There's a word that sends shivers down my spine. Monetization. Not because of the principle- for many of us game development is also our only source of income and we need to eat, which means we all need some form of monetization in our lives. No, I dislike the word because of the kind of people that use it.
Easyjet is one of many budget airlines in the UK that advertise things such as 'Amsterdam for only 50p!!!!'. Cool. You click on the bit that says 'yes please', and go to the next screen. Here they tell you that they need to add on airport tax. And fuel tax. And BWC tax**. Luggage allowance. What's that, your luggage is larger than a grapefruit? Add an extra baggage charge. Why not pay extra for priority boarding? We've overbooked your flight, so it's the only way you can guarantee you won't be duct-taped to the wing for the duration of the journey. The final checkout is closer to £80. Now that is still a good price- it's certainly cheaper than travelling to a town 3 miles away with Satan's personal rail-road company 'East Midland Trains'. But they said that it costs 50p, KNOWING DAMN WELL THAT IT DOESN'T.
For me, THAT is what monetization insinuates. It is a buzzword used by corporate money-grabbing types, like 'leveraging', 'synergy', and 'mortgage backed securities'.
In-app purchases or DownLoadable Content can be wonderful things, providing new or optional experiences for a small fee. The players get something fun, and over time the developer earns that much needed extra £79.50. Many devs use these frameworks legitimately in the spirit that they were intended***. It needs pointing out that I fully support the proper use of these frameworks- but then people that use them properly don't use the word 'monetization'.
The big companies that lock EXISTING content on the game that you just bought and then force you to pay them AGAIN in order to unlock it? They use the 'M' word. There are first-person shooters that stone-cold charge you to unlock different skins for your weapons. You pay them in order to color your gun in a shade of red. CoD: World at War featured a fun extra zombie mode for free- CoD: Black Ops released the same mode two years later as a $15 add-on. (Cracked did a great article on this kind of abuse: http://www.cracked.com/blog/the-10-most-insulting-things-video-games-charged-money-for/).
Perhaps a dev might release a free version of a game, with the option to pay for further episodes. That's a great idea, it gives the player control over how much they spend and how much they play. That's great.
But then there are armies of soulless development houses abusing that idea, by marketing their game as free- free that is, until the first boss who can't be beaten unless you pay for an certain weapon using DLC. Fine, it's only small change. Then the same happens on the next boss. And the next. You can technically level-up yourself, but it would take an unreasonable 5-6 hours of grinding.... or you can just pay them for an item that does it instantly. Before you know it, you've paid the same as a full-price title and only got a few hours gameplay in return. That isn't the same as legitimately making additional chapters DLC as advertised up-front. But you didn't need to buy the DLC they shout! It's optional! No, it isn't. Technically possible to proceed without it does not equal reasonably possible.
This practice is dishonest and manipulative. This is what the word 'monetization' conjures up in my head. There's another word for it- lying. I have a third word for it, but nobody what's to hear it.
It's personally galling with my own game 'Fall of Angels'. For half the price of a frappuccino, it provides 10-15 hours of gameplay, which is fair. But in the app store, it's sandwiched between mass produced games by big publishers that all say FREE next to them. Sure, it costs you twice as much as Fall just to get an hour into the game, but by then it's too late- any game with a small genuine price tag already looks costly next to the dishonest 'FREE' labels. Yes, I could do the same and lie to my players about the real cost of playing, but I don't want to. And I shouldn't have to.
There are plenty of people- mostly indie devs of course- that use these frameworks in a positive, honest way. Please understand that I'm not lumping them in with the money-grabbers. To them, I salute you. To the money-grabbers that abuse the system in order to cheat their players out of cash- congratulations, you've soiled the word monetization and you're taking the East Midlands train directly to hell.
* It pleases me to find that my spell checker doesn't consider 'leveraging' to be a real word. Neither do I my friend. Neither do I.
** BWC tax is a British tax that stands for 'Because we can'. It's put on things arbitrarily when a minister needs a new Mercedes.
*** Let's give the likes of Microsoft and Apple the benefit of the doubt and assume that they had good intentions when they unleashed these frameworks on unsuspecting gamers.