Freemium games or pay up front?

The mobile gaming market is a difficult market to operate on. We’ve all seen the examples of the companies that made it big with one app game, only to fail to keep the public interested. Rovio scored big in 2009 with Angry Birds, a game that absolutely went viral. Merchandise flooded the market and everybody knew about Angry Birds, even my elderly mother. But, the world of app gaming is a fast moving world, and pretty soon interest waned. New themes like Angry Birds Rio and Angry Birds Star Wars helped a bit, but Rovio still saw its profit halved in 2013, and the Finnish company had to lay off a lot of its employees. They recently released Angry Birds 2, and this time they chose a different business model: the game is a freemium game, like so many games out there at the moment.

Angry birds, freemium, Rovio, app games

Soon after you’ve started the game you get all too frequent requests to share on Facebook, promotion banners of other Rovio games, commercials for other apps and of course: the offer to buy more lives, when you have failed to make the level you needed. It seems that more and more games are developed along those lines, not just app games, but games like Pokémon Rumble on the 3DS too. And I wonder if it really is what people want out of their games.

Magic tree, gems, free gaming, fun games

Do you play games that are free, but have with in-app purchases? And do you manage to keep a tight rein on your wallet and not spend a single cent on it? Or are you like me, where sometimes you spend a small amount to progress a little faster.  And have you ever kept count of how much money you spend on that game? I do manage to exercise a fair amount of self-restraint, and only spent a small amount in the past on games like HayDay, Magic Tree and the Tribez. But still, I have friends who don’t dare count all the money that has gone into the sinkhole that is called Candy Crush Saga (made by King). A report by the Guardian over 2014 states that while 97,7% of people play Candy Crush and the other Saga games for free, the 2,3% that puts real money in it, spend $ 23,42 a month on them!

Candy crush, King, free apps, extra level

I know it’s a great deal for the gaming companies, you only have to look at the lists of top-grossing app games to know that money is freely pouring in. And the way the app gaming market works, it’s smart for them to rake in the money while they can, because it can be over in a heartbeat: In King’s Q2-2015 report they showed that revenues have dropped by 18% in the past year! But if I had to choose, I would rather pay a set amount of money for an app game, and then be able to enjoy it at my leisure.

What about you, would you rather have freemium with the commercials, connections to Facebook and bottle necks in playing time? Or would you be willing to pay a set amount for a game, maybe after being able to test a light version?


  1. I definitely prefer games that only require a one-time purchase to any other subscription-based or freemium business model. I did throw some money at Card Hunter for some additional content, but on it’s own as a free to play game it’s pretty great. Other than that I don’t play too many of these types of games and am very good at not getting “nickled and dimed” by them.

    1. I always feel that if a game is good and did its best to have the fun of the gamers in mind, it deserves some of my money, only a couple of euro’s, mind you. Otherwise I’ll wait till new lives or items become available!

  2. I don’t usually play games like these but I have found two games that I like that you can pay to help you progress. Fallout Shelter and Star Wars Commander. What I like is that you don’t need to pay to get ahead you can just wait, but more importantly they don’t keep reminding you to “pay money to get ahead!” It’s just an option that you can click in the menu. It’s subtle, unlike candy crush that reminded you every time you did something.

  3. I much prefer paying all at once, if a game interest me I just save money for it and buy it. Like that Shin Megami Tensei iOS game.

    If it only has a ‘freemium’ option, like that runner Spider-Man game, I just try to see how long I can go without paying, if there is a forced need to pay then I just stop. I simply wouldn’t like to get into a monthly bill or something for a game :V

    1. One thing I would like added is the lite option for some paid games, like a demo. It’s a good way of knowing if you’ll like the game enough to pay money for it. I mean, for handheld games we pay up front too. But then we can be fairly sure that it will be a game that will keep us interested for many hours! In app games, we can’t always be so sure!

  4. I definitely prefer paying up front. Not only do I hate the rather scummy tactics some of the freemium games use, but in my experience all the paid games I tried were better, even if they only cost a few euros. Plus I despise how the freemium games almost always require an internet connection, mostly just because so you can give in to the temptation to buy at any time. Free wireless spots are still very rare in my country, so this makes it so I can’t play most mobile games outside my house….and why would I play subpar mobile games when I have three dedicated gaming consoles at home?

    Couple that with the fact that normal handheld gaming has always catered to my niches and has just kept getting better without any of that hassle, the fact that I just don’t like touch controls only games very much, and the result is that my phone and tablet are just an alarm and a drawing tablet respectively, while I would never dare to set foot outside my house without any of my 4 handheld consoles and a power bank just in case.

    And yet there’s people who spend thousands a month on these games and some even go into debt. Spending so much money a month on a single game…I could buy the entire Vita and 3DS library of games I want, with all DLC, and still have more than enough to buy a PS4!

    Thankfully I have never spent a single cent in an in-app purchase. I do have a weakness for PSN sales, so I can’t stand on my soap box so high, but it’s never more than 60$ a month, the cost a full new game, and I usually get 3-4 games a month with that money.

  5. Oh, and has for testing a light version, I always like to have it, but oddly enough I have heard from people in the industry that having demos almost always decreases sales, so that’s why a lot of companies don’t do it. It makes sense, even though a lot of demos are what convinced me sometimes to give an entirely new genre to me a shot, a lot more people will either A) Were going to buy it but found out they didn’t like the game, so a sale is lost. B) Like the game, but decide they got their fill from the demo and don’t buy it, another sale lost; C) They were already going to buy anyway no matter what, so the demo didn’t change anything. D) Didn’t like before and don’t like it now, so nothing Changed. E) Didn’t care for it at first, but bought it because they liked the demo. F) Disliked the game, but changed their minds about it and bought it.

    So that’s only two positive outcomes, and a demo takes a lot of resources and time to pull off. So most companies choose not to take the risk. Can’t say I blame them, even I recently wrote off Minecraft and its entire genre because I despised the Terraria demo. Had there been no demo I probably would have eventually bought either Terraria or Minecraft.

    1. Good thinking on the light version. It’s all in the money of course, and no gaming producer wants to make games just because they want us buyers to feel good. The want to make a profit, and a tidy one too. But I think somewhere the line is crossed, and then people just won’t fall for the pushy tactics anymore and demand a good game for a fair price. Because I don’t think anyone begrudges the producer their income, as long as they deliver quality.

      Even if there’s no light version, having to pay a set price up front will have us scurrying back to the Internet to do some thorough research. What’s the app game about, are there clips available. Are there reviews out there? All the things you check out before spending money on handheld games will apply here too!

  6. I prefer to pay upfront for a full game… although that model is dying. These days you pay full price for a game and then have to cough up extra to get DLC, which is often content that they removed from the original game.

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