Why You Should Be More Wary Of Freemium Games
Let me start off by saying that I hate Freemium games, I hate micro transactions, and I hate about 95% of games that have them. However, with the recent skyrocketing of popularity of free to play games like Fortnight, I’ve begun to wonder how these games came about and why they seem to be so lucrative and popular.
For those of you that don’t know, Freemium games are those where the base experience is free, but the game offers you things here and there that make it easier, less time consuming, or give you some sort of cosmetic improvement. All of these are purchased with real world currency.
But how does this work? It seems logical that people would just not pay money because they don’t have to in order to play the game, but clearly they do. This is because of the way these games are designed. Freemium games are typically designed in a way that draws the user in, then places some obstacle in their way in order to persuade them to purchase a power up or a loot crate. For example in a game called Score Hero, you start out cruising along and having a good time, but relatively quickly you hit a wall where the game becomes much more difficult and you burn through your lives and the wait to get more is ludicrously long. This is the game encouraging you to throw some money their way by severely limiting your progress so that you can overcome these hurdles and continue your enjoyment of the game. This practice is the core of Freemium games.
Another strategy is to offer a level of exclusivity if a user pays money. This is usually a cosmetic thing and takes the form of weapon skins, outfits, or other cosmetic items that do nothing to improve your play or the game; they just look cool. This is made even more enticing through the use of loot crates. Loot crates contain all of the items listed above, and are either payed for directly or through the use of keys that the user must buy in order to unlock the crate. These crates drop items at random and draw the user in because of the chance that they could win something really cool.
Freemium games vary in their level of aggression when it comes to pursuing users and their money. Some are relatively harmless and just want to make a game and make money, but others can be pretty ruthless. Just read what this game developer said in an anonymous confession about how his team uses Facebook to hook users: “we take Facebook stalking to a whole new level. You spend enough money, we will friend you. Not officially, but with a fake account. Maybe it’s a hot girl who shows too much cleavage? That’s us. We learned as much before friending you, but once you let us in, we have the keys to the kingdom. We will use everything to figure out how to sell to you. I remember we had a whale in one game that loved American Football despite living in Saudi Arabia. We built several custom virtual items in both his favorite team colors and their opponents, just to sell to this one guy. You better believe he bought them. And these are just vanity items. We will flat out adjust a game to make it behave just like it did last time the person bought IAP.”