EA Mobile announced this week that its forthcoming games would be adopting the “freemium” model; games that will be free to download but packed with upgrades and extras that cost actual dollars.
While some may be excited about the prospect of no longer paying for titles such as Madden NFL or Tiger Woods PGA Tour, in the end this is a move that will decrease the quality and experience of mobile gaming.
EA and other companies would not be making this move if the numbers didn’t make sense. Surely the company has found it can increase its revenue by getting more copies of the game in everyone’s hands. Once that is the case, many gamers are willing to improve performance through upgrades, such as the The Mighty Eagle from Angry Birds.
In-game upgrades have been around for a while, but the transition happening now is that game companies are counting on them to be the primary source of revenue. What this means for players is a continual series of pop-ups and notices that promise superior performance at a price.
There is something to be said for a dissolution of the gaming expeience when a constant carrot of upgrades and pricing is dangled in front of a player. Sure, some will like being able to buy a better game and dominate opponents.
Personally I would rather pay for a game up front, then be left alone to play. I don’t mind paying for good apps; in fact some developers are probably not compensated enough for their work.
I also worry that this move by a major publisher will put pressure on independent developers to do the same. Some of the best games are from smaller publishing outfits, and creating a squeeze on them to harass players with continual updates is not a good thing.
In-app upgrades will always be an option, especially in gaming. There is nothing bad about being able to buy a better experience. But making that the only way to make money off a game forces the player to deal with an unending barrage of solicitations. It’s not a great way to enjoy a game, yet unfortunately it looks like the future.