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Daily Archives: November 8, 2016

The Candy Crush of webcomics: 15 years of gettin’ mad over micropayments

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It’s an incident that still spoken in hushed tones around … um … webcomic parts. In 2001, Scott McCloud, he of Understanding Comics, wrote a series of essays about webcomics. It reiterated a series of items that he had introduced in his Reinventing Comics book. Things like the infinite canvas, for example. Basically he was a huge booster of this brave new online world unencumbered by the limitations of print.

So of course he got massive backlash over his segment on micropayments.

If I told you right now that the next installment of ICST was going to be $2.50 and you had to give me your credit card number and fill out a form, you’d be out of here so fast it’d make my little cartoon head spin! On the other hand, if the price was 25 cents and it only took a click or two to pay, the answer might be somewhat different! Making suck small payments practical, with low transaction fees for the vendor, and a secure transparent interface for the user, has been at the heart of the idea known as “micropayments” for several years.

The response was merciless and brutal, with everyone from Jon Rosenberg to Scott Kurtz weighing in. (“You’re only telling us what we already know. You’re no guru; you just get better press than the rest of us,” says Kurtz.)  One of the more civil responses came from the Penny Arcade guys… and it’s plenty salty.

I consider myself to be, at my core, an idealist – are you surprised? But this guy’s take on human nature is spun from pure fancy. He imagines that other people – in fact, that everyone – would gladly pay for things if given the chance to do so. That is demonstrably, empirically false – most especially so on the Internet, and most damningly so where content is concerned. But the final strike against his assertions is the most telling: that for all his pirouette, for all his flash and show, the very foundation of his argument – namely, the sub-dollar transactions called micropayments – do not exist. They are not real.

— Jerry Holkins, Penny Arcade, 2001

Perhaps this was right back in 2001, before the iPhone stormed the market. Ultimately though, was Scott McCloud actually right?

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