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Freemium Has Gone Mainstream; What Happened to the Paid Games?

February 20, 2013 - Written By Justin Diaz

There used to be a rule of thumb when it came to video games, that most developers followed it seemed, at least on the Android and mobile side of things. Looking back in past years, you could almost always bet the cash in your wallet that the better a game was on the Play Store, the more money it would cost to buy it. Now this wasn’t always the case, sometimes the games were only a couple of bucks. More recently though, gaming developers have shifted from making all paid games and have started to adopt the “freemium” model that has unmistakably become so very popular for mobile developers. The worst part is, and this is just my opinion, is that even the big developers are starting to follow this trend. So much so that it’s really no longer even a trend, it’s the new way to do business.

A lot of gamers out there will automatically blame the Developers for their outright dastardly decisions to make freemium games where instead of paying outright for a title, we can download it and play it for free with the option of IAP that enhance the game. In some cases those IAP will feel almost mandatory because of the difficulty that may ensue if you don’t buy them. The way I look at it, is that the Gameloft, Gamevil, and even big developers like EA and Square Enix have and are starting to make their games freemium because that is what they see as what the consumers want. If they didn’t see a profit in it, they wouldn’t be making freemium games. Business are business because they make money. Or at least want to make money. There is nothing wrong with that. Yes basically I’m saying that more and more freemium games have started to pop up because “US” the gamers have paved the path for the developers to follow. Maybe not you or I, but other gamers who refuse to pay what money is owed for a perfectly great quality paid title stating that “I’m not paying that kind of money for a mobile game!” That kind of attitude towards things has led us here.

Now before you go and send me hate mail, think on this for a second and see where I’m coming from. You have EA who that even a year ago had just about all their titles up for a price up front. Need for Speed Shift for instance. Let’s start there. It cost a couple bucks if I remember correctly, maybe $2.99. Then you have Need for Speed Hot pursuit, Dead Space, Mass Effect: Infiltrator and others that all came out for higher and higher prices like $4.99-6.99. These games started out as some of the most popular games on the top of the list in the Play Store. They have dropped drastically while freemium games like Marvel War of The Heroes, and just about any game from Mobage continue to top the list.  Even EA’s The Simpsons Tapped Out is at #9. Which I can assure is far from free if you’ve ever played it. Now let’s throw Square Enix in the mix. They first entered the android world with little games like crystal defenders which was a Final Fantasy themed tower defense game. Once they brought the big boys to the table, things started to take a turn in a different direction. When Final Fantasy 3 debuted on the Play Store it was over $10. Now even me looking at this price at first, I thought that’s a really high price for an android game. Then I broke down and bought it. Because I realized that it was a good quality title and that it didn’t matter whether it was android, DS, Nintendo or anything else. The game was still awesome and I enjoyed playing it on my Nexus 7.

Fast Forward a few more months and here Square Enix has now brought us the joy of the original Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy 2 each at $7.00 respectively, with Final Fantasy 4 and 5 on the way supposedly. They have also dropped Chrono Trigger for $9.99, Chaos Rings and Chaos Rings Omega for $12.99 and $8.99, and the two most expensive games they have, Demons Score and Final Fantasy Dimensions both for $20. Those are a lot of expensive titles, and a lot of people outraged at the cost of the games and that Square Enix was just becoming greedy just like EA. I call bullshit and just think that they know they have a great game and know what it’s worth. If Final Fantasy Dimensions were $20 bucks on the Nintendo 3DS no one would say a damn word. They would shut up, pay the money, and play an enjoyable game. Instead, we have a multitude of people who fall under the category I like to refer to as “cheap and entitled.” They want everything for free, and feel as if they’re entitled to what they want. Hence, they will not drop a dime for something like a mobile game. They’ll toss their money out the window for micro transactions  that you can charge to your carrier bill or buy with your credit or debit card just like if they game were paid, but NO. They won’t and can’t possibly pay for a game outright. It’s madness!!

EA’s Real Racing 3 is a perfect example of the insanity that is freemium model gaming. Before I get started, I just want to point out that the game still looks cool and that I plan on supporting it, just not with any of the freemium stuff because I don’t feel like paying for it. Moving on, Real Racing 3 will be a free title. Unlike its predecessor Real Racing 2 which costs $4.99. Inside the rather exquisite looking new racer, you can spend your hard earned money on a number of things, speeding up time to repair, tune or purchase cars. (the fast forward feature is also very prominent in The Simpson Tapped Out, another EA title, surprise surprise) You can spend the money on new tracks I would assume, although I hope this isn’t the case. The most crazy purchases however might be the cars. I’m not entirely sure if the three super cars EA has inserted into the game are the only real money purchases one must make, but at a price of $49.99, $69.99, and $99.99, the cars aren’t cheap. I could buy and Xbox 360 slim for $99.99. I could sign up for a 2 year contract at T-mobile and get a Nexus 4 for $99.99 then buy Real Racing 2 and still have only spent 5 more dollars then one car in Real Racing 3.

The crazy thing is that people will pay this kind of money in game and find a way to justify it to themselves. Then complain later that the developers are committing highway robbery and probably edit their reviews to one star and complain some more. Yet they created that support in the first place. Developers are not the problem. Consumers are the problem. Developers work hard at creating phenomenal content for us to have access to, but some of us don’t want to admit that the price tag attached to it is what it’s worth. Refusing to pay for good quality apps has caused more and more consumers to go for free apps that have IAP. Then as time goes on they’ll say “yeah I don’t mind spending a buck here and there on this to enhance my game experience.” This caused the freemium titles to become more popular. Gameloft, EA, Square Enix and any other big developer out there that decides to jump on the freemium bandwagon only followed the trend of the consumer. They are corporations. They want to make money. And they’re only following the money. Sadly, users and consumer like I and many others including a huge number of our readers I’m sure get caught up in this and are forced to make the choice of either forfeiting the playing of a good game or make the purchases that otherwise should have been included for a one time purchase price from the start.

Whatever the case may be, whoever is at fault, the fact is that more and more games will release with a freemium price. Because that’s what the majority of the consumers want. It is unfortunate but it’s true. Maybe in time this will change but for now it’s here to stay.