If you own a mobile phone, a tablet, or anything containing a microchip you are probably familiar with the term freemium. If you’re not, however, then look no further. I am here to answer your plea for knowledge!
There are three ways to acquire games on your mobile devices: You can pay for them, download them for free or steal them. I do not condone the latter. If you pay a one-time fee, well that’s premium. If you download it for free, well that’s freemium.
Right now you’re thinking, “wow that’s rad! Why buy games when you can play them for free? This freemium thing sounds swell!”
There is a reason why freemium is a mockery of premium though. With premium games, once you have handed over your money the entirety of the game is yours to appreciate. You have traded your disposable income for something to do on your lunch break. Enjoy your round of Draw Something or conquer level 7 of Cut the Rope.
Freemium, on the over hand, is significantly more exploitative. Sure, the download is free-of-charge, but what you’ll soon realise is it was an offer to good to be true. You see, only a portion of the game is instantly playable because the majority of the content requires the player to make several purchases using real cash.
It’s actually a great, if not controversial, business model. The developers tease the player with free content and quickly guide them through the free gameplay until the pace rapidly declines. Withdrawal symptoms kick in, sending players to extreme measures to get their kicks: Spending real money on virtual items.
I don’t condemn this episodic strategy because it isn’t much different to DLC (downloadable content). A gamer can purchase an AAA title for £40 and they have the option to spend an extra £10 for additional content. They don’t have to buy the DLC, it certainly isn’t necessary, but the choice is there none-the-less.
Granted, freemium games do this on a much smaller scale, but it isn’t impossible to play a freemium game completely free. Time is its greatest currency. To get this point across I am going to have to dig deep into my own personal gaming habits and give an example…
Tiny Farm by Com2Us is a farming simulator. It’s a bit like Dragonvale but with rabbits instead. You buy farm animals and breed them to unlock rarer types. The older the animal the more experience you earn. Like most freemium games Tiny Farm has two forms of currency: The in-game cash that a player can earn regularly; and bells, which have to be bought using genuine money.
Here are a few of the animals you can buy with in-game cash…
- Dairy cow
… And here are a few you can only buy with bells…
- Emperor penguin
- Polar bear
- Sika Reindeer
- Mysterious egg (could be anything, a unicorn if you’re lucky)
Don’t get me wrong, sheep and chickens make the perfect farm animals. Com2Us have hit the nail on the head. But do you know what I really want on my farm? Polar freaking bears!
Polar bears cost 145 bells. Make that 290 bells because I need two polar bears to breed. That’s $30 (£18.57).
You can earn a bell every time a farm animal reaches level 2. That takes about 24 hearts. It takes 10 minutes to generate a single heart. That’s 4 hours per bell. It would take me 2 days of solid gameplay to afford two polar bears. That’s 48 hours non-stop.
As I was saying, it is entirely possible to play a freemium game without spending any money. What you are spending though is your time. I just wish this heavy investment was more worthwhile. You only live once and I’ll happily spend it playing games. All I ask is for quicker rewards. A woman who works 9 – 5 deserves to spend her money on Tiny Farm and progress quicker than others. But I pose a few questions: What about those who spend 9 – 5 playing your game? Do they not deserve the same content? Does a player’s commitment to your product mean less to you than your profit margin?