Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Free to Play (You … for a sucker!)

Posted by Rampant Coyote on May 22, 2013

I have recently entered the land of the mobile-deviced. Or something.  Got a Nexus 10 (though I still have a plain ol’ “dumb” phone for the foreseeable future). It really is for game development, but I wanted to get some use out of it. A friend told me that he really had to hunt for ways to make his useful, but after some success it became indispensable. So I took his word for it and have looked for ways of using it.

It’s kinda tough for a guy who is almost always in front of a computer. There’s seriously very little a tablet can do that a computer cannot – except be mobile. Going where the computer can’t (at least not conveniently).

Remembering how incredibly boring a few recent flights for The Day Job were, I took that as an opportunity to hunt down the competition and find some entertainment (jussincase) in the process. So I checked out what was shaking in the RPG department for Android.

In five minutes, I was  searching for an option to filter out any game that was “free.”

By way of explanation… I hate buying a car. I inevitably buy used, and used car dealerships are generally horrible experiences for me. No matter how much research you do, you are in an inferior position to the person in a cheap suit trying to gauge how much they can gouge you. With one recent exception (where I wisely educated myself as much as possible in advance, and went to a place specializing in low-pressure, no-haggle ‘one fair price’ dealerships), I’ve always felt like I’ve been taken…. but I never really knew by how much.  So I’ve always felt like I’ve been played for a sucker.

So although I have rarely put any money into a “Free to Play” game – and have nothing against them personally (I mean, technically, my free demos of my games are kinda “free to play” with an upsell), I feel like these “free” games are either crapware laden with ads, or the digital equivalent of a used car dealership. I don’t feel like subjecting myself to either of these ugly situations.

And the Android store is laden with it. I was quickly getting to the point where I was only looking at those games with enough confidence and forthrightness to show it’s offer up-front.

Am I a really obscure exception to some rule – a market that nobody would do well to lose money on?


One day I’ll probably end up making a real “free to play” – long after the trend has died-  and will probably have to come up with some crazy excuse that I really believe about how I’m different from all that other crap out there.  And maybe I’m just being a big wuss about it (I do have a couple of f2P apps, and they aren’t bad. But for right now, it seems a little like a ghetto of gaming. A bunch of crappy games trying to lure me in to nickle-and-dime me to death or something.

Filed Under: Geek Life - Comments: 8 Comments to Read

  • Califer said,

    Free to play games never work on me. If it’s fun, I keep playing it. If it’s not, I stop. I’ve never paid any money to a free to play game.

  • Tamar said,

    Free-to-play mobile games are often about how long you can play before you hit wall and have to pay money or get around it by some other viral/time consuming means. With that in mind, there are certain types of games that F2P studios have gravitated towards because they’ve statistically shown to hold on to users more than other types of games. The current hotness is, no surprise, casino style games. The rules are already there, they just need to be milked.

    Many venture capitalists and publishers won’t even greenlight a project these days unless it’s F2P and demand a plethora of monetization options to go with it.

    But people play them because, unlike many console and PC games, it’s easy to jump in and start having “fun” immediately (once you get past the tutorial).

    Also, sadly, people are cheap. They will pay $400-$800 for a phone or tablet and then refuse to play a game for that device that costs 99 cents because “why should I have to pay for this!?”. I caught flack from my ex because she would she’d see me playing games on my iPhone that looked fun but got upset when she learned that I paid for them (and that she would have to pay for them if she wanted to play them on her iPhone).

    So the games are made and “priced” this way on purpose because people don’t trust developers enough to believe they can deliver a product worth paying for (no surprise, given that much of what is in app stores these days are crappy) and many developers are now so data driven when it comes to making money that they dare venture from the “proven” formulas that put food on the table for many of them.

  • Noumenon said,

    I feel exactly the same way about buying cars, that’s why I went to CarMax and will again.

    I’ve spent most of the morning playing 10000000 on my Galaxy, and it’s actually free!

  • Noumenon said,

    I think a cell phone is way more useful as a mobile device than a tablet. You don’t want your shopping list on a tablet… you can’t pull out a tablet to check directions to a parking garage… you’ll not get a tablet ready in time to take a picture. Sorry.

  • Xenovore said,

    Free-to-play games are becoming a scourge; everybody and their hamsters thinks it’s the next best thing to sliced bread, even though the trend is ruining otherwise decent games: A) the game content/game-play suffers due to being fenced arbitrarily by the cash shop, and B) the cash shop typically distracts and/or interrupts the game-play.

    That said, I believe the problem has been in-part created by this consumer expectation (at least in the mobile space) that games, however good, must be cheap or free, leaving developers to grasp desperately at any means possible to receive compensation for their hard work. So they see F2P working in multi-player games (like MMOs), and they say “Hey, we can do that with our game!”, and proceed to tack on a cash shop (with some sort of lame online component like “achievements” to excuse it), even though the game-play is otherwise single-player.

    On a completely different note: Aside from games, how do you like the Nexus 10? I’ve been considering getting a tablet to e-read, web surf, and watch the occasionally show. I’m considering the Nexus 7 at the moment; the Nexus 10 seems a bit large, i.e. not portable enough. . .

  • Brian 'Psychochild' Green said,

    Yeah, there’s a lot of drek out there, because 90% of everything is drek. 😉

    Free-to-play was an evolution of the way the Apple App Store was set up. The top most popular software was shown to users and those apps got the most installs. The apps that got the most installs were the cheaper ones. So, there was a “race to the bottom” where all apps had to compete at 99 cents or have even less possibility of success. Well, unless you score a huge amount of sales, it’s hard to make sustainable games at 99 cents, so “in app purchases” (IAP) was the solution.

    Free-to-play is a business model, and it doesn’t have to be done poorly, even if it often is. The problem is that IAP tend to exploit psychological weaknesses to get you to pay. Now, put down the pitchforks, because businesses exploit psychological weaknesses all the time. Prices that end in 99 cents, for example, exploits most people’s weaknesses in being able to estimate. If you want to stare into the abyss then look up how to design a menu for a restaurant, then realize how much you are manipulated when you go out for a bite to eat.

    The problem is that if you try to be “honest”, customers will ignore you. I’ve read several stories about indies who try to be fair, but in almost every case the developer has met with failure in financial terms. The reality is that most people just don’t want to pay, as you see in some of the comments here about people not being willing to pay a dime for a game they enjoyed. In the non-games realm, Extra Credits did a video about JC Pennys and how they tried to be “honest” with the consumer and do away with gimmicky sales and prices ending in 99 cents. Spoiler: it was an utter failure and has brought ruin to the store, making them lose over a million customers. http://www.penny-arcade.com/patv/episode/the-jc-pennys-effect

    Yeah, it sucks that a lot of free to play games abuse the customers. But, the sad fact is that the customers, as a whole, won’t have it any other way.

  • chad said,

    Get Tales of Illyria! Matt Barton has a cameo as the Rat Herder!

  • poopypoo said,

    there are a few Korean rpgs that are f2p and pretty solid. they are action rpgs firmly in the mold of Brave Fencer Musashi, though, not “real” rpgs. But the gameplay has finesse and the IAP is worth it, without being necessary. The goal does not seem to be to get you to pay $40 for what would two years ago have been a 3-star forgettable affair confined to the basement of newgrounds. So there are a few. But they’re rare, rare on iOS and even moreso on Android, where the prevailing wisdom seems to be that nobody will pay up front for ANYthing. Admittedly I dont game on my Android so I can’t talk. But the only really good RPGs on iOS, from what I have seen, are $5-15 up front. I hope you can fit into this niche (and that it is viable)!