What Are Freemium (or, Free to Play) Games?

If you have been living under a rock for the past several years, like me, you may not be up to date on the popular format of games these days: freemium. (Also knows as “free to play” or “f2p”)

What is this “freemium” game format?

A LOUSY RIPOFF, is what it is.

Gone (or going, anyways), are the days of buying a game and thus owning it. The benefit to owning a game is, well, ownership. You can play the game with (typically) all features. Play whenever. Etc, etc, etc. I’m sure you’re plenty familiar with how ownership works.

The only drawback to buying a game is just that – buying it. Buying a game requires you to fork out real money (hopefully your own), on what may or may not be a worthy investment. Usually, buying a game isn’t a big deal. The problem comes when the game doesn’t work well or you just don’t like it. Maybe it isn’t what you thought it would be.

Maybe it doesn’t work with your system like the time I picked up APB (All Points Bulletin) for my boyfriend and it barely worked on our system; kept crashing. Our specs just barely made it, but the game was so buggy that you needed well beyond even the recommended requirements.

Even for some people who met the recommended requirements and beyond, the game crashed and was such a terrible execution of such a fantastic idea – eventually the company scrapped it altogether. Fifty dollars – down the drain!!!

Burning Money is Financial Crime and Waste in ...

Value of APB shown above (Photo credit: epSos.de – Creative Commons)

Enter “freemium”. (“Free” + “Premium” – get it? Har, har.)

I found a game app that sounded very similar to APB (albeit on a much smaller scale), called Crime City. Apparently this started as a Facebook game or something, but that is besides the point.

In Crime City you go on missions to take out mob bosses and stuff, rob shops, rob other players, have your own little town of shops, etc. and best of all it is FREE…to play.

Like any f2p game, Crime City has two types of currency: cash and gold. Cash you can attain by robbing people and doing missions. The game starts you with a little cash and a few gold bars.

In the introduction to the game, the game walks you through a couple easy missions and building a store. The store will take an hour to complete OR you can pay a gold bar and get it done right now. The game tells you “Use a gold bar to build it right away!” Naively, I did what the game told me.

English: A 250kg gold bar in the Toi gold mine...

Just enough to speed through one hour long task in a flash game…(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What the game doesn’t tell you is that those first few bars are all you get. Another thing it fails to mention is how often you will want that gold. You have stamina and, I think, ammunition in the game. Both get depleted with missions or thefts and such. You run out of stamina most, but both replenish through time. You can wait 8 hours for the bar to refill or – spend some gold.

Each level up, you can add to your stats. You can increase your stamina by a few points or gain points in other attributes. However as you level up, each new mission requires a little more.

Bottom line, play for 2 minutes and then wait for 8 hours or use gold to keep playing immediately.

So how do you earn more gold?

You don’t.

work sick

Just a few more days of this and I can buy stamina enough for TWO missions! (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee – CreativeCommons)

The thing that ultimately turned me off of Crime City is that over several levels there seemed to be no way to get gold, other than to purchase it with real money. Additionally, you could level up to the highest degree and get moderate equipment. Or – you could spend a hefty amount of gold to get insanely robust equipment – which you could get early in the game – that was impossible to obtain through normal play.

At the very least, other free to play games are a little more lenient. I also had tried out The Sims Freeplay, which uses Simoleons and Life Points (LP). Simoleons you can earn, and Life Points you have to buy with real cash. However, with The Sims Freeplay you get a dog in the beginning who occasionally digs up free LP and you can also get it with some accomplishments and progress.

Additionally, The Sims Freeplay allows you to do mundane, short tasks (using the bathroom, planting peppers, etc) to stay interested. This at least makes the game interesting, if not develop your addiction.

Another free-to-play game is The Simpsons: Tapped Out. In this game you generally have to buy donuts (the equivalent of gold in Crime City or LP in The Sims) but the game awards you the occasional donut for free here and there – at level ups, cleaning garbage, etc. In fact, I recently just received a bonus 12 donuts for no particular reason.

This style of game play wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for one thing: price.

To put this in perspective, let’s look at one game you can buy outright OR play via Free to Play: Sims.

To play The Sims 3 as a full-version Apple App, it is $6.99. Not too bad.

By comparison, The Sims Freeplay is, well, free – but if you don’t want to spend hours waiting for plants to grow or your Sims to eat, you could use LP. The longer the chore or task, the more LP you need to speed it up.

So how much is LP/gold/donuts?

A small quantity is $1.99 and it goes all the way up to a very large quantity for $99.99.

Before we continue, let me remind you what we are talking about spending your real money on here:

  • Virtual currency
  • Faster game play
  • Premium virtual equipment/furniture/stores

And this is in a relatively plain, flash-type game.

Real, tangible games cost half that much or less!

I understand that companies have to make money, especially when they are offering well-made content that they paid someone to design. But why would anyone in their right mind want to lay potentially 1-2 days’ wages on a largely uninteresting game? (i.e. there isn’t a ton you can do in the game and it doesn’t have a deep story.)

This is also relatable to the ever-popular “Words With Friends”, by Zynga. They now have a package deal where you can get an unlimited supply of all their individual game tools for $20.00. This includes ad-removal, word-o-meter (tells you roughly how good a word is that you want to play), and tile pile (tells which tiles are left in the “bag”).

The Scrabble app from EA, by comparison, lets you play against friends against the computer, gives you a dictionary, and even a teacher that not only says how good your word was but also what would have been better. Your score is tallied as you lay tiles down (Words With Friends does not do this). All this for… $1.99.

Really, is anything but greed to blame here?


Posted on November 4, 2012, in Beginners, Life, Random, Review, Social Networking, Tech and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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