There are many, many great game on the iOS platform, with more coming out every single day. It's an exciting place, and the sheer variety of game experiences to be had from both big and small developers is one of the things that attracts me to iOS as a gaming platform the most.
However, a looming concern with every new game is how you'll end up paying for it. The mobile gaming world moves faster than any platform ever has before, and is even influencing the landscape of console and PC games for the future. Right now free-to-play and "freemium" games are the ones garnering all the profits and the most users' time. Success is often driven by visibility and chart positions, so removing any sort of barrier of entry to someone downloading and trying your game is highly attractive.
Games aren't free-to-make, though, so you have to figure out how to monetize your free-to-play game. In fact there are a number of ways you can do this, all with different benefits and drawbacks.
The most traditional way in the App Store is to have both paid and free versions of your game. The lite version is limited or supported by ads, but you make your money by convincing people to buy the paid version with the free taste that you've given them. This isn't technically free-to-play as it's used today, but you're still giving people a free game to try in the hopes that they'll give you some money afterwards.
With the introduction of in-app purchasing to iOS a few years back, you can actually roll the lite/paid model into the same app. The free game people download is essentially the "lite" version, limited in some way, but then you can unlock a paid "full" version through IAP. I like this model as it reduces App Store clutter with many versions of the same game and avoids any potential problems with transferring progress or the like.
Then there is the traditional free-to-play model, where a game is entirely free and you can conceivably play through the entire thing without ever paying a cent, but there is some sort of in-game currency or timers which will artificially slow down or halt your progress. Bypassing these impediments is usually as easy as buying some packs of in-game currency through IAP of various sizes and prices.
That traditional free-to-play model is the one that's given the term "free-to-play" a bad name. Shouldn't that be a good thing, playing a game for free? Well, not when a game is purposely balanced to steer your towards buying the currency, or relies on psychological tricks not completely removed from gambling impulses that constantly tick away at you to spend some real-life dough on the virtual kind.
I'm bringing all of this up because a small discussion broke out in the forum thread for the just-released Trial by Survival [Free] regarding its novel pay system. It's free-to-play on the surface, with an in-game currency you can purchase more of if you want and some short cooldown timers in-between the various quests. Buying IAP currency isn't required in any way, and even when you're on a cooldown wait you can still play through an Arena mode where you can just earn more of that in-game currency anyway. It works out really nicely, and the game itself is quite an awesome experience for free.
The thing that makes this all unique is that they also offer a "Survival Pack" as a $3.99 IAP which for all intents and purposes transforms the game into a "premium" game. It removes the timer aspect completely and starts you off with some of the early items that you'd normally have to save up for or "grind" for to buy in the shop. Oftentimes, when a new free-to-play game hits, there are many comments wondering why the game doesn't just offer a paid unlock to remove all the free-to-play shenanigans. Well, here we have a company doing just that.
So this got me wondering, which pay model do you prefer if you had to choose? Of course, a one-time up-front price for a full game without any further ability to pay for IAP is the most ideal solution, but what are your thoughts on some of the other models, and which ones do you think are alright and which ones do you think are absolutely deplorable? We'd love to know, so sound off in the comments below.