This was an exciting weekend for folks who like debating the merits of in-app purchases on Twitter, particularly as the more "mainstream" games media started to figure out just how aggressive EA's monetization methods in Dungeon Keeper [Free] turned out to be. If you haven't played it, much like EA's The Simpsons: Tapped Out [Free] the game's tutorial not only pokes fun at the fact that you need to spend premium currency, but it doesn't feel like you're barely even scratching the surface of the game before you're slapped with four hour timers for simple actions like digging a tunnel to the next nearby gold mine. Additionally, Dungeon Keeper is chock full of all the flavor of the week free to play elements, leaning heavily on several mechanics straight out of Supercell's Clash of Clans [Free]

Understandably, anyone who even had the vaguest fond memories of the original Dungeon Keeper has found themselves incredibly disappointed by EA's new highly social free to play twist on the classic Dungeon Keeper formula. The disappointment has spread across our forums, both in the game's thread as well as several spin-off threads such as this one by Aventador which discusses a trend he has noticed regarding the App Store "devaluing the destroying old classics."

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It didn't take long for the discussion across the internet to shift course from "EA ruined Dungeon Keeper" to "IAP is destroying gaming, full stop." This brought me to a particularly great editorial by Austin-based iOS developer Drew Crawford which argues that similar gameplay elements actually even predates computers, specifically when it comes to ancient mechanical arcade games released in the mid-60's which in adjusted 2013 dollars cost roughly $1.80 a pop to play.

...IAP is not a new model. It is a very old model, the model that started the industry, that everybody forgot about. It’s hard to imagine now, but according to Steve Kent there were some 400,000 arcade street locations in the United States. Compare this with only 121,000 gas stations or 190,000 grocery stores. That is a lot of interest in video gaming under a pay-to-play model.

Crawford goes on to discuss the very unique problem that the App Store is facing, in that we're involved in a market with more games being released on a single platform than ever before at a rate that makes it quite literally impossible for anyone to play them all. In fact, he bases his example off of there being 150,000 games on the App Store, when in actuality as of this writing there are over 190,000.

The fundamental problem with selling games is that you have 150,000 games that you could play instead. If you think you have a unique game, you probably don’t. And even if you do, it doesn’t matter, because nobody will ever find out–they’ll just play whatever game is in the top list or that their friends saw in the toplist, because nobody is playing any appreciable fraction of 150,000 games.

This is, basically, a problem that is unique to the games market. If you want to take notes on your iPad for example, there are maybe 25 apps that realistically will do what you want. And so you if you are really motivated you can try all those apps for yourself. Or you can look on the internet and find an article where somebody’s done that for you. But nobody’s playing 150,000 games. Not me, not you, not IGN. Nobody. Nobody’s even going to play 1,000 games, which is well under 1% of the games market. And this is why marketing games is very hard. (You’re beginning to discover why I’m not a game developer.)

His point about the top lists particularly hits home on a week where Flappy Bird [Free] and the same developers' other two games are glued to the top of the free charts, seeing millions of downloads a day. Essentially, the App Store is a market that all conventional rules of how to develop, market, and sell games need to be rewritten, so attempting to apply any conventional logic on how things should be based on how things used to be just doesn't work.

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Comparisons are often made to the shareware world, but as Drew found, the Internet Archive barely even indexes 2,400 items which includes all shareware, not just games. Additionally, as vast as console libraries seem, the slightly over 1,000 Xbox 360 games in existence aren't even a drop in the bucket compared to the world of iOS. The best part of the whole piece, however, and the most widely disregarded point of any argument against free to play is how well the model manages to solve the insane segmentation that not only comes of the ridiculous amount of games available, but also the massive variety of both backgrounds and spending potential of modern gamers.

See, the trouble with gamers is that they are non-uniform. Kids in elementary school play games. Your wife in the checkout line plays games. And these people–well, they have vastly different spending power.

The magic of IAP is it allows a software developer to segment its market; to take in the $.10 in ad spend that the elementary school kid can pay, the $5 that the college student with a side job can pay, and the $100 that the suburban housewife can pay. In fact, something like 51% of all revenue is a transaction over $20.

The true problem, is no one has been able to propose a better alternative to survival on the App Store outside of free to play models. The requirements for this solution, as Crawford points out, are as follows:

  • No loss in revenue for game developers.
  • Ability to segment customers and make more money from richer customers.

The shareware model on the App Store where you get a free taste than a single payment to unlock the rest simply doesn't work, and developers who have tried it in the iOS world have actually gone homeless doing it. Slapping a price tag on your game automatically puts you at a 90% handicap to everything else on the App Store. With a limitless supply of games, no gatekeepers outside of a bare bones approval process and $99 yearly fee, we come to the following conclusion:

The only thing you can do is draw as many customers in as possible and then once you’ve got them in the door bleed them for whatever they can afford, and that’s why we’re here.

Actually there is a third possibility: iOS games could go the way of flash games, where it’s more of a hobby than a viable business. Some 70% of flash game developers are only part-time, whereas only 36% of iOS devs are moonlighters. So there’s a very sobering outcome that we should consider in our analysis: we should consider that there may not be a business model for mobile games that works at all.

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So, is IAP destroying gaming as we know it? No. Gaming is just evolving, and getting a little different in the process as developers are forced to get more creative to keep the lights on in their studios. Like all things, we'll eventually fall inside of a natural state of balance, and what we're experiencing right now are the two sides of the pendulum swing, between EA's hyper-aggressive monetization in Dungeon Keeper, and the relatively hands-off approach that other developers like NimbleBit take in their free to play titles. Taking a hint from ArsTechnica, if you made it this far and want to discuss this story in the comments mention bananas somehow. Every market out there has forces of good and bad in it, and the App Store isn't any different.

Hopefully we eventually wind up with a business model that works for developers, and monetization methods that don't offend gamers, but if there's one thing that's my favorite about the App Store is that it's always changing. The existence of Dungeon Keeper as an IAP-ridden timer game doesn't mean gaming is ruined, the market is just trying to figure out what to do next- So save your doom and gloom and focus on the massive amount of incredible games on the App Store instead of getting so upset with the few that aren't.

[via Sealed Abstract by Drew Crawford]

  • defunct32

    No of course not, it's your sneaky ads on websites that redirects us to the App store without our permission that is probably more of a concern than IAPs to be honest, EA. it's annoying.

  • WhereTheGoodGamesAt

    Good game I have spent nothing on this and enjoyed it so far, you don't have to beat the game in one day to enjoy it.

    • Dammster

      You again?!

  • garret44

    Yes.Yes they are

    You are wrong

    • nini

      Well, you heard the man devs. Pack it up, gaming is dead and it's because of pay to play. Not like there were ever whole emporiums of games all pay to play like mentioned in the article, nono, it's the IAPs and they're destroying everything and probably raped your cat too.

      • Onikage725

        Is slipping in 25-50 cents to continue if you in out of lives the best comparison? That's not an in-app purchase, and the only progress lockout was your own skill. After a certain point, many of them also got home ports. So you had the option to buy in and not worry.

        I like it when companies to that on the App Store. The problem is, it's often games I don't care to play :p

        You know the model though- $3-5 purchase, or try the free version with adds. IAP items in, but not necessary. I know devs hate fragmentation by releasing two versions. I feel that option, though, is truer to that arcade spirit. "Hey there's this "Guilty Gear" game people are talking about! Let's go to the arcade and play it. Hey it's pretty good, let's get it on Playstation so we can play whenever!"

      • Biowhere

        That's the thing, arcade comparisons don't work because back in the day a huge portion of what you paid went to the logistics of building and shipping the actual hardware (boards, cabinets, etc.), paying for retail space, electricity, insurance, etc. only a small portion of all of that overhead was for the actual price of the game.
        On iOS you aren't even 'renting' the hardware to play the game. You are supplying the device, the internet connection, the electricity, etc. reduce all IAP costs to 10% of what they are now, then we'll talk.

      • Jared Nelson

        That may be true of the late 90s onward, where home consoles could approach the same level as arcade games. But in the 80s and early 90s, arcades were where the premium gaming experience was at. Street Fighter II on SNES, despite being really fun, was not as good as the arcade game.

      • sivad

        Absolutely, the same with mortal kombat... Something rewarding about being the kid that no one could beat when facing off in 2 player. Not the same flair at home

      • Edwin Ramirez

        Still, comparing 80s-90s arcade experience with IAP is like saying you had to wait 4 hours for your fighter to reach the other fighters location OR insert another quarter to "speed up" the plane.
        I don't remember having to insert aditional quarters to unlock every move in Street Fighter; they were all already available.
        Nor do I remember reaching a fighter I could only defeat with low kicks and having to pay aditionally to unlock said move.

      • Biowhere

        You're sort of making my point. IOS freemium isn't the 'premium option', yet it's charging a premium price. I just picked up Kingdoms of Amalur this weekend during the steam sale for $6. In dungeon keeper on iOS that buys me an extra Imp...

        The underlying mechanics of the successful freemium iOS games are reprehensible. They use manipulative feedback loops, basically using what slot machine developers figured out years ago, including 'near misses' which encourage additional play. Candy Crush and Puzzles and Dragons are great examples of this.

        The ability of players to quickly 'insert a buck' to try again, and the ease in which it is possible using a credit card should be deeply worrying to legislators. This will likely be comprehensively addressed in the EU before too long.

        This very well could be just like the arcades of the 1980's, just not in the way that proponents of free to play think. In 5 or 10 years it's likely this category of gaming will be a mere shadow of itself due to legislation enacted to protect consumers from the highly manipulative tactics.

      • Jay G

        That's just bananas! But true.

      • Wizard of Odyssey

        That was me in the 1990s when arcades were dying out. I was a little bit sad to see them go, but the alternative was longer, more complex adventures at home, where you could actually save your progress.

        I'm still nostalgic for the style of old arcade games, and I pay for retro stuff all the time, but never when there's an expectation to pay more than once to play! Could you imagine Dragon's Lair with a freemium design on mobile? Yuck!

    • IMNS

      No. You are wrong. IAP isn't destroying gaming. It destroyed it a while ago already. There's nothing left to destroy anymore.

      Can't say about others but for me personally, I've pretty much lost all interest in iOS gaming. Haven't downloaded a new game in months. Have tried maybe 6 new games in the last year and ended up deleting all of them after a day or two. Mobile gaming is now only meant for soccer moms, dumb dads and 4yr olds. Rest of us are apparently not rich enough for the devs anymore.

      • Pheebers

        Your loss. But thanks to iOS I've enjoyed KOTOR, The Room2, and other quality games for less than the cost of lunch.

      • Onikage725

        I'm not knocking he ios port of KOTOR. I love it. However, your point falls a little flat. KOTOR is an old game. I sold my xbox copy on ebay for all of $7 two years ago. I also got the Steam version on sale around that time for pocket change. The ios platform has nothing to do with the availability of two-gen old console games.

      • IMNS

        Have enough experience on AppStore to know what I'm (not) missing. The only real thing I'm missing now is the headaches, frustration and disappointment which comes with iOS gaming.

        It's not about how cheap you can get stuff on AppStore. It's about how unrewarding the experience of finding a game worth your time on AppStore is now a days. The big majority of the games aren't even worth the bandwidth let alone one's time. There maybe more games on iOS worth playing than there are total number of games on 360, ps3, vita and DS combined. But to find one such game on iOS requires you to go through three dozen games (and that's assuming you're following sites like TA and not just trying to find stuff randomly). Not worth the trouble for me. I'd rather pay $20 for a console game than waste my time looking for something decent on AppStore.

      • DNA

        Same here. I just want to pay the one price and play unrestricted and be able to 'earn' everything in game but those games are becoming a rarity. I'm going back to PC gaming and have lost interest in ios. Ios gaming was destroyed ages ago. You're right there too.

  • bashnasha

    Are you going to stream today Eli? 🙂

    • mclifford82

      Flagged for being off topic. Be on topic.

  • Intendro

    They're ruining games with all this crap like "lol timers that prevent you from playing the freaking GAME" and "we think forcing people to buy something to get past a difficult level to have fun will work because we forgot they're supposed to be fun for people to buy GAMES"...

    Remember how they're games? You're supposed to play them? Timers are crap, illogical freaking crap that no one who wants to (gasp) play the game (the whole point of a game) would freaking buy anything from! "Oh sorry you can't play for X hours because." Hey, that means I'm forced to play someone else's game. Oops!
    And I'm not paying to temporarily remove a timer, I'm not even buying a "remove the timer" because it's like paying to fix a broken thing that was supposed to work in the first place. And it'd be like supporting the idiotic thing.

    And don't you know that making them not fun (so it's a "screw you give me money program") means... People won't buy anything in it? Hey, look, games that are trying to be fun, instead of trying to make me buy crap powerups to "win" while losing money like crazy! I'm going to play those instead!

    And requiring Internet in a single player game? Hey, you just lost a ton of customers. Congratulations. Fewer people can play the game. It can't be played anywhere. Did I mention single player, no reason for such an idiotic restriction? I hate... All... This... Nonsense...

    I have had it with this freaking lack of logic in our freaking GAMES!

    Anti-fun = anti-profit.
    You seem to have forgotten how to even make your product make money, not to mention you're making all your customers angry! Get equipped with logic.

    They already ruined Tales of Phantasia. What's next? What's the next classic game series that is going to be turned into a "screw you give me money to win lol single player Internet requirement no logic here" program?

    Hey, remember when games were...

    But the future refused to change...


    • dragon2777

      While I agree with you for the most part you have to remember that a game like Dungeon Keeper isn't really meant to be won just played get a bigger base and make more resources, so timers in a game like that don't bother me. However a game like Dead Trigger 2 (which I love) has iAP and timers but while you are upgrading a weapon you can still use it and so far I haven't seen anything that you have to pay for because you unlock stuff as you go along. I think there are good iAP models and bad ones. I think that Dead Trigger 2 got it right and some games got it wrong that's all. If you don't like one games model don't play it obviously there are enough games to try out there. This btw was not an attack on you I just wanted to add my input is all.

      • Jokerz

        You clearly have not played the original DK to understanding the real concept of the game. Go download DK1 and 2 for free, just google it. It's about 500mb and years, decades even, of good bloody fun. Then you'll understand, the desire, the need, one to become a total badass, and dominate the land.
        Explore, build, research, pillage, slapping chickens, picking and throwing your minions around, sacrificing your minions, torture, watch them rot in prison, and the need to kill the good guys (heroes) is all good fun.
        The ruined, devalued, destroyed version of DK (from EA) is not fun.

      • Jokerz

        I think it's 500mb ish - I still have the original copies on disc.
        I now have a sudden urge to go play the real DK.

      • Onikage725

        I agree in that there are decent uses. Iron Man 3 comes to mind. It's an endless flyer, and if you want to get everything you'd better start playing the lotto. However, I've unlocked and bought a stable decent armors without spending cash. And the post-flight repair timer, and upgrade timers, are so small that they usually run out by the time I'm done farting around in the menus. And if they haven't, I just pick one of my other armors for a run.

      • Edwin Ramirez

        That's the issue right there. The original Dungeon Keepers WERE games meant to be won. There were stages where you either had to defeat the land's heroes or other dungeon keepers, all in sake of conquering the whole map.

      • dragon2777

        That's basically what I was trying to say. This version is not meant to be beat and if you don't like that then just move on.

      • Wizard_Mike

        I think the point you are missing is that the devs took a game franchise that was originally one style of play and converted it into another style of play just to push an iap model. This is what people mean by "iap is ruining gaming". It's not that people hate all in app purchases or microtransactions. It's because some (not all) devs are throwing out what makes a game great and simply using a popular name to push iap. (Dungeon Keeper and Ultima Forever, both by EA/Mythic, are perfect examples.)

      • pauldavidmerritt

        I just love all the
        "Eh, well, it's crappy. You don't like it, move on."

        People like this are the reason things can't improve and get better. All you gamers out there that say this kind of crud need to just shut your mouths. I'm tired of hearing how 'ok' you are about this nonsense, and how you (intentionally or not) continually promote this idea to developers.

      • Edwin Ramirez

        And THAT exactly is why IAP is ruining the gaming industry. They took an already established and loved franchise, striped out the fun parts and replaced them with IAP removable timers.
        I'll be moving along but sad and deeply dissapointed.

    • rewind

      You have obviously never taken a look at the top grossing charts.

  • Papa Deuce

    EA ruined Dungeon Keeper; there can be no doubt.

    • Jokerz

      No shit, they ruin everything in by their path. Everything else that was good, they brought them out (Bullfrog and Westwood are good examples) to prevent them from becoming bigger than EA.

      • SpacePenguinBot

        They haven't even had a solid AAA release since Origin went up. Something is rotten over there.

      • Papa Deuce

        You don't have to tell me.... I bought SimCity..... Took weeks to get to play.

  • gora

    "Bananas" 🙂
    Well written, except you need to edit the part where you introduce Drew: "Drew Crawford, who argues". Not which.

    Hmmm. The free-to-play arena. Full of gladiators. Crawford's on the money regarding the vast field of gamers. There's so many socioeconomically disadvantaged gamers with older phones who demand free games. Those of us who buy the latest gear just want to outright buy the game. Now I'm an old man at 30, but I remember buying a game and playing it through beginning to end. I don't mind paying $20-60 for a quality game. It infuriates me when I see timers and feel like the game is broken until I buy into their IAPs.

    IAPs done right. Temple Run 2 allows you to collect all the coins you need eventually. Now, I bought the coins to unlocked my character's power ups, because you can't *really* get those high scores (100 million plus) without all of those power ups unlocked. The game's enjoyable and I never feel like I need to buy anymore IAPs. Same with PvZ 1 or Mega Jump 2. Great games with IAPs but they don't detract from the gameplay.

    EA is at the other spectrum. I can't support a game that bleeds me more than my wife.

  • ikari_paul

    oh, so now Dungeon Keep and Clash of Clans can be compared to Arcade games, like pacMan and Donkey Kong, because you had to feed quarters into the machine to keep playing?! butthurt developers

  • SpikeGuy

    It would be one thing this was a brand-new IP, but I can't imagine anyone who loved the original Dungeon Keeper being happy that an imp takes four hours to clear one square. This negative reaction can't be a surprise.

    • Onikage725

      Free to play Tales of Phantasia springs to mind.

  • KoRoV

    Ok, it looks like its time to stock up money, and buy all good GAMES out there like BIA:Hour of heroes, dungeon hunter 1&2, resident evil, first gameloft games and some other full games, and save a little for some other good incoming payed games (impolsion, god fire).
    Pay IAP to unlock full game? YES, IN ANY TIME!
    Pay to win? NEVER AND NEVER!!!
    I rest my case!

    • mclifford82


      No, seriously, what case did you make? That you're going to go spend a lot of money on games you may or may not like because they don't have "pay to win"?

      NEVER AND NEVER!!!!!!!!!

  • mondoz

    Using arcade games as an example is a terrible idea.

    Arcade games go so expensive, they micro-transactioned themselves and destroyed the industry. No more arcades.

    The only people that are still desperate to put quarters in slots go to Vegas. The rest of us want something more for our money.

    People want to buy a game, not rent it by the minute.

    • iAjent

      I agree. Why use an sub-industry that no longer exists because of how archaic it was as an example of why IAP's are a good business strategy. I mean, is he suggesting that business folk thought "Um, hey, that worked for a little bit but eventually wasn't popular and sustainable, I think that's what we need to do again". In my opinion, it seems painfully obvious that publishers are aware of the boom in smartphones and tablets whilst also being aware that a s*it ton of people are uneducated (in gaming terms) enough to be taken advantage of. When games like this practically make IAP's necessary in order to get any meaningful enjoyment out of the game then it is clearly a cash grab mentality.

    • Jared Nelson

      I frequented arcades throughout the '90s and early 2000s, and I didn't stop going because games were too expensive, I stopped going because games on my home consoles were for the first time at least as good if not better than the ones in arcades. I don't think the pricing of arcade games had anything to do with their demise.

      • Salt Abdullah

        The Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike game was on fire. I remember dropping at least $20 and spending a whole day at a Tokyo arcade. I got my white ass handed to me - you can bet the farm on that.

  • cakuki

    Actually it made me try to work DK2 in my Win8. Thanks I have missed it.

  • Saulo Benigno

    What about the Angry Birds success? With the paid version and lite/free/shareware version?

    • rewind

      Rovio made around $200 million last year, and half of that was on clothing and toys. So they only made $100 million on a whole collection of at least 10 games.

      Meanwhile, Supercell made $600 million last year on only two games.

      That's about $10 million a game for Rovio, and $300 million a game for Supercell. My numbers aren't exact, but you get the point. Freemium is the way to go.

      • iAjent

        'Only £100 million' for the effort put into making 'only £100 million' is bloody good business.

        £600 million for putting the effort into making two games is also bloody good business. It isn't something gamers should be happy about though. Unless you're suggesting Clash of Clans is actually worthy of such accolades?

        It's not so much that IAP's are destroying games, it's that certain business models are completely against the spirit of gaming (and decency - they're blatantly designed with only one purpose, to make money. I'm sure most developers actually want to ENTERTAIN and make money. It's the publishers who are the devils).

  • bilboad

    Very interesting stuff. I agree with, or at least am on the fence, about most of what you wrote. My only quibble is actually not with what you wrote, but with the author you quoted, Crawford, who compared freemium with coin-op arcade games. I think that's a somewhat specious comparison, because there is a major difference between the two which I think is responsible for a lot of the hate that gets thrown at freemium. The difference is that the arcade payment model is very straightforward and unambiguous; you put coins in and you can play, you don't put coins in and you can't play. I've never seen arcade games which let you pay extra for powerups for example. The closest I've seen to that is when arcade games let you put more coins in to continue the current game.

    Contrast that with most freemium games now. Generally you can play the game for free, but there are all sorts of impediments put in your way to "encourage" you to pay. Even for people who don't mind spending money, it can be extremely annoying because any time the game gets difficult, you can never be sure whether it's because you're not good enough at it or haven't figured out the right trick and just need to practice, or whether it's difficult because the game designer made it that way to get you to spend. That's the biggest irritation to me which keeps me away from games like this: never knowing while I'm playing whether I'm meant to just get better, or whether that's futile and I'm just supposed to spend money.

    The other thing about the arcade game analogy is, even to the extent that the analogy works, I and I would guess many others are very glad to see arcade games go away as the main way of playing computer games. I don't want to see that model take over again, and especially not in the new sneaky dishonest "technically you don't have to spend anything, but we'll just irritate the hell out of you if you don't" way of implementing pay-to-play that many freemium games use.

    • Eli Hodapp

      See, I'm not sure whether or not I agree that coin op games were straightforward and unambiguous. When I dropped a dollar of my mom's hard earned money into Mad Dog McCree and instantly died as a teenager, I felt just as burnt as I did when I dropped $20 on mojo in We Rule and was left with nothing. You don't know how long you're going to play, or really, what you're going to get in EITHER.

      Where the comparison falters is no arcade ever made me tell my friends about said arcade machine for free credits or continues. 🙂

      It's not a perfect analogy, I'm just trying to apply some logic and reason against a seemingly unstoppable internet rage mob about how terrible free to play is, when it isn't necessarily the case for ALL free to play... But, rather, just some particularly bad ones- Just like how the arcade had great games, and Mad Dog McCree.

      • sivad

        If I died playing Gauntlet or XMen in the arcade, I didn't get the option to reforge my weapon for 4 quarters only to make me stronger until the next boss, then reforge again... Lather, rinse, repeat...

        I didn't mind and still wouldn't mind, dropping a quarter for 3 more lives... But if double dragon had started you out with a bat and a whip and made you have abobo type armor for more coins... Would you have played?

      • Eli Hodapp

        As a kid in an arcade with a pocket full of quarters I would've played anything. So, yes.

      • sivad

        Lol, thanks for ruining my point 🙂

      • Eli Hodapp

        I mean come on, as a kid you'd play anything! Hell, I probably would've wished I had enough money to use the super sword.

      • sivad

        Maybe, but after dumping my money into the super sword and then seeing i still died 2 bosses later but I could upgrade to the ultimate sword.... I would like to think the kid version of me would stop at some point... Heck i could teach a monkey to fetch several bananas easier than it is to defend IAP 🙂

      • DAiv Games

        Swords are cool, so that sounds reasonable, but would you still have wanted to pay if it were a banana instead? ;o)

    • Jared Nelson

      "any time the game gets difficult, you can never be sure whether it's because you're not good enough at it or haven't figured out the right trick and just need to practice, or whether it's difficult because the game designer made it that way to get you to spend."

      That was the driving force behind the majority of actual arcade games. That is why all those old games are super hard. They don't WANT you to beat it, but if you do, they hope you'll continuously pump quarters in just in order to get through it to the end via brute force.

      And to my knowledge, Double Dragon III allowed you to buy better weapons with quarters but I can't think of any other games where the need to spend more money wasn't simply tied to continuing to play.

      Edit: oops I see Eli replied at the same time saying sort of the same thing 🙂

      • bilboad

        I'm sure you're right that arcade game designers would obviously do what they could to get players to keep pumping coins in. I guess it's subjective, but I know I never felt the sort of ambiguity that I feel when I play freemium games. When I went into an arcade as a kid with $5, I fully expected to spend the $5, and I understood that if I wasn't very good at the games I played I'd get less play time for my $5 than if I was better at the games. I'm not saying I was always happy about needing to pump coins in, and in fact I never really got into video games until we got a SNES at home and a friend got a PC, but when playing arcade games I never had the feeling of not being sure of the game designer's intentions that I get when playing freemium games.

      • Jared Nelson

        It's true, I wouldn't have given a second thought as to why I'm immediately dying in Contra as a kid but still continuing to pump quarters into it. I've often thought that the new version of bragging rights of beating an arcade game on just one quarter is now beating a freemium game without spending anything on it.

        But I agree with you that it's still different now. At least with something like Contra, you could improve or memorize enemy patters or whatever. Even if unfairly hard, you could still get to a point where you were good at the game. In Dungeon Keeper, no amount of skill will get you past a game-stopping timer. In that case it's wait or pay only, which sucks.

      • sivad

        I wasn't in arcade for DD 3, so I can't argue that one, I stopped at 2 cause the franchise went to console.

        But Eli made a good point saying that he would have tried anything "as a kid". The divided worlds seem to exist that retro gamers, old sounds bad, prefer a game that has a point to it and not mindlessly buy this seasons new item or weapon, younger generations reach out for the credit card be competitive or to complete my precious analogies, more quarters

  • Jason Perry

    I still agree with the earlier article discussed this weekend. These types of IAP make apps like Dungeon Keeper scams, not games.

  • rewind

    Very nice article. I'm a big fan of Free to Play games, and I agree with most of what you said

    • sivad

      Must be nice to be rich .... Let me borrow some

  • Artfoundry

    Well said

  • Scottor

    Interesting article, nice to see the point of view of a developer in the piece. Although only a single opinion.

    If this point of view is right or not, I'm not a developer so I can't honestly comments on that side of the topic, if there is no revenue then no jobs for developers, I get that.

    However, Dungeon Keeper is a long established and respected series. There is already a fan base and not to mention the amount of media coverage this game has gotten based on its previous reputation. I believe the developers opinions don't apply to this particular game franchise.

    There is no denying that after playing the game, EA have destroyed a highly respected franchise in order to force unfair in app purchases! Such a wasted opportunity. I'm a little insulted with EA's attitude towards its customers, absolutely no respect. I suppose this may be a factor with huge corporations motivation is for their share holders and not their customers.

    Looks like we will all have to wait on 'Godus' by the original Dungeon Keepers creator Peter Molyneux. A single price for a proper game that still has multiplayer elements.

  • rewind

    I truly believe that freemium games have not only propelled the mobile gaming industry but also saved it. Not as many big name developers would be making games for the App Store if they weren't making a killing.

  • SoyGreen

    I just wish they would ALSO offer a "HEY! Pay this to play the game with no timers etc." unlock. I'd pay $20 for it if I could just PLAY the game without any 4 hours to dig out a block BS.

    Couldn't they at least consider a solution to make both style of players happy?

    • Eli Hodapp

      No, because free to play games need an unlimited spending potential so wealthier players can subsidize the game for people who play for free. For instance, if in League of Legends you could just pay $20 for the game, Riot would've lost out on the hundreds of dollars worth of dumb skins and other silly crap I've bought.

      Similarly, the whole reason a game like Candy Crush can be free for 95%+ of the playerbase is because the 5% of people actually paying are paying enough that the developers can put food on the table. (Well, much more than that in the case of King, but, still.)

      • SoyGreen

        No - I get that - But I have plenty of money to spend on IAPs... but I just won't. I won't spend a DIME on the game because of the way they are pricing it.

        That's the oddest part - and I KNOW I am not alone in this - I would spend $15-20 to play this game with no timers and enjoy a premium experience... but I refuse to engage in the frustrating behavior of being nickle and dimed to death over another damn gem I have to spend to speed up my Imp and his digging speed.

        And using arcade machines - as they did - isn't a really viable comparison or example of existing pay to play models... the main difference is I OWN my iPad/iPhone - I have paid already for the hardware. I stick a quarter or a buck in an arcade machine - I am getting the experience without having to spend money on the hardware itself.

      • Jared Nelson

        Well you say you'd spend 15-20 bucks for a non-freemium version of this game, but I don't think that's enough. Like the article says, it would have to be more like 50-60 bucks. So would you pay 60 bucks for a Dungeon Keeper premium unlock that removed all freemium elements?

        I actually really wish a developer would try something like that, so people could actually put their money where their mouth is.

      • SoyGreen

        For Dungeon Keeper - no, I probably wouldn't spend $50-60 for it... $30? Probably. Not sure as I truly haven't played enough of it to make that decision right now.

        I would have done that for a AAA title like XCOM - I was shocked it was only that - $20? Right? When it game out? My recollection of Dungeon Keeper is that it isn't to the depth of gameplay as something like XCOM?

        So to me - no - Dungeon Keeper isn't worth $50-60 - to some it likely will be/is - as they will spend that on IAPs. But that's me - and I would put my money where my mouth was if I were give the chance. I have for XCom, I would have spent more for KOTOR, I purchased Baldur's Gate... and I likely would have spent a little more than their asking price if it were higher.

        I feel though that there is room for both models - happy some choose the premium model - and I will support those game that I see going the premium route and hope others will.

      • Morgan01

        Sadly, these days it's not nickel and dimming ( if only it was that cheap). Many of these IAP structured games aren't just designed to make a couple of dollars, and EA is at the forefront. When you see prices like $99.99 in the IAP menu, as with DK by EA, you start to get a better understanding that they want you to spend 100's of dollars. Sorry, you can't compared dumping quarters in a video machine verses dropping up to several hundred dollars.

        While Freeminum games aren't ruling in the gaming world yet, per say, these developers are taking some beloved classics and destroying them. Be ause these games are beloved classics, the backlash from video gamers is going to be more. Classic games should be treated properly. You want to ruin games with Freemium, design your own crap to ruin.

      • mindjuice

        "Sorry, you can't compared dumping quarters in a video machine verses dropping up to several hundred dollars."

        As a teenager who spent hundreds of dollars in quarters in my local Tilt arcade back in the day, I can and I will compare them.

        On a typical trip to the arcade I'd spend $5-20.

        "While Freeminum games aren't ruling in the gaming world yet..."

        Well, 96 of the 100 Top Grossing games on iOS are Freemium. A couple of others are Paymium. I'd say that Freemium is TOTALLY DOMINATING the gaming world.

      • Morgan01

        Spell check changed the word. It should have read "ruined", not "ruling". Sadly, once posted, I have not found a way to edit.

      • Schpank

        Sounds like the latest industry talking point. Propaganda like "Trickle Down" Economics.

      • Onikage725

        Bananas! I prefer devs who find the ability to walk that line. I know this will be controversial, but EA sometimes nails it in the console space. ME3 multiplayer comes to mind. I spend cash on unlocks early on (read: when I sucked) because I was having fun and had some to burn. I stopped because I got good enough that I don't need too. I think it's a decent system. Instead of premium currency only items, have everything in-game be unlockable in-game. However, make it much much cheaper with the premium currency. That way you still get your candy crush types who just want to burn a buck to proceed, while also giving the "old-school" folks the option to grind if they want. Doesn't Kemco do this at times?

  • sivad

    I spent several hundreds of dollars on premium titles last year, most of those titles had optional IAP to progress you faster or "cheat" for lack of a better word. However, online games or games that are pvp type games where everyone is competing to be the best are just flat out highway robberies of gaming. Games like dungeon hunter 4, Zenonia 5, dark avenger, etc... These are beautifully crafted games and appealing on the surface for someone wanting a mobile version of a MMO ... BUT unless you hack their premium currency or spend oodles of money you will never make it to the top of the leaderboard in the game... No skill is required, only powerful weapons.

    I'm an older gamer, and enjoy a variety of games on my mobile device. However, IAP that are used to make one person better than the guy who doesn't spend hundreds or thousands of dollars is the bane of the gaming world. Maybe it's unfair of me to say, but others can make their own opinions, but no EA, Gameloft, mobage or gamevil game will ever get a cent of my money because those companies don't have gamers in mind, only themselves.

    Support devs that support you, there are tons on these forums that will do whatever they can for gamers and show this support by posting regularly.

    I'm not against IAP completely but pay to win isn't gaming, if I could just click buy to get an item that gives me advantages over others, how is that even fun?

  • rod-

    By the logic presented in this article, grocery stores should stop selling ripe bananas and instead start selling month-old mushy rotten bananas for a low price, and then for every dollar you spend you get a banana that has aged slightly less. But to get the kind of full-featured ripe banana that everyone has been enjoying for the last forty years, you have to pay around ten times as much as currently.

    • mindjuice

      Games have had in-app purchases for a LOOONG time. Old car games especially started you off with a crappy car (banana) and you had to earn enough in-game currency to buy the better cars. And this was after spending $60 to buy the game in the first place.

      What's changed is that now a game starts off free or cheap, and the in-game currency which is still used to buy things in the game is something that you can also buy with real world money.

      Of course it's a bit more complex than that in some games, but for many games that's exactly what's happened.

      Your only choice before was to:
      • Pay $60 and then grind to upgrade

      Now you have two different options:
      • Pay nothing and then grind to upgrade
      • Pay nothing and then pay something to upgrade

      For most people this works out much better.

      • Onikage725

        It utterly depends on the game. A lot of these games have no end-goal. It's like Cocaine Hero on South Park. You're never going to catch that dragon.

  • Tomate Diseño

    Xcom - beloved franchise revamped and sold without IAP, does just fine and COULD EASILY have been adapted to a paid per item/ability yet wasn't and gets a whole lot of internet love because of it.

    Dungeon keeper - beloved franchise revamped and given away free with load of IAP draws ire.

    I'll be interested to see which one is still making money in a year.

    • bilboad

      I'm curious, is there any published info about how well iOS XCOM has actually done? As someone who really dislikes freemium, I'd love to believe that just as much money can be made by going premium, but all the evidence I've read says that feemium games on iOS have out-grossed premium games by orders of magnitude.

      As for your closing question, I've never played Clash of Clans, but I see a lot of people saying that this new DK is similar to Clash of Clans. The company that makes Clash of Clans grossed $100 million in 2012 and $170 million in Q1 of 2013. So whether you or I like it or not (I don't), games like this may be the real money makers on iOS.

      • sivad

        Not sure on totals, but a quick glance at top 100 grossing games on App Store only has 5 premium titles. Minecraft is top 10. Some of those may have an unlock feature as I haven't tried all of them.

        Most are versions of candy crush, clash of clans, or some rip off card game

      • Eli Hodapp

        Something to keep in mind is that XCOM is not that great of an example. It's a AAA game made by a real team that made its money back selling PC/console versions of the game. A game with the budget of XCOM largely cannot exist exclusively for the App Store in its current state without a massive Kickstarter or a title with "Infinity Blade" in it.

      • Onikage725

        Well, what about the games in the Infinity Blade price range? The smaller-scale premium titles? XCom costs a lot, but is a console port. So they had to make sure they didn't gut console sales with a vastly cheaper ios price, I'm sure.

    • Jared Nelson

      Well, the majority of XCOM's development costs were already accounted for in the game's release on other platforms. Sure porting it to iOS wasn't no work at all, but the risk is far less than if that game had been specifically built from the ground up for iOS only. I wish I could know then how well it would have done at its 20 dollar price point, and if it would have recouped dev costs or not.

      • iammane

        Not to mention it's based on Unreal engine which I'm sure was able to do *some* of the heavy lifting for porting the game over. They basically needed to design a UI (and did a DAMN fine job on both the iPad AND iPhone)

      • Tomate Diseño

        Oh I've no doubt it would have been prohibitively expensive to make as a IOS game alone and it would be interesting to dip toes into an alternate reality and see just how an IAP version of it faired, but I'm sure a credible, existing franchise having IAP as a method of covering development costs and creating profit is something that will only be criticised.

        Imagine Fallout for IOS with 99¢ packs of Jet, Buffout & Mentats with another $2.99 for immunity to addiction - tell me that wouldn't ruin the game and that someone hasn't already though of doing it?

  • nadav bar kama

    Great read!

  • mw1

    Money makes the world go round, and it's also what drives game developers' creativity... "Let's focus on how to make the game fun!" has now become "Let's think of how to squeeze money out of them, while making the game addictive and/or difficult enough that they'd need to spend more money!".

    The only thing keeping gamers like us from going bananas are the developers who are willing to take a smaller paycheque in order to satisfy their customers (and probably their conscience, too). Deus Ex, Lone Wolf, Republique, Xcom etc. We thank you!

    • Skullinton

      Money is also what pays a developper's bills and puts food on his table. Money is also what pays for the liscences for the softwares to make a game. More often than not a developper will not be making a game for the money, but because it's his passion, but since our society runs on money he must addapt it.

  • Ethereal87

    I basically agree with this and I think it's bananas (see?) to lose our collective minds over F2P.

    If we take Dungeon Keeper for example, it "ruined" the classic game. However, there's an indie developer making a spiritual successor to DK instead.

    People will always sell games at a premium. Free and IAP games have their place, but not every game will go that way and no one is entitled to any of this content. You may have to give up Call of Duty 26 when it goes F2P, but there will be equally satisfying alternatives in other outlets. Gaming is a hobby, and learning how to make that value judgement for whether a game is worth your time, money, or energy is a key skill. It's not difficult to avoid really bad F2P games, and if/when it encroaches on full $60 retail games, you may have to change some things about who you buy your games from.

  • Holcman

    I'd rather not post my opinion on this. I'll just sit back and watch the show...

    • Patt

      And, of course, you will enjoy some bananas while doing so.

  • Biowhere

    Anybody paying to play iOS Dungeon Keeper is bananas.

    • Scot Damn

      Now they have readers acting like monkeys. Jump!

  • Scot Damn

    IAP is not innately bad. But people who defend IAP don't distinguish the difference between consumable and non-consumable. Timer apps like DK are designed to siphon money first. Because of this, the integrity of meaningful gameplay is severally damaged in the process. It isn't a matter of evolution here, it's cheap design. Taking advantage of addictive personalities in the world is not solid game design, it's solid (albeit unethical) business. That's the problem here.

  • falco

    Look Hearthstone heroes of warcraft Its coming very soon on iPad, Its free with IAP but gona be perfect on iPad. I can't wait. Playing right on computer I spent no real money on this game.

  • bobcorrigan

    Comparing the pay-to-play model of cabinet video games to downloadable games is not useful, as they are fundamentally different playing modalities.

    I'm not buying (sorry, licensing) Dungeon Keeper or any IAP-riddled games because I want full access to all features when I purchase the game AND I want to decide how I play the game. For this reason I have and will continue to buy PS4 and 3DS games - and DLC packages when they become available - because they don't nickel and dime me to death.

    IAP DLC, IMO. Borderlands 2 expansions are wonderful, and I reward the devs who continue to support that wonderful game with new and interesting content. That's what we should be encouraging manufacturers to aspire to.

  • crunc

    I'm glad I read this and it makes some good points, but aside from board games (that can get away with a shareware model), I have moved onto other portable gaming platforms. Mostly my Vita currently. Of course the Vita is struggling, but I enjoy the games available for it much more than the free-to-play stuff on iOS, and then while there's some games on both (Stealth Inc, for example), I don't even consider playing them on iOS. I use to like iOS gaming, but not really much any more. Which kind of makes my life easier, because when I upgrade my iPhone I can think mostly about space needed for music, photos and videos, and worry less about space needed for games. I'll play my board games on the iPad. I'm not saying there isn't anything good left on iOS, but I think the games available on the 3DS and Vita are much more promising FOR ME.

  • Scot Damn

    Well played though. Good way to get activity on your site oppose to covering meaningful games. With the power of TA, instead of covering some solid indie premium titles out there for much needed exposure, we get an article legitimizing consumable IAP.

    • Eli Hodapp

      You mean like today's articles on You Must Build A Boat, Badland, and TripTrap? Or were you looking for other meaningful games and solid premium indie titles?

      • Scot Damn

        Yes. Exactly. Others that haven't been covered extensively would be nice. Badlands hardly lacks exposure. Same goes for YMBAB which is covered through every imaginable iOS site. A quick google search for either pulls tons of coverage so those may not be the best examples. No comment on Trip Trap.

        Don't get me wrong though, I appreciate the coverage of those titles. But defending this type of IAP? I can't see how it's positive for "core" gamers such as yourself.

        I've heard you say you've tired of timer apps because of their transparency. So it's a bit confusing to see a large piece on why a game like DK isn't bad for gamers.

    • Skullinton

      IAps are a reality in the mobile device world and TouchArcade is a website dedicated to the mobile device world wether it be rumors, news and controversies about mobile games and hardware. So I think this article is more than relevant.

      • Scot Damn

        I didn't say legitimizing IAP in mobile gaming isn't relevant. I'm saying that defending consumable IAP as if it's good design is craziness. Sure it's made companies like King extremely wealthy, but that doesn't make them positive contributions to iOS gaming. Other than making imitators come to the platform, which I don't consider a positive.

  • bigjack66

    The best argument for me either way is to look at my collection of games and see that 98% of them I've paid for with only a couple of free ones worth keeping. I play freemium games for a bit then get fed up with the pay to play crap! I do understand a bit where they're coming from but some developers go too far! EA did give us Dead Space and Mass Effect and Most Wanted all of which I still have because they were good and were bought and paid for up front with little or no iap.

  • genuinelawl

    I really don't mind IAP if they are non intrusive to the game. I think plants vs zombies 2 was a good example of this. What angers me about IAP are timers. I've downloaded more games on my ipad than I care to admit but the second I see that I need to wait before I'm able to build something or even just landscape my city, the app gets deleted.

    Companies are in no way getting creative about the situation. One or a handful of companies come up with a pay model they think works and then about a million other companies do the exact same thing. Nobody tries anything different, nobody experiments, and nobody gives people options.

    I think the bigger concern with IAP's destroying games comes from triple A titles or full priced $60.00 games that have IAP in them. Paying $60.00 for a racing game and then needing to spend upwards of another $100.00 to unlock all of he vehicles in the game that people should have had access too in the first place is the real crime.

  • slamraman

    Never really liked the arcade comparison and iap's. I played arcade games and home computer games at the same time. The cost of a game in the arcade had to cover rent and rates premises, hire of machines, staff costs etc. Something that doesn't have to be covered when you're using your own hardware.

  • thomin

    The problem with IAP and the reason why they're indeed ruining gaming is that in order to motivate people to spend, the game mechanics are deliberately designed to be frustrating.

  • Wizard of Odyssey

    I don't mind paying to support a developer of fun stuff. I just hate the idea of paying to avoid pain (timers, cool downs, losing stuff I fought for) -- especially when designers are sneaky about it. I will never complain about the price of a fun game. A time sink that pumps me for cash, though? That's bananas and has to stop.

  • Skullinton

    What's up with the bananas?

  • Louis Ras

    Imo the best pay model would be something like FIFA, Wolf Among Us or Republique. In the case of FIFA where the social aspect of the game was free to play with some freemium experience, BUT allowing you to purchase the full premium game in app. Discouraging jail-breakers who pirate games and giving a choice of both worlds of the pay-models. Or something like WAU or Republique where episodic purchases are made or a season pass.

  • KoRoV

    Just idea: lets make some petition here on site in wich we declare to devs that we are a gamers and want high quality premium games and not pay to win model. Only iap we suport is try then buy. And when we colect large amount of signitures, touch arcade, as one of most trusted and reliable ios gameing comunity, send it to companies like ea, gameloft and others.
    So guys what do you think? Is this idea doable?

  • raznroll

    yup, same as coin-op cept thr machine's in your pocket, you paid 400 quid for it and nobody else waiting in line to play. other than that, quite alright, keep feeding coins. dumb analogy. IAPs for mediocre games and reboots that take studios a couple months to wrap up instead of proper games with a script, fmvs, speech and so forth. sure their argument is the studio wants to keep their lights on - mind you the studio is in your next door neighbours apartment where 4 guys wanna make a quick buck. i dont remember my having to pay an extra 1.99 to get some nifty gun in fallout when it first came out.

  • Themostunclean

    I've skimmed through most of the comments here and one thing that I'm surprised no-one has mentioned here are the shady tactics that many of these freemium games use to get to the top of the charts in the first place. Slapping IAP into a game doesn't get you a top slot automatically, many of these guys are using shills (real or digital) to up their download counts, plant fake reviews and spam the forums. Then there's the ever-annoying auto-link to the App Store when browsing the web (Candy Crush is by far the worst offender). The fact that these guys are willing to go to any length to drag you into giving them money tells you all you need to know about this business model. I know for the most part it isn't the developers doing this directly, but it is a company they hired.

    I'd also like to mention that the guy quoted in this article sounds like a sellout

  • Buzzit

    When I started at the arcades, you went there because the games were more impressive than what you got on the 2600, and you also got to meet up with your friends after school or on the weekend and take bragging rights when you were the best. It was always annoying yet exciting when you turned up to find your favourite game had been replaced with something new, and now you had a whole new challenge. When I get arthritis I will be blaming it directly on playing Hyper Olympics with dodgy fire buttons and an unresponsive joystick.

    For me there is no logical comparison between arcade gaming and freemium IAPs - it was a completely different time and place - arcade gaming died because PC and console gaming replaced it, what you played at home was exponentially improving in quality and time to production making arcades redundant and non price competitive.

    On the question of games with IAPs - they are here to stay and will continue to increase their market share.

    Premium games will continue their steady march towards being the sole domain of old core gamers.

    With the gamer market ever expanding you have to remember that mums play candy crush and they are the growing market segment

    • Pheebers

      Hey, I'm a 44-year-old mom and I've never played Candy Crush. We're not all the gaming equivalent of pink hats. 😉

  • damagex

    I disagree with comparing today's FTP model to coin operated arcade machines. I threw lots of quarters in arcade games; they were hard but fun! The more you play the game, the better you got. The better you got, the longer you could play with 1 quarter. That is certainly not the case today.

    After beating arcade games back in the day, I would still play them because they were fun! FTP replaces fun with exploration, curiosity or OCD obsession to keep the customers coming back. In many cases, moving forward doesn't take skill, it takes grinding or money. Neither of which translates to fun for me.

    I remember play Dragon's Lair at $0.50 a pop and finally finishing it. After that, I played it over and over again because I enjoying the animation, timing and simplicity.

  • GetOuttaHereYouIAP

    I have one word that disproves Eli's entire post:


  • Canovaccio

    Yes, let's go backwards instead of forward, brilliant, Drew Crawford. Let us all go back to the days of mediocre, money-sucking arcades that were barely games. (I am talking about you, Dragon's Lair).


    I disagree with the basic premise of this article. They are not segmenting the market, because there is NO segment for a traditional player model. I would pay $20 right now for the DK app as long as I never need to spend another Penney and ever suffer another in-game delay. BUT these freemium games are designed as bottomless pits. You can never buy everything. The competitive multiplayer element means my dungeon gets raided every night while I sleep. It's an awful model.

  • Taclys

    Except PAC-MAN charges 50c for a fun game, many modern games require $5-$20 to make the game enjoyable. Half a dollar makes Galaga a darn fun game.

  • jontas

    How come _none_ of the top comments mention bananas?

  • Darkmatter520

    I think IAPs for free games are somewhat reasonable, but when you have to pay upfront for a game, then it forces IAPs at you, that is just making the developer look greedy, and you not want to play the game.

  • Eric Marcoullier

    My hunch is the “freemium is bad” argument is primarily an oversimplification of the underlying concern — the erosion of trust and how that manifests during gameplay.

    When I play a traditional “pay” game, I trust that the developer want me to finish the entire game. After all, the team slaved away creating all that content and the player should damn well appreciate their effort.

    As a result, when I get stuck at some point in a game (Dead Space 2 being a recent example), I trust that there’s a way forward and with a little more effort or practice, or perhaps if I retrace my steps, I’ll become unstuck and move along the path toward completion.

    Because the developer and I are working with a common goal in mind — get Eric to the end of the game — I am confident that at any point in the game I will be capable of completing the challenges set forth (no matter how stingy the Dead Space guys are with ammo).

    With freemium games, that trust is obliterated. When I can’t progress, I am forced to ask a fun-sucking question — is the developer trying to extort money from me in order to continue? Am I unable to continue because I just haven’t mastered some in-game skill or is this simply the point at which I’m supposed to hand over my tithe?

    Candy Crush is an obvious (if extreme) example. When you can’t complete a level after the 20th try, the player begins to feel that the developer is expressly barring their passage. And at that point, the game ceases to be fun, at least for the generations of gamers who saved the princess.

    Drew's article mentioned DOOM and Quake, and I was happy back in the day to pay for more levels. Now imagine getting all the levels for free, but every two or three levels you have trouble progressing. Is this because you haven’t developed enough skills to complete the level or is it because you have to pay a buck or two to have your character buffed to continue. Hell, just TELL me that I have to pay in order to progress. But by making it a constant implicit question, you just alienate a heck of a lot of traditional gamers

  • SuperWeird

    It's not destroying the game industry but its definitely destroying and cheapening iOS games, especially combined with all the in-game ads. It's because of all the IAP and ads that I've moved away from iOS gaming and onto the Vita and 3DS.

  • shcgzb

    What is the hurry!? I love free games. Especially super polished good quality game like dungeon keeper. Yes, time is involved. I don't view it as negative thing if it is FREE! I rather have it free than pay for it without timer. It is pretty deep in the designing of the dungeon. You can use 'Closest room' behavior to design the path that the dungeon heart will be the last room to go into. Also the treasury and stone room can be the last ones after all the trap room. Of course, digging the harder stone takes a lot of time. Play it like a real construction game, which it needs time, and accumulate gold and stone. I view it as a positive thing, not negative, especially if it is FREE!

    Great thing about this game is you can preview your opponent to raid for 50 gold, if the amount of gold and stone is not high enough, you can skip to the next one.

    You can not simply level up your dungeon heart, that would be too easy and boring, you have to level all your traps so raid on your dungeon will take minimum amount of resources and give you cave-in time to accumulate again. Also doing do the solo quest until you have enough resource and need the last push if the next raid will take too much from your pile.

    So far I am improving my dungeon, it is a lot fun to survive all the raid from other player and keep improving. If I can build level 10 dungeon in 10 minutes and get rid of all hard stone in 1 minute, what is the fun in that game?

    So far I spend 0 cents, and I am having a blast!

    • Matthew White

      I would gladly pay a one time price rather than put up with all the timers and stupid garbage you have to deal with with FTP.

    • Zeillusion

      Totally agree!

    • efforting

      Game developers have essentially become drug pushers for people with low impulse control subsidizing the cheap freeloaders.

      You are part of the problem. You don't care as long as its free (maybe the bottom 30 percent) The other side of that coin is people with more money than common sense and will dump hundreds of $ on microtransactions. (top 10 percent) Its the people like me in the middle (60 percent) who would happily pay a flat fee for what a game is worth to just play and enjoy the thing as it was intended. So a majority of players get the shaft because game developers are greedy and purposely design games for the fringes not the true gamers. They know if they offer a flat fee to everyone they won't be able to take advantage of the jokers at the top who will gladly pay 10 times as much to fuel their addiction.

      Game developers have essentially become drug pushers for people with low impulse control subsidizing the cheap freeloaders.

      • Luthur

        You hit it on the head!!! And you also described the social class system that exists in the world. At the top are those with loads of disposable income and there offspring with more $$$ than brains - no understanding of the real value of a dollar in the right hands. At the bottom, those who are either too young or choose to never spend, but somehow find satisfaction - maybe never 'tasted' a truly good game or don't see the value that seasoned gamers do. That leaves the middle- real gamers who know both quality and value. We have to suffer, while the greedy corporate suits wait for us to die. Sad...

  • markettantrik

    The comparison to the cost of paying games at arcade gaming centers isn't entirely accurate. The quarters you popped into in the arcade cabinets included the cost of "renting" the machine for your play session. As a gamer, I didn't have to make a large capital investment up front to play games. That was taken care of by the owner of the arcade center. Therefore, I had to pay him to rent the machine that he has bought and installed AND I had to pay the game developers for the game I was playing.

    This is not the case with iOS games where I have already made a large capital investment in buying an iOS device.

  • PerfectTommy

    This is a well written article and good discussion to follow. If the model works, and brings in revenue, why fix it? You can always play a different game. One of the 150000, or jump to another system. I've played league of legends for 4 years, never spent a dime, and it's the most profitable/popular game out there.

    Perhaps because of Soraka, who throws Bananas.

    • bilboad

      "If the model works, and brings in revenue, why fix it? You can always play a different game."

      I think the thing a lot of people are worried about is that they won't always be able to play a different game if F2P completely takes over. I'm not saying it's a completely well founded worry, but I don't think it's completely unfounded either. A lot of F2P games are games I wouldn't want to play anyway, so for those games your statement makes sense. But there have also been some games which I would have loved, which were ruined for me by their pay model. Real Racing 3 is my biggest disappointment. I loved Real Racing 2, and technically Real Racing 3 is a big improvement in almost every way, but it was ruined for me by the whole timer and repair cost thing. There have been a few other high profile games like that as well. I realize some people don't find timer systems like in RR3 so irritating, but for people like me who find it extremely irritating, it's a disappointing trend to see otherwise good games going down this route, and making a lot of money that way.

      • PerfectTommy

        You make a valid point if most new games go this route. But if all that is available are F2P, an no-one pays, the market will shift again.

        I guess I'm a bit of an anomaly in that I'll go back and replay an ancient game I love rather than a "better" new game. If RR2 is still good, relish it. Dungeon Keeper 1/2 were sweet games, probably still fun even though they are out of date. I guess it's why I still have my NES hooked up.

  • gmattergames

    Bravo, great article!

  • Matthew White

    Is IAP destroying mobile games? No, it's just making them suck for everyone other than the morons that spend money on them. I don't care if FTP is good for the devs if it makes playing your game suck. I would be completely fine with every dev that makes free to play games going out of business because I will never be playing their games anyway.

  • thinkong

    some people seem to be saying "i don't want to pay ANYTHING to play a game.." yeah sure aggressive IAPs do ruin the gaming experience.. (yeah.. and i hate EA for ruining DK).
    but.. seriously when was the last time you spent money to BUY a full game that is not from a famous publisher or indie dev for your ios?

  • SubZeroBR

    I had to make an account, been a long time reader of TA. let me put this in a straightforward and blunt, yet elegant way.

    I banned IAP games from my devices, Android, iOS and any other enviroment. Zero tolerance. I've been a gamer for over 30 years and I have no qualms to buy a new game at $60 range. At all. Mobile devices, and I fear, EA with those microtransactions and online passes for consoles ruined it. Casual gamers probably helped to ruin it as well. I have a friend which spent over $150 on Candy Crush, and I almost sent him to a shrink him when he told me. That's the defacto method for iap, buy something which doesnt exist normally/will have limited uses, and the game SERIOUSLY hinders you if you don't use it.

    I'll buy full games only, as long as they are in the right price range. One example is Oceanhorn, that game is a beast and I love it. If it was a game where you had to use iaps and/or disguised as freemium, I would have skipped it entirely.

    • Salt Abdullah

      There are some IAP games where the IAP isn't mandatory - like Temple Run 2, Plants vs Zombies (before EA gobbled them up; though the second iteration is still beatable), Mega Jump 2, Super Punch Quest. I don't IAPs so long as they don't detract from the gameplay. Also, I don't mind it if I unlock a coin doubler for $0.99.

      Putting timers in, deliberately slowing a game down, however - are surefire scams and I call those apps "sleazeware". It's nothing short of extortion.

  • hkgsulphate

    anyone still remember the good days like Dungeon Hunter 1 & 2; Zenonia 1 & 2? FREAKING IAP

  • Kenan2000

    The best free 2 play model is a model without timers,without the god darn energy mainly,in most of the free to play games 70% of the gear or 60% of the gear is unlocked by using normal currency that requires farming.I think dead trigger 2 and heroes & castles as an instance have the best free to play models-you want something really badly?You spend your time to get better,if you are bored of it-buy your gear then.This is way better than the games where you have to both farm and wait for the energy like injustice.It is impossible to play without the energy glitch.

  • JonnyDrugzzz

    Man, all these people writing comments as long as the article but didn't read it in the first place. That's bananas.

  • mclifford82

    Too bad he's wrong. Full stop, bitch.

  • tpianca

    Well, one statement on the article made me wonder: how does games that let you have a taste than charge for the rest ( the shareware model) fare nowadays? I mean, I like that! Does anybody know how much the Ace Attorney trilogy or Ghost Trick on iOS managed to make? Those are two good examples for me...

  • REkzkaRZ

    There's ok ways to do IAP, and flawed ways.
    Make a limited game where you can get a sense of it for free then pay a reasonable price to unlock the rest. That's fine. WAZHACK, & others.
    Make a free game with IAP 'speedups' (quick routes to the end of the game) for the people w/o time to play. Win Win.
    OK with other annoying "buy your avatar goodies" which have no gameplay impact.
    I'm even OK with Combat Monsters style where you can play for free or spend IAP for reward booster (in this case a coin tripler) and boost your rewards with real $. (Although this model is flawed when engaging in PvP -- although I *LOVE* beating a player who shelled out a lot of $$$ vs my $3 purchase.)

    Flawed IAP styles are the timers, dual currencies, 'pay to win' games. Blech. IMO there should be a way for users to BLOCK these kinds of apps in AppStore!!!

  • db2

    Comparing to arcade games is a nonsensical fallacy. In an arcade, you're paying for access to a scarce resource, i.e. the machine itself.

  • apolloa

    I think we need to change some of the comments AND the story's title here, because IAP's are across ALL mobile platforms now, even the PSVita has them. And lets not forget Facebook games and so on.

    My take is this, IAP is flawed on the whole, it is a business model designed by people that only see $$$ signs, i even believe that some devs have made games with IAP's as they see it as a 'get rich quick' scheme.

    And it's not even old classics, look at Real Racing, a great series that was a charged for premium app with tons of content, EA gets it and turns it into a pure unadulterated $$$ machine, can you even imagine the meeting between the EA exec team and the Firemint team? When they said they want timers and total IAP across the game? And then they insult you by constantly placing cars on special offer, but they are all cars you need to spend endless hours, and therefore endless potential $$$ to unlock in the first place. They also fix the games balance to force you to spend money, in the first race series you can have a fully maxed out BMW M1 and still, the in game Focus RS cars controlled by the games AI can out accelerate you.

    i agree with others that if a dev must use IAP, think about the customer as opposed to their new Ferrari or mansion, they can offer IAP to unlock the game, or for extras, I like The Conduit's take, I have it on my 2012 Nexus 7 and it's a great game, but they had a system where you get the first part of the game and then you pay to unlock other stages, so in total it's about £5 or £6 for the full game.
    Nice easy to swallow straight forward sensible costs. Or on the flip side is Modern Combat 4, one of the rare Gameloft games that's charged a premium for and you don't need to spend a penny more on it, or you have the option to spend money if you want for better guns etc.
    Another system I like is to offer the ability to pay to stop the in game adverts, so long as the game is also then fully playable.

    And as for trying to compare the IAP business model to the arcade game business model, well that's laughable at best really. And on model can result in obscene millions in profit, the other not, can you guess which?

    So, as far as I am concerned, IAP is just there for pure maximum profit on the whole, some systems are not and work well, I don't think it'll go away either, but thankfully it doesn't seem to be very popular on the home console games that they have tried it on, which is just as well. I am more than happy to pay for peoples hard work, but I am against being rinsed of all my money just to please share holders, I want value for money.

    • crunc

      While there are IAPs and even a handful of games that have micro transactions, the vast, vast majority of Vita games are not free-to-play/microtransaction-fests. IAPs are not the same thing as micro-transactions. It's the latter that's the problem. So, sorry, but claiming the Vita situation is even remotely the same as iOS is completely ridiculous.

      • apolloa

        I think you have over analyzed what I typed buddy, I said 'even the PSVita has them'. Not the PCVita is flooded with IAP's like the iTunes and google Play stores.

  • pauldavidmerritt

    Welcome to iOS 'bananas' marketing. Their point is to distract and lull general customers' perspectives so Apple can continue making the grand amount of money from game development. And, yes, all of you with the attitude of, "well such-and-such game is okay, and it has iAP's. Play another game if you don't like it." Are obviously the ones brainwashed by this article marketing B.S. [quit with your lazy, unintelligent, iAP-supportive perspective].

    • Lisa Bevans

      Beautiful! Thank you!

  • Keithustus

    All this crap is instead why real gamers pay real prices for Civ Revolution, Dead Space, Final Fantasy ports, anything by Shenandoah Studios (Battle of the Bulge, Drive on Moscow), Frozen Synapse, Republique, etc.

  • kshriner

    I don't like *feeling* like I'm bring conned or swindled. I feel that way with IAP. I occasionally felt that way with some arcade games back in the day.

    Of course I also feel that way about buying cars too. So, like my ios purchases, I choose to pay a premium to USAA bank to avoid the hassle and just have a flat price upfront.

    I want developers of games I enjoy to have a profit and succeed. I hate IAP though. I bought the IAP for Warhammer Quest and Heroes of Steel even though I didn't play the unlocked characters much mainly to support the devs!

    What you say?? Spend money on IAP you might not even play? That's Madness! Just Bananas!

    But that's me, disposable income guy who won't buy freemium that makes me feel swindled and conned. Go turn based mobile games that charge up front or offer IAP four expansions.

    I appreciate that all probably puts me in a small minority...

  • efforting

    Just goes to show the free market economy system is for shit and quality will suffer as a result. Consumer costs go down and so does quality.
    Which is ironic coming from Apple. Their devices fetch a premium and in return you get quality control, except in the app store.

  • Taeles

    Curious question, is it against the rules for an ios developer to specifically make a game not work on a jailbroken device?

  • quizoid

    I don't really have any hate or vitriol towards this trend towards developers or gamers. Developers have a right to maximize their profit. Consumers can spend their money how they'd like. Game developers have always been partially in it for the money; partially because it's something they enjoy. Words like "greed," don't apply to them anymore than to those who sell me my butter.

    That being said, I just don't enjoy this model of game. Games are meant to be fun; this isn't fun for me. So, I avoid it. I'm disappointed I have to do more picking through things I don't enjoy. It's too bad developer energies are going into things I don't really like. Though, this has happened in other ways. I've been gaming since 1985. I don't really like first person shooters. I saw shooters rise, combine with RPGs (a genre I liked) and really dominate gaming over the course of my gaming, which was too bad for me. All these games I didn't have interest in. But, I don't want to rip Borderlands out of anyone's hands. Clearly it's what many people want; I don't begrudge them that.

    I really get people's anger over this. I wasn't happy to see the FPS genre and it's offshoots take over so much of my gaming world. But, all that anger may be futile in the end. I'm not sure it will effect change.

    I still like gaming, so I still do the work to find things that match my tastes. The payoff is worth it to me.

  • amportfolio

    I still don't see why they can't offer both in the app stores. A Freemium app for those who want to play the IAP game, and then a "full purchase" version for those who just want to play without ads or IAPs.

    At least make a "complete package" IAP in the game at a reasonable price. Reasonable being $5-$20 depending on the game.

    Even beyond mobile, it's atrocious on the insanity this has grown to. Look at Star Wars Battlefront. $60 to buy the game, then $60 more for a year of DLC, plus more IAPs if you need powerups to get past certain areas. It makes me feel less like a gamer and more a wallet for them to vacuum.

    Mind you, I didn't buy the game for this very reason.

  • Toxicomaniac Entity

    The only thing IAP has made for the gaming industry is making us realize how good and amazing were old school console games when you bought a title and the only thing keeping you from beating it was time and skill. Free to play has become a buzzword for me and I simply avoid those "games" like the plague just to embrace a good full title for a fixed price. There's already the "facebook gamer" that spends days on monotonous chores and the "retro" controle gamer that plays older titles which are abysmally better designed as games and as experiences as a whole. Since IAPs are already plaguing some nextgen consoles and PC games (LoL being among the most notorious) it seems retro-gaming will be the only true gaming we will experience in the future.