With the establishment of freemium entertainment in the market, there is growing concern over whether free-to-play games reward players with more content for improving their skill or for forking over more cash.
In the case of Tencent, the biggest grossing developer amongst the freemium market in 2013, and their CrossFire game, some of the game’s weapons can only be purchased as premium content. This gives players who may have not earned upgrades with skill a direct advantage over their opponents.
Then there is Blizzard’s hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, a freemium game with a fair system of in-app content accessibility. Players can earn gold through daily quest challenges, which is used to buy card packs and battle opportunities in the Arena. If the player performs well enough in battle, they could potentially net their gold yield or earn a surplus amount. This idea is equitable to all players because skill is rewarded instead of honoring a person’s dispensable money budget.
While the freemium business model is a revenue-generating idea for game makers of all sizes, some developers such as 12-year-old Sam Smith still forego the idea and keep the traditional pay-to-play model of selling apps, despite approving of games like hearthstone.
“If a game is free, then you’ll probably have adverts and in-app purchases,” Smith told Venture Beat when explaining his thoughts on the digital gaming market. “If someone buys a game, they get the game, and they don’t need to just pay for more and more and more. It’s not fun.”
Free-to-play, just from the name and purchase price alone, becomes an easy decision to make when scrolling through digital game stores. Because freemium business models include the lowest barriers of entry, the biggest hurdle for developers (getting consumers to try their game) also becomes lowest hump for gamers to experience a company’s title. To gamers, freemium games are as like a demo and the full content are all rolled into one.
“(Free-to-play games) are just trying to grab people’s money, and just luring them in by pretending to be free. Then you have to spend money for the next billion levels. I’d much rather have it be simple.”
-Sam Smith to Venture Beat
Once gamers decide they enjoyed what they played, the content is already accessible and their positive experiences leads them to pay for more content. The cliche “you get what you pay for” becomes it’s own philosophy in freemium games; in-game purchases could only enhance the content already being enjoyed. Simply put: pay more, get more.