In-app Purchases Will Kill Mobile Gaming

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Following the initial success of the “fremium” game model on mobile phones, there’s been a wave of gradually more exploitative games using this model – an initial “free” download followed by the extraction of incremental real money to finish tasks or gain abilities faster.

As Thomas Baekdal points out, EA’s Dungeon Keeper epitomizes the problem: take a $50 game concept from the late 1990s, and then set up the “free” mobile version so that it costs players $80 to make the same progress they would have made in 15 minutes in the original version. His rant includes a great (but NSFW) link to Nerd3‘s video review of the game in question – but Dungeon Keeper is just the tip of the iceberg.

The larger problem is that this horror is being actively promoted by Apple, and a generation of new gamers is being taught that this is the “normal” gaming experience. Hopefully there will be a backlash and a return to quality games where the players pay a reasonable fee, one time, up front. Otherwise there’s a huge risk that the gaming industry will implode… as it has in a boom and bust cycle that’s followed each generation of new consumer devices.

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