Freemium Games Are Ruining The App Store

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.

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  1. Yeah! You’re absolutely right — we should never pay those ********, who have spent monthes of working to make this game. We’d better use some chains and handcuffs to make this ******* work all day long without asking us to pay. Why should we pay for their work? We want all the games for free! I totally agree with author, but wven more — I think that jis idea should be extended and used for everything — I do not want to pay for food, my house and so on. If author says freemium games ruin app store, I’m saying that paying money for food ruins everybody’s lifes. We deserve the right to get everything we want for free, no metter how hard all these goods were to develop.

    • Hi Stan,

      I think you’re missing my main point. Of course developers should be paid for their work, it is a job after all. However, the freemium idea is bringing a new mindset to developers. It’s no longer about ‘how can I make this game better?’ but rather, ‘how can I get the player to pay me more money’.

      It used to be where you’d pay for a game, and that’d be it. Now you download a game, and you have to continually pay money to progress. You can buy advantages over other players in multiplayer. If you want to play more without waiting a ridiculous amount of time, you’ve got to pay.

      I’m not the only one that realizes the evil business model that is freemium. In fact, over 90% of people would rather pay an upfront cost than be riddled by in-app purchases.

      Thanks for leaving your opinion.

      • I game to escape reality… as most often do. The problem with in-app purchases. The return does nothing for you, it’s a psychological technique. Apps are designed with scarcity in mind, you can only go so far without spending. In other words, design with scarcity and you end up with little in return. Repetition and mindless nonsense welcomes in app purchases. I personally believe companies are destroying the user experience. Imagine putting a couple hundred into one game, you’re now invested and the experience hasn’t changed. You have only advanced further in the game. So, you spend to advance? The challenge is in your wallet! I prefer the old style gaming, charge me $60 for a quality story, minimal repetition and I am sold.

        • Hi Dean,

          You make some great points here – it almost seems like some people buy in-app purchases to not play the game. When you reach the point where you have to spend to advance as you mentioned, it’s not even a game any more if you really think about it. All it is is an evil scheme to get your money. Like you, I’d much rather pay an up front fee and not be bothered with micropayments to advance further in the game. If only modern game developers had the same idea.

          Thanks for stopping by and leaving your opinions!

  2. Stone Singh says:

    Ultimately it’s up to the consumer. We complain about Walmart, yet people still shop there even though it is literally ruining the economy just because rubbish that we don’t even need might be a tad less expensive than the mom and pop store. Since this IAP thing has become the norm I never ever download onto my iPad or iPhone unless it is 100% free or 100% one purchase. UNLESS, the IAP’s are reasonable like on Nanostudio or Tabletop.

    I’m ok with reasonable IAP’s. Gaming, however, on IOS is ruined. I have not downloaded a game from the App Store for a couple of years since IAP’s have become out of control. There are ways to fight it. One, at a small risk of bricking or voiding warranty, can jailbreak their device and say nuts to the developers and just pirate any game we want. Know what I mean? Just head over to Redmond Pie on line and it’s a snap. Then just hit up the Pirate Bay and get what you need. Millions are already doing it in response to the greed of the developers

    It’s all about how much we are willing to accept being nickeled and dimed for. I’m not down to get ripped off, so I don’t.

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