New piece talking about freemium games on DragonBlogger. Bad freemium frustrates me, although I think games have value, developers should be paid for their craft, and freemium is not automatically evil. After many rounds of editing, and many discussions with Al Jackson over at Hardcore Droid, I was finally able to clearly articulate what’s so frustrating about the pay-to-skip monetization method.
While good IAP adds value to a solid game experience, bad freemium demands players spend money to adjust the difficulty balance in order to create a more solid game experience. There’s an unappealing dishonesty in a game that’s billed as free, but requires additional purchases to make the game experience playable. Pixonic’s Robinson is free-to-play if you don’t mind waiting to acquire dozens of needed materials from a random drop that refreshes every 24 hours. I noted in an article I wrote for Hardcore Droid that Zenonia 5 is free-to-play, if you don’t need any armor or weapons from the merchants, and your character never dies in battle. Thousands of games use a painfully slow and repetitive grind as a motivator for premium purchasers, deliberately boring and annoying players into paying. There is something deeply flawed about designing gameplay so dull that it begs to be avoided.
And that’s what’s most upsetting about bad freemium content. Good games offer so much artistry to enjoy, with intriguing puzzles, engaging characters and storyline, and combat action that it’s disappointing to see games designed to bring players a boring grind, and then monetizing by asking players to pay to avoid it. It’s a disappointing trend to watch as a hobbyist. As an industry, we can all do better. With creativity, the freemium model can mean offering great additional content, and monetizing successfully on extras that add to gameplay, instead of designing to bore.