So…Freemium games. Or Free-To-Play. Or F2P. Or “the wildly successful business model every drug dealer’s been using since the dawn of sub-legal narcotics distribution.” Everyone hates them, yet my unscientific data based on a cursory glance proves incontrovertibly that they work. Something like 90% of the Top Grossing games in the App store are free. The others are Minecraft.
Here’s the thing: you don’t hate free-to-play games. At least, not for the reasons you think. See, I’m not here to tell you to stop hating the games—there’s plenty of room for everyone—I just want you to be less stupid when you spout off about it. To that end, let’s examine a couple of the biggest complaints, and what’s really behind them.
Why You Think You Hate: Freemium Games Make You Pay to Progress
You can only play the first 10 levels for free, but it costs money to unlock all the others? Unleash Righteous Anger! How about this: Did you know that in Skyrim you have to pay to get from level 1 to level 2? Fuckers. And, it doesn’t stop! You’ll throw away upwards of $60.00 to unlock all the content in the game, and that’s before paying even more for the extra DLC they’re practically forcing you to download! Someone start an online petition, stat!
Why You Actually Hate: Freemium Games Are That Woman You Dated Senior Year
Yeah, you remember her—she was awesome, totally laid back, loved to play games, have a beer, hang out with your friends.
Then you graduated.
Suddenly, there’s talk about where things are going! About where you see yourself in 5 years! About commitment! Did she become a different person? Were you so wrong about her all along?
No. Your freemium period just ended. You were being asked to pay to continue playing, and that burned. She was smarter than you, more in touch with reality, and she knew that anything worthwhile has a cost. Sometimes, that cost is having to mature a bit. Sometimes, it’s $1.99 on Candy Crush. Everyone’s gotta pay.
Why You Think You Hate: Freemium Exists Because Publishers are Evil, Ravenous Shitbeasts Who Slake Their Endless Thirst on Infants’ Tears…and Micropayments.
Okay, this is partially true. But the undeniable nature of publishers isn’t why you hate freemium games. Publishers want to make money, and their shareholders want them to make lots of money. And, if they don’t make money, there’s less to spread around to the development teams. Whom You Love. Making games is a passion for most everyone I’ve met in the industry, but it’s also a business. People paying for games, even a little bit at a time, puts food on our tables and keeps us doing the thing we love.
Why You Actually Hate: Freemium Games Are Also That Woman You Met In Vegas That One Time You’d Rather Not Talk About
C’mon…you know who I mean. Remember when you and your buddies went to Vegas after that amazing woman dumped you for being a ridiculously immature man-child? Yeah, that trip. Remember how you had a bunch of drinks and met this incredible woman at the bar, and things went better than you could have hoped, right up until the next morning when you realize she stole your wallet? And that she may have been a dude? Yeah, that woman. Freemium’s like her.
Too often, freemium games have been deceptive, and it’s only after the money’s gone do you realize you’ve been duped. Ever seen the “BUY” button that has magically appeared where the “NEXT” button was a moment ago? Ever clicked “OKAY” and then noticed the prepopulated checkbox in which you signed over naming rights to your next child?
We’ve been taught to fend off these gross attempts to dip into our wallet so frequently, it’s difficult to believe there are games that don’t do it. Even though the games have gotten better about it, the damage has been done. When players actually do want to spend money, they feel dirty doing it. They’re now self-loathing “Payers,” and they’ll hide the behavior from their friends as they descend deeper and deeper into a microtransactional shame spiral of doom.
Anyway, those are just a couple of the most popular rant vectors—there are plenty of others. Got a favorite? Leave a comment so together we might hone your hatred to a razor’s edge.
Note: Thanks to Scott Taylor, who took the crap-ass name tag graphic I used last week and transformed it into a distinctly non-crap-ass graphic. Much appreciated!