Freedom’s / Freemium under threat. A nation divided.

Isn’t life hard enough for advanced digital manufactures’ already? For those companies making a difference, creating new pockets of innovation and making money for the country. Those “creatives” who act with decency and want to be getting a fair day’s wage for the work they have done. People working in industries like films, games and digital.

Yet, it is amazing how a few bad eggs might ruin the whole industry for us. At dojit games we make games for children, puzzle platform games like Home Bear, educational sports strategy games like Soccer Zillionare, and more arcade health knowledge based games like Totally Milkshake. These games, like most things physical in the world cost money to make. They take time. They take creative energy. They exist not in a vacuum but in a commercial reality – one with the potential to make the country millions of pounds in new revenue. Our mobile gaming expertise could be one of the UK greatest natural and exportable resources, up there with film and TV….

But now the government with the OFT has decided due to a tiny minority that the whole industry should be investigated and more importantly portrayed in a less than positive light. So the OFT in their investigation are looking into whether the full cost of mobile games is made clear when they are downloaded or accessed, as according to them this lack of information could potentially lead children and parents to make decisions they may not have made if prices were more transparently advertised at the start of the purchasing process.

This is surely not possible – isn’t it the same as warning – “this catalogue is free but if you like the fashion brand in there, so you might spend a small fortune over your lifetime?” Should the “Next catalogue” be banned? Or should we punish websites, or mobile phone games or mobile phone apps which are made well with warnings for customers about eye catching designs and engaging ideas as they would be even better at enticing people into spending their money! This is simple madness.

However, we at dojit applaud any action which highlights the dangers of rogue mobile game developers who charge huge individual payments for items – to mainly exploit the weak – and we dislike mobile phone games which you cannot complete without purchases, and we make games you can complete without payment, but we cannot abide this attack on the mobile game development industry as a whole. Apple has already introduced an app warning for parents on iTunes for apps which makes it abundantly clear whether a free app on its store does or does not contain in-app purchases. Yet this is NOT enough for the OFT surely any more regulation would be like needing a sticker on your credit card saying: “Do not give access to your finances to your children – as this card along with the pin number might mean bad things might happen”

Yet this is what might happen to our little industry – we might be regulated out of existence due to people like Cavendish Elithorn, OFT Senior Director for Goods and Consumer, who justifies this intrusion by saying:

We are concerned that children and their parents could be subject to unfair pressure to purchase when they are playing games they thought were free, but which can actually run up substantial costs.“

Playing games which they thought were free? Who does he think pays for them? The most worring thing is the thinking or non thinking this idea creates – proven by how last week when, I was chatting to a friend who doesn’t work in the mobile game industry, they happily told me that “all these free apps are cons!” I kid you not. When I asked they thought free apps paid for themselves – they had no answers. Yet they happily used Google with its PPC!

So giving away your data for free to a global colossus on a daily basis is apparently alright (look at Facebook) but to purchase something in a game is not. My concern is that to attack industries for new business models is dangerous for innovation. This kind of thinking will stop people wanting to create great mobile phone games, it will stop young people getting jobs, and it will stop an industry growing in the UK, a country where we really need advanced digital manufacturing like this to take off.

A nation divided between the understandings that “if you don’t pay for the product – you probably are the product.”

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