The mobile app marketplaces are awash with freemiums. You know – those games that get you all excited because they’re “free” – but just as you get a feel for the game, you need to buy the full version or, like Crazy Taxi City Rush, after just a handful of failed runs, you have to pay to refuel.
There’s been a great deal of debate around this issue – with many – particularly developers – extolling the benefits, while a huge portion of the consumers rail against the “unfair” capitalism of the freemium market.
Now – even for the most shameless freemium games, there is a certain amount of free content – and for many – like Here Be Monsters, for example, the vast majority of content is free to play, with additional microtransactions if you want to buy add-ons like land expansions, top tier weaponry, or uber vehicles.
Do You Need to Make an in-game Purchase?
Some argue that the game developers design the game to force players to make purchases, rather than focusing on the quality of the game objectives. Still others argue that if you download a game in good faith, you shouldn’t be forced to make in-game purchases.
On the flip side, if you’re patient and hone your skills, do you actually NEED to make in-game purchases? Some claim that certain games are impossible – like Plants vs. Zombies 2 – unless you buy the extras. Many, myself included, completed this game without making any purchases other than with the virtual coins you earn as level completion rewards. Other games have limited lives or energy – but if you wait, they will refill without a purchase. So you just need a little patience.
Donations vs. Microtransactions
I rarely make purchases in freemium games -unless I really, REALLY love the game and want to support the developers, showing my appreciation with a purchase. Some mobile gamers say they’d prefer to make voluntary donations, which is a beautifully philanthropic claim. Realistically, though, when it comes to games, wouldn’t you rather receive something in exchange for your gift of cash? Which is essentially what you’re doing with freemiums.
Now, perhaps huge gaming behemoths don’t NEED donations – but what about the tiny indie developers that are trying to realize their dreams?? Those guys generally need every penny – so does the odd microtransaction in a game you adore really hurt you? And the developer gets to put those pennies toward their next venture.
So, when you make a purchase of this kind, you are being charitable, showing your appreciation, and adding a little something extra to your gaming experience.
Don’t go mad though – reserve your freemium purchases only to a game you particularly enjoy.
Dirty, Stinking Capitalism
There’s so many people screaming that game developers are capitalist pigs trying to squeeze the last cent out of you. Is that the absolute truth, though? The point is, very few things in life are absolutely free. Commerce has been the cornerstone of every civilization for thousands of years. This is no different. Do you walk into a grocery store and complain the farmer is a capitalist pig because he charges money for the milk and cheese his cattle produce? It’s unlikely. After all, the farmer needs to be paid, right? Well, so does the game developer. He needs to be compensated for his time and skill. Recompense in the form of knowledge that all your pretty (or not so pretty) little faces light up with glee as you play his game is all well and good, but it doesn’t put food on the table.
Some people say they’d much rather buy a full game for $20+ rather than have to complete microtransactions. But not everyone can afford that. They can, however, afford the odd dollar here and there. Plus – in-game purchases over time, give the developer the funds to keep adding new content and expansions to the game.
What do We Think?
Well, there’s pros and cons to the argument. But, in a nutshell, if you don’t want to spend money, simply don’t. Nobody is forcing you to buy stuff. If you really can’t progress any further without making a purchase and you don’t want to, delete the game and find another more suitable. Just remember that very little in this age is genuinely free.
– Katy Willis