I came across a couple excellent articles on Gamasutra which I want to share here. The first, "Contrivance and Extortion: In-App Purchases & Microtransactions" is by Adam Saltsman, creator of Canabalt, among other games. He argues that in-app purchases and so-called microtransactions are being abused by some game developers, "deliberately contriving their designs in the worst way in order to extort money from players, which is unethical and unacceptable design practice." I'll lay my cards on the table and say that I am in complete agreement with Adam. As he does in his explanatory follow-up, I acknowledge that there are benefits to the "freemium" model, but the techniques commonly associated with that model are often used in a cynical, manipulative and profit-driven manner which I feel is harmful to consumers and the industry. Whether or not you agree, Adam's thoughts on the subject are certainly worth reading.
"Radical Plagiarism: The Ethical Lessons of the Gamenauts Controversy," by Evan Jones, is equally thought-provoking. Evan recounts the cloning of the indie game Radical Fishing by the more established indie studio Gamenauts, and adds his perspective on the cultural impact of the rampant cloning that takes place on mobile app stores. Returning readers may recall that I've previously defended the practice of cloning games. My defense excluded the cloning of smaller titles by established studios, which I've always viewed as morally questionable at best, but Evan's article nevertheless gave me pause. He provides a strong counterpoint to my own thinking on the matter, and while I'm not yet ready to reverse my position, his argument has undeniable weight. If you're at all interested in game development, both articles are well worth your time.