There’s a lot of good stuff to say about mobile gaming, offering a low cost way to play a few games on the go. But the rise of mobile micro-transactions has brought about a trend which some find more disturbing than others: the freemium model. Starting life as a free download, these games are free to play but with loads of ways to spend real money to make the game easier, better or more complete. This idea isn’t alien to console users – DC Universe Online is free to start with, but if you want to access all the missions you’ll need to dig into your pockets, and there have been several cases of inflated credit card bills thanks to FIFA Ultimate Team.
The worrying thing about this idea isn’t the fact you might end up spending money, after all developers need paying somehow, but some of these premium extras cost over £50. Download a game like Modern War or CSR Racing in the iPad and you’ll have the option to pay staggering amounts of money just to be able to buy stuff out of reach of those playing for free.
Whether or not you think it’s a good idea, it got us thinking about how some of your favourite games could be affected if this idea was to take hold and become the norm.
Call of Duty
What’s free? A short single player campaign to get to grips with the controls – effectively a tutorial. Online play is available but your rank cap is 5 and you only have the choice of 3 guns and 2 perks.
Pay up and receive… An open ranking system that takes you up to rank 100. Each prestige choice is available for a small fee. Weapons are available for 99p each, and “weapon drops” are available for a higher sum which give you a random selection of guns and perks which you can use for 30 days. Online maps come in sets of 5 and cost £3 per set.
Grand Theft Auto
What’s free? A single player campaign that features just enough missions to tell a story. You have a single bike and car to use, and no others can be stolen. You can fight with your fists or use a pistol.
Pay up and receive… Extra missions which can be paid for or unlocked every few days for free. Machine guns and rocket launchers can be bought from an in-game weapons shop with real money, and the ability to steal vehicles can be paid for. Radio stations to complement the single included station can either be paid for, or accessed for free with 3 adverts after every song.
What’s free? You can browse the menu and watch a demo.
Pay up and receive… chances to play the game. To replicate the arcade experience, each play through costs 50p; continuing after being beaten costs another 50p. Gamers won’t like it, but the games industry will applaud the idea and suggest the full arcade experience is finally at home. Sweaty bratty kids will be available for £8 an hour to finish the illusion.
What’s free? You can play against the computer for one half of an exhibition game. 4 teams are available, but one of them is Oxford Utd. You can set up a tournament and see the fixtures tree, but before you actually begin the tournament you’ll need to pay. Some occasional commentary is provided by Jimmy Hill.
Pay up and receive… More teams – each league can be unlocked for a fee. John Motson’s commentary can be purchased, and you’ll finally be able to get into those tournaments. Goalkeeper gloves are also available to buy, because let’s face it somebody will buy them. Extra footballs can be unlocked for 69p, and there’s a £4.99 per month subscription to play online. An extra 49p will enable comms so that 9 year old smug idiot that always seems to be online can laugh at you for missing a penalty.
What’s free? A huge land where you can walk around and visit houses and farms that other players have set up, although you can only look at them and wonder where they got a patch of carrots from. You can set up a small plot of land with some basic buildings, and every now and then a mammoth will attack you. You get no weapons in the free version though. Missions consist of walking to another player’s house to fetch a cup of sugar.
Pay up and receive… Additional buildings and vegetables are available from the nearby virtual Tesco which seems to have found its way into Skyrim. You can buy addition characters to provide real quests, but to get anywhere you’ll need to buy from the range of weapons and armour. Coloured armour, or that sponsored by Kappa, is significantly more. You can buy a chest of gold for £25, which provides enough to “rush build” a shed and save you from that agonising 6 minute wait.
What’s free? You can take over a team and manage it through whichever league it’s in. All tournaments are available, but players age at 3 times the normal rate and start retiring at the ages of 25.
Pay up and receive… The ability to trade players. Buying players doesn’t cost in-game money, instead you pay a fraction of the player cost. Fancy splashing the cash on a £50m striker? That’ll be £5. Pick up that youthful defender from Scunthorpe and you’ll be looking at a measly 85p. Bargain. Shame he’s crap though.
So, there’s your freemium model. What other games that you love could be given the same treatment? Let us know!