Saturday, March 1, 2014

Pay to Play: In App Purchases

Many of us are probably wondering why there is a trend of premium apps being offered for FREE by developers. All over a sudden, an app that costs $10 is now free. Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the world of the FREEMIUM business model.

Freemium model

Freemium, word made up word that combines the words Free and Premium, was popularised by Firemonkey's Real Racing 3 mobile racing game. Premium apps used to set you back $2 to $20 depending on the app. This model was very successful and one can say the Apple App store grew from this model.  When smartphones and Tablets became more popular, cheaper and more available, people became smarter. Terms like Jail Breaking and Rooting became common knowledge. Premium apps were being hacked and side loaded for free onto phones.

On the day it announced that the long awaited Real Racing 3 game was  actually going to be free on both the Android Market and the App Store. Many rejoiced, The joy was however cut short when it was also announced that one had to spend real money to actually buy cars, service them, wash them, paint them, etc. It was possible to play the game without spending a coin, but this would take you years to make any progress as the game was designed to keep you spending pointlessly.

The whole idea of using real money was absurd. I personally downloaded the game, started playing it and realised, I couldn't sell my unwanted cars. This was new and is the trend now. So if you  bought a car that you later didn't need, you were screwed. I also noticed that the cars would easily get damaged even if you drove on the grass. If you didn't knock any of the AIs, they would knock you instead. In short, you had to damage the car in every race and you had to spend real money fixing it. What a master plan from FireMonkeys Studios.

This wasn't all however, the plan was so perfect that the developers just decided to update the game on almost a weekly basis. More tracks, cars and races were always introduced to keep you playing on and on and on. This freemium model could very easily make you spend $1,000 within the game. And it's  still being updated to this day. Don't get me wrong, its a nice game.

What is the point of all this? The point is that almost all developers have adopted this ingenious model and now release all mobile titles free of charge. FIFA 14 is one of the newest games on the mobile platform. It's says FREE but you have to do a lot of paying not just playing..

Parents have been the biggest losers in all this.. A free game is easily downloadable and then the child starts to make all sorts of in app purchases at will. By the time the parents are given feedback about their credit card expenditure, it's too late. Apple was taken to court for this.  Now developers have to make sure that payment is actually restricted by password. Word of advice , don't share the password with your son.

Honestly, I would rather pay $10 and get the complete game than having to purchase $100 car packs in Asphalt 8.

 Obviously hackers have already found ways of getting access to many of those in app purchases by altering the game files. This is why platforms like Windows Phone do not allow users access to the file system.