When Freemium Games Aren’t Annoying

When Freemium Games Aren’t Annoying

Freemium games—those that are free to access, but offer in-app purchases that can enhance the experience—generally get a bad rap. A few years ago when they were really starting to become popular, one article circulated and stated that they were ruining the app store. And when the freemium model is applied to specific games that generate a lot of attention, it’s often mentioned as a negative in reviews. For instance, upon the highly anticipated release of Popcap’s Plants vs. Zombies 2, one major review acknowledged that it had solid gameplay while also calling for a boycott—because the game embraced freemium concepts.

Freemium, in short, has become a dirty word in gaming, but it’s not always as bad as it sounds. There are plenty of instances in which freemium gaming just isn’t that annoying.

When The Game Is Huge Anyway

Generally speaking, the idea of in-app purchases is to make a game bigger or better in some way. It might mean unlocking new levels, new features or capabilities to enjoy, etc. But a lot of games that are often criticized for incentivizing in-app purchases are actually enormous even if you don’t pay a dime. This applies to some of the most popular games in mobile app stores.

The first and best example, frankly, is Plants vs. Zombies 2. This game can be played for hours and hours with a perfectly natural progression without your needing to spend any money at all. And you could argue that in this case, spending money cheapens the experience. PvZ 2 is a bigger-than-normal mobile game, and paying for shortcuts effectively shrinks it down to a shorter and less fulfilling experience. And if freemium still annoys you with this one, you can still buy the original non-freemium desktop version from Popcap’s online game catalogue.

Another example is Marvel’s Contest Of Champions, which has become one of the most popular mobile apps in existence and operates on a distinctly freemium model. Yet that game, too, is simply big enough to enjoy without spending money. There are so many different ways to play the game that while cash speeds up the process, it’s not actually needed.


When Freemium Is A Welcome Bonus

In some cases, a freemium game is simply one that’s free to download and free to play, with paid bonuses available for those who want them. But in others, a freemium game comes with a sort of starter kit that can help you to get into the experience. Sure, this is usually an incentive to get you to want to keep paying for more perks, but it’s also a nice way to sample a game and make up your own mind.

Some of the clearest examples of this brand of freemium gaming exist online rather than in app stores. Gala’s free welcome bonus paints a clear picture of what this sort of freemium model can look like. Basically, when you join this bingo platform, you get a given amount of money with which to play games. While it’s expected that at least some players will ultimately deposit more to play with in real-money bingo games, it’s not actually necessary. With a welcome bonus, you can enjoy everything at your pace and decide how much more you want to commit to the games.

This isn’t as common in mobile gaming, though it’s fair to say the hottest name in app stores has embraced its own style of welcome bonus. Pokémon Go is taking the mobile world by storm, and while it does have in-app purchasing options, the stash of items you begin the game with makes it unnecessary to spend, at least in the early going. You’re given the poké balls needed to capture pokémon, and you can find more at strategic locations as you walk around. Basically, you get to have a nice fun start before deciding if you want to pay for more.

These are the most noteworthy overarching examples of how freemium can be perfectly tolerable. What it comes down to is whether or not the game can be enjoyed in its full form without payments. In those cases, freemium is doing its job, offering enhancements and perks to those who want them, but not making them absolutely necessary.


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