Clicker Heroes 2 ditches free-to-play in favor of “cleaner conscience”

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Can you hear the people click? Clicking the song of angry men? The Clicker Heroes devs couldn’t, but they’re nonetheless changing their business model so that the studio can have a “cleaner conscience”. Clicker Heroes 2, the sequel to the idle game that Graham describes as “Diablo’s metagame with the participative act of exploration and combat removed”, will have an upfront cost of $29.99 rather than in-game purchases.

The a blog post by developers Playsaurus argues that “Games are inherently addictive,” and details the ethical and game design reasons behind the shift. Despite designing the first game so that you never had to spend rubies, a currency that could mostly only be attained with real money, the devs still found that some people spent thousands of dollars on the game. While they note that this is obviously ok if those people happen to be rich, they suspect that probably wasn’t true in most cases. While Playsaurus say that they’re happy to offer refunds, they’re aware that those most in need of one might not be prepared to ask.

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.

While I think it should be acknowledged that not all free-to-play games are exploitative, recognising the reduced autonomy that can be inherent to addiction is certainly praiseworthy. Actively stepping away from it is even more commendable, especially when the new business model should make for a better game. I’m all too familiar with the “ugly cloud” that hovers over games in microtransaction form – while I hardly ever indulge, I still get the nagging feeling that I could be having a better time if I spent some more money. That said, I’m not sure Clicker Heroes (which I haven’t tried) would be one of them. As Graham notes:

I can understand why someone would become engrossed in Clicker Heroes, even if I (hope I) won’t allow myself the same. I can understand why someone might spend hours maximising a numbers game, even if it’s far too dry for me. I cannot understand why you’d spend money to shortcut the only system Clicker Heroes has – unless the game’s dopamine drip has bypassed your common sense.

Playsaurus have confirmed that they won’t be changing anything about the free-to-play model of the first game, though they do reiterate that their “unlimited refund policy still stands”.

20 Comments

  1. mukuste says:

    > $29.99

    Are they for friggin’ real now?

    • Phantom_Renegade says:

      Considering people spends hundreds if not thousands of dollars, this is a steal.

      • Chaoslord AJ says:

        Considering I have 1.1k+ hours and paid -nothing- it’s pretty much. And Clickers 1 isn’t worth that much even if you consider the time (it runs in the background and is a lesson about addiction behavior). Best thing about it are the funny descriptions.
        And Clickers 1 wasn’t complete on release. If they get the money for CH2 up front who knows if they’ll keep expanding the game or will I have to buy DLCs?

        For 30$ it would have to be the best clicker ever made from the get-go.

  2. Stone_Crow says:

    The AAA priced clicker game!

    • Phantom_Renegade says:

      30 bucks is hardly AAA. That’s currently between 60 and 80. 100, if you count season pass bullshit and you really should.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Mungrul says:

    Fair play to them.
    I mean, I wouldn’t pay $29.99 for a clicker, but I know I’ve been in the position they outline before, and I appreciate developers fessing up to their part in the whole sordid affair.

    We frown on the pusher/addict relationship when it comes to illegal drugs, yet this practice in games exploits the same cycle of abuse.

  4. Telkir says:

    Hmmm. I had been thinking it might go for around $10-15 dollars and that would have made me think twice. Now I’m probably going to pass on the day-one buy.

    I commend their standpoint and their bravery. As much as I would like to support them more solidly by forking out, this just seems too much for a clicker game, however polished it may be.

  5. Freud says:

    Clicker Heroes is a thermometer right up the behind of gaming.

    Pointless busywork as entertainment.

  6. GeoX says:

    I mean…it’s laudable in a sense, sure, but I feel like “they’re free” is the only reason most people play clickers at all. And most people DON’T end up paying anything for them. I know in all the hours I wasted with Clicker Heroes, I was never even tempted to. Paying a pretty substantial chunk of cash for a dumb, mindless thing that I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve played does not seem like a thing that would ever happen.

    • Deano2099 says:

      I wouldn’t pay much more than $5 for Clicker Heroes, if anything. But we’ve no idea what the sequel will be like yet. I’ve let to play a clicker that justifies a $30 price tag but some come close – Realm Grinder for example is full of content and actual gameplay in terms of figuring out builds.

      The idea of “let’s just make a really good game with this mechanic” doesn’t seem that ridiculous.

    • malkav11 says:

      Exactly. I applaud taking a moral stance against looting the addiction-prone, but I don’t feel like charging $30 for a clicker is going to get them very far.

  7. theslap says:

    Far too expensive for a clicker game. If it has a full-length story and is more than just a grindfest like the first one was, then it might be worth it. The strange thing about all this is that they are announcing the high price tag in advance before releasing the details of the new game and what separates it from the thousands of free-to-play clickers.

  8. Captain Narol says:

    While we are on the subject, what other idle games would you recommend, guys ? (apart of Realm Grinder already mentionned)

    I’ve got quite hooked those last weeks on Idle Knights of the Forgotten Realms (by the makers of Crusaders of the Lost Idol) and I’m tempted to give a go to other games in the genre…

    • mcgiants says:

      I am very happy I accidentally had my Anti-idle game save deleted, or I might still be playing to this day (it’s a Kongregate game)

    • theslap says:

      If you mean incremental games, my favorites are Candy Box 1/2, The Dark Room, Reactor Idle, Factory Idle, and Reactor Incremental. They are not strictly mindless clicker games but have some idle aspects.

  9. LTK says:

    It takes real strength of character to look at thousands of dollars pouring into your bank account and say “I don’t deserve this.” Mad props to Playsaurus for this.

  10. trjp says:

    I read this over on a mobile forum and at first I assumed it was a joke – whatever their motivations, they aren’t going to make much money if they ask that sort of price.

    They COULD have made the game free and simply capped iAP costs so that once you’ve spend £xx you get everything – that would have fulfilled their ‘moral’ issue and not bolloxed their business completely perhaps?

    Surely the time of the clicker is coming to an end tho – I mean, there’s only about a million of them – some are really clever (Idle Empires stands-out for me) but there’s only so much you can do with them??

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