The free-to-play video game business model depends on the deep addiction of people like Chris, who spent his entire savings playing a game that most people play for zero dollars. These people also known as "whales" single handedly support the business model of games like Team Fortress 2, which sell themselves as "free" games but charge for extras — just like Candy Crush Saga or Tap Fish, as documented by The Daily Show. Spending money, from $20 to $5,000, in these games is easy, as chronicled by various addicts. But in a gripping, detailed account from Gamasutra's Mike Rose raises a question for those making these addictive casual games: is it unethical?
Rose spoke with various "whales" he found who had spent more than their means on free games "I'm in a position where I'm living paycheck to paycheck for the moment as the result of that spending -- beyond incurring overdraft for my rent (for a few months in a row starting in January this year and a couple other scattered times)," said one gamer, Kyle.
The spending sounds like its tied to some sort of addiction — for these people it's not about winning, per se. Kyle, for example, was hoping to get a certain "keys" in the hopes of getting a specific, "unusual" item that he just liked. Chris said he did it just to "feel a bit richer" than I really am. "I might have an older car and a bit of a run down apartment, but online I've got all this nice swag that lots of people aren't willing to spend on. It's a nice way to make yourself feel special."