Glu Mobile, the developers responsible for the Android game “Kim Kardashian: Superstar,” made an impressive $43.4 million in Q3, 2014. Kim Kardashian’s game is a Freemium title where the objective is to make Kim a famous star by tackling Hollywood and winning. However, this post isn’t about the game or indeed about Kim. Instead, it’s about the mechanics of the freemium game. So let’s take a moment to consider what this amount of money means: it means an impressive stack of cash. Glu’s quarterly earnings report for on to detail that almost 23 million people installed the application, so the average spend is almost half a dollar. Installers have invested an average of four hours per installer, which represents a wet afternoon with nothing better to do. But the trouble with the mean average is that is represents a middle value and doesn’t reflect the extremes. There will be many people who have installed the game, played through the tutorial, spent a few minutes with the game and then closed it to go about their normal lives. And there will be people who have stayed up all night playing the game.
Now let’s consider the fremium gaming model. That average amount of $0.50 per installer is misleading because the vast majority of fremium game players never spend any money. This means that a small minority of people do spend money, and spend a lot of it too. If one in ten people spends money and everybody else keeps their PayPal account firmly away from Kim’s game, that means the tenth person spent $5 on the game. This isn’t much – couple of cups of coffee – but it sure isn’t free.
A recent South Park episode explains that freemium games prey on addictive personalities just as gambling does. Freemium games are set up with a tutorial that explains how we play, how we use the in-game currency (or currencies) to further our progress, then when we are set loose on the world, we quickly become one of a herd. We don’t make quick progress because the game insists that we wait until our resources recharge: but it will throw us a bone. We can have an instant recharge if we open up our PayPal account and buy in-game currency with real world currency. And it’s a clever idea: these packages usually start at a very low sum, sometimes they go up to an enormous amount. We’d never spend $50 on a free game, right..? Right? People can and do so that they jump one step ahead of everybody else, because many games are ultimately about having your fifteen minutes of stardom within your friends (real world or usually social network site).
What do our readers think? Do you play fremium games? Do you usually try one or two and then uninstall it? Or have you spent a couple of hundred dollars into one or two titles but are masters of them? Let us know in the comments below.