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Do you hate the NHS?

By on June 25, 2014
Mannerheim League for Child Welfare clinic in Jämsänkoski 1938, public domain image.

This is an installment in Mark Sorrell’s regular guest post series. See the full series.

I just got back from Finland. It was the Pocket Gamer Connects conference in Helsinki and, since Finland is the Graceland of F2P in Europe, I felt a longing in my soul to go there and do a talk about behavioural economics. So I did. It was rad and exciting and interesting and l made some new pals and everything.

It also turns out that Finland is really lovely. It’s clean and crisp and refreshing, like a good white wine, except it’s a country. Mostly, it consists of fir trees and lakes and shops that sell furniture so intelligently designed that Richard Dawkins refuses to acknowledge its existence. You should definitely go there.

Finland is a social democracy. Taxes are high, and public services are comprehensive and egalitarian. Levels of gender equality are among the highest in the world. Child poverty is at only 4%. By comparison, in the US it’s 22%. Finland is consistently at the top of leaderboards for standard of living and education and being lovely and everything.

It’s not hard to see why a country like Finland, that prides itself on the quality of its society, on its fairness, would also understand the free to play model. Give the people what they need. Sell them what they want. That’s the basis of social democracy, after all. And it’s the basis of the free to play model. It’s not communism, it’s not about everyone being the same. It’s not about neoliberal capitalism, about removing the safety net, letting the folks at the bottom live on whatever might happen to trickle down. It’s about giving everyone what they need and letting them work for what they want.

By comparison, the traditional retail model, the one-price-fits-all model has far more in common with traditional capitalism, red in tooth and claw. For free, you get nothing. You pay for every tiny sliver of content. It’s privatised, it’s exclusive, it’s for the privileged. The fact that it’s a less efficient way of getting people to pay for something is just a deliciously ironic bonbon on top.

For an example closer to (my) home, the NHS is a free to play model. You will get that operation you need eventually, regardless of who you are. If you want to pay, and are able, then you can skip the queue. But you don’t have to. Sure, if you want some elective, optional, cosmetic services than you have to pay either way. But the point remains, here’s what you need. Work for what you want. The NHS is free to play. US healthcare is the retail, boxed, pay up-front model. Fuck you, pay me.

What this basically means is that if you like the NHS then you like free-to-play. If you prefer US style healthcare, you prefer the retail model. It suddenly seems odd to describe free-to-play as greedy, doesn’t it?

About Mark Sorrell

Mark Sorrell is a consultant and advisor on freemium game design, behavioural change, value perception and strategy. With over a decade of experience in making games do new things, in new places, for new audiences, for companies across gaming, broadcasting, advertising and finance, if you want to know how games can help your business, start by asking Mark.