The real cost of ‘freemium’ games

If you go to the Play Store or the App Store you will see hundreds and thousands of free to play games. Everyone loves a free game but what do the developers get out of offering free games to us, it’s not in their benefit to give us something for nothing but the majority of games are free.

Of course, everyone knows about in-app purchases and the ability to buy extras in a game but few will admit to buying them. So who does buy these apps? Are companies preying on potential customers who fall addicted to their game or are in-app purchases justifiable? We look at the facts surrounding free to play games and the consumers who spend money on them.

Candy Crush Saga is one of the biggest culprits, you can play the game with a certain amount of ‘lives’ before it starts asking you to buy added extras. The game is huge, with over 500 million total downloads it easily puts console games to shame. The game is a simple puzzle game, with influences from many puzzle games before it. Candy Crush relies on its addictive nature and social interaction to boost sales, with seemingly normal people with no real interest in gaming competing with each other to be at the highest. Of course to be the best and to complete the levels you will need to be aided in some way. If you don’t have facebook or many friends you can forget about completing this game without spending.

Don't be fooled by it's friendly and cute look. There's a beast that lies within
Don’t be fooled by it’s friendly and cute look. There’s a beast that lies within

The in game purchases can be anything from £0.69 to a whopping £60 depending on what you require. Yes, you heard right, £60 for a bundle of features helping you to progress in the game. Someone must be buying these, otherwise it wouldn’t be an option. According to stats found here the average user spends $3.84 lifetime total on the game, whilst daily revenue for Candy Crush is pushing $1,000,000. You may think a few dollars for a game is not too bad but check this article out about how ordinary people are becoming addicted and spending astronomical amounts of money just trying to further their progress.

I find the strangest part about these games is the fact that the people who play and buy them are not usually gamers. They are casual gamers who probably don’t play anything outside facebook games. Maybe they don’t understand the real cost of a game or have fell victim to social pressure to play and be the best at the game. I posted a video yesterday which shows Dr. Phil talking about the effects of video game addiction and at first I was skeptical it even existed, but after digging a little deeper and reading the stories of Candy Crush addiction it can really take over and ruin your life.

This is the highest in-app purchase I could find within the game, I was shocked.
This is the highest in-app purchase I could find within the game, I was shocked.

The fact that companies like King allow people to spend such an amount of money on a game is pretty irresponsible. Daily or monthly restrictions should be put in place either set by the user or by the company themselves. They also can not seriously justify in-app purchases of over £60 which in no way guarantee completion of the game. Of course nothing will be done about this because King can argue that people are not forced in to buying any extras. I beg to differ, some of the levels require you to pester your friends of cough up seemingly endless amounts of cash. It’s about time companies like King started to care about the gamers who find themselves out of control and really monitor those who spend big.

Farmville was once king of the ripoff 'crop'
Farmville was once king of the ripoff ‘crop’

It’s not only King who are imposing this type of business model.  Before Candy Crush the top played facebook game was Farmville which had an equally aggressive pricing strategy. The success of Candy Crush has created a number of copycat games all trying to steal a piece of this lucrative market. The games are extremely simple to make, following a set style of ‘match X amount of blocks’ or ‘fire the ball to clear the blocks’ and each could be a potential goldmine. These type of games do not promote originally and are probably the most detrimental to the gaming industry as a whole.

It’s easy to see how people become addicted, it’s cuteness and friendly looking interface make the game seem more benign than it actually is. The facts are that freemium games look they’re here to stay and something must be done to make sure more and more procrastinators don’t fall addicted. Gaming addiction is very real and it’s those who we don’t suspect who are falling prey to it.

If you are spending more than what you can manage then visit this site for help. 

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3 thoughts on “The real cost of ‘freemium’ games”

  1. I have this rule that i force on my self, if a game forces me to pay (instead of me liking the thing..) i instantly uninstall it.
    Only bought some energy in Spiral Knights, and some gems in GuildWars2 as a gift for a friend.

    1. Funny you say that but that’s what I do too, unfortunately some are not so wise and keep giving money for virtual gifts. Surely people would be better off paying the small amount for a full game, most android and iOS games are extremely cheap anyway. It’s sad to see people getting exploited like this

  2. In the downtime between major releases on consoles I play freemium games, Life is Crime and Clash of Clans on Android in particular. I’ve probably dropped £50 in total on these two titles, mainly as a ‘thank you’ to the developers for giving me so much enjoyment, but my general procedure is to challenge myself to get as far as I can in a game without paying, it’s like a little achievement in itself.

    Remember that time you dropped £40 on Forza 2 or Gran Turismo 3? When was the last time you played it? How much did you spend on the last 5 copies of FIFA you bought? In fact how much have you spent on consoles and games in your lifetime to end up playing the same couple of games you play day in and out nowadays?

    It’s all kinda relative in gaming expenditure terms, just don’t tell the missus.

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