"We don't have a mobile gaming industry anymore. We have a mobile scamming industry."
So said Thomas Baekdal in a column last week, swinging for the head of a nail with a strike so true that I found myself letting out an involuntary splutter of agreement.
Whenever you write about this phenomenon, the common complaint from people making the games in question is that not all of them are bad. As Thomas Baekdal realised though, the problem is definition. When your free-to-play game is all economy mechanics rather than game mechanics, when your game is all business design rather than game design, you're not actually making a game - you're constructing a scam, whether you realise it or not. If you're doing it knowingly, you're just a high-tech gangster.
The proliferation of games like Dungeon Keeper suggests it's too late for a lot of mobile developers, but the good work being done on PC points to another possible future. If I were busy building free-to-play ideas into a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One game, I know which side of the line I'd prefer to end up on. Reject the ways of the scammers. Be a game developer.
This is all true. While mobile gaming has the potential to be a viable alternative for gaming, and while it can certainly be a wonderful ecosystem unto itself, it's been used as an avenue to make glorified slot machines, games that aren't games, they are ongoing services that try to squeeze as much money from you as possible.
The worst thing is, these microtransaction philosophies are bleeding into console and handheld gaming design as well- look at games like Forza Motorsport 5 and Battlefield 4 for example.