Stealth pay marketing sucks. June 19, 2008 2:41 AM   Subscribe

Can we get a policy to discourage the pimping of "stealth pay" games here on Metafilter?

We have recently seen this and this on the front page. Both of these sites seem to offer free online gaming fun, only to ask for money after leading you on to sign up and / or start playing.

I think this is a really sleazy way of promoting a business, and it is something we shouldn't be facillitating here. I wonder if the posters didn't actually play through long enough to find that they were only seeing a demo, and everything else was behind a pay wall? Or even worse, that they knew the site was wanting our money, but presented it on the blue as a free game anyways?

I know not everything on the Internet is free. Just don't pretend something is free that isn't. And if that's your marketing model, the people of Metafilter should say "blow me" to those sites.
posted by Meatbomb to Etiquette/Policy at 2:41 AM (53 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

As one of those posters:

My apologies for posting a game that has a 'pro' version, but I'm not a paying player of that game, and have quite enjoyed playing the quite playable free version. I didn't consider it a 'stealth pay' game, and wouldn't have posted it if I did - it's fairly upfront about the difference between the free and pro versions. But whatever - let the discussion begin.
posted by pompomtom at 2:59 AM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


After pondering a bit, I believe that any site with an obvious profit motive needs to be thought about carefully before putting on MeFi's front page. If you're posting something that's not completely there unless users pay for it, you should think long and hard before pushing the button. Then, if you decide to do so, think long and hard some more. Are you really sure that the free version is worth an FPP? All by itself? If it isn't, if it's only the pay game that's worth the post, think about it some more. Is it really the best of the web?

If so, well, go ahead and post it.

As an example, I don't know if Aquaria was ever on the front page, but I'd think it would be entirely worthy. It has a free demo that's genuinely fun and very beautiful, and then has a pay version if you want the full game. It's a small indie outfit that hasn't really done any promotion, and that's the sort of gorgeous game that I think should be encouraged. Does the demo stand on its own as an FPP? I tend to think so; it's just such a lovely thing that I believe it's worth seeing purely on its own merits.

I can't, offhand, think of a good counterexample, a game that should definitely not be posted, but I imagine there will be plenty of ideas in the comments following.

I haven't looked at the specific games you mention, precisely because of the payware issues. I haven't played them and don't know if they're worthy or not. I'm just trying to clarify my own thoughts on the matter. What kind of games would I, myself, post?

The above is the overall thought process I'd go through. A free game that made me say, "ooh, neat!" would easily qualify. A pay game, on the other hand, would have to be impressive to rate a post.
posted by Malor at 3:23 AM on June 19, 2008


How deeply does that extend? Kingdom of Loathing is free but makes its cash by selling stuff, would that count?
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:38 AM on June 19, 2008


MetaFilter is free to read, but makes money if you want to post idiotic MetaTalk threads. Stealth pay site alert!
posted by Plutor at 3:46 AM on June 19, 2008 [6 favorites]


I'd say the level of tolerability increases with the level of disclosure. That is, an FPP that says "Hey try this free game!" then links to a stealth-pay game isn't too cool. An FPP that says, "Hey, check out this free demo that's a lot of fun. Full version available for a fee!" is a little better.

That said, I'm not wild about FPPs you gotta pay for in general. But that might have more to do w/ my own foibles, as I get kinda irked at FPPs I gotta register elsewhere to absorb or Newsfilter posts that only show up for subscribers to the linked paper. Kind of a drag, especially if the description on the Blue sounded exciting.

That's my pair of pennies, anyway.
posted by EatTheWeak at 3:47 AM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think you've summed up my feelings on the subject too there, EatTheWeak. So long as it's not presented disingenuously, it's fine if not ideal.
posted by Abiezer at 4:06 AM on June 19, 2008


After pondering a bit, I believe that any site with an obvious profit motive needs to be thought about carefully before putting on MeFi's front page.

The problem is: What's obvious? What was blatantly obvious to me about another post's profit motive awhile back was not obvious to a few others, for example.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:12 AM on June 19, 2008


I believe that any site with an obvious profit motive needs to be thought about carefully before putting on MeFi's front page.

CNN has an obvious profit motive.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:23 AM on June 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


Agreed. I hate sites that offer only a limited range of options for free and then hit you up for a payment if you really like it and want to enjoy the entire thing.

Worst fucking five bucks I ever spent, man.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:49 AM on June 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


I agree. Any site with advertising should be banned too. Sites with paid staff: banned. Sites involved in commercial transactions: banned. Sites selling stuff: banned.

Sites we should allow: Cooperative agriculture resources. Communes. Sites promoting the glorious people's revolution. Sites focused on hemp. Sites written in 1997. Your site.

and I could really use a site that would help me reduce my sarcasm and snark, so that would be ok too.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:28 AM on June 19, 2008


This idea would prevent us from ever linking to Flickr or to the websites for the NY Times, The Guardian, The Globe and Mail, LA Times, or any other print publication, no matter how free the content on their websites are. MetaFilter also takes advantage of Feedburner for some (all?) RSS feed stuff, which charges for some features. And don't get me started on fmpub.

If a website is providing X for free and Y for money, we need to explicitly list Y in the post in order to keep from seeming fishy, even if we are only linking to X? I'd like to think that most rational surfers assume that a large percentage of web sites pay for their web hosting, and many times that's by offering certain services for free and others for a fee.
posted by Plutor at 5:48 AM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


And now for a fun and quick game of spot the IT employees! (Freeware, but you may pay a price anyway if you choose to engage.)
posted by h00py at 5:51 AM on June 19, 2008


Maybe people could flag - either in the tags, main post or description - when it's a paying deal? And then, if they don't we could kill the first born male in the their families retroactively edit the posts to say "this is a service you have to pay for." Or something. Also, something to do with tags. And the FAQ.
posted by Jofus at 5:51 AM on June 19, 2008


Look, I am not trying to bring about the anarcho-syndicalist utopia (here in this post), I just think if a game is not free to play, there should be warnings to that effect in the FPP. I shouldn't have to go, sign up, give out my email, only to discover it isn't actually free, I just get a little preview before I decide to pay.

EatTheWeak puts it well.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:52 AM on June 19, 2008


I am not trying to bring about the anarcho-syndicalist utopia (here in this post)
Comrade, we carry a new world here, in our hearts. That world is growing this minute, and in this very post.
posted by Abiezer at 6:04 AM on June 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


You just lost The Game.
posted by Balisong at 6:27 AM on June 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


I am not trying to bring about the anarcho-syndicalist utopia

I am. I think we should discourage posts where the cool thing to see in the post isn't free (as in love).

EatTheWeak sums up my feelings as well.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:32 AM on June 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm an enormous scab who take take takes from the internet and only gives back with my completely uninterested pageviews, so if asked to provide credit card details I usually just go plah! and hit that friendly left-pointing arrow right up there.

So maybe EatTheWeak and Meatbomb are right in asking for more disclosure if a link requires actual effort and/or money to view. That's not too much to ask for. Letting people know that they're going to have to actually fork out cash to access the guts of an FPP is probably a good thing to let people know about.

It should be more a matter of manners than legislation though, I think.
posted by h00py at 6:49 AM on June 19, 2008


Given the discussion, could some mod please delete my post, with my apologies?
posted by pompomtom at 6:58 AM on June 19, 2008


There's always a landlord somewhere
there's always some rent to pay
another little disaster
each and every day
each and every day.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:04 AM on June 19, 2008


What EatTheWeak said—disclose, disclose, disclose. And some of what Malor said, too: there's some onus on the poster to think about this stuff, there is not now and doubtful ever will be a clear bright line on some of these things.

If a website is providing X for free and Y for money, we need to explicitly list Y in the post in order to keep from seeming fishy, even if we are only linking to X?

I'd say that if what you're presenting is X, and X is interesting and doesn't try to direct the reader to Y, then Y isn't much of an issue and so there's no big deal about fishiness. So the Flickr and NYT examples aren't a big deal if the poster is linking to a wholly-free photoset on Flickr or a non-paywalled article on NYT. The shareware-redux "the first nibble is free" model of a demo + pay prompt isn't nearly so clearcut, and if the site/game itself isn't going to disclose it up front, it'd be good if at the minimum the poster would.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:12 AM on June 19, 2008


I believe that any site with an obvious profit motive needs to be thought about carefully before putting on MeFi's front page.

CNN has an obvious profit motive.


Q.E.D.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:13 AM on June 19, 2008


pompomtom, ok.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:13 AM on June 19, 2008


EatTheWeak has the correct answer.

The amount of explanation required in the post can also be greatly reduced if the site itself is upfront about what your experience is going to be with it.

I think anyone posting an FPP should be expected to have spent enough time on the target site to know the tricks, quirks & twists a particular destination might have.
posted by Bokononist at 7:47 AM on June 19, 2008


Along this line is sites that require registration to read the content. There have been a few of these lately and it's really annoying. If you can't find a registration free link for your newsfilter just skip it.
posted by Mitheral at 8:19 AM on June 19, 2008


h00py : I'm an enormous scab

*picks at h00py*


Like EatTheWeek, I don't think things should be linked if it only contains a pay-for content. I don't mind if there is pay-for also, as long as the free content is compelling on it's own.
posted by quin at 8:53 AM on June 19, 2008


I apologize. I'd played the demo previously (when the full game wasn't even available for purchase yet), but had not replayed the "full version" download through to where the original demo cut off. In my defence, I did have something of a disclaimer to that effect.
posted by juv3nal at 9:44 AM on June 19, 2008


You just won The Game.
posted by Pronoiac at 9:45 AM on June 19, 2008


I am not trying to bring about the anarcho-syndicalist utopia (here in this post)
...
Comrade, we carry a new world here, in our hearts. That world is growing this minute, and in this very post.
...
I am.


You guys call me up when you get this thing up and running. I have several useful skills and a great disdain for the profit motive.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:13 AM on June 19, 2008


Curse you Pronoiac. Beat me to it.
posted by Caduceus at 10:21 AM on June 19, 2008


Too little, too late. Some internet darling really needs to followup with "so it's OVER now! Everybody can stop playing, immediately, for good! Yes! Congratulations! You got the high score! Whee! Now quit! Violators will be shot!"
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:23 AM on June 19, 2008


I have several useful skills and a great disdain for the profit motive.

Good start. Work on the unconditional love in your heart in the meantime and call us when the time is right.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:32 AM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


FWIW I dug Quadradius, and even payed the fee for the pro version before deciding that actually I didn’t like the features it added, so I guess I don’t have a problem with this kind of thing so long as the free game is good. I’m not sure that cracking down on posts that may cause people to lay out money for something somewhere down the line is really a productive endeavour.
posted by Artw at 11:04 AM on June 19, 2008


Work on the unconditional love in your heart

I tried that about 3 years ago and pretty much failed due to jerks. Would a strong, internalized morality along with a great deal of conditional love be good enough for provisional status?
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:45 AM on June 19, 2008


Would a strong, internalized morality along with a great deal of conditional love be good enough for provisional status?

You know the answer to this.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:15 PM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I remember reading an analysis of The Game, & there was a very meta reading in which you could even have a conversation about it without losing it - I think semiotics were involved.

Cortex: "Violators will be shot!"
Who do you picture saying that, Marshall Law or Judge Dredd?
posted by Pronoiac at 12:29 PM on June 19, 2008


I was thinking Jesse Ventura circa Predator, but wearing a Topato t-shirt.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:30 PM on June 19, 2008


Hey Jessamyn, I think you missed a cooter reset yesterday. I can't remember the thread, but I'm pretty sure I saw one.
posted by inigo2 at 1:32 PM on June 19, 2008


Hey Jessamyn, I think you missed a cooter reset yesterday.

Wow...um... too much information. Please use MefiMail to discuss embarrassing medical conditions. TIA.
posted by dersins at 1:59 PM on June 19, 2008


ARGH I JUST LOST THE GAME TWICE
posted by loquacious at 2:32 PM on June 19, 2008


cortex: With the gatling gun? That works.

inigo2: There's no danger whatsoever of it happening soon. I'd collate them on the wiki, but I want to format the text nicely. And I'm not sure if anyone else is watching the recent changes list - is everything supposed to go on the main page?

Mental note: At the next SF meetup, make a mask with "you just lost the game" on the back of it for loquacious.
posted by Pronoiac at 3:16 PM on June 19, 2008


I can't remember the thread, but I'm pretty sure I saw one.

The surprise of seeing an out-and-proud masochistic zoophile discussing their fantasies here on Metafilter meant that this stuck in my head.

It was in the Ferret Legging thread.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:22 AM on June 20, 2008


I was brain dead when I got up this afternoon. Collating the cooter countdown resets made sense then.

It's on the wiki now.

I counted 42 - forty-two! - resets. Since December 30.

I probably missed some, but I've got "The Final Countdown" stuck in my head, so I'm stopping now.
posted by Pronoiac at 5:39 PM on June 21, 2008


It's on the wiki now.

Wow.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:53 PM on June 21, 2008


It's amazing how many people have multiple resets.
posted by Mitheral at 7:42 PM on June 21, 2008


Hey, nice link there, Mitheral. I'd hit it.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:59 PM on June 21, 2008


Tomorrow I'll dump the few I have that the wiki list is missing and shut down my own partial list.

Did I mention that YOU ALL FAIL IT where IT is bets, with a special shout out to Ambrosia Voyeur, not_on_display, and Astro Zombie?

Also, jessamyn certainly may not reset the counter herself. No rigorous rules have been defined, but this must certainly be one.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:19 PM on June 21, 2008


Though, especially important as a rule as it may come up, we haven't quite decided how to count 30 days. I propose 720 hours or else come up with a count based on EST.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:21 PM on June 21, 2008


Thanks for the cleanup & additions, Mitheral. I ran out of steam on formatting. In the mornng this will probably be funny again instead of depressing, but right now, TOCT's label of "Chronicle of Failure" seems fitting.

TOCT: Ooh, nice list. I knew I wasn't treading new ground, but I could not find it. Profile pages aren't indexed.

Didn't mathowie establish that it's all about the West Coast timezone?
posted by Pronoiac at 12:03 AM on June 22, 2008


Things that live in EST:

Me.
Jessamyn.
A plurality of the US population.
NYC (Practical center of the world.)
Washington DC (Political center of the US/world.)
Montreal (EST is more multilingual.)
Ottawa (Political center of Canada.)


PST:

SF. (Hippies and stoners.)
Seattle. (Hippies and stoners.)
Vancouver. (Stoners.) (Hippies? Never been.)

And it's not like EST is short on hippies and stoners either, so there's no advantage at all.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 4:05 AM on June 22, 2008


You forgot a couple things:

Portland. (Awesome. Fuck you.)
Voodoo Doughnut. (Yes.)
A plurality of banning-you-for-insubordination administrative power.
Bacon. (I'm going to the store to get some for breakfast.)
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:53 AM on June 22, 2008


jessamyn certainly may not reset the counter herself.

- not_on_display can't either, not anymore.
- I am not updating that wiki page, I just think it's neat. [someone can add f@m's, from above]
- I usually don't count 30 days I just do "this day next month" from whatever day I see it, because otherwise its too complicated. Anyone wants to "improve" on this be my guest.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:12 PM on June 22, 2008


- I usually don't count 30 days I just do "this day next month" from whatever day I see it, because otherwise its too complicated. Anyone wants to "improve" on this be my guest.

That's really a whole mess and I was just going to wait for an unimpeachable 31 days before calling anything out. In the unlikely event that an ambiguous situation develops a call for community consensus would be necessary.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:22 PM on June 22, 2008


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