David Edery, CEO of Triple Town developer Spry Fox, recognises that one of social game development's biggest challenges is making players want to continue playing, and paying, for a game without becoming addicted.
In an interview, we pointed out to Edery that a user review referenced in the the App Store description of iOS Triple Town emphasised its addictive qualities, and asked if the notion of social games locking players into monetised compulsion loops was something with which he was comfortable.
"I've never been particularly fond of the word 'addictive' in this context," he said, "but at the same time, I'm not sure I see the distinction between this and golfing or any sport that's expensive to play. You hear it all the time – 'I'm addicted to baseball, to football, to whatever.' To pursue their hobby, they spend ongoing sums of money.
"The way I see it, if we're making a game for you, that you enjoy and play all the time, we don't feel terrible about the fact you might be giving us a few bucks every week or month to enjoy it. If it's bringing that enjoyment, it doesn't seem that unfair to ask for money in return."
The comparison between social gamers and slot machine addicts was made at last year's GDC by Daniel James, CEO of Puzzle Pirates developer Three Rings, who admitted that some social game mechanics "open up some very real ethical concerns … If you look at a row of people putting money into slot machines, they're not really smiling." Edery agrees, but insists it's something Spry Fox is careful to avoid.
"What we don't want is the image of the person half asleep in front of the slot machine pulling the lever over and over," he said. "We don't want to create the kind of experiences that turn people into that.
"And I think you can see from our games that we don't; we try to make games that stimulate your mind, and we're moving into multiplayer games so we want to make games that relate people to each other – that's where Panda Poet came from.
"We try to push in that direction, and stay as far from the slot machine as possible."
Last week we published a two-part interview with Edery, in which we discussed the pernicious effects of cloning on indie creativity, the studio's publishing deal with Playdom, the importance of indie developers to social networks, and much more besides. You can read part one here, or click here for the second part.