Fair, honest, ethical how to monetize your game

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Doing monetization right is key not just for the success of your game but for our industry as a whole. The articles in this section will explore the various tools, methods and options available to you and highlight major problem areas.

Heathen is strictly opposed to any form of predatory monetization.

You will find wording and terminology here that calls out bad practices as the bad practices they are. This is meant to help inform you and not offend you however we make no apologies for any offence either.

In the sub-articles of this section, you will find a breakdown of all major monetization models, models define high-level concepts around when and how you monetize your product such as PayToPlay, FreeToPlay, etc. Tools are the next area of research for you, these deal with specific mechanisms for monetization that can generally be used in any model for example expansions, subscriptions, community marketplaces, etc.

What Works

Clear up-front pricing with a reasonable "max buy-in".

It should not be possible to spend infinite money on your project, you should not use premium currency, and you should not use probability loot boxes.

DLC and other one-time or restricted purchase options that clearly define what is being purchased, can be purchased with cash upfront, which includes a refund policy or other consumer protections and does not in any way obscure what is included in the purchase.

That is what works.

  • Premium currency

  • Loot boxes

  • Commodity purchases (endless purchases)

  • Surprise mechanics

All of the above items are predatory rather intended to be or not and do detract from the game, run the risk of harm to a portion of the population and have better non-predatory alternatives.


This subsection is aimed at readers that just don't understand why some practices are called "predatory" or why they should be avoided. This section ... hopefully ... can be skipped by most people.

Predatory monetization practices have already been incredibly harmful to our industry. The number of regions around the world applying strict regulations around game content and in particular monetization practices. has rapidly expanded thanks largely to predatory loot boxes and variations of gambling mechanics such as Gatcha mechanics. Unfortunately, these regulations are made by people with limited understanding of the industry and in reaction to the consumers โ€ฆ their constituents complaints e.g. reactive governance, this is obviously less than ideal.

The calculation is quite simple; Is it possible for a person to spend an infinite or even simply unreasonable amount on your product? if you answered yes then your product is predatory and is whaling by definition, you are part of the problem... let's see if we can help you fix that.

While harm to the consumer should clearly be considered harmful to our industry if you are able to somehow justify that consider this.

Predatory practices and harm to the general public have and will continue to bring regulation and oversight.

Additional regulation and oversight bring complexity, and legal exposure and in general, reduce the opportunities and general efficiency of the industry. By choosing to ( bluntly ) "๐Ÿ’ฉ the ๐Ÿ›๏ธ" you are ensuring that your project, team, company and this industry will grow less, experience higher overhead and be less resistant to future obstacles.

This article will assume you do not actively want to cause harm to others, your self or the industry. Here we will explore various monetization options, and the impact they have on the user, your game and your bottom line. The intent is to help you develop a fair, honest and ethical monetization schema that can deliver benefits to you and your players.

Morality & Legality

A typical argument is that the player is not forced to participate in the game at all much less in its monetization scheme.

... by this same logic, Ponzi schemes and other forms of fraud should be legal.

Attempting to justify whaling or other predatory practices via the justification that some users can afford and do want it is the "High roller" argument.

A High roller is a term from the gaming industry ( gambling ) and refers to a person that plays at higher than normal stakes. Games designed for high rollers are absolutely legitimate forms of entertainment, in the gaming industry where regulations and oversight are in place to ensure fair terms and mitigate harm to the wider public. Introducing the "high roller" concept to video games is the fastest way to ensure government regulation or worse.

The issue with predatory monetization practices is that they have an unacceptably high chance of causing harm to vulnerable persons. What defines "unacceptably high chance" should be clear as a normal functioning human being ... but where it's not, your regulatory boards will inform you all be it too late in most cases and usually with fines & penalties.

In general, you should make every effort to protect vulnerable persons. The simplest way to do so is simply to keep it to morally tenable forms of monetization. Upfront and clear pricing, with a max spend that is clearly identified and reasonable for the product delivered is always the best approach. Avoiding any form of obfuscation in the cost or value of your offerings is critically important yet the easiest thing to get wrong.

More reasons to not suck

While there are plenty who will monetize even in a predatory system and of course a handful of whales can sustain you at least until the lawsuits roll in there are more reasons to not be vile.

Introducing MTX of any kind will always bring a portion of the player base that flames/trolls with the classic "Pay 2 Win", "Cash Grab", etc. etc. line. The more we see actual pay-to-win and cash grabs coupled with increasing reports of little Johnny emptying his mommy's bank account the more your image will tarnish. A simple risk assessment should show you that other options yield similar or even greater potential for profit and lack the stigma and potential regulatory and legal issues.

To quote Unity's CEO ... your a "Fucking Idiot" if you don't consider *ethical* monetization.

But this is how it's done (on mobile )

Just because bad behaviour has been tolerated to date doesn't mean it should continue to be. Frankly, there has been little to no respect or care for mobile since its inception. This allowed truly horrible practices to develop unchecked mostly because no one bothered to look aside from the whales and casuals who don't care. These practices have been however drawing increasingly negative attention to government regulation over the past 20 years accelerating now to changes in law and regulation in many countries in both the East and West.

Government is slow to act yes, but poking that bear is just stupid, please stop.

You should simply avoid these practices because they are harmful to the public. If that doesn't sound right then understand that participating in these practices will only serve to accelerate harsh regulation and is likely to render your product increasingly unfit for distribution in larger and larger markets. The time of predatory monetization isn't quite over but its end is coming and it will bring plenty down with it. Don't get caught up in that, find fair and balanced solutions to monetize your product.

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