Peter Molyneux spoke about 22 Cans’ first project, Curiosity, at a Bafta Awards dinner last night, discussing how the game deals with the issues of monetisation and freemium games.
Molyneux recently formed 22 Cans after leaving Microsoft, and has announced the studio will be working on 22 experimental projects leading up to a major game.
Curiosity is a game in which players click on a giant cube containing a hidden object, slowly damaging it. Once destroyed, the cube will reveal its contents, but only to the player who dealt the final blow.
Players can purchase better "chisels", giving them a better chance at being the recipient of the coveted prize.
The most expensive, "diamond chisel", costs £50,000, and virtually guarantees success.
For Molyneux, this isn’t just an experimental game, but an experiment about games themselves and the psychology of monetisation.
GamesIndustry International reports that the legendary designer of Populous, Syndicate, and Themepark spoke in unenthusiastic terms about the "freemium" model of games.
"They’re more like demos with monetisation stuck on the end of them a lot of the time," said Molyneux.
But it’s not all bad for free-to-play, added Molyneux, "If proper monetisation is built in from the ground up – and not designed some producer or some financially driven person – then I think amazing things can happen."
"We, as human beings, love hobbies, we have different hobbies throughout our lives, and we love spending money on our hobbies. We love cooking for people and showing people our gardens. Why can’t we have that thought about a computer game experience? So that people would want to invest money, not just feel compelled, or forced."
This is exactly what Curiosity is aimed at.
"In a way it’s testing the morality of monetisation," said Molyneux.
"A lot of the time games monetise against cheating, if you’re playing in multiplayer. And there is the whole moral issue about getting people addicted and asking for money from them. There are very few checks in place.
"I think that a lot of the people we call whales are kids that have grabbed their parents phones. I know my son has done that."
The unique "diamond chisel" has a £50,000 price tag because it represents a fee Molyneux considers almost impossibly high.
The key word there is "almost", as he pointed out that one player in World of Tanks has spent half a million quid on a single in-game tank. The question is simply about the percieved value of the object hidden inside the cube.
"Well, I know what’s in the middle of the cube. And whoever breaks in there, I promise you this, it is the most amazing thing," said Molyneux.
"It’s a big cube; what’s inside? Only one person will find out, and whether that one person then goes on to tell the rest of the world, I don’t know."