More than half of all mobile games fall into the pay to win (P2W) category, which has been an ongoing problem for publishers for a very long time.
There are two primary ways P2W manifests itself in mobile games:
Gathering a huge amount of XP, or getting some super-powerful or super-expensive gear. Turning XP into actual money.
The presence of any of these is enough to make the game pay to win, even if the purpose of the game is not to make the player pay to win. On the mobile platform, it is all too easy to create or manage pay to win mechanics.
It is even easier to cheat or manipulate in some way to make money without the player even noticing.
It has become such a problem that organizations like Pocketnow have decided to stop reviewing games that have pay to win mechanics, and the Open Gaming Alliance and game developers are even trying to create standards to help make gaming a safer experience.
PlayZe ndings and the Guildenstern Watchmen team has been looking into pay to win in mobile games, and they’ve done a lot of very interesting research into the problem.
A major part of their research was actually asking the community, or rather, their fans, to give their opinions about the issue. Their results are pretty illuminating.
“We were delighted to see that so many players find content blocking to be a deeply offensive and fraudulent tactic. We agree that if a game were created without content blocking, it should be met with heavy condemnation by the mobile gaming community and should receive no positive community reviews from us at PlayZe ndings or the Guildenstern Watchmen.”
More alarming than just the number of players who find content blocking to be reprehensible is the actual use that content blockers have when doing so.
Some content blockers have created a simple technique that is simple enough to be used by virtually anyone: rather than actively blocking the in-game currency, they allow the player to earn enough XP to acquire the currency in exchange for in-game currency.
While an odd thing to do for the average player, it is actually a great way to give content blockers an excuse for the game to be pay to win. It also makes them look like martyrs to the community.
The problem with content blockers is not the act of them trying to block the game; rather, it is the use of the extra experience to purchase actual in-game currency.
Even though it’s entirely possible that the player can be earning enough experience in the game to actually buy the currency, the game-play always favors the player with pay to win mechanics, so the extra experience is more often than not necessary to progress through the game.
In an ironic twist of fate, the fake strategy that was the most popular method of content blocking was actually not content blocking at all. Some content blockers simply chose to give the player the ability to purchase items with gold, a real in-game currency, instead of granting them the ability to earn gold.
The use of this strategy actually made more content blockers discover that the majority of their content blockers had inadvertently made content blocking tools that allowed players to earn XP in exchange for real currency.
And even worse, the person who came up with the strategy that became the most popular content blocker had a solution for the cheaters that went beyond simply blocking the in-game currency. Instead of stopping players from earning XP, the new strategy went further and prevented the game from allowing players to purchase real-world currency either.
This essentially meant that the player could no longer enjoy content blocking for the simple reason that they could not afford to play the game.
There is an incredibly pervasive problem with content blockers, and the issue is not just limited to the way they are used in the mobile gaming space.
In fact, it is a problem that is universal across every industry where content blocking is a common tactic for cheating. Some content blockers provide an incomplete, rudimentary method of blocking content, but others, if used correctly, can turn a neutral product (e.g. a game) into a fully paid for product.
It is also a common problem that not all content blockers are created equal. It’s one thing to be unsure of the integrity of your in-game currency, but it is a completely different thing to have the question if the currency you are making a living on is legitimate.
It’s easy to see why a person would want to cheat: it’s often much easier to simply go into your bank account, spend the cash you’ve earned on an unanticipated item, and avoid the consequences of your bad decision.
In an industry where the client is demanding the most complete product possible, when in-game currency is the only currency players earn, the very fact that cheating exists should be troubling to anyone who actually cares about the quality of their product.
A company with the majority of its players being players of the game while at the same time making a living off of cheaters only worsens the already dismal situation for a game company trying to keep the player base together.
If the games is built on the backs of cheaters, how can the good players expect to be able to maintain the integrity of the game? How can the company in question expect to make sure they are providing a legitimate product?
Ultimately, the answer lies with the developers and publishers.
It is the responsibility of the people who are building a game to ensure that the product they are creating is a healthy one for the players, even if it means shutting off the ladders that allow players to avoid the ravages of the cheater.
What kind of content blocker are you using? Are you or do you know other developers that are using a similar strategy?