We've got a widely diverse audience of readers here at TouchArcade, ranging from hardcore old school gamers, to casual Clash of Clans players, to people in all levels of the mobile game industry. To provide a little something for everyone, we regularly publish content that suits different segments of our audience. That means things like Shaun's fabulous RPG Reload series of articles, guides on various free to play games, buisness-y findings from analytics companies, and tons of other stuff in between- Basically, anything that makes us say, "Huh, that's neat," is fair game if we think someone reading TouchArcade would be into it. Recently that included two different reports on how well mobile is doing, which were predictably totally discounted by commenters insisting that this whole industry is propped up effectively by idiots who don't know any better spending money on IAP. This raises the question: If gaming is a hobby you enjoy, and as part of that hobby you're buying gems in Clash Royale, lives in Candy Crush, gold in Game of War, or any other similar purchase in other games, how is that any worse than buying consumable items in any other hobby? (Hint: It's not.)

As the backlash towards anything to do with free to play seems to grow, we've spent a lot of time around the water coolers of TouchArcade towers trying to analyze what makes consumable purchases in mobile games uniquely rage-inducing and it all seems to come down to a double standard that doesn't make much logical sense. Like anyone, I've had wide varieties of hobbies in my life, and nearly all of them have had some kind of consumable purchase that goes along with them- Either in the form of an entry fee to even participate at all, constant costs through things which are used up by participating, and everything in between. Most hobbies also often have a legitimately unlimited spending potential, and get very expensive the deeper you get into them. (Sound familiar?)

My first "big" hobby was getting into cars. It started with buying a Honda CRX when I was a teenager. It seems the natural evolution of things in the Honda world is everyone eventually winds up at an autocross event. If you're unfamiliar, autocross basically amounts to driving your car around a small course set up with traffic cones as quickly as possible in an open parking lot somewhere. Initially, much like a free to play game, the costs are basically non-existent. You've already got a car, so you find an event, cough up a small entry fee which typically just goes to supporting the expenses surrounding putting on the event, use a loaner helmet, and you're quite literally off to the races.

Realistically, particularly if you're not experienced enough to really go too fast, you can go to an autocross event every once in a while and it costs you almost nothing. Once you get in a little deeper, however, it's an endless rabbit hole of buying grippy tires which might last you one season, brake pads which need to be replaced all the time, a constant barrage of fluid swaps, along with all sorts of other random things breaking when you're regularly pushing your car to its limit. Even if you only ever compete in the stock class, the money you'll spend on wear items are out of this world. I'm talking entirely consumable items with effectively no resale value, but thinking back on it I can't come up with a single instance where I've seen the whole thing belittled because I was spending money on this hobby. Maybe a few eye rolls here and there from my parents, but never a ranty diatribe about what kind of idiot spends their money on brake discs which might be totally destroyed after an event.

When my friends were younger and more agile, we were all pretty into paintball, and the same deal applies there. The more money you spend on tricking out your gun, the faster you can blast through paint, which is another consumable expense that is required to play. Just like tires and autocross, I can't think of a single instance of anyone bagging on the fact that I go paintballing because I'd spend money on paint which either got shot out of my gun or eventually got old and brittle from sitting around too long. Buying paint is part of the hobby, and even though you have an unlimited spending potential (particularly if you're one of those maniacs with a full-auto marker), there's never any even vaguely negative connotation attached to it. More recently, I've got into shooting actual guns and while there's limitless super valid arguments against guns in general, I've never seen the crux of those arguments depending on the fact that ammo costs money and I'm quite literally irrecoverably blasting my dollars out the front of my pistol.

Instead, it's just accepted and understood that hobbies cost money. Regardless of what you're into, chances are you're spending money on it. Additionally, chances are you enjoy spending money on your hobbies, as you're directly translating the effort you put in at work earning said money into the enjoyment that you're getting out of it. So, really, if games are your hobby, how is spending money on them any worse? What makes someone a total moron who doesn't know any better for paying for some gacha spins in Marvel Contest of Champions to get some new characters to potentially fiddle with on a random Sunday morning, but spending that same time and money on bait to go fishing for real-world gacha spins totally A-OK? Sure, you could bring some fish home for dinner, but it's also equally possible that you'll come back with nothing. The important part is you enjoyed yourself, in whatever activity you choose to engage in.

It's some perspective worth thinking about, particularly as the landscape of gaming as a whole continues to change. No one who engages in hobbies that cost money are being bamboozled, it's just how life works. Things cost money. While you may see no value in IAP to the point of it making you legitimately angry, it doesn't mean that the people who do see value there are idiots, don't know any better, or any of the other crazy accusations that are tossed out. Instead, it's just another hobby for people to enjoy, and at the end of the day, no different from hobbies you spend your own time and money on which you enjoy. If people are spending money on things you don't like, who cares if it's making them happy?

  • Mike Walko

    I don't care what people spend their money on, but as far as stigma, I feel like it's that you have nothing to show for it. If you're into magic cards, sports cards, cooking equipment, sewing, etc, any of those hobbies, you can sell them or make a profit from them. Aside from streaming your mobile gaming, you can't really turn a profit on your mobile gaming. And you don't own anything, you can't sell or trade the iap in most cases.

    I would equate mobile/iap spending to gambling, without the benefit of winning occasionally. I feel like that's why it gets a bad rep.

    • allana

      It entertaiment, like going to a movie. And the people that spend a great many hours of their limited life deserve money for creating a produvt that you gained enjoyment f om, you know, so they can eat and stuff. Why do people expect d velopers to create free entertainment for them?

      • Edwin Ramirez

        Sure, like going to a movie. In which you can only see 10 minutes before having to pay or wait another 5 minutes to continue watching the movie. Entertaining.
        But nobody is really expecting developers to give us that entertainment for free. The point of discussion is IAP.

      • Herman Van Boeijen

        If I buy a movie on DVD I'm not going to pay again for every time I watch it. IAP rich games expect you to pay every time you play, or they will sour your enjoyment of it.

      • mckaystites

        Just because money is spent on something doesn't mean you have to get profit out of it. The profit is that you enjoy it. You spend money on vacations and you don't make a profit, putting money in isn't always about eating money out. people who completely trash on all forms of iAP tend to act like they're superior or better with money than other people. who cares if someone enjoys clash of clans and spends $30 on it. same as going to play paintball and paying $30 on ammo. you don't get any more money out of it but you enjoyed it. that's what matters. anyone who says different needs to manage their own life

    • InTheAir

      Well, the thing is though that just about every whale that isn't playing GoW is ready to turn some money back. This is easily visible with CR, as the majority of the top 200 players are constantly streaming. And anyways, with the majority of current hobies you don't turn an actual profit if it isn't your main career.

    • Tuzzo

      You even can't sell back used brakes discs, used paint or used bullets.
      The point in the article is spending money on consumables in real life hobbies, which is the most similar thing to buying IAP.
      If you compare IAP to physical objects you can get something from, you're right; but the discussion here is more subtle.

    • Chayuth

      It's exactly gambling. You pay for something for a chance to get reward or nothing (junk items count as nothing for gamers).

      But some serious games (mostly not mobile) such as what I played, many players trade their items for real money outside of the game system (though against the game rules.) I spent like $1,000 to buy good items (that people played for months to get), which at a time I gave up, I sold them for total like $1,500. Profit.

      • tatsuke

        >I sold them for total like $1,500. Profit.

        I love how you think that speculating $1000 on an intangible game item is somehow more "serious". It's the same thing; you're just passing off some item to the greater fool until someone gets caught holding the bag for an item no one wants in a game no one plays.

        If your goal is to make money, there are better ways.

      • Chayuth

        Calling people spending on "intangible" things "fool" is a bit harsh. I enjoy playing games and will pay what I can afford while had great time going raid with friends and not spend too much time on them.

        I view this as buying time as I can use those time to do something else productively, but still can enjoy playing with friends who are 'hardcore' and have time to play all day long to get decent items. The fact that I can pass the items to other for return of money is just a reason that I'm willing to pay.

        So, not sure what is fool here. I enjoyed what I paid for. Is it not different from buying a movie ticket for a couple of hours that you can enjoy? What about spend more money to buy 3D movie ticket for more enjoyable time? Just because you cannot touch a thing doesn't mean spending money on them makes you an idiot.

  • Qaioud

    I wonder if steroids in competitive sport offer a metaphor.

    IAPs in most f2ps are essentially a way of "buying time" and / or privileges that give an advantage over the majority of players. (Who "pay" with their time.)

    Iirc, there was a TA thingy some time (a year or two?!) back identifying that sth like 95% of income comes from 3% of payers. And in many competitive games, it's both hard to beat someone who's paid, and quite unchallenging to identify that they've paid. (Eg, I currently have a tonne of units in Total War that I could've only secured with gold).

    And a lot of f2ps have an infinite and ongoing spiral of potential payments. Pay more = need to pay *yet more* to sustain the same rate of progress.

    In which context, both the Protestant work ethic ("you should work for your advantages!) and a natural sense of injustice (why the hell is this chump able to whup my backside, just bc he's richer than me?) IMO contribute to a - perhaps justified - sense that iap are meretricious and shameworthy.

    • Qaioud

      Rephrasing that slightly, if being a chess grand master involved coughing up $30k and spending twenty minutes spannering Gary Kasparov with a team of 16 Queens (and four King Revives, $7 each), would anyone think that the title was worth anything?

    • Dave

      This ignores the salient point: hobbies are the exact same way. If you're investing in a hobby of any kind if there's a competitive nature to it, you can't exactly buy in once and never again. You either have to put in work or more money.

      • Rabum Al Lal

        Actually they are not. I buy a camera once.

      • freshfredde

        And you enter competitions with it? Not buying lenses, batteries, grips, software and what not

      • tommet

        You can resell a camera.

      • tatsuke

        >"Actually they are not. I buy a camera once."

        Lol. You're obviously not a photographer.

        Go down to the local shop and ask a hobbyist how many cameras and lenses they own. It's perpetual.

  • ZEROFACES

    I totally agree with this. Much of my family play IAP/F2P games and constantly spend money on them. Although I think it's completely ridiculous and would never put a dime into those, I understand that they're happy doing so. So why bother ragging on them about it? I hike, which costs money due to nice hiking shoes, back packs, fancy water bottles, snacks, etc. I also fish, which gets really expensive when you're using different bait and tackle for different fish and rivers, etc. Not to mention I'm a console gamer, which probably sets me back at least $300+ a year. Yet none of my family rags on me about my hobbies. Because they understand that I'm happy with what I'm doing. I think the answer to this double-standard problem is people just need to have respect for their fellow humans. Stop projecting your feelings of something onto the world around you and just focus on what YOU enjoy!

    • Herman Van Boeijen

      Well put. Though the protest feeling comes from games like Dungeon Keeper coming out the way it did. And an industry where we look forward to a game which, then, turns out a steaming heap of poo because of it's IAPs.

  • Bradley

    Making money validates something as legitimate; "Games" that are built on the recommendation of psychologists for the purposes of milking as much money as possible from consumers are cancers to society and to the industry.

    • God's Grundle

      Do you have any idea the kind of science that goes into the retail space? If you think freemium games are predatory, read the book Why We Buy. The entire world is build on the recommendation of psychologists for the purposes of milking as much money as possible from consumers.

      • H4nd0fg0d

        Every shred of commercial advertising, such unadulterated bllsht. Couldn't possibly agree more.

      • Tallgeese

        The youtube clip "Story of Stuff" is good too!

  • ZeeMonkeyMan

    I was once into cars as well but I loved video games just as much and cars were costing me tens of thousands upon thousands every year where is gaming costs me $500 to a $1000 a year. Cars got the flick lol.

  • Gurney Halleck

    When I really think about this the key difference for me is that every other hobby that I have that I spend money on advances some kind of tangible real world skill as well as having some kind of productive output (i.e. - a drum, piece of art, model, etc...) Contrast this with a hobby of playing f2p games where the IAP is largely disposable. If the game expires on the AppStore investment may be totally lost etc...

    Just my two cents anyway.

    • ZeeMonkeyMan

      Video games result in real world skills as well, namely improved cognitive function.
      They can also teach you and give you more knowledge than you think as long as you are playing more than mindless tap tap type games.

      My partner will often ask where I learnt that or how do you know this and when I think back, a lot of the time I realise it was from the video games I had played.
      Most hobbies waste far more money than video games ever do as well and you could argue that the progress saved in games is something that you have built and have to show for your efforts, just like a model plane would be etc.

      Sorry, but I disagree with your two cents lol.

      • Tallgeese

        There exist instances where hobbies can be cheaper than video games and video games more brainless and pedagogical than you're describing. Therein lies the folly of making sweeping generalizations and then basing arguments off of them.

      • Tallgeese

        *less pedagogical

      • ZeeMonkeyMan

        I was expressing my experiences with video games as opposed to his experiences and trying to make the exact same point that you are. No need to come in with your big words and smugness!

      • Tallgeese

        Oops, sorry. I actually see that, now. Sometimes I read through the comments too quickly (I try not to but it happens). I'd like to think video games are the future of education actually (not the whole future but possibly an integral part), because I've learned lots of things from them and movies and comics. So, I agree with you, but I've yet to see that same education structure apply to the freep games mentioned in the article so I jumped too soon. Sorry.

  • DAN13LG

    Except when it comes to Candy Crush. There are no excuses for spending money on that, regardless if makes you 'happy' or not.

  • scifistephen

    I think that to a lot of people out there spending money on free to play games are

    • scifistephen

      To a lot of people pouring money into f2p games is a sickness such as gambling and there spending more money than they can afford.i don't go in for that scam or sickness I willl pay one time for a game a play it as much as I want or I won't play it at all.i can count the IAP I've made on one hand and I have 3 128 gb iPads almost full of games.

  • brantov

    my hobby is to buy premium games and play them forever.

    • justcallmedewey

      Except when they remove the games from the App Store then I hope you have them backed up on your computer

      • Gurney Halleck

        This is a significant risk when investing in IAP driven f2p games as well.

  • houseofg

    I'd hate to have to pray to RNJesus that my brakes weren't BS fodder when I opened the box! 😉 I say this as someone who has happily spent money on a select few FTP games, but couldn't resist!

    • Tallgeese

      hahaha!

  • Dave

    super disappointed the Tyler Perry defense didn't make this article.

  • vid_icarus

    This is seriously the most defensive hobbyist website on the net lol

    • Ghostwalker

      I usually would agree with you, but what the point here is, that no matter what hobby you have, someone who does not share your interest in it, will look down on it as a waste of time and or money.
      That being said, if it bothers you enough, just point out how much money they waste on some hobby of their own, it's usually enough to shut them up.

      • Tallgeese

        I like drawing. Drawing is a cheap hobby. Soccer is probably one of the cheapest most widely available international "hobbies" on the planet. Really, everyone, there are cheap hobbies... Some hobbies are "worthwhile" independent of cost (cheap or expensive), and some hobbies are not also independent of cost.

  • Kallizm

    The problem with F2P is the potential to spend far more than you would have if you budgeted to buy a game and played it from start to finish. Most of these games nowadays have no ending because an end signifies an end to profit. So they focus far less on the long term emotional investment to a story and more on microtransacting you to death.

    Some of the IAPs also feel way overdone and prey on your fondness like 20.00 character packs on MK:X mobile. "Pay us 20 bucks to grind yet another character that you'll want to spend even more money on to make the grind less boring." Now you're gaming less and paying the developer to steal the fun away that was never there to begin with.

    My other gripe about it is the intentional ranpa in difficulty with a /chance/ you can overcome the end of a level by paying a dollar for some extra resources. TwoDots handles this is in a terrible, terrible way. It's 1 buck for some extra moves. You may need to even buy a second set of moves then your third purchase if you're truly unlucky goes from $1 to $3 because hey already hit you for $2 so they know you won't want to just "throw those two bucks away".

    • Tallgeese

      Well put! Yeah, some other hobbies can have unexpected costs but for some of the more modern games it's incredibly difficult to figure out a total cost vs. what you're getting. Much like gambling.

  • H4nd0fg0d

    To each, his own. Imo, only hinges on the inherent worth of whatever your choice of activity is. Hell, I must've spent a couple hundred bucks on Eliminate Pro back in the day. But then again that game made me want to play constantly for the competition. No games today give me that feeling. Btw, Eliminate Pro's thread has like 25,000 posts. Has to be the reigning king of TA threads to this day. Looks like a little Clash paycheck overall. TA gotta eat too.

    • Gurney Halleck

      I can give an exception to the rule for the awesome gameplay satisfaction of Eliminate Pro. FPS and Online Multiplayer on mobile done right. Can't believe almost no one else has been able to recreate their amazing controls for that game.

      • Tallgeese

        I want to play Rocket League all the time and it's never cost me more than 14 dollars...

  • Montanx HS

    Its bad because it preys on addiction and addictive tendencies moreso than other hobbies that arent drug related.

    • mid83

      People are addicted to just about any type of hobby you can imagine. I have a friend who basically maxes out his credit card on his golf habit (clubs, green fees etc....). If you are able to spend money on something, then there are people who will spend far above their means on that thing.

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        Yep, that's what's always so interesting to me as people are quick to point out those with addictive personalities might over-extend themselves financially as a problem exclusive to mobile games. I've got a friend who absolutely decimated his credit to the point that he can barely have a debit card anymore buying PC hardware for the world's most ridiculous gaming PC. People who can't manage their finances can't manage their finances independent of what it is they're spending money on, add addictive tendencies into the mix and, well, life finds a way... Even if it's graphics cards and golf clubs.

      • Schpank

        It's not what they do to themselves, it's what they do to the industry we all want to enjoy. Their behavior inspires the industry to enslave us all.

      • Modjular

        Woah, that sentence rings pretty true. The big spenders inspire them to keep making spendy games.

      • Tallgeese

        Yeah addicts really are to blame for our problems, not the pushers themselves but the addicts and their disease that renders them psychologically pretty incapable of turning down their high. I mean, to put it in a slightly different context for purposes of illustration, foreign children really shouldn't have made themselves such a highly sought after work force or those poor innocent multinational company heads would have never enslaved them like that... Is like what you're saying. You have predators and prey backwards.

      • dancj

        That's true. Any addiction which causes you to spend huge amounts of money is a problem. Any company which is a business model which relies on these addicts is a nasty company.

      • Rabum Al Lal

        Except that in case of IAPs the industry is actually preying on such people.

        Or did this minor distinction escape your attention?

      • Supermarioooo

        Yeah but the difference is, that PC hardware still has value, and your friend can still get some money back if times get tough,same with golf clubs or any other physical products. I'm not disagreeing with you though, people get all holier than thou when it comes to freemium, but it's not going to wreck a life in the way that an alcohol, drug or gambling adiction can cause, we see the odd extreme case of gaming addiction but these cases are so rare it's not even a problem that I'd worry about 🙂

  • Jerutix

    Pssh. That's too logical and balanced an argument to be acceptable. Try again, Eli.

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      Oh don't worry, people are making sure I know how wrong I am. 🙂

      • Tallgeese

        You're not wrong, we're just having a (more or less) polite disagreement. Heheh ^_^ If you were wrong we would send you to your friendly local H3lp3r 22's office for re-education. I know what you are think-ing and it's not so bad! And some people even get a free haircut or are sent to the village. The one on the mountain! On the mountain. On the mountain. It's the one on the mountain. The mountain. Th3 mounta1n. Mountain. Mount Ten. 01201 01211 0302 01210 030100 10101010101010101010.
        .
        .
        .
        .Mowwwwwteeeeeeeennnnnnn.
        .
        .
        .
        .
        .
        .Haha, I seem to be experiencing [regular human] difficulties with my completely n0rnull [human brain]. Please try atenn later.

  • Schpank

    Specious argument, but I'm not surprised. Yes, many real-life hobbies cost money at some point and in some manner, but when, why, and how much the hobbyist spends is usually a personal choice, and not a built-in function of the activity. Most hobbies require an initial investment up front and can usually be enjoyed free of restriction or impediment. If the hobbyist wants to up their game it's on their terms. This could be likened to a premium game with non-consumable IAP. But when a hobby is structured form the ground up to be loaded up with timers, paywalls, byzantine currencies... Well that's a different thing altogether. People are free to spend or waste money any way they please, but a direct comparison of F2P schemes to any old hobby is bogus.

    • Matthew Johnston

      Just think of the F2P scam that art is; pencils and paper are designed to be used up! What kind of scam is that? And don't get me into the scheme that paint is! It's just color, people! Why do I have to buy each color separately?! Why do I have to buy more later? And this whole "drying up" thing with some paints is ludicrous! 99 cents is all that Art as a hobby is worth.

      • Schpank

        Supplies are a cost factored into any hobby, but imagine if your brush strokes were counted and you had to stop mid-painting to for a timer or pay more to continue. Again, not an apt comparison.

      • tatsuke

        "Again, not an apt comparison."

        The F2P games I play don't prevent you from playing, IAP or not. The fact that some games do so is a red herring.

        For someone being critical of a specious argument and ill comparisons, you'd think you'd realize that.

    • mid83

      I mentioned golf in a post above. Every round costs money (or a monthly membership depend of on where you play) along with the continual cost of balls and upgrading clubs.

      • Schpank

        As others have pointed out, with an activity like golf you know what you're getting for your money up front. You pay to play 9 or 18 holes. There is nothing hidden or variable or ambiguous. Same could be said for buying a movie ticket. You pay for the whole experience. How often you go to the movies is up to you.

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        That's the great thing about free to play games too, when I spend money to unlock a guy in Vainglory I know *exactly* what I'm getting, and potentially even spent considerable time with that hero before in a previous freebie rotation. When I grab some coins in Clash Royale to buy a epic card I have had trouble getting in my free chests, same deal. Hell, even in Clash of Clans I know exactly what I'm getting with gems when I buy them. Supercell makes no attempt to obscure the value of anything which I believe is a big reason why they do so well.

      • Schpank

        Fair enough, but two details particular to your example are important. I personally find character and chapter unlocks to be among the least offensive of IAP, and from what I can tell, Clash Royale, compared to some, has one of the better pay models out there. This would all be fine if, as others have pointed out, the model wasn't having a negative impact on games that don't fit it.

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        Free to play games are moving more and more towards friendlier and friendlier pay models as developers have figured out that in order to retain players, games actually need to be fun for everyone. When people like to get worked up over free to play stuff, the examples used are almost exclusively from some of the earliest free to play games which both weren't very fun and were chock full of pretty aggressive pay to win elements. It's like thinking Hyundais are terrible cars because your 1994 Elantra was a total piece of junk... When now, Hyundais are actually surprisingly nice.

      • Michal Hochmajer

        "Please, insert coin to continue" system was abandoned by mainstream, when home computer era comes. Arcade machines strikes back. Sort of revenge, should I say? 🙂

      • Rabum Al Lal

        Except that your epic card becomes obsolete when a new, even more epic-er card comes out, or the maxxed giant becomes obsolete when suddenly the max level is raised.

        Those are mechanics that are designed to continually milk you.

        Or the mechanics that are designed to hinder such as upgrade timers. Wait 14 days to upgrade a tower or pay now!

        Later, a new tower upgrade comes aaaand Wait 21 days to upgrade a tower or pay now!

      • John

        Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't you still gambling with your cash in supercell games when you pay for chests? Buying hero characters in vainglory, you buy a specific thing. If you buy a chest with a 'chance' to get some card you need but you might also get a duplicate of something you already have, that's pissing your money away which obviously is scheming.

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        It's no different from buying packs of Magic cards, you get so many chests for free just by playing that there's not much reason to buy chests over actual individual cards from the rotating in-game card shop which is what I was referring to.

      • John

        Agreed, but despite the fact it's done in other examples, don't you consider it shady to sell for real money anything that 'could be something' or 'could be nothing whatsoever' based purely on chance?

        If you could get back all the money from all the useless Magic packs you've paid for over years and only pay for the ones you actually needed/wanted wouldn't you? You work hard every day to earn money, why should card game schemers be entitled to skeeze you out of it?

        Another thought, if you caught a gaming opponent cheating to win you'd be pissed right? Why shouldn't you be just as pissed when the game itself cheats you out of cash?

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        I don't think it's shady because it's very obvious what you're getting into. No one buying anything with a gacha mechanic was tricked into thinking they were actually buying a specific thing. In Clash Royale, by the time you hit any kind of notion that maybe you should buy something, you totally know how chests work and how sometimes you get awesome stuff and sometimes you get junk. In this respect, free to play is *far* more fair than premium priced games, which players buy not even knowing whether or not they'll like them. Hell, I've got entire shelves full of console games I paid $60 for and didn't really like or play much past the tutorial. Comparatively, when I buy gems in Clash of Clans, I know *exactly* what I'm spending them on and precisely what I'll get out of it. Most (all?) games with a gacha mechanic allow you to roll even junky stuff you don't need into something else, so there's never a situation where you spend money and get literally nothing.

        As far as whether I wish I could get the money I've spent on Magic packs over the years, I wouldn't trade any of it because I value the entire ecosystem as a whole. I guess if you look at things from an incredibly reductionist standpoint, yes, I have bought packs of cards that have contents of a very low average value, but the game as a whole is incredibly valuable to me. I enjoy supporting the ecosystem that allows for the game to exist, and continue to be developed. The entirely random nature is what makes cracking packs fun, as it's incredibly exciting when you pull some awesome card you've been looking for, and even cards that aren't great are playable and serve a purpose. Supporting a company making things you enjoy aren't "scheming" anyone or anything. Everyone involved is fully aware of what they're getting into.

        The only people who feel like they're being "cheated" shouldn't be playing these games (and if they are, I have very little sympathy because they're spending their money with zero research), which brings us back to the entire point of this article: If you think buying packs of cards is a "scheme," don't buy them. What difference does it make to you that there's millions of players enjoying themselves buying things that don't interest you?

      • John

        F2P has taken over and changed everything for everyone. Which is why your readers are uptight about it even when they don't partake or necessarily judge those who do.

        I'd really love to play Dungeon Hunter. Looks awesome and in demo was fun. Since F2P dominates, the game is riddled with bullshit, and I'll never play it. It's just a bummer!

      • Michal Hochmajer

        Variables: weather, terrain, your skill. It is in the implementation of payment system itself, as you mentioned elsewhere. Let's say. We change golf rules so you can win match by paying money. Even worse, everyone can do that. Or you must buy free shot to continue etc.

      • onebigdoor

        These games and devs are getting more fair on the whole, but a lot of damage has been done in the past that will take a long time to undo. A few months into Marvel Puzzle Quest, a guy spent $100 to max out the best three characters (the only way to be competitive in the higher level tournaments) only to find all 3 characters nerfed the next morning. So gamers are on the defensive when it comes to IAP because some of it is a rip-off, or at the very least, its value is subject to change, perhaps drastically. There is also the element of gamers wanting to game any system they can. Thus the challenge of playing ftp games without spending money. This, of course, ends up stigmatizing those that do spend as lesser than.

      • mindseyes

        Exactly just like compared to real life tangible hobbies/items that don't change Ike IAP either become Free or game disappears and if all else fells we still have a way to sell those items to Asher out money back !!!. I mean we can't even update this app after 3 years now because of Apples policies ?? There is a a lot of sense to this non sense. I think fact is the mobile side being a mobile app or not here I play mobile daily as well I don't care where money is spent if your having fun. Seems to really rub in the fact how much better mobile is doing compared to a console or add on. But are all things being added to the mix to see what really makes more. I mean what advertisement fees are all these games paying before they jump to the top besides the big brands like consoles have to do. They lose money on the system to make money on the games. So there just to many variables.

      • tatsuke

        "Same could be said for buying a movie ticket. You pay for the whole uninterupted experience"

        You have no idea what the quality of the movie will be in advance, just like you have no idea how good the F2P game will be, or what IAP tactics in will utilize, in advance. Except one is free and the other is not...in advance.

        I've wasted far more money and time on shitty movies than I have on shitty F2P games.

  • squirpe

    It's not the IAP itself, it's more how it is implemented. Ridiculous amounts of IAP which severely impact game experience (oh, hello Dungeon Keeper) should rightly be frowned upon.

    IAP should be purely for those that want to skip the grind. I feel Clash Royale has got that about right.

  • Michal Hochmajer

    1. Everyone can pay for what they want! My problem with game industry was, when business wolves become dominant in the industry and there wasn't enough indie devs to cover my needs. One by one my favorite games/mechanics disappeared. Well, that's back in the days... 2. I am afraid that some politician will point at games as addictive danger! Which should potentially ruin my business I love so much! 3. Once game design is not driven by skill but money, I am done with it. Someone down there show a good example with chess and Kasparov. 4. Once I am not satisfied with my progress in the game, I am done with it! Typically when unlocking something through sort of chest system or premium currency. Btw. In most cases, once you decide leave your hobby, you can sell "whatever it was" for some money again. It is only natural, that some gamers and devs fight back for what they love! And TA helps a lot too! Keep up the good work. Thx.

  • sinagog

    A lot of strawmanning in that article. If the hobby of playing F2P games existed entirely in its own sphere, fine, but it is encroaching upon a certain kind of game that some people love- i.e. generally narrative-driven games which have a recognisable end- then you're damn right some people are gonna get riled-up. It may just be the free market in action, but if you see a hobby you love become an unashamed dollar-milking factory it will bring out emotions in you. That other type of game IS slowly getting edged-out. Hobbies can be enriching, can add something poignant and touching to your time. They can give you pause for thought, make you reflect. These sorts of games are quickly starting to no longer sustain themselves. Just like how in the movie industry there's no longer that middle ground for indies which are neither dirt-cheap nor expensive behemoths. We're definitely shouting at clouds here, tilting at windmills, but for me personally I find having the words "paymepaymepayme" coded into the gameplay from beginning to end crude and really kills the immersion. Old crotchety statement: "Y'all jes didn't get that feelin' back when you paid for a game BEFORE y'all started playin' it!" There are a ton of freemium games that do it right (Crom bless HipsterWhale for coming up with that particular payment model), but it also means certain types of games aren't being made anymore, and that is not an evolution, or a cause célèbre: it's a death.

    • Modjular

      Traditional narrative-driven games aren't dead. They're just being made less. No need to be dramatic.

  • Xexist

    My personal thoughts as to 'Why is it so rage inducing' it is because freemium is pretty much becoming popular at the expense of other games. It seems nearly the whole industry has gone Free to play, and if you like premium games you are almost out of luck

  • David Cupples

    Eli, you should listen to this: http://thisiscriminal.com/episode-40-pappy-4-1-2016/

    Spending money on a hobby isn't inherently bad, but it can make things bad for people that don't want to spend as much.

    It's simple economics and the players that spend are as much to blame if not more than the devs. But it doesn't mean that everyone else needs to not care.

  • rod-

    I think the issue with this analogy is that in all real hobbies, your consumable purchase is necessary and sufficient - you can't fish without bait and the bait is going to get used up. It's a real life thing that runs out. Your tournament entry fee is feeding the tournament prizes, you're paying for the judges, Etc.

    In free to play games, the consumable is artificial. Would you buy a set of golf clubs that were only good for 100 strokes and then they broke down on purpose because the company wanted the durable good to become a consumable?

    The fact that gaming companies are getting away with doing exactly that is what drives my frustration. I don't fault the companies for doing it, they follow the market - i fault the people who are buying them because they are the market.

    If my dad bought exploding golf clubs, I would rag on him about it too, even though I have no problem with the hobby or him spending money on it. It's supporting the heinous business practices that I have issue with.

    • Michal Hochmajer

      Both companies and gamers are equally responsible for this situation! Someone offers, someone is buying. Not blaming anyone. Just saying.

      • Tallgeese

        Right, I'm so glad everyone's chill with business being amoral.

      • Michal Hochmajer

        Irony?
        I'm not judging anyone or saying something about moral side, but.
        Bliss ignorance is real menace here. Yeah. Can't hide it, I am old school gamer, who knows what's best for game industry and gamers. 🙂
        Just kidding!
        You know, there is always something good and something bad. Best thing we can do is talk about what is wrong and give gamers better offer as devs. And media can write about it, just for purpose of balance.

  • fabell

    I'm just throwing out a guess here, but I would bet most people who complain about f2p are also the kind of people who wouldn't spend a lot of money on a disposable hobby, but would prefer to spend money on a hobby that had something to show for it afterwards, or something that could show progression or continually improvement without degredation.

    • Rabum Al Lal

      In other words:
      gamers 😉

  • thobgood

    Gaming is probably a hobby to some, but for me (and I suspect many others) it's not a hobby. I think along the same lines as the famous videogame routine by Irish comedian Dara O'Briain--gaming is like books or movies, another form of entertainment. If I pay to see a movie, I'm fine with optional payments like popcorn and coke, but I'd be outraged if I HAD to pay to finish the movie. I'd be fine seeing commercials during a movie if it was free, but if I pay for it, I expect an uninterrupted movie. If I buy a book, I get to read the book. I will not buy more smurfberries or candy keys or whatever to be able to make it past three chapters.

  • thobgood

    Forgot to mention; I'm happy to pay for hobby supplies. That's different than just a momentary bit of entertainment. Hobbies can be a fulfilling part of life that flows through our mind all day, that repays us even while we're not actively enjoying them and frequently leaves us with something tangible afterwards (in the case of painting or collecting action figures or making pro wrestling masks.)

    I'm also happy to buy games that I enjoy. Every time they come out with another "The Room" or "Monument Valley" on the iPad, I'll pay any reasonable price. If a game has a free trial and then I can pay for the full game, I'll pay for it. But if I have to potentially keep funneling money into a casual (or even non-casual) game, I simply won't play it. Every time I've tried a game and it's offered to sell me in-game currency, I delete the game because I won't support that philosophy. More often than not, if I see a game I'm curious about, and I see there are in-app purchases, I won't even try it.

  • speetz

    Totally legit argument. My only issue with SOME (read: not all) games is the skill-cash ratio. For some styles it's even time to cash. But regardless, a f2p game that allows you to bolster your play with better equipment paid for with cash, but still requires skill (like many of the hobbies you listed) is much more appealing than the ones that cash simply makes you totally OP. And even still, if people enjoy those games, that's fine too! But think the above issue is why many people shy away from and have a certain stigma associated with certain f2p games. That and timers. As far as the people that call names at those who do enjoy those types of things, well yeah, that's just silly.

    It's pretty immature and a sign of jealousy to just point and mock those who put more cash into a genre or hobbit that you don't like yourself. But also, the merit of those games and their longevity is up for debate until time tells us the facts. Also, of the people who drop that cash and then act like their hot shizz just because they can one hit everything, pretending it's equal to skill, is equally ridiculous.

  • Tallgeese

    Limiting you argument specifically to spending money on Clash of Clans, Candy Crush, and Game of War versus the hobbies of buying things for you car, paintball, and target shooting, I would argue that your free-to-play hobbies don't provide you with actual access to a vehicle necessary to get places, paintball and shooting make people feel better and train an actual survivalist skill (in addition to hopefully some of the benefits that come from physical exertion, knowing you can handle a gun, etc.).
    .
    .I don't think people really gain as much from the IAP games when there are better and often less-expensive alternatives to train eye-hand coordination, strategy, and logistics. They can be considered hobbies, but really anything can be considered a hobby, serial killers arguably have a hobby. The nuance to them is figuring out whether or not the hobby you've chosen is worthwhile in what you gain from it in the long and short run (traditionally "good" hobbies allowed for communal benefits and getting out of the house/off the couch/toilet/etc.). When the aforementioned IAP games fold what will you be left with? Many who criticize the IAP games mentioned would argue "not much."

    • Tallgeese

      You're so right. And humble. Did mention how incredible it is that you're so humble? You're like so humble, Tallgeese. It's like even if you did brag about how great you are, it would be such honesty that there's no way it could be considered bragging. More like, "Wow, he's so great, but also humble, you know? That's so refreshing, we should build a statue about how humble he is in all of our tiny planet's major cities."

  • Phillip Nicewaner

    I think the biggest concern is that the financial success from the largely homogeneous free-to-play games means that the games will likely be replicated excessively. They are all essentially the same lazy products and they need little creativity.

    • Tallgeese

      yuuuuuuuuup

  • Alex214

    This is my take on this. For an instance you play call of duty & every year a new one comes out with new content which is the reason to get the next release. That being said you know that $60 will be spent every year for this title if thats what you are into. So if you like a f2p game such as clash royal which is really popular atm I don't see the problem on spending at least $60 that you would pay for a physical disc. I understand that you can sell the game after you get the next release, by that time you won't even get half of what you paid for it. If you can't control your spendings then f2p aren't for you. I have played many f2p games that have given me the urge to spend & then i get into another game which helps me to decline spending on it. I have bought some iap from f2p but i have a mindset of limiting myself to the $60 mark per year if i decide to spend at all. Now the way i actually look to spend is when there is a special sale or for a cause like cancer or red cross. Now im playing clash royal with many friends & i would love to be stronger. I know it will cost a lot to be competitive at the top so I haven't spent a dime on it but the thought have crossed my mind many times, luckily i controlled myself with my limitations on mind.

  • c00ch

    So, when I pay, say $9.99 for a premium game game without any IAP... doesn't that count as 'spending money on your hobby'? Why should I accept to pay potentially infinitely more to get rid of timer restrictions in a similar freemium game?

  • curtisrshideler

    People are free to spend their money how they legally want to. Why does it feel wrong to spend money on IAP in video games? Because there are still people playing who were alive to know what video games were like when you didn't have to spend money on IAP or DLC. But the times, they are a-changing. I buy digital Star Wars cards instead of more power-ups and new troops, but I still feel a little dirty because of it.

  • araczynski

    The hate comes from the fact that F2P/IAP is inherently designed/engineered around the notion of finding the sweet spot of making the gamer unhappy enough that they'll be forced to pay, and yet not so unhappy that they'll quit outright and move on. Its also inherently set up so that money will trump skill, and yet posed as being games of skill/strategy/etc.

    Bottom line, is that they're set up to be pubilsher/developer AGAINST gamer, not publishers/developer FOR gamer. They're social con jobs.

  • 61050

    hey. dude. knock it off with the logic and sense-making. you do know this is the internet right?

  • Chungston

    It matters if those people spending on free to play prop up the market so developers feel those types of games are the only games worth making. See the gameloft article you guys put out. I could not care less how others want to spend their money. But when the gaming scene changes because a small percentage of loose pocketed kids with their parents credit cards, seem to really love game of war, and then all you see are the same copycat f2p games everywhere, then yeah that upsets me a little. It doesn't make me rage, but it does make me want to avoid mobile games. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. But nit everyones opinions seem to matter. So do our opinions matter as much as a whales? Probably not, as money talks. If you care about the future of mobile gaming you should probably be upset too. Either that or find a new hobby, which many of us have.

  • Nick Smith

    This is literally the only media outlet in the world that thinks freemium needs to be defended every few weeks.

  • djshep1973

    I think this article hits the nail on the head; so long as those spending money on IAP's for free to play games are enjoying doing it, then why is that anyone else's problem?

    I personally prefer to buy games with a one off fee or perhaps pay for an IAP to disable ads, etc, and I'm sure there will be some who think
    I'm silly to do that. Doesn't bother me either way.

  • Taxt2180

    Because you're spending different amounts of money, from minor to large, on stuff that's usually a gamble as far as in-game advantages are and always intangible. Beyond that, the App Store is always pumping out new games, Apple is always pumping out new phones and operating systems that can make games antiquated or broken, Game Center is broken, there's no guarantee ant company has to update or stick by their game for any length of time, and there's ultimately a big risk of a short shelf life for any game you spend money on. Beyond this plethora of issues, most other forms of entertainment are largely one time payments with little to no risk. If I buy a movie ticket or ps4 game, it's a one time expense for that movie or game. Most IAP has no limit to the amount of times it's useful to purchase and therefore it's not only more impulsive but a much bigger money sink. Also doesn't help that with console games you're getting a much hover end experience.

    There's a ton of reasons and these reasons are pretty much in-line with why you wouldn't spend money on FarmVille on Facebook. Or why there's a stigma at least.

  • Reydn

    Every product or service has a job to be done. Often that job is emotional. Why do people buy designer clothes or accessories? Some go for the $5 shirt at Ross, others spend $100 on a shirt because of how it makes them feel. Why buy digital cosmetics? It makes you feel good. Why buy upgrades to give you an advantage? It feels good to win. The products are just doing their job.

  • ex2bot

    Some good points as usual, Eli. The worst F2P games are consciously designed to take advantage of people who have very poor impulse control. I believe such games (that is, the worst of F2P) are immoral. The companies that create them are making poor, immoral choices.

    That said, those with poor impulse control will suffer because of it. There's no way to completely protect people from themselves.

    I'll continue to buy the high-quality games that aren't F2P for the most part (exception: PacMan 256 I love!!). But people can do what they want and what makes them happy. If it's Candy Crush or whatever, so be it. There are too much over-controlling impulses out there (what's the polite term for control freaks?).

    • Tallgeese

      (probably control freaks is more polite than 4nal/ an4l retentive/OCD/micro managerial) and I agree with your assessment.

      • ex2bot

        Right. Thanks!

  • jumbopunch

    Here's what I think, it doesn't really matter what they think. It's entertainment, the argument that it doesn't make you money is in my opinion tenuous and begrudging. It's like hearing people laugh at a joke that just flew over your head, No one cares that you don't get it, they're going to laugh anyway.

  • Beth

    I'm all for IAP done the right way , developers have to be compensated for games to get made!
    My issue is most people I know that play F2P games are people that would NEVER spend 2 pennies on a game IAP or premium so they get the experience 100% free all because a few hobbiest whales fund the game. Is just doesn't sit right with me ....
    ..
    When I first started mobile gaming ..I fell into the $ pit of a few games ,..needless to say even after spending wayyyy to much $ those games aren't on my devices today.....I've grown tired of them even after spending $$$ ..it's the well thought out premium games or games with truly optional IAP that stand the test of time on my iPads ....
    Just my random thoughts

  • Herman Van Boeijen

    Paying separately for "play time" or "energy" or "coin doublers" is just a plain ripoff. We all know it. Paying money to make a part of a game go faster just admits straight up that it is not fun enough.Earning upgrades and items through play is a reward schedule with much higher satisfaction.

  • Rabum Al Lal

    Only an idiot will equate pay to win with a hobby like photography or gardening or even gun shooting.

    At least with hobbies you have some fun. With IAPs you think you're having fun, but in reality you are just getting doses of a digital narcotic. You are essentially a donkey who is straining to get a carrot held just in front. No matter how much you move, you don't get the carrot because when you move, the carrot also moves. Games with IAP are never ending, so there is not even the satisfaction of having beaten a game.

    But then again, people prone to rationalization will rationalize anything.

  • delirium38

    Getting a bit tired of the whole us poor mobile gamers discussion.
    Yes I get the picture there is nothing wrong with spending crazy amounts of money, that there is a big stigma on mobile gaming that's causing those crazy PC and console kids to get all the gaming goodies.
    Good thing that won't last either, according to this site their machines are doomed anyways.

    I'm off to play some Day of the Tentacle on my doomed Vita....

  • Earth Vs. Me

    I don't think gaming is even a hobby anyway. Same as watching movies or TV shows, you're just consuming something someone else made. Game DESIGN is a hobby because that's a creative outlet.

    • delirium38

      I guess that's just you, anyone else thinks almost anything could be a hobby including mister dictionary.
      I bet you that out there some people even think shooting heroin in their eyeballs is a pretty cool hobby to have.
      Better stick to gaming, kids!

      • Earth Vs. Me

        Funny you should mention that, because freemium devs and drug dealers are actually kinda similar.

  • tommet

    Spending money on mobile gaming is fine. I'm a firm believer in the pay ONCE and play category however. Once many companies have you in their grip, they want to milk that IAP for every penny they can get.

    I'd be perfectly happy to see mobile titles to be priced higher, but yet feel they should still be a fraction of the price of list price for console or PC, largely because most mobile games do not provide the same amount of content or allow for the same depth of experience.

    For me, I see mobile as more of an on the go or a time waster. A few minutes here and there or no better option. If I really want to game for more than 15-20 minutes, I'd rather play on PC or console.

  • MC

    I'm a gamer. It's my hobby. I do not play FTP games but rather avoid them altogether. I probably miss out on some good ones, but I'm fine with that if it avoids the disappointment of a great game trapped behind a paywall.

    If your hobby is sinking money into FTP/IAP games, that's fine. However the hate comes from the fact that it's so profitable monetizing people's desire for instant gratification, that the business model is spilling into traditional gaming as well. There's where you get the hate for the genera.

    I dislike that they've identified physiological mechanisms to exploit and manipulate in order to make more money. People (including me) are inherently impatient and also willing to pay for instant gratification. I find it unfortunate that those games are hugely profitable because it's now enticing developers to place those mechanisms in more mainstream games I typically enjoy.

  • Jack Chan

    whoever wrote this forgot that gambling and substance abuse aren't okay hobbies. Not all money sinks are legit, and IAP (or any other P2W games in any platform) just happens to abuse human minds in ways very similar to gambling addiction..

  • OrangutanKungfu

    Interesting article, but I'm not sure it entirely addresses the point. I don't believe the issue with F2P is that it involves people regularly spending money. Players have always bought new devices and new games, and think nothing of shelling out for the sake of their hobby. I think the issue is that F2P has changed the way money is spent. A whole generation of gamers, even two generations now, grew up with games that you paid for once, then could keep playing again and again. F2P introduces a new element, whereby you can, with energy systems for example, end up paying by the hour.

    I admit this is no different to shelling out to watch a movie at the cinema for a couple of hours, and nobody would be castigated for being willing to pay to indulge that hobby. But the fact is, the paradigm has shifted, and those used to the old ways of things don't like it. Obviously, it's unfair to take it out on those who have embraced F2P or the developers who have hit on a way to make serious money from their work, and I believe premium gamers are probably raging against the dying of the light - but they (we) also have a right to that rage.

  • http://adamsimmersive.com Adams Immersive

    For me it's a matter of degree and details: I just dropped $50 on Vainglory, entirely for skins, and never looked back! Super cheap for hours of entertainment. And I definitely prefer non-consumable value (like skins). But I do know people who get really out of control, spending really large amounts that don't make them happy. That feels a little gross, like gambling losses or drug addiction: less "paying for fun" and more "leveraging human compulsion." (I know it's a spectrum! One person's fun is another person's compulsion.)

    (And secondarily I wish Premium could succeed more than it can. But that's not the world we live in.)

  • MartianLM

    For me the problem with so many IAPs is you have no idea how much you might ultimately need to spend. With most hobbies you understand the exact value and progress you will get from your expenditure. But so many games deliberately obfuscate the total you may possibly spend on a game. Unlike many hobbies, gaming is one where you do have the very real possibility of getting to the top tier/finishing/hitting the skill ceiling, unlike many other hobbies (e.g. Golf) where there is no finish line. But with gaming you have no idea whether your IAP will be enough to get you there, or whether you'll hit paywall after paywall. This is the fundamental difference.

  • mganai

    The problem, as stated somewhere above, is the artificiality of the costs.

    Gacha items are among the worst. One person notably dropped around $2,000 before he pulled a SSR character that was on increased drop at the time.

    There's little comparison for some of these.

  • Gamer_Kev

    IAPs in it's self, I don't think us such a bad thing. Rather it is the way some developers are abusing it, that has given it a bad rep. When done right, I don't mind it so much. For example, I've bought several addons and outfits in ESO on the PS4. These purchases are bound to my account and once I buy them, I always have them, even if I start a new character. But with many abusers, you're not unlocking content you get to keep, but rather you're paying to turn off timers and other one time use stuff that you have to keep buying to make a non-playable game playable. Don't blame the gamers for IAPs bad rep, but blame the developers like Gameloft that abuse it.

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