Game addiction: 'Freemium' games not the problem

Game addiction: 'Freemium' games not the problem

The exploitative game mechanics and game addiction highlighted in the article ("Hardcore players pay dearly for 'freemiums'"; March 9) are real and important issues.

However, these are not related to the "freemium" business model or "whale" players.

The article described the freemium business model as the "heart of the problem" of mobile game addiction because it is designed "to compel users to pay for little boosts".

In fact, "freemium" is a neutral term. This model is designed to allow anyone to play a game regardless of how much he is - or is not - willing to pay.

This is unlike subscription-based games, which require a flat monthly fee, meaning that customers unwilling to pay this amount cannot play, while those willing to pay more for greater enjoyment have no way of doing so.

What the article is really talking about is the "pay-to-win" model. 

This is a mechanism that good game designers try to avoid, because a good game should engage players without the need for purchasing "balance-distorting" items or powers. There are extremely successful freemium games that do not mandate any spending nor use predatory mechanics.

The article also referred to "whales" as "addicted gamers".

In fact, the term is used semi-formally to refer to players who pay a lot. But this does not automatically imply that whales are "addicted", or that the reason for classifying players is to target those susceptible to game addiction.

Players have a variety of reasons for spending on a game. Some do so to create their own identities; others do so for various forms of "bragging rights". Many more do so because they do not have a lot of time to spend playing a game and hence spend a limited amount to enhance their game experience in the limited gaming time they have.

Conversely, game addiction can occur even if a player is not paying a lot. For instance, even in a subscription-based game where players pay a flat fee, abnormal game-playing behaviour can and does occur.

As an ethical gaming industry professional, I am happy that awareness is being generated on the challenges of responsible consumption.

Khoo Yik Lin

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