“Free to Play”

I find myself browsing Swagbucks to find offers to make myself some cash, and lo and behold I find the money mash.

An offer to play a mobile game, and once I hit a certain level I get my rewards. It sounds easy enough. Though, while I did succeed and I did get the rewards, I continued to play the game regardless finding an interest in what it had to offer.

And so I started to invest time in playing it every day, I was addicted but I noticed a problem it had that many mobile games have in common. It was pay to win. If you aren’t familiar with the phrase, it basically means you pay to get in-game resources to get an advantage over your opponents. Mobile games will usually use this tactic with long timers as well, to lure you in to pay money to speed up the process.

Clash of Clans lets you buy gems to speed things up!

Now, I understand why companies do this. Money. There is legitimately no other reason, and that’s okay. If you aren’t a mobile gamer and you are stingy with your money like I am, you may ask. “Who even buys this stuff?” Well, whales wait for sales or shove their money through the mail to beat their friend named Dale. No, not actual whales. There is a group of people called “whales” who play mobile games and simply just have too much money to spend or just too careless with the little money they have. These are the biggest sources of income games will ever have, and a single whale can be willing to spend up to ten THOUSAND dollars on a phone game just to gain an advantage over their enemies.

The problem with this though is it’s become a common trend in free to play games to have pay to win mechanics like this. Yes, it’s technically “free to play” for at least the 2-3 days you have until build timers take too long and enemies become too strong. After those few days they use to lure you in with their interesting “mechanics” and gameplay, they start to ramp up the difficulty tenfold. While you spend days to get loot, they’ve paid a hundred dollars for the most recent package to get all the loot along with twenty thousand gems or something. It’s. Frustrating.

It takes 8 days to upgrade your Town Hall to level 20 in Rise of Kingdoms.
Yes, this is the last town hall level, but 126 days? There’s boosts even F2P players can get, yes. BUT 126 DAYS?

I also want to rant a bit about Hearthstone being problematic in terms of “pay to win”, but I personally don’t think it’s pay to win, but rather it’s pay to have fun. There are cool decks and combos I want to try but they are all hidden behind a luck based pay wall. It’s like spinning the slot machine to see what decks you MIGHT be able to build. No, I don’t need 20 legendary cards to win, but wouldn’t the game be a lot more fun if I did have those cards rather than playing Face Hunter 100 games in a row?

I’m looking at you Zephyrs…

Where was I? Oh, right. Now the question is, can we blame companies for doing this? It doesn’t even have to be a multiplayer game for “Pay to Win” to still apply. People are making idle games, games designed for you to LITERALLY DO NOTHING, pay to win by giving you options to get bonus currency, heroes, or whatever shenanigans to get yourself to finish the game faster. People will spend money to feel a sense of power. There are people on World of Warcraft or Runescape who’ll grind endlessly to get this feeling, but free to play games have started to take the easier route. Who needs to invest time into interesting gameplay when you can “GET THE LEGENDARY LEVEL 200 HERO FOR $9.99”. It makes money, and that’s why people won’t stop doing this.

In terms of game design, this can be closely related to many RPGs, where you achieve your goals by grinding and grinding. You fight monsters, gain experience, and level up. Rinse. Repeat. As you get higher levels, you get access to better gears, more abilities, and different playstyles.

If Octopath Traveller, one of my favourite RPGs to this day, was made by a mobile company, you’d be able to “Purchase XP boosts for $20!” Octopath Traveller, though it isn’t a mobile game, is a perfect example of healthy and fun progression. You gain a sense of accomplishment for every boss you beat, for every storyline you finish, and every new mechanic you master. You pay for the game and you pay FOR THE GAME. “Free to Play” games encourage you to pay to not play the game, cause these games implement frustrating progression systems to make you want to skip it all.

In the end, it does not matter. While this does create some sketchy games that just try to fish out for whales, people DO pay for this stuff. This form of marketing does make money. It’s a shame cause there have been some AMAZING mobile games I’ve played like Deemo that are fun to play wherever you go, but these games are usually shoved away by the endless stream of “Free to Play” games. No, I refuse to pay. That’s all I have to say. Do what you may, I don’t think it’s the way.

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