Freemium Isn’t Free (and other basic life truths)

I spent part of my morning soothing a relative whose favorite celebrity tablet game recently went in a more money-grabby direction. For two years, players were able to participate in challenges without spending real-world currency. Coming on the heels of a Snapchat in which the game company’s CEO joked about getting the eponymous celebrity her own private island, it left a bad taste in players’ mouths. This meant the relative and others were unable to participate and win clothing for their character, which is a big deal to players. In her case, she paid to enter, but could not keep paying to finish the contest in time.

I think that anyone who has played more than a couple of freemium games has run into something similar. Maybe you’re not locked out of a challenge, but it might not be possible to win unless you pay for advantages like extra dice or more energy. I have a friend who could probably buy every single Sims game for PC or console for the amount she has spent on Freeplay. I’ll even admit to spending $40 on a desert island game I barely remember. For every freemium game that allows players to easily grind for goals (like Dragonsoul or WWE SuperCard), there are several more that are impossible to do well at without spending.

The problem with spending money on freemium games is that your energy or premium currency runs out all too quickly. You’re ready to keep going, the game is ready to offer you a frictionless one-tap refill. It feels a bit like a slot machine. And players might feel like they have to continue because they’ve spent all this time and money, even though those are sunk costs that they will never recoup.

laxtarmacThe next thing on the horizon might be an increase in subscription-based games. Apple and Android both recently announced that app makers who develop apps with a subscription model would get a higher percentage of sales than those who develop apps with more traditional freemium or up-front payment models. The more generous split would occur after the subscriber had used the app for a year, which will encourage app makers to up the quality of their offerings.

I would love to hear what readers think of freemium games. Do you play? What are your favorites?

Now for some cozy things I liked today:

Cooking video of the day: Homemade Iced Popsicle Recipes

Theory of the day: Neanderthals went extinct because they didn’t wear animal skins?

Gardening idea of the day: How to Espalier





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