The idea behind the TouchArcade Game of the Week is that every Friday afternoon we post the one game that came out this week that we think is worth giving a special nod to. Now, before anyone goes over-thinking this, it doesn’t necessarily mean our Game of the Week pick is the highest scoring game in a review, the game with the best graphics, or really any other quantifiable “best" thing. Instead, it’s more just us picking out the single game out of the week’s releases that we think is the most noteworthy, surprising, interesting, or really any other hard to describe quality that makes it worth having if you were just going to pick up one.
These picks might be controversial, and that’s OK. If you disagree with what we’ve chosen, let’s try to use the comments of these articles to have conversations about what game is your game of the week and why.
Without further ado…
Guardians of the Galaxy: The Universal Weapon
This week saw the release of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: The Universal Weapon ($2.99), a mobile tie-in to the movie Guardians of the Galaxy which comes out in theaters August 1st. The game is a real-time action strategy game that features line-drawing combat similar to Battleheart. It also features 25 different characters to unlock and play as, plucked from the Guardians of the Galaxy universe, so you can mix and match different teams of characters to build on different strategies. There’s a lengthy single-player campaign as well as an Arena mode to test the mettle of your various teams.
All in all, it seems like a very solid game, and that’s great. But the thing that really stuck out to us about the release of Guardians of the Galaxy: The Universal Weapon is how prominently it touts not having any IAP and not requiring an internet connection to play. Being a movie tie-in game from a big publisher, it would have been very easy for The Universal Weapon to be free to play. In fact, that would have made even more sense. While it’s a game first and foremost, it’s also a promotional tool of sorts for an upcoming movie, so you’d think they’d want to reach as wide an audience as possible, which is much easier if there’s no barrier to entry in the form of a price.
However, Marvel went in the opposite direction, and it got us thinking. The mobile market is staggering in terms of size. Apple’s most recently-announced number states that more than 800 million iOS devices have been sold to date. If you add in Android and other mobile platforms, there is a pretty significant chunk of the planet that’s walking around with very gaming-capable mini computers in their pockets. A lot of these people aren’t traditionally gamers, but they’re finding themselves playing games more and more on their mobile devices due to how easily accessible they are. I’d wager that a significant number of these “new gamers" are looking beyond their initial Candy Crush or Flappy Bird habits in search of even more interesting gaming experiences.
Previously, it felt like the traditional gamer audience was dwarfed in comparison to the casual market who doesn’t mind things like free to play mechanics. If you were making a game and wanted the greatest chance of success, it made sense to go after that larger demographic with a free to play game, even at the expense of possibly alienating that core gamer audience. But free to play has been around long enough now, and there have been so many nasty free to play models (*cough* Dungeon Keeper) that I think chances are pretty good that even those newly-turned gamers have had a sour experience with a free to play game. Perhaps this audience is now looking for what those traditional gamers have been clamoring for all along: a pay-once experience where the game design isn’t compromised by its business model.
This is all just me thinking out loud here, and we touch on this subject in our podcast this week, but maybe the target free to play audience is starting to tire of the whole free to play experience. A movie tie-in game with a major IP and a big publisher behind it taking a stand and highlighting the fact that there’s no IAP shenanigans to deal with in its experience strikes me as kind of a big deal. Maybe the free to play market is finally starting to stabilize and games like Guardians of the Galaxy: The Universal Weapon, which doesn’t inherently fit the free to play model and most likely would have felt shoehorned had it gone that route, are banking on people wanting a great gaming experience first and foremost, and that those people will be willing to pay for it.
Ultimately time will tell, and of course it doesn’t hurt that Guardians of the Galaxy seems like a pretty good game in the time that I’ve played it so far. Nobody benefits from a bad game whether it’s free to play or not. But I’ll be interested to see if free to play sticks more with games that make sense for that model, like casual puzzle games and city builders, while meatier games like The Universal Weapon go a pay-once route and hope that people, including the casual market, are willing to pay for a premium experience.