Pay for play apps

Monkey Archive Forums/Monkey Discussion/Pay for play apps

Arabia(Posted 2013) [#1]
Has any one considered implementing a pay for play type system? e.g. the player can win cash and/or gift cards for playing your app. The idea being that the developer would set aside a percentage of money made from sales and advertising revenue and reward players.

I've quickly read through the Google Pay Developer agreement and didn't see anything that prohibited this. Anyone have any thoughts on this? Any legal problems with doing this? I thought perhaps this type of app may be banned or banned in certain countries.

Paul - Taiphoz(Posted 2013) [#2]
I had a very similar idea stolen shamelessly from Peter Molyneux and his game Godus, in which there is one God the god of all gods, this is a player who is winning the game and at the end of each month gets a share of the games income, when I read about that I instantly thought of about a dozen ways I could use it for my games.

Ultimately what I though was probably the best option for me was having a month to month high score table, at the end of each month the winner would get a share of the games profits for that month, this would require making public the running total winnings and the games running total profit for the month which I really don't have an issue with.

Where you really need to be careful is if your game falls in any measure of the word into the gambling category, the second it does you instantly become subject to a crazy amount of gambling LAW! and each country has its own gambling laws all of which would need to be adhered to, this of course means that you would need to hire a Layer who specializes in this type of Law and who would be able to keep you on the right side of the boys in blue, I think that's probably why you do not see many indie games offering gambling services of any kind, the ones you do see are all linked or part of major world wide gambling associations.

Arabia(Posted 2013) [#3]
Thanks Paul, very interesting.

No I don't believe it does fall into the category of gambling, but I guest that could be a "grey area". For example (and no I'm not writing a Texas Hold'em game), Hold'em was argued in the USA when it was banned that it wasn't gambling, but it was a game of skill, the government did not see it this way. In the same way, I guess you could say any game with a high score table is a game of skill.

The idea I was leaning towards was this : players receive points/exp/whatever for playing, they can then choose how many of these points to put into the weekly/monthly draw. The more points they contribute, the more chance of receiving a prize at the random draw. The player can only get points by playing the game, and they don't necessarily need to spend any money to earn points, those those who pay for the ad free app may get some bonus points. In other words, they can't "buy" points, but they may be able to increase their points potential by buying the app or buying additional content.

I'm still not 100% on this, just exploring the idea.

Gerry Quinn(Posted 2013) [#4]
I think you could make it acceptable to most people if you did something like:
1. Generate X amount of 'chests' containing random (non-monetary!) rewards every month based on profitability
2. Sell the chests for bonus points that are got by playing etc.

Of course the case can always be made that any random reward constitutes gambling, but then the whole of gaming becomes a grey area. In truth people know what gambling is when they see it. Random chests bought for real money will trigger that perception, but I don't think random chests bought for bonus points will.

Paul - Taiphoz(Posted 2013) [#5]
I think that some one could easily argue that paying into a bank type setup your exp or credits for the chance to win something at the end sound an awful lot like a lottery and all your player is doing is buying a lot of tickets, which would mean that your concept would probably fall into gambling.

You need to make it all about skill, and remove that key and vital component, luck!.

Arabia(Posted 2013) [#6]
I think that some one could easily argue that paying into a bank type setup your exp or credits for the chance to win something at the end sound an awful lot like a lottery and all your player is doing is buying a lot of tickets, which would mean that your concept would probably fall into gambling.

Understand what you're saying, but the way I was thinking of implementing this is that a player didn't necessarily have to spend money to get points, you could do it with the free version of the app, however those paying for the app or buying content would be "rewarded" with bonus points that they could use. So if someone chooses to spend money to increase their chances of winning a small prize over people who choose not to pay - not everyone is gambling.

I should also add that this line of thinking is just a way to differentiate my game from other similar products, I'm not looking to bleed money from gamer's, just "encourage" them to spend on average $1-$2 for my game instead of going for the free to own games and in return offer them a chance at getting some cash back.

But yeah, it is a very grey area I'm looking into, and I would probably be best steering clear of it without spend a huge amount of money on legal advice (which I'm not going to do).

muddy_shoes(Posted 2013) [#7]
As soon as you offer a way to extract cash from a game you are raising your levels of risk in many ways:

* Payment processing internationally is hardly simple and outgoing is harder than incoming. Do you expect users to give you their bank details? Sign up for Paypal/other account? Are you going to send them a cheque?
* You come under scrutiny of law. Gambling laws may be less of a concern than tax and money laundering regulations.
* You become a target for real money fraud. People hacking about to top GameCenter scoreboards is common enough. If there's cash involved you can bet they'll be much keener to cheat. You'll be hacked, botted and exploited at every opportunity.
* Related to above, with money involved your player base will be less forgiving of perceptions of cheating or unfairness. You can expect accusations of scamming to follow you around.
* Also related to above if you're planning on raising money via advertising then you might find problems if it starts to look like your users are being incentivised to click on ads or if your users are botting.

That's not to say that it can't be done successfully but it doesn't seem a sensible route for a small/inexperienced dev to go down. If the cash prizes are peripheral then the effort involved in offering them seems not worthwhile and if you make them a central selling point then they'd need to be large enough to attract all the problems above in spades.

Paul - Taiphoz(Posted 2013) [#8]
Yeah I think it can be done by a small team or solo developer, if it's done correctly and thoroughly researched, it's most definitely not something you just try and a whim, I know I might tinker with the idea, might have a few things even jotted down in a little design document but I wont so much as touch a line of code or artwork until I know I can handle all the legal issues, and I would recommend you do the same.

Most of what I mentioned above, and what Muddy_Shoes has added to really just boils down to money, if you have the money to pay for layers to make sure your always on the right side of the Law then a lot of those headaches will go away, or at least be shoved onto your layers shoulders, as for the other issues what with Game Center getting hacked regularly and Muddy's points about Botting, those are very valid, you only need to look at major players in the field like Blizzard and their long running battles with botters to really see how rampant it is, specially when money is involved.

However I think for a skill based game bot's are a far less scary thing that hackers, bots require predicable behaviors, and actions that are fixed, the bot reads a combat log and understands and enemy called bill has just hit the player, so it does a target on bill and the actions to fire if the action fails it rotates a little and tries again, that's a simplistic example, and most modern bots are quite complex but their still bots, they still require predictable environments, and most twitch skill based games make botting impossible, bots in an MMO yes, Bots in a pointy click farmville thing yes, Bots in a fast action game where lots of things are moving and happening NO!..

Hackers on the other hand is a whole other type of threat, with hacking its not about 100% prevention, that's an impossible feat, its about keeping the incident count as low as possible.

Arabia(Posted 2013) [#9]
Thanks Paul & Muddy. Given me some stuff to think about. The Hacking issue was one I was definitely aware of and was trying to think my way around.

On the subject of bots, how hard are they to make for Android/iPad devices? Doing it for a Windows based PC (HTML, Flash etc) is relatively simple, I wasn't so sure about tablets. Can you write an App that will launch and self play another App? I'd imagine it's possible, but definitely not as easy for PC's - and unless big money is involved in prizes then I couldn't imagine too many people trying.

I also did figure about the "paid advertising adding to the pool" might cause a problem. I guess the easy answer here would be, no prizes for people using the ad. version of the app and no money made from advertising is to be added to the pool.

Anyway, I'll keep thinking things over. My game is adding enough to be different to others on the market, just thinking out loud about other ways to differentiate my game and hopefully grab some more users.

Paul - Taiphoz(Posted 2013) [#10]
Tools like blue stacks lets you run download and install android apps on pc. So could be used to create a bot..

Xaron(Posted 2013) [#11]
The idea is very appealing but there might be a reason why such apps are still not very common. I'd be very, very carefully. This IS a gambling app, no matter how much skill you add to it. You can make players very angry, you need a lawyer to make everything rock solid. You always will have complainers and some of them even might try to raise a lawsuit against you.

Arabia(Posted 2013) [#12]
Cheers everyone.

I think you've convinced me to all but abandon this approach :)