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Clicker Heroes developer's new approach to monetization is nothing like EA's

Clicker Heroes is a smash hit free-to-play Android title, but its sequel will have a fixed price. In a frank blog post, one of its developers explains why.

Published onNovember 21, 2017

Playsaurus’ Clicker Heroes has been downloaded more than one million times from Google Play since 2015, and likely millions more times across its other platforms. The title has been a huge success, especially given that it was the company’s first game on the Google Play Store, and Playsaurus is currently working on a sequel.

Unlike its first title, however, Clicker Heroes 2 won’t be free-to-play, and part of the reason comes down to ethics.

Clicker Heroes is a “clicker” title where the gameplay involves players tapping endlessly on the display to progress. The level of interactivity is minimal, there’s no winning or losing, players simply tap (or click on non-touchscreen platforms) until they want to stop. In a statement on the company website (via Eurogamer), Fragsworth, one of the game’s the developers, said:

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“Games are inherently addictive. That alone is not a bad thing, until it gets abused. In Clicker Heroes 1, we never tried to abuse players with our real-money shop, and for the most part, we designed it without the shop in mind so that you never have to purchase rubies to progress. 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.”

Instead, Playsaurus will have an up-front fee for Clicker Heroes 2 with no in-app purchases in sight — something which it also hopes will improve the game design.

It’s rare that you’ll hear about a game developer or publisher discussing ethics in such a way because, of course, putting a person’s well-being before revenue doesn’t jive well with making money.

Fragsworth’s lengthy post contains a number of statements which I’m sure more corporate companies wouldn’t dare speak of. The dev actually states that the team would have no problem refunding those who’d bought in-game rubies as the result of an addiction, stating: “It’s not like we have artists drawing each ruby by hand. It costs us nothing but payment processing fees.”

That being said, Fragsworth said that the team wouldn’t change the payment model for the original game now, claiming that it would “destroy” the studio if they did. The dev did reiterate that its unlimited refund policy still stands, however.

The monetization methods employed by game companies is a growing concern in the industry. Only recently, the “Loot Box” system employed in Star Wars Battlefront 2, a triple AAA console and PC title from EA, prompted a massive negative reaction from fans – so much so that a post on the matter became the most downvoted Reddit comment of all time.

Many companies claim that increased competition and rising industry costs are forcing them into business models like “games as a service” and other new methods for earning revenue after the initial sale, yet fans often see in-app purchases, pre-order bonuses, and loot boxes structures as exploitative.

So, how much will Playsaurus charge for Clicker Heroes 2? Currently, the game is available for pre-order for $29.99, but before you fall off your chair, this comes with an asterisk or two.

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First, it’s only planned for PC and Mac right now, so it’s not like it’s a mobile title for $29.99. The price is in line with that of other games coming from smaller studios and this pre-order payment is indented to help fund the game (like Steam Early Access). Secondly, it arrives with some pre-order bonuses, including $20 worth of rupees for the original Clicker Heroes.

Most interesting, however, is that Clicker Heroes 2 is fully refundable for a year after launch, no matter how much you’ve played it up until that point. This is a truly brave move from the developer — a notion that isn’t lost on Fragsworth.

“It may or may not work. It probably isn’t worth nearly as much money,” wrote the developer. “But at least we can do it with a cleaner conscience.”

To read the full post or pre-order Clicker Heroes 2, visit the official site here. Give us your thoughts on the recent trends in gaming monetization in the comments.