GDC Online 2012: Ethics panel roasts freemium, labels it 'entertainment socialism'

Jef Reahard
J. Reahard|10.12.12

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GDC Online 2012: Ethics panel roasts freemium, labels it 'entertainment socialism'
GDC 2012 - Ethics panel takes aim at freemium, labels it 'entertainment socialism'
Ethics in game design was a hot topic at this year's GDC Online. Free-to-play is, of course, on everyone's mind, and one panel in particular stood in sharp contrast to the steady stream of positivity surrounding the model in most quarters.

The sit-down featured a handful of developers including representatives from Amazon, Bobber Interactive, and Immersyve. "This whole concept of freemium play, in my opinion, is the most radical form of entertainment socialism since Obama got elected," said Bobber's Scott Dodson. "You've got a whole bunch of one-percenters paying for a bunch of freeloaders."

Senior Amazon designer Nik Davidson likened the industry to a gold rush and also poked fun at the supposition that big spenders are acting responsibly. "We like to think that the ones spending vast sums on these games are sons of Dubai oligarchs, but we have the data to prove that they're not, and that they probably can't afford to spend what they're spending," Davidson said. "We're saying our market is suckers -- we're going to cast a net that catches as many mentally ill people as we can!"

Immersyve's Scott Rigby chimed in as well. "What do we call our best customers these days? I'm not sure I'd want to be called a whale by anybody. Sticky is not, generally, a good quality. I think we have this subtle language of control for our customers, and when paired with our ability to collect data, it raises some interesting ethical questions," he said.
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