'Big Pharma' seems to propose a moral dilemma to it's players: Going for the cash or contributing to humanity?
I’m looking to explore is the fact that the most important cures aren’t necessarily the ones that will make a lot of profit. If you only had space on your factory floor for one, which would you produce?
It's not the first time economic goals and moral choices face off in a game. For example, in 'Papers, Please', the player can choose to help some people at the expense of damaging the personal economy and family health, but rewards come in form of new content and alternate endings. And the player finds enjoyment and value in that.
Creating rewards for economic goals in a game is something quite easy and straightforward. You can just rely on the quantitative data. When playing by moral ideals in a economic driven game the most likely is that the goals will not be fulfilled. Rewarding morally good choices may be beyond the scope of an economic system. A completely different dimension should come into play with rewards that are qualitative, than can come in the form of small side stories and other life-like, emotion-filled details.
There is also the possibility that the presence of the moral choice is a way to patronize or deliver a message. In that case the absence or multidimensional rewards would be even worse as the player will simply feel tricked by the game. There is no way of being the nice guy and also progressing successfully in the game. If that's the case, better to leave morality out of the mechanics.
Another game that comes to my mind is "JFK: Reloaded". This game is more about reaching moral and critical conclusions than making moral choices but it handles beautifully with delivering a message through player failure. "The player is scored on how closely one's version of the assassination [of JFK] matches the report of the Warren Commission. Thus running the world’s first mass-participation forensic construction". Some people consider the game states there may be something missing in the official report since matching the exact conditions has not been achieved by any player. "Maximum points are 1000. In the competition highest registered points were 784."
The player needs to feel a sense of progress and accomplishment either by unlocking content, watching a score getting closer to an impossible goal or feeling a connection with real life through details. The designer has ultimate power for "winning the argument". But with great power comes great responsibility. If the player is not enjoying the game or not being able to express herself in the game. She will simply leave it.
That said, I would love to see 'Big Pharma' exploring this subject thoroughly as I think it can become a great design and marketing asset for the game.
So, answering Tim: