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The Question

By Dave Flodine, on August 26, 2013
Last modified 8 months ago

Hello there loyal Appspy readers! It’s another Monday and it’s time for another question.

We’re going to go for a broad topic again this week. Last week I asked about pricing to gauge the general consensus of value our audience has in regards to iOS games. This week we’re going to discuss those games that at least initially offer no monetary barrier.

Yes, the question this week is: What is your opinion on free to play gaming?

This covers the gamut. You can talk about games that use free to play as a demo (having the full game be unlocked for a fee), you can talk about free games that are supported by advertising, or you can talk about the freemium model of game design. All I ask is that if you have negative opinions of any practises, to keep your criticisms civil.

I think this is going to be our most interesting discussion to date. I look forward to your answers, and on Friday I’ll let you know what I think! Enjoy your week in the meantime.


Comments

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DarkScience 7 months, 3 weeks ago

I have never played a FTP game for very long, they make you feel like you have a shell of a game and you will never have the whole game unless your pockets are endless!

I dont mind games so much where you can buy extra content - ie tracks or help bots on block fortress, but I hate games that leave you stuck unless you invest - real racing for example.

I would much rather pay for the full content and own it! It always lowers my impression of a developer when they go free to play - I think developers that are 'real' gamers would never do that.

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MJSpencer34 8 months ago

I would rather pay up front for my game know that I'll get X number of levels with Y number of unlocks eg Bastion I hate pay to win and IAPs to the point where I have never made an in app purchase cause I never think its worth the money. I'm a cheapskate and just wait until you guys let me know that an app is free or 69p. What I don't mind is ads cause this isn't gamers money or game creators money that is being spent so that's fine.

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Djrella659 8 months ago

I'm all for Free-to-Play gaming, so long as there isn't a bombardment of IAPs or Ads, or it's based on the 'Pay to win' model like what's been done with so many games recently...

Plants VS Zombies 2 is the most recent example of this. I was so looking forward to paying for another Premium game, but was instead met with a free pay-to-win-model game... It ruined it for me.

I think there was actually a time when free gaming was really good, with games like... Well... Never. xD

It's unfortunate, though. The only real time free gaming is any good is when it's a premium game gone free for a day., and it's a shame. The only reasonable free games are endless runners like Subway Surfers and city-builders like Clash of Clans. However, these two models are a quick-fix type and a 'set it and forget it' type, and is also the base for copycat games, which is not the (entire) point of gaming.

Now that I think about it, there are SOME worthwhile free games these days: Zenonia 3 (kinda), Brothers in Arms 2, and the MMORPG Celtic Heroes. But.. These are only three games out of thousands.. Dozens of thousands..

It's sad, really, that game developers are being so greedy via IAPs or obnoxious with in-game ads.. I can tolerate one ad upon starting the game, but after that it just gets ridiculous.

I'm waiting for the day when IAPs and in-game ads no longer exist in games... Or that we just cut out the middle man, get rid of freemium games altogether, cut every premium game to a price tag of $1.99 (minimum) and call it a day.

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Chesco 8 months ago

Free To Play is a revolutionary idea - IF it is ad based.
If it is pay to win/in-app purchases, then I boycott. Nobody wants to play an incomplete game, and im not going to get hustled out of money to complete it.

Just make one amazing complete game, sell for $.99, with no inapp purchaese, like Angry Birds did and watch the money roll in over time. No bullshit = happy customers. And the more customers you have, the more sales you'll increase by people telling others about it. $.99 for a mobile game is fair, fun & exciting to consumers.

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istako 8 months ago

Thanks to Taekon for reminding me, the fourth, dreaded, type - pay-to-win. Every real gamer hates this, understandably. Some time ago models like these had spread like wildfire across all of gaming (special thanks to Bobby Kotick and EA for that), but I think things have calmed down a lot since then, for good reason. One of the few occasions gamers everywhere stood up for themselves.

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Taekon 8 months ago

To echo istako's opinion, I dislike the free-to-download but pay-to-win, or even pay-to-play. Although the term's been thrown around like crazy everywhere, but games with that kind of model is what I'd call cash-grabs. These games were designed specifically with money-making intentions as the top priority. I'm not saying games shouldn't be made to make money, I'm saying it shouldn't be the one and only thing that drives and controls the design decisions.

The best free-to-plays I've encountered are ones whose creators put the gamers' experience on top. One distinct example I can pull off the top of my head is Jetpack Joyride and Fruit Ninjas. I bought both of them when they first came out long before any IAP ever surfaced, still, when the cash shops did open, they didn't affect the core gameplay or experience. The systems were designed to give the non-paying gamers an incentive to continue playing: an item, an unlock or a general goal that adds visual appeal to the game. There were none that hinders the game's actual progress - although, I'm not a huge leaderboard competitive gamer, so I can't speak for those who suffer disadvantages, I figured the hackers would have populated the majority of the higher ranks already.

Demos, I love demos. It's a great way to experience a game first-hand when I feel like I haven't done enough research to justify a buy. Ghost Trick was one that I tried a while ago and I was seriously considering unlocking the full game. The first chapter provided the much needed experiments testing my enjoyment of the game.

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istako 8 months ago

Free to play gaming is something magnificent, but rarely is it literal. The death of meaning, brought recently by the gaming market, is absolute and very misleading most of the time, sadly.

I am talking about games like Gameloft's Dungeon Hunter 4, which I am currently giving yet another chance, and thought I've spent almost 20 euro on it now, I still can't get past certain levels. And I doubt this is my fault, since I've been playing ARPG dungeon-crawlers since I can remember. This is one of the free-to-play models I know, and I dislike, because it is free-to-download, pay-to-play. I think this is the most apt description, and my experiences with similar models proved it, to me, at least. I've given one example, and there is no point of giving another - it is always the same, and the name I've given pretty-much speaks for itself.

The second free-to-play model I sort-of like is again free-to-download, but it is pay-to-continue. These are the demo-esque models, which I like a lot, because they do not force IAP right away, they let you try out the game. You get to keep your progress, and most of the time, in cases like Ghost Trick's and Ace Attorney's, you get to progress at your own pace, which can be good for the nerves and easy on the wallet.

The third free-to-play model I can recall is the best, for obvious reasons - it is the literal free-to-play model. You download the whole thing, you can play through all of it, without the need of any IAP, because they either serve purpose to make gameplay "faster" for you, or serve a purely cosmetic purpose. These are games like Real Racing 3, which I believe is the latest and best example of this. I didn't need to use funny-money (real life money) even once, I beat everything almost perfectly (but that is because the game is too easy in general, in my opinion) and I never faced a impenetrable wall, like the previously mentioned case of Dungeon Hunter 4, where in one point, after grinding all previous areas, you turn out to be level 13, and the enemies just happen to be 18... well...

This is bad design. And what makes it even worse is that it's intentional bad design. Truth be told, most of the games that take up model No. 1 end up making more money than even a paid version of themselves, because you are forced to pay to continue. And this is backed up with a series of facts: either the game is just fun and you want to continue, or you are a completionist, or you just don't want to loose your progress/savegame/hero, because games like this purposefully do not support iCloud saves, I think it is obvious why.

And this is just sad to me. Not most, but some of these games, are made from developers, who are quite good at what they do, and if it weren't for the intentional, money-hungry bad design choices, the games would actually be great. In the end the truth is, that games get lied to, but we learn to see it coming, especially on the mobile market.

I wish, someday, there could be more true free-to-play games in the AppStore and the Android market, but I seriously doubt it. Most of the mobile developers are really money-hungry and at times it seems money is all that matters. But it's good that there are games like X-com, which prove that you can have a fully-paid experience, which is still awesome to play and without any IAP.

I've always said that the main issue with this is that most of the time, there is no conversation between the gamers and the developers. If devs all around the world, start listening to the experienced and logical gamers, things like this would not happen, neither on iOS, nor on PC, or consoles. But this is another story.

Free-to-play is awesome. It's a great step forward for the industry. There are just too many people trying to take advantage of it to make more money. Pure profanity. But there are the few exceptions on all systems, that make us know that things can be better. And these few exceptions earn their honest money, because people want to give them money for something, most of the time.

Greed is the bane of all gaming right now. It is obvious. But, as they say, with the light comes the dark, and vice verse. I think it's getting brighter.