A controversial tweet this weekend by game engine developer, Unity, has sparked a conversation about how free-to-play games seek inspiration from the gambling industry.
In a now-deleted tweet, Unity was celebrating the release of new features that are “especially helpful for developers in the gambling industry.” It prompted Xavier Coelho-Kostolny, an Insomniac Games Artist who once worked on free-to-play game Neverwinter, to pen a lengthy thread explaining that free-to-play games mimic slot machine design, especially the following aspects:
- Sounds and visuals designed to heighten excitement and anticipation
- Low initial investment
- High accessibility
- Intentionally stingy rewards
- Highly broadcast high-end rewards
“Pay-to-play means you’re locked out of content until you drop some money, and that does some weird psychological things I’m not qualified to talk about,” wrote Coelho-Kostolny. “Regardless, it sets a barrier to entry, but it’s designed to be low enough that anyone can play.”
The developer added that sounds and visuals aid in attracting players to loot boxes.
“They have a specific cadence built into them which increases tension over a short time, and then they flash pretty lights and play exciting sounds,” he continued. “Slot machines perfected it, and now video games crank it to 11.”
Coelho-Kostolny’s full Twitter thread is a lengthy but very enlightening read, which he concluded by saying that he will never work on free-to-play games again.
“Supporting the gambling industry is lucrative but also incredibly unethical,” he continued. “You’re supporting a system designed to literally, not figuratively, literally prey on the addictions of a relatively small number of people.”
Unity said in a statement that it has removed the controversial tweet and accompanying blog post based on feedback. However, as users have pointed out, it wasn’t the tweet or the blog that people took issue with, rather the direction that Unity has taken.
Make sure to check out Coelho-Kostolny’s thread and share your thoughts with us below.