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?