Do you really need their e-mail address?

A Typical Registration Screen

It’s happened to all of us. You visit a website and try to get somewhere that looks interesting, and suddenly you see a “Whoops, you need to be logged in to see this!”. So you click on the register button, and you get the standard registration form: username, password, password confirm, and e-mail address.

As someone building a game, you will eventually have to answer the question: do you really need their e-mail address?

A lot of people justify needing a unique e-mail address by using the logic of “everyone else does it, so I will too” – but that’s wrong. Requiring a user’s e-mail address so that they can register is a bad idea unless you actually need it.

When do you need a user’s e-mail address? When having multiple characters for the same player would seriously distort the game – and that’s about the only time. In virtually all other cases, you do not actually need a user’s e-mail address.

Will it hurt you to ask a user for their e-mail address? Not really – but it tends to aggravate users if their e-mail isn’t actually needed to play the game – and in a lot of cases, the more tech-savvy users(and therefore more likely to try and register multiple accounts) will just use a temporary e-mail service like mintemail to provide you with a temporary e-mail address and make sure they don’t get spammed.

Even in the case of multiple accounts distorting play, you don’t really users to have unique e-mail addresses – you just need to do a bit more checking to make sure that two characters aren’t cooperating too much. How you define that is up to you – but as long as you have something in place to allow you to track which players interact with which other players and how much cooperation is going on between two specific characters, you’re fine without e-mail addresses.

There are sure to be some false positives using the above system. But no matter what you do, you cannot prevent someone from cheating if their mind is set firmly enough on it. That’s it. They’ll make temporary e-mails, they’ll create multitudes of characters, and they’ll find creative ways around everything you throw at them.

So do you really need users to give you their e-mail addresses? Think long and hard about it – because chances are, you don’t.

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Luke is the primary editor of Building Browsergames, and has written a large portion of the articles that you read here. He generally has no idea what to say when asked to write about himself in the third person.

Thursday, May 8th, 2008 design, frustrations
  • dragolux

    The only big reason I can think of for needing an email address is for recovering passwords. This is pretty important for a lot of people.

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Building Browsergames is a blog about browsergames(also known as PBBG's). It's geared towards the beginner to intermediate developer who has an interest in building their own browsergame.

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