If you’ve ever downloaded a free game from the App Store, chances are you’ve seen something like this. You open up the game, start playing, and think, “Wow, this game is kind of fun! How is this game free?”
You keep playing, and then it hits you. You go to do something – access a certain feature, for example and you’re greeted with something like this: “Accessing this feature costs 5 gold/keys/gems. Buy now?”
You ignore it, and keep going on. But like a little kid with their heart set on something, they keep asking, almost begging you to spend your hard earned money on a bit of in-game currency. You want to play further than the first few levels? You have to pay for it. You want to skip an unnecessary waiting time? Pay for it. Want to beat a level that would otherwise be impossible? You’d better pay for it, or spend hours trying. It’s ridiculous.
This type of mindset has been working wonders for developers, but it’s horrible for consumers like us. These freemium apps are designed with one idea only: to make the developers more money. And it’s effective – in fact, nearly 3/4ths of the money spent on the App Store is done through in-app purchases (IAPs). And why is that?
Most people, (up to 95% of users, depending on the game) who download free games will never spend significant amounts of money within a freemium game. But in the end, it ends up being more profitable for developers than let’s say, charging a dollar without in-app purchases. Why? First of all, more people download the game, so that 5% can become large, rather quickly. Secondly, those small percentage of users who do spend significant amounts of money are usually the rich upper-class, and have significant amounts of money to throw around. So what happens? Often times, they’ll even spend in the thousands, which is hugely profitable for the developers.
Because this freemium model is so profitable, it’s ruining the quality of games that are being produced. Games such as Plants vs Zombies for example, was a hit on the App Store. Plants vs Zombies 2 is freemium based, and is not nearly as enjoyable as it used to be, due to the advancements that can only be made through in-app purchases. Games are being made less for the wow factor, and are more catered towards how they can convince people to buy in-app purchases within the games.
And by doing so, it makes the game less fair. The playing field with freemium games isn’t level – that is, if you’re competing with someone, and they have money to spend on IAP’s, they’re going to have a huge advantage. In fact, it’s almost like the developers are selling you cheats within the game. It ruins it for the people who don’t want to spend money on a simple game.
This freemium model is taking over the App Store, and is becoming increasingly marketed towards children, a growing demographic in the mobile app consumption space. Since it’s so profitable, it’s unlikely to change anytime soon. Believe me, I hate freemium games and I wish they did not exist. But for now, there’s nothing we can do.