Monument Valley subject to paid expansion pack backlash (Wired UK)


The beautiful puzzle game was downvoted into
oblivion for daring to ask players for payment

© 2014

Picture this: you’re UK developer Ustwo. You make a hauntingly
beautiful puzzle game for mobile, blending minimalist visuals with
a gentle narrative. It earns rave
reviews, so you launch an expansion. Expecting at least a warm
reception, it instead gets bombarded with one-star reviews because
you dared to charge money for your work.

This is the fate that befell Monument Valley, and
its Forgotten Shores  expansion that launched
yesterday. The core game will set you back £2.49, while the add-on
is £1.49. Hardly bank-breaking but within hours, the game’s
reputation lay in tatters as the internet raged full force against
the non-freemium pricing model. It’s the dark side of mobile game
development, where anything priced above zero is seen as a rip off,
yet consumers constantly demand more content.

“What we’ve seen since launch has been a huge positive reaction,
but initially there was a strong negative reaction,” Ustwo’s Neil
McFarland told “It seems that it’s an issue for
developers and the whole games industry that people react in this
way. A lot of it is based on the fact that players have come to
expect a lot for very little, or for free. That’s what the industry
has lead a lot of people to believe is the case but simple
economics would suggest that that’s not a highly sustainable model.
You can’t be expected to give everything away for free,

Ustwo themselves highlighted the campaign of negativity, tweeting
it “seems quite a few people have gone back and 1 star
reviewed Monument Valley  upon update because the
expansion was paid. This makes us sad.”

Part of the problem is that many of the votes were entirely
reactionary, rather than evaluating the new content or the product
as a whole. “When you think about what people are doing there, they
often haven’t even played the game,” says McFarland. “It’s not any
reflection on the quality of what we’ve been doing, it’s just a
reaction to the pricing model. It’s interesting that they would do
that though; it’s more of their perception of value.”

The game’s rating on iTunes has now bounced back to a much
fairer four stars, but the aggressive tactics and the concerted
effort taken by those earlier negative voters has still left its
mark. “It’s sad because we’re all involved in this industry and
that’s not a great signpost for it,” McFarland says. “But we don’t
feel bad, or that we’ve misled anyone or let them down.”

Besides the depressing reminder of how a loud contingent can
ruin something beautiful in games, some good has come from the
situation, with Monument Valley finding a different player
base. “I think some people now just want a good game, they don’t
want to be spammed [by microtransactions],” adds McFarland. “They
just want to get the content. It’s strange that we even have to
talk about it like this but there are people who are willing to pay
for something that they then go and enjoy.”

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14 November 2014 | 5:41 pm – Source:


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