Apologies for the lack of updates lately. Kid #2 is mere days away and we’re moving house in a week. Very busy.

I was catching up on my feeds today and decided to buckle down and plow through this interview with Kwari’s Marketing Director. I don’t even know where to begin with Kwari. It’s certainly not “Free to Play” as you can’t so much as fire off a round without first purchasing ammo.

Worse yet, every time you absorb a shot, money is deducted from your account. So when you start the game with nothing but an unloaded gun, you’ll quickly soak up enough bullets to deplete your account by several bucks. At this point you can choose to either stop playing altogether (to save money) or purchase ammo and health in order to stem the tide of cash flowing off your credit card. This is not a compulsion loop, it’s a repulsion loop.

One of the more interesting aspects of this game is how it will avoid being classed as a game of chance (i.e. gambling) and legislated out of existence. Cue giant speech about why they’re a skill-based game:

Al King: It’s absolutely about player skill, and that’s a very important point for us in many ways. With all the changes in legislation as far as poker-related websites are concerned, it was very important to us that we got rid of any elements of chance or randomness and make it a skill-based game. We’ve already been classified as… well, we haven’t been classified as a skill-based activity because there is no such category in the UK where VAT (Value Added Tax, a form of tax applied to all purchased goods levied by most or all European governments) but we haven’t been classified as ‘gambling’ which does have it’s own form of status over there, and that’s a big achievement for us. We’ve also been classified by the banks for credit card use as ‘non-gambling’, so we’re fine in the UK and in the key European territories. When it comes to the USA we basically have to take our case on a state-by-state basis and say ‘Here’s what we are, here’s what we do, we’re being gracious, transparent and responsible about the whole thing.’ Fundamentally we are skill-based, we’re not gambling, but we are subject to the same laws that cover gambling, and so we just need to be patient about the speed we can roll out in North America, but we’re hopeful that we can get running in some key states in the first half of ‘08.

Ironically, after all that, a few paragraphs down Mr. King discusses one of Kwari’s unique features – something called a “Cash Bomb”:

Al King: There’s also another feature – which we know we won’t have ready for launch, but we want to implement it asap – called the ‘Cash Bomb’. It might look a bit like the Pill, we’re not sure yet, but we do know that it will hang around in the game world and maybe move around like a little sentient robot and players will shoot it. The reason why is that after a number of shots, it will explode and all the cash in it will go to the player who scored the shot – it might be $10, $100, or $1000, maybe more. The cash bomb will be completely funded by the shots the players fire into it. So you might be running around the map looking for someone to shoot, and you run across the Bomb, and you reckon ‘It’s only going to cost me a few cents’, so you fire a few rounds into it. And most of the time, nothing will happen, but every now and again someone will get lucky and the bomb will explode, and whoever got it will see coins and bills all floating towards them and their in-game account will go up by a nice chunk.

Hate to nitpick here, but that sounds exactly like a slot machine to me. Not much skill involved in running by, randomly shooting (aka inserting quarters) and hoping the bomb explodes and showers you with cash.

It will be interesting to see where Kwari winds up as a lot of what they’re doing appears antithetical to free to play or even game design principles in general.

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