My new iPhone app, Monetization: Ultimate Collector, has been released. If you dare, you can download Monetization from the Apple App Store. However, this is an occasion when you might want to read up on the background of the app before diving in.
In Monetization: Ultimate Collector, your dreams for amassing intangible wealth and achieving effortless progress can finally come true. Track your status! Collect shiny coins! Play the Coin Matchup game! Become the Ultimate Collector!
Monetization: Ultimate Collector features:
- Lots of stuff to buy!
- Shiny coins in bronze, silver, and gold!!
- Special status for the most ultimate collectors!!!
- No sound!!!!
- Minimal gameplay!!!!!
As you may have recognized by now, Monetization intentionally satirizes design trends of the past few years in mobile/social network games and apps. I’ll list just a few ways in which Monetization exemplifies industry trends in poor game design:
Players can only make cost-free, skill-driven progress using 5 free turns, which are provided once every 24 hours
Players must buy additional turns to continue making matches
Players can simply tap on any object in the app to purchase it
Players can simply tap on a button to instantly pay to win and unlock everything in the app (along with an exclusive status that is only unlocked through this purchase)
Players can’t really do much in the app other than buy things and stare at the associated intangible digital objects
The point is that many games today focus primarily on how they can extract money from players in the short term, rather than on how they can provide players with quality, long-term experiences. In a recent article, Laralyn McWilliams described this monetization-obsessed design mentality, as well as the necessary shift away from analytics-driven to analytics-informed design. I agree that games, regardless of platform, need to focus on providing a genuine, meaningful play experience. In addition, data can and should be used to inform, but not dictate, good game design. Monetization is an example of how design has been executed poorly as of late. As designers and as an industry, we would be much better off if it is the last game that demonstrates this mentality.
Originally, Monetization was essentially a collection of coins that could be tapped on and purchased in-app. Alternatively, players could unlock everything with a single large purchase. Or they could wait to receive a free coin once per day. However, since I only wanted to demonstrate terrible design techniques, rather than profit from them myself, I mimicked in-app purchases without making any actual transaction with players (mind you, all the while refraining from advertising this app as a fun, free way for parents to provide their young children with a quality mobile gaming experience without the fears of unauthorized purchases!!!). However, the initial version of Monetization was quietly rejected by Apple just days before the banning of a different serious game would stir up widespread controversy.
After the rejection, I toned down much of the language in the app description and the mimicked in-app purchases - both of which made it obvious the game was a serious satire. I also begrudgingly added minimal play to the app in the form of a memory matching game to quell Apple’s fear that, although they “value simplicity,” my app was somehow too simple. Apparently, those moves were enough to get the app into the store. However, given Apple’s recent aggressive stance against serious games, I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets removed at some point. Of course, I would argue that Monetization provides as much content and the same experience as the majority of the hordes of free-to-play apps that it publishes daily.
Download Monetization: Ultimate Collector for the iPhone and begin experiencing tasteless industry trends in game design firsthand!