Hey there loyal Appspy readers!
Wow, you guys stepped up to the plate this week. Istako deserves a mention for his lengthy dissection of the different kinds of free to play. It’s interesting that while there is not consensus of what games fall under each category (for example Real Racing 3 had some contention for if its IAP was unobtrusive or not), the different approaches to free-to-play were thorough.
Most of our commenters are ok with free-to-play being used as a demo for the larger game. It’s sort of reminiscent of the XBLA system, where every game has a trial. You download the whole game, get to play for a little while, and then if you enjoy it, you can pay money to continue. I appreciate this model as well, with a caveat being for a game that seems like it’s actually going to be free-to-play for whatever reason, and then that paywall comes up. That’s in the minority however, and more the fault of perception than the game design itself (how much they are asking compared to the experience the game is offering plays a part as well).
When it comes to the ‘pay to continue’ brand of free-to-play, perhaps the difference between ‘free-to-play’ and ‘freemium’ needs to be addressed. Personally, i see free-to-play as a game that is either supported by ads, serves as a demo for the full experience, or has a store that’s purely optional or cosmetic (spending your coins to dress your character in silly hats for example). Freemium is when the game design itself is built around extracting money from the player.
This can be done in degrees as well. There are games that are quite passive on that front. You can play them and it feels like you never have to spend a dime to buy more upgrades or progress further. Even though this method is the least obtrusive, it’s still insidious as there’s always that thought at the back of your mind saying, “Well, what’s a dollar or two to give me a heads up?”. At its core, the decision to spend money or not is a question of will. These games are designed to slowly chip away at it, and are quite successful on those with lower willpower.
And that’s not counting the games where they don’t try to hide that they want you to spend money. Usually this is apparent if a game has any sort of waiting mechanic. If you have to waste time to continue (or spend money to eliminate that wait), you’re definitely in freemium territory. While there are those who enjoy these games, as the purchasing of unique items to build a personal space is appealing, the idea that a videogame will waste my time in order to extract money from me is an appalling notion.
Sadly these games are some of the most profitable on the App Store, so we will not see them disappearing anytime in the near future. To finally answer the question, I have no real problem with the free-to-play model. Sure sometimes the ads are annoying to the point of impacting the gameplay (there are two reviews I wrote over this last week where that was the case), and the idea of paying to dress up my avatar can seem silly, but these games are fairly harmless in the grand scheme of things. Freemium is another story altogether. I find it greedy, short-sighted, and sadly it is starting to leave the mobile space to impact console gaming. Be vigilant!
Well that ended on a bit of a scary note. Once again I’d like to thank everyone who read and contributed. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you all on Monday for another question. Happy gaming!