Clicker Heroes developer Playsaurus has announced that it's abandoning the free-to-play model for its upcoming sequel Clicker Heroes 2, for "ethical reasons".
The original Clicker Heroes - a 2015 mini-phenomenon, and a game which sent Eurogamer contributor Jon Blyth tumbling into a pit of existential despair - set players the task of defeating an endless procession of monsters in an infinitely deep dungeon in order to accrue increasingly preposterous quantities of gold.
Like all clickers, you could either take care of the primary goal yourself, by manually clicking away at enemies, or you could spend all your hard-earned gold to automate the process through new hero acquisition and upgrades so you barely had to interact with the game at all. And like most free-to-play games, Clicker Heroes featured a shop, where you could purchase even greater automation with real money.
Clicker Heroes' store made, by Playsaurus' own admission, a lot of money for the developer. Yet its lavish sequel will ditch all micro-transactions in favour of a single $29.99 upfront cost, fully refundable for up to a year. The decision, says Playsaurus, is a matter of ethics.
"In Clicker Heroes 1, we never tried to abuse players with our real-money shop," the studio said in a statement on the Clicker Heroes website, "Despite this, we found that some number of players spent many thousands of dollars on rubies. I can only hope that these people could afford it, and that they were doing it to support us, and not to feed an addiction. But I strongly suspect that this is not the case.
"We really don't like making money off players who are in denial of their addiction. And that's what a large part of free-to-play gaming is all about. Everyone in the industry seems to rationalize it by shifting the blame, assuming way too much cognizance on the part of their victims. People can make their own decisions, right? But it just doesn't sit well with me. Despite very few of our players having complained, it felt wrong when we started doing it and it still feels wrong now."
Playsaurus is adamant that ditching free-to-play mechanics will also ultimately make for a better game: "We want the experience to be good. The mere existence of real-money purchases puts an ugly cloud over the player's experience, with the persistent nagging feeling of "My game could be so much better if I just spent a few dollars". That alone feels terrible." Without the free-to-play mechanics in place, it will be able to iterate and expand on its sequel without fear of undermining the value of players' purchases.
"That said, we're not going to change how we monetize Clicker Heroes 1. It would destroy our studio if we did [...] Our unlimited refund policy still stands. But going forward we're going to at least try the paid-up-front model for our business. It may or may not work. It probably isn't worth nearly as much money, but at least we can do it with a cleaner conscience."