like paying your game genie to get past a level in Battletoads.

Drakillion
Drakillion

I agree with this guy. Free-2-Play but you have to use REAL money just to get something you want without having to spend the same amount of time you would with an actual game.

 

Like Facebooks games for example. You can spend 10 hours trying to do this then wait a certain amount of time..... or you can $10 up front and it's your, just like that. Sheeesh, what a scam >_> inb4captainobvious

 

 

This man gets over 9000 Friendship points dO.Ob

verbtex
verbtex moderator

We already knew this, DLC should actually add a part of the game, not force you to pay extra for an experience that should have came with the intial starting point. I understand trying to maximize profits, but nickle and dime-ing everyone gets annoying, especially considering how many 99 cent transactions I have to have on my account.

raziel2kain
raziel2kain

do you want to save your game? first you should pay for that !!

Szeiden
Szeiden

 @Shawshoe Seriously, this kind of business practice promotes piracy. Buy the game -> download a pirated version -> don't have to deal with DLC nonsense. No DRM is an added bonus. Devs still get their money, the consumer gets to experience the game like they would have 8 years ago when all this extreme monetization bs was less prevalent.