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Freemium gaming diminishes the video game market

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The freemium model allows players to obtain advantages by using real money to buy forms of internal currency to get more moves in Candy Crush, fill the stamina bar in Madden Mobile and speed up build times in Clash of Clans, to name a few examples.

The freemium model allows players to obtain advantages by using real money to buy forms of internal currency to get more moves in Candy Crush, fill the stamina bar in Madden Mobile and speed up build times in Clash of Clans, to name a few examples.

Derek Yen

Derek Yen

The freemium model allows players to obtain advantages by using real money to buy forms of internal currency to get more moves in Candy Crush, fill the stamina bar in Madden Mobile and speed up build times in Clash of Clans, to name a few examples.

by Derek Yen, Reporter

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The advent of the internet has inexorably changed the nature of digital purchases – perhaps for the worse when considering the video game market. Increasingly publishers have adopted a business model colloquially known as “freemium gaming.”

As the name suggests, the freemium model revolves around a juxtaposition of “free” and “premium.” Players can play these games for free, but have the option of paying fees to gain various advantages. These premiums are often meager sums, but nevertheless grant tangible benefits.

Since anyone can pick up a freemium game and start playing at no up-front cost, players initially favor this game model. After all, not many of us know an older relative who is a dedicated gamer. But almost all of us have an aunt or uncle playing smartphone games.

Currently, 24 of the 25 iPhone games that have earned the most revenue are free to download but support in-app purchases. A similar situation is seen on the Google Play store: all 25 of the market’s top grossing games employ the freemium model.

Users no longer enjoy an equal playing field: the more they can open their wallet, the greater advantage they gain.

The end result? Low-quality, free games saturate the market, and there is an overwhelming lack of diversity. A few repetitive archetypes arise: the first-person shooter, the city-building simulation, the business-management simulation. Almost every freemium game is a recreated older game open to implement user purchases.

Candy Crush serves as a typical example of this effect. Everyone who has played the 2001 classic computer game Bejeweled realizes that Candy Crush is merely a sugary derivation. This new version allows for monetary transactions, though. Players can pass levels by opting to pay real money to gain extra moves, lives, and power-ups.

The downloadable content (DLC) gaming model enables players to gain access to specific content, such as new maps, tools or weapons and customization options. DLC often extends games, allowing users to keep playing the same game after buying new DLC. Some forms of DLC provide direct advantage to the players who choose to purchase it.

This simple addition of currency damages the game. While people would compete with their friends in Bejeweled and gain the highest score through sheer skill, Candy Crush’s freemium nature precludes meaningful competition, as players can pass levels using money rather than natural skill. Users no longer enjoy an equal playing field: the more they can open their wallet, the greater advantage they gain.

If it is possible to gain an advantage in ways other than natural prowess or practice, competition becomes meaningless. If the freemium model was applied to any other medium, the results would be ridiculous. Basketball teams paying the NBA for extra free throws? A debater bribing the judge for more speech time? Dealers handing out extra cards for $19.99? Competition would be destroyed overnight. Games would no longer be fun to play.

As long as gamers continue to play freemium games and support the price model, the overall quality and playability of video games will only continue to deteriorate.

 

 

Derek Yen

Derek Yen (10) is a reporter for the Winged Post. As an avid follower of the sciences, he hopes to explain both historical and modern advancements in the field concisely and intuitively in his weekly STEM column.

1 Comment

One Response to “Freemium gaming diminishes the video game market”

  1. Maren on March 29th, 2018 2:36 am

    All the complaints that you have about freemium not providing a level playing field is depending on how the Premium is structure.

    All the complaints you have could also apply to a Paid game if it is not structure correctly. The base game is US$20, the plus version US$25 gives you more DLC. The end results is that you have the same problem.

    I think your issue is not with Fremium but price structuring.

    [Reply]

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Freemium gaming diminishes the video game market