About Those ‘Free’ iOS/Android apps…

You know those ‘free’ apps that offer up a selection of purchasable items and then put them alongside more meaty, desirable premium items, that cost REAL money? You know how much I hate them? Well that hatred works well on paper, but less so in the real world it seems, given that I spent a good part of today wrestling with the fact that I think that many are actually well made and deserving of the money.

Yeah… I’m confused too…

You see it all kicked off when I was having a picnic lunch at a local farm park – as one often does – and the presence of someone I’d not met before led to the inevitable sweeping generalisation that I am a ‘game expert’. This led to discussion of various consoles and computers but mostly centred around my mother’s revelation that she’s loving The Sims FreePlay, the free Sims game that is wrapped up in the ‘freemium’ trappings that I openly loath. What impressed me was not so much that she loves the game, the Sim titles have delighted many people for many years, but the fact that she hadn’t bought a single premium item at all. And this didn’t impede her enjoyment of the game.

Now this comes with a specific set of circumstances that may explain away this odd situation:

  1. My mother works A LOT, any gaming she does is VERY casual and occasional.
  2. My mother is not an idiot. She understands that buying items costs money.
  3. My mother doesn’t play these games often, and as such is less inclined to furnish her ‘home’ with items. She isn’t necessarily aware of the bonuses that can come with premium items, so as such it is merely a case of items that cost money.

I often complain that these games can be unplayable without dipping into the premium pot, so to speak, especially if you are playing it with any level of enthusiasm. The temptation to jump the gun and pay for a premium short cut is enhanced by the fact that you also get something new for your cafe/house/town etc… With my mother she is only playing in the same short period of time daily, which is perfect for this kind of gaming. Conversely the other person in the conversation explained that she had spent about £250 on one Facebook game, and had made some of this money back trading purchased items within the community.

Perhaps I’m jaded as a gamer who expects the full game from the start, it seems that many people simply don’t mind the titles giving them the option of buying items.

That said we all universally agreed that the £69.99 price point in many games for the largest bundle of content is simply immoral and concerning, which was interesting to hear from such divergent viewpoints. I can see the benefit of these games, and heck many are better than anything Zynga have ever put out, and now I’m playing one of them avidly (Zombie Cafe, fact fans!) and my youngest enjoys tapping away at his Ice Age Village. There is a huge market for such games, and questionable business models don’t necessarily make for a bad game. Naturally there are some bad games, hell there are terrible examples. Some can only be described as ‘Pay-To-Enjoy’ which is of no benefit in the grand scheme of things. Similarly there are ‘Pay to Win’ examples that ruin it for the non-premium adopters. These aren’t acceptable, in any sense of the word, but they still cater to certain gamers, who aren’t wrong for enjoying them. If you have expendable cash and see it as a good use of money, then fine. Just not for me, thanks.

I’ll keep playing and talking to people, but I’m happy to say that I’m more accepting of the genre now. It can make all the difference to a developer covering costs, making a profit and developing a game constructively. We can only vote with our wallets as to how moral or immoral we feel the end result to be.

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