is Freenium killing innovation?

Posted Aug 21, 2012 at 5:23 pm in Threads > Games

Hi all.

long time lurker, first time poster. Saw the Nexus 7 comp and thought it was a good time to vent my rage at a horrible mobile gaming trend – freenium.

I’ve been an avid mobile gamer since the early iphone and I admit, I completely understand the appeal of the freenium model for a game developer. It ensures that people at least check out your game, and provides you with an incredibly simple method of game development; make it open ended but with an extremely steed progression curve which requires IAP.

Unfortunately I feel it breed lazy game development. We’ve all seen it before, and quite a few companies are incredibly blatant with it; make the first level an open demo, and then anything after that requires mandatory purchasing of additional currency that can ONLY be done via IAP *cough* GLU *cough*

Whatever happened to DEVELOPING a game? interesting storylines, a REASONABLE increase of difficulty once a user becomes experienced well into the game, the unlocking of additional ‘expert’ moves/codes/tools/add ons once you reach a certain area? This all seems fairly basic, video game developers were handling this extremely well in the late 80′s for crying out loud.

Unfortunately however, mobile games are seen as a ‘pick up and play’ game style, where the average attention span is the length of your bus trip to work.

I’m hoping that with the increase of mobile gaming popularity, and it’s impending seemless integration into ‘gaming’ console status (especially with the upcoming android console) we see the likes of freenium as a horrible trend in a specific age of mobile gaming.

Now some freenium models are built ok. Dead Trigger for one, is extremely reasonable. I havent spent more than $10 on that game and I’ve enjoyed it. I don’t however, enjoy games that FORCE you to use credits/tickets to continue playing. Quite a few games with the freenium model employed this system and I can’t stand it (I can’t remember the name of them now as I deleted them straight away!)

Companies like Steam have proven that gamers will pay reasonable $ for quality gaming development in an convenient distribution channel. I hope this freenium trend dies out shortly. Unfortunately however, looking at the ‘top grossing’ apps in google play, I think it’s going to be around for quite a while. Lazy developers are earning quite good money by employing the same frustrating gaming system on all their games. Who really benefits? the developer earning easy money while their customers are frustrated. Awesome.

  • Himmat

    I did an article on Droidgamers.com recently on IAPs and the freemium concept. Do read it if you can. Conclusively speaking, I think freemium is here to stay!

    Link: http://www.droidgamers.com/index.php/game-news/site-news-rants/4191-in-app-purchases-the-downfall-of-android-gaming

    • xCaptainx

      Excellent article! I agree, Heroes Call is a perfectly horrible example of lazy game development demanding IAP.

  • GreenH0rn

    I really love the thought of being able to try apps out without paying. I will do IAPs if the game is good and probably spend more on these than I would have on a normal game. In a sense the system thereby rewards good Apps. Buuut i think some game developers are way to greedy and thereby destroy the system for everyone. I don’t really want to play IAP games if 1 out of 5 will try to rip me off and make me pay a fortune for stupid additions.

    • xCaptainx

      also games that force constant IAP to simply continue playing really, really frustrate me. It’s painfully obvious that the app is a simple profit generator first, and a game second.

      • GreenH0rn

        Indeed! If paying makes you skip the grinding part of a game it’s ok. (If grinding isn’t to annoying anyway.) Even better are additions like costumes etc that are more of a goodie for those willing to support the developer.

  • vforvortex

    Simple answer is , no. It is not stopping innovation. The app developers need to show/prove the value in what they sell. Try to show how a paid app that is $3.99 is different from the similar app in market that is free. If people feel the additional things are not worth $3.99, they will go with the free app.

  • rsanchez1

    I don’t think freemium is killing innovation, precisely because there are companies innovating on the idea of freemium. The example you gave of Dead Trigger is excellent.

    Unfortunately, so many games force you to buy content because apparently that strategy is working. However, in the race to attract more users (and as a result more money), I think developers will iterate on the freemium model like Dead Trigger’s developer did to try and find a way to beat the competition. Dead Trigger is one of the better freemium apps. Let’s hope it sets a trend.

  • shaun76

    I can’t stand freemium games. I usually avoid them.

  • coggy9

    I can’t stand games that have paid only items. Except for one.
    Team Fortress 2 allows players to buy weapons/hats, unlock them via achievements, trade with other people, craft items from items already in their possession, or just wait for a random drop to give them an item. This allows a free to play player the almost the same experience as a premium player(F2P has limited slots, they would have to delete items as they fill up).
    Where is the pay only item? Crates. Most drops are crates. You need to buy or trade for a key to open what is inside the crate, since keys do not randomly drop. Since it is usually a hat(In my case anyway), it does not affect gameplay. The mystery of what could be inside the crate also sells keys. If more games did things like this, freemium games on Android could have the potential to be epic.