Google recently revealed that 23 of the 24 top-grossing Google Play apps use in-app billing, with revenue now exceeding that of “traditional” up-front purchases. Similarly, I’ve pointed out a few times that a large percentage of the App Store’s top-grossing games are in fact free to download.
The times they are a-changing, but is that necessarily a bad thing? A while back, I penned We hate you, freemium model, but, as I hinted in EA bows to the great freemium fiasco, I’m actually not as opposed to freemium as I once was.
For those not entirely familiar with the controversial model, essentially apps – more often than not games – are made available for free, with tons of content available to buy in a virtual Store.
While it’s often possible to save up in-game currency and buy said content in the normal way, you can – alternatively – skip the hard work and pay real money to unlock goodies from the get-go.
That might sound fair enough, but there are all sorts of cheeky variations and degrees of, er, freemiumness.
One thing I’m dead against is giving the app away for free when it ultimately costs several quid to play. A fine example is Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective. It’s a port – and a fine port at that – of a Nintendo DS game, so you’d expect to pay a few bucks, right?
But what actually happens is: you download the app for free, blast through the first couple of chapters, then discover that the remaining chapters are available in three sets of £2.99 (£8.97 total), or £6.99 for all of ‘em.
My question to Capcom would be: why not simply charge, say, £6.99 for Ghost Trick up front? It’s a good game; you don’t have to trick (pun intended) me into buying it by suggesting it’s free.
Of course, I’m being naïve. Capcom knows what it’s doing, and realises that the above model will yield more bucks. Hmm. Fortunately, that’s not something I’ve seen too much of.
More often it’s the case – as I said before – that you can pay to unlock junk immediately, instead of investing several human hours in order to accumulate in-game currency.
That, in theory, is absolutely fine, but it can often leave a bad taste in the mouth. Contract Killer: Zombies stands out as one game that started off fantastically, before the developer effectively – and I’m not alone in thinking this – held out its hand and said: “Get your wallet out; you need to buy a better gun.”
Indeed, Contract Killer: Zombies inspired the aforementioned anti-freemium feature/rant, but that was way back in November 2011. Over the past few months, I’ve played a handful of games that’ve caused my brain to do a metaphorical – thankfully not a literal – one-eighty.
Mega Run, for one, is perfectly playable without paying real pennies, but it’s really freakin’ tough at points. Being a relatively hardened gamer, I don’t mind putting in the effort to learn the levels and aim for three-star glory.
But, as evidenced by the massive shift towards freemium, there are clearly hordes of gamers who’d rather pay real moolah to unlock power-ups and that. Not something I necessarily understand (almost like paying to inject the memory of having eaten a delicious chilli directly into the brain – I’d rather eat the chilli), but who am I to argue?
And you know what? If they’re effectively paying for me - and others like me - to get games for free, that’s fine by me. Long may it continue.