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 Post subject: Are mobile apps a scam?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2016 7:16 am 
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My son has been playing a lot of mobile apps period one game in particular, I've noticed the main currency in the game is tokens, yet every time he goes to the in-game store he almost never has any tokens. I played the game a little bit to figure out why this is. The only reliable way to get tokens in the game is Buy, number one, watching advertisements and, number 2, paying with real money.

I realize that this is a free app, and they need to make money, but the game is just not fun when you can't purchase any of the items in the game without paying real money which I don't let him do. The whole thing seems bizarre to me. It must be frustrating to go to the store every day, and all the good items are like 1000 tokens, and I never see him have more than 10-20 tokens.

Apparently, the original version, it was much easier to get tokens, but subsequent updates, it is now nearly impossible to get them through regular gameplay. Which means the company made a conscious decision to try to screw the users, in hopes that they get so frustrated that they just buy a bunch of tokens for $5 - $100.

Thoughts?

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2016 7:28 am 
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Yep. This kills the fun.

Yet worse, games are (intentionally or not) constructed around the transaction/watch ad-mechanism, so the options for game design gets limited by that. Not only must the game constantly lead you to this mechanism, but it must also try and manipulate your incentive to actually use it. This overshadows all other aspects of what the game is about.

The honest way to make a commercial game is precicely to sell it on terms on what the game is about, not the other way around. This holds true even for coin-ops.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2016 7:47 am 
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Where have you been the last 5+ years? :lol:

To be honest though, I'd much rather watch a dumb add than constantly have to shovel money. It would be nice if mobile developers would make a version of their games where it's just a one time payment and you're done. Maybe they think they won't get as much money this way, but as it stands, they're getting $0 from me.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2016 7:50 am 
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I'm going to program a mobile app. It's called 'Ad Watchers'. Here's how you play... You win points by watching ads. You get more points by sharing your score on Facebook. If you get enough points, you unlock the super-ad, which is an even better and cooler advertisement, that only the coolest, best gamers get to view.

(Must have Wi-Fi to play).

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2016 8:58 am 
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They don't have much of a choice though, the consumers have spoken. Nobody will pay fair prices for mobile games, everybody expects them to be 0.99 or free.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2016 9:18 am 
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dougeff wrote:
Apparently, the original version, it was much easier to get tokens, but subsequent updates, it is now nearly impossible to get them through regular gameplay. Which means the company made a conscious decision to try to screw the users, in hopes that they get so frustrated that they just buy a bunch of tokens for $5 - $100.

As someone who works for a 3-person company developing on a mobile/tablet game, I can talk a moment about this.

In the mobile market, the two common types of income models are:

1) F2P (free-to-play), specifically ones classified as "freemium". These are games you can download right off the App Store or Google Play and bam, you're in the game playing. These games are specifically designed with microtransactions in mind. It varies per game type/style (let's not get into a discussion about that aspect), but in most cases, you can play the game as much as you like without spending a single cent..... however, it might take you (making up numbers here) 6 months to get as far a player who spent US$5 to buy a bunch of upgrades (tokens, gems, diamonds -- it varies per game, but it's usually some kind of "currency"). An alternate way is to watch an ad (usually 15 to 60 seconds) which can get you a little bit of something, but not as much as actual cash.

2) Traditional, a.k.a. pay-to-play. You pay a flat amount for the game itself (say, US$10), and you get everything right then and there. There are no microtransactions. A good example of this would be the puzzle game series The Room (which you should check out, BTW. Wonderfully done, worth every cent).

Right now in the mobile market, F2P is the common go-to choice, because it's the cash cow. It really depends, though, on what the demographic is your game is trying to cater to. I hate to generalise or categorise, but there's a lot of market research that shows "soccer moms" (30-somethings with kids who like Candy Crush), avid competitive game players (ex. Clash Royale) and upper-middle class people have no problem shelling out a few dollars here and there (hold that thought). Companies like King, Supercell, IGG, Machine Zone, Zynga, etc. have figured out the formulae and apply it. You should look up King's annual financial reports: the numbers will blow your mind. I am not joking when I say I cannot comprehend how much money people dump into F2P games. I say this honestly, but a little tongue-in-cheek: it's like the average IQ is dropping. The mentality seems to be "eh, who cares, it's just 99 cents" but they never think about *how often* they're doing that. I've heard of people having $500+ charges in things like Niantic's Pokemon.

I am ***NOT*** a fan of F2P. Yes, there are a couple games I have where I've spent money to help accomplish some goals (I think I've spent maybe US$15 total in Digfender, simply because I was getting really stuck on specific levels and the walkthroughs on YouTube for those levels showed the person just having complete/total luck in how they managed to beat it, i.e. it was pure RNG). I might download and play an F2P game on occasion, but in ~95% of the cases, I've uninstalled it within a week because I "figure out" how their game mechanic works. One of the WORST was Clash Royale, which I actually had to play for a week at the request of my boss and then give feedback/a write up on what I thought. That game rewards the people who shell out money for upgrades early on, and because of how the game model/mechanics work, it's literally impossible to ever be able to beat someone who has done that. I even ended up spending US$2.97 (US$0.99x3) throughout Clash Royale to try and get a feel for "how much" benefit some of the upgrades got me, and it all felt incredibly temporary. I also didn't like some of the game mechanics (there were 2 or 3 specific gameplay mechanics that every player would abuse that would essentially get them the win every time).

The last part of my above paragraph has a term too, it's called P2W or PTW (pay-to-win), and it's prevalent in both PC and mobile games where there's a competitive nature. I don't agree with it and I don't like it. But that's me.

And there's a whole involvement with Facebook on a lot of these things, too, which I won't bother to go into. It's all interwoven, like a web coated in poison. ;-)

To wrap this up: the place I work at has had several meetings over the years discussing what our model should be. I can't talk about the decisions we've made (what a publisher wants plays a big role too), but I can tell you that a HUGE amount of the decision-making boils down to deciding who or what your player base is. If it's "soccer moms" and teenagers with rich parents or trust-fund kiddies, F2P with microtransactions, if done right, will make you a millionaire. If it's the casual player, or the type who get really "deep" into a game (role-playing, etc.) then the traditional model may be a better choice. If *I'M* your demographic, then traditional is going to be how you get me to spend money -- but you'd better make your game cost US$10 *at most* (US$5 is a good balance) because I'm not going to consider it otherwise. I'm not a penny-pincher nor am I frugal in the least, it's just about knowing that all of these things are horrifically temporary in nature and many don't offer true/real replay value, unlike a lot of classic console games.

And that's my write-up.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2016 11:29 am 
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As opposed to console games that get you both ways. Not only are they paid, but they also lock occasionally overpowered characters, weapons, etc. behind paid DLC sold separately. So you have to pay to play, and you have to pay again to be competitive, and you have to keep paying every few months to use the only matchmaking servers that work with the game.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2016 12:51 pm 
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About 15 years ago, me and my friends were addicted to a real-time strategy game, that...
1. All parts of the game could be played offline, and fully available at the time of purchase
2. New items were periodically available, free
3. You could set up your own server or LAN to play others.
4. 3rd parties (including plebeians like me) were able to generate new game items, new maps, and user defined AI strategy.

And, if I recall correctly. It was a very popular and successful game at the time.

I like that kind of game better.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2016 1:04 pm 
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Almost all of free-to-play garbage are money traps for the 0.01% of the userbase that actually wastes a lot of real life money in game.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2016 3:04 pm 
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You haven't seen mobile app-game scams until you've seen Super Monster Bros by Adventure Time Pocket Free Games. I'm pretty sure it's been pulled from the app stores it was in for how amazingly terrible it was, so look up some videos of it and see the amazing heights of rip-off beyond what you've seen before.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2016 3:17 pm 
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To date, I haven't spent more than ten dollars buying mobile games. I bought a roguelike for a couple of dollars and something else at some point, can't remember specifically what. Even when I'm tempted, I hesitate because either I have little confidence that a game won't turn out to be worthless shovelware or the game requires access to my contacts, call history, location, etc., etc. (that is an absolute deal-breaker for me, and I find it baffling that a number of games that have gotten good reviews require these permissions). Freemium is a giant red flag to me; I'd sooner take a chance on something you just buy upfront.

On the other hand, I've spent more on free games with an inconspicuous donate button.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2016 3:35 pm 
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How would you react to a game with about a half hour's worth of Chapter 1 playable without charge, followed by a single $10 IAP to permanently unlock the entire rest of this campaign? That'd be similar to how Doom worked.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2016 3:44 pm 
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tepples wrote:
How would you react to a game with about a half hour's worth of Chapter 1 playable without charge, followed by a single $10 IAP to permanently unlock the entire rest of this campaign? That'd be similar to how Doom worked.

The shareware model was an amazing thing! It's really too bad that it didn't stick around, over the years...


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2016 3:51 pm 
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Reversively, if Doom was freemium, it'd let you play all levels, but you'd need to pay real money for ammo and health, + make sure the level design almost prohibited run-throughs w/o shooting.

Shareware, come back! There's not even anything to forgive.


Edit; actually i saw a game like that, which a kid in front of me played when commuting on his tablet. He had to shoot a spider monster a gazillion times because his normal ammo didn't do much damage vs the spiders shield rating (displayed in numbers each hit). So you need to buy armor-piercing rounds... What a scam.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2016 4:47 pm 
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tepples wrote:
How would you react to a game with about a half hour's worth of Chapter 1 playable without charge, followed by a single $10 IAP to permanently unlock the entire rest of this campaign? That'd be similar to how Doom worked.

Isn't that how Super Mario Run is supposed to work?


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