I Hate Freemium Games
Featured image from Pixabay
I really do. I cannot stand them, and yet there’s a couple that I actually play.
So, a few months ago – or weeks ago, I can’t remember – I was over at the Kiwi Farms, reading through the thread on Movie Bob, a fat blubbertub that I absolutely cannot stand, when I saw a post about how, according to him, the only reason gamers hate mobile games is because women play mobile games.
And, of course, that irritated me. Not enough to go to his channel and rant or anything, but it did irritate me. Why? Because that’s not why gamers hate mobile games.
A great deal of mobile games are freemium games. I mean, a lot of them are freemium games.
Take a look at this video I made of me just casually browsing the games section of the App Store on my iPhone. Notice something? Most of the free games come with in-app purchases. I even included the second iteration of the one freemium game I hate the most, Candy Crush Saga (the stupid soda pop edition, or whatever the hell it’s called).
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
Match 3 Games
Way back in the day – probably about eleven to thirteen years ago, I played match three games on my old Windows PC. I played Bejeweled, Jewel Quest and a couple others I don’t remember now. In fact, I have a disk with a couple of those games on it. I even have my old Bejeweled 2 installation disk in my closet. I loved playing those games.
I was very excited when Bejeweled was ported to iOS. I had that and Chuzzle on my old iPod Touch. In fact, both of those games are still on my old iPod Touch.
Casual games were, and are, a huge hit on both iOS and Android devices. These devices are small and portable, so of course casual games are insanely popular on them. You can play a quick game of Solitaire on your smartphone while waiting at the doctor’s office, or during commercial breaks, etc.
Then in-app purchases were introduced. I won’t get into who introduced them first. Needless to say, it changed everything. In-app ads were already a thing (and are still a thing), but this made it easier for developers to offer their apps for free, as a sort of trial or something. Plus, it allowed them to monetize additional features.
Free stuff is still quite alluring to smartphone users, and developers took advantage of that.
Including the developers of the game Candy Crush Saga. As I said, casual games like Bejeweled were really popular on mobile devices, and King, the developers of Candy Crush Saga found a way to monetize the match-three game.
In the original Bejeweled game, you matched three identical gems in a row, and doing this filled up the progress bar at the bottom of the screen. Do this enough times, and you went up a level. Sometimes you’d run out of valid moves to make. Bejeweled came with another mode, called Endless, where you never ran out of valid moves to make.
The difference between Candy Crush Saga and Bejeweled was this: after the first couple of levels, Candy Crush Saga limited the number of moves you could make in the game. Let’s say you were given twenty moves. Once you made your twentieth move, it didn’t matter if there were still valid moves to make. The game ended, unless you spent a “life” to continue the game.
And, predictably, you could either pester your Facebook friends for additional lives, or you could purchase additional lives.
The game looks really good. The graphics are gorgeous and the music is cute, and there’s the whole Facebook thing, which is pretty much the only way you can save your progress across devices.
I just took a look at the in-app purchases for Candy Crush Saga on iOS. You can buy extra moves, extra lives, and other random things to help you along.
I would have Bejeweled on my iPad and iPhone, but the publisher of that game decided to take the paid-for iPad version and turn it into a freemium title, which, if I had updated the app at the time, would have saddled me with obnoxious ads. It was such a shame, because not only did I buy it for me, I also bought a copy for my grandfather. I have Bejeweled Blitz, which is the one-minute version of the game, but I hardly play it anymore.
Now every friggin match-three game I see in the App Store has the same limited-moves gameplay. I really don’t play those anymore.
But they aren’t the only aggravating freemium titles out there.
The Games I Actually Play
So there’s three freemium games I actually do play: The Sims Mobile on my iPhone, Sims Freeplay on my iPad, and Furistas Cat Cafe on my iPhone. I actually have more games on my iPad, but I’m just going to talk about these three, since I play them on a regular basis.
The game that sparked this post was The Sims Mobile. It is a game based on The Sims 4, as the graphics look quite similar to me. I haven’t played The Sims 4 (I only have The Sims 3 for PC/MAC), though.
Freemium games are designed to get you to perform microtransactions. These three games are no different. All three games have similar methods of gameplay – you initiate an action that might take an hour or several hours, and must do so within a time limit. If you complete the the action within the time limit, you get a prize.
The Sims Mobile
In the two Sims games, this usually comes in the form of a quest line. Right now, in the Sims Mobile, there’s a quest to earn the Dance Instructor Career. The amount of careers your sims can do is rather limited, and based on the amount of places you’ve unlocked in the game’s map. I’ve unlocked all but one of them. I’ve reached the highest level for three careers – the doctor, barista, and ad exec careers. I’m still working on the DJ career and the lawyer career, and I’ve still got the fashion designer and scientist careers to do. But once I finish all of those, what’s left? I have one area left to unlock, then I’ll breeze through that one and then what?
So I really wanted to unlock this new career, and the quest line to earn it was four days long. Sounds good, right? Well, a great deal of the tasks are really long. Like, the current quest step is to do three long hangouts. Well, the long hangouts average between six and eight hours. The quest is two days old, and I’ve got two days left, basically.
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Now, once the action is started, you can leave the game and the sims will finish the action, but there is the option to finish it quicker by actually playing the game. Unfortunately, as in most freemium games, there’s multiple currencies in this game. One of the currencies is energy. Each sim has thirty energy points. Most actions cost two energy points. Some cost three energy points, and there’s a few that cost one energy point. These points add up really fast. In the space of five minutes, my sim’s energy will be exhausted.
Then, in order to replenish that energy, you can have your sim use household items that will replenish it (toilet, shower, bathtub or bed). Unfortunately, once you use that item once, you have to wait a really long time to use it again. The other option to replenish energy is to have your sim consume a cupcake. That will instantly give your sim thirty energy points.
You can earn cupcakes by completing quests, but that’s rather rare. However, there is the option to buy cupcakes. Of course.
Cupcakes are purchased with another in-game currency – sim cash. Earning sim cash is hard, but you can always buy sim cash with real cash.
Then there’s this really irritating feature called A Surprising Choice which exists solely to get you to either spend sim cash or use a cupcake.
And, to make things even harder, there’s this other feature called Llama Zoom, where you have to complete a series of events and actions for this character called Emily, where you can earn some simoleons (the easiest currency to earn) and a llama zoom token. There used to be a feature where you completed a set of tasks every day that would give you some fashion tokens (used to buy clothes from Izzy’s Fashion Shop), some XP points (which allows you to level up) and a cupcake. This list of daily goals was replaced with the stupid llama zoom thing.
I say all of this to illustrate how these games are designed to get you to spend small amounts of money here and there.
I’ve been playing the Sims Freeplay for a long time – ever since it was first released, really. I like this one a lot better, but it’s still designed to nickel-and-dime you to death.
In this game, you can have your sims do certain tasks – washing your hands might take thirty seconds…watching TV can take an hour and a half, and you can have your sim sleep in a bed for six to seven hours. These actions are completed to keep your sims’ needs met. The following needs are: hunger, bathroom, hygiene, sleep, communication and fun. Each item meets certain needs – a bed will fill your sim’s sleep bar. A fridge will contribute to the hunger bar. The toilet will fill the bathroom bar (and if you don’t get your sim to the toilet fast enough, they pee on themselves. I am not kidding. If you do not have your sim bathe regularly, they’ll be surrounded by a brown cloud). A TV or bookshelf will help meet the fun need.
You can complete these tasks instantly by spending one of this game’s many currencies – lifestyle points. Some actions, such as those for certain special quests called live events, require another currency – social points.
For example, I am in a quest where I need to complete a zillion actions to earn a private luxury island. If I had completed the quest within a certain time limit, I would have gotten an additional prize. I didn’t, and the reason why is that a great deal of the tasks in this quest were insanely long. Like, one was five hours long, another was eight hours long, and so on. Either I’d have to meticulously manage my time with this game, or spend every waking moment checking it, or spend a zillion lifestyle points.
A couple of years ago, they introduced an update that would allow you to let your sims age. Every action would complete their “age” progress bar, and once that was filled, you could advance your sim to another age. Your sims can start out as infants, then toddlers, then preteens, then teenagers, then adults and finally seniors. It also came with an update that was not popular with a lot of players – each sim could be given a life orb, and you had to collect these life orbs to build certain places on the exotic island map. Needless to say, I haven’t built any of them because they take SO DAMN LONG to earn. Plus, when this update was released, it cost lifestyle points to keep your sim at their current age, and there are certain hobbies that are limited to certain age groups. Plus, senior sims cannot work. The infant, toddler, preteen and teen sims cannot work either.
According to some of the newer players, the game is now even harder to play. I would be devastated if I lost the progress on my game.
Furistas Cat Cafe
This game doesn’t annoy me as much, as it’s got cats in it, and it’s so cute. In this game, you basically have a cat cafe and you manage it. Every time you level up, you unlock a new cat, which brings in more customers. Each cat has a specific personality type, and customers will come in and will prefer cats of a certain personality. You can pair some customers with different personalities, and that’ll be fine. A new update was recently released where customers will only accept a cat of a certain personality, or a certain cat.
Customers can spend anywhere between thirty seconds and ninety minutes hanging out with a cat, depending on the cat’s level. The higher the level, the longer the hangout, and the more hearts you earn. You use the hearts for baskets that contain certain cat toys that will allow you to upgrade the cats. Then there’s an additional currency – golden fish – that you also need to upgrade a cat.
Earning baskets also contributes to your level. Giving attention to cats, cleaning up the cafe and serving customers drinks and food earns you kitty tokens, and you can use those to purchase additional items (chairs, tables, rugs, etc) for your cafe.
I’ve already amassed a crap-ton of golden fish and kitty tokens. There’s a third currency called kitty cash, which you can use to instantly open baskets (the really good baskets can take up to twelve hours to open).
Even so, there’s a daily quest you have to complete, and given that you cannot speed up the customer-cat visits, it can be pretty hard to finish them. You have to play the game a lot to do that.
Then there’s the special events, and I’ve never finished them, but I’ve earned some cool things with them. Here’s my Valentine’s Day themed cafe:
(insert screenshot here)
Still, I like popping in and messing with the cats. It’s so, so cute.
So, in these three games, there’s either a lot of waiting or a lot of spending in-game currency. Otherwise, you will be sitting there, staring at the screen and watching the characters do whatever.
I am not used to this kind of gameplay. I’m used to spending hours and hours grinding, with an eventual payoff.
Most gamers are like this. Take Super Mario Brothers on the original Nintendo system for example. No in-app purchases, no microtransactions, no DLC – the only thing you can do is play level after level to advance. That’s it.
Same with Tomb Raider, a franchise I’ve been playing for twentysomething years now. In the original games, you put in the time playing, and that’s the only way you made progress. You had to do stuff. There was no, click this lever and Lara will take three hours to finish it.
These three freemium games barely have any real gameplay.
Nowadays, even AAA games like Destiny have freaking microtransactions. I could also write a separate rant about Fallout 76 (and I will, eventually). In those games, however, you don’t need to spend additional money to actually progress in the game, unless you count DLC. But, take Destiny 2 for example. You don’t need to spend any additional money to finish the base game (and the base game is super, super short).
There’s no satisfying challenge in these freemium games. It’s just, tap here…tap there…wait an hour…tap over there…wait another couple of hours…earn some in-game currency. And that’s it.
I can only share my experience with these three games. I bet a lot of other freemium games are severely limited to the point where you have to spend money or wait a long time to finish.
Imagine this: if Tomb Raider was a freemium game, Lara would have a limited amount of energy. Let’s say she’s got thirty energy points, and that running consumes five points, fighting a single enemy costs ten points, and finishing a puzzle costs fifteen points.
In just a few minutes of gameplay, Lara’s energy has been completely consumed, and you’ve got to wait an hour or two for her energy to replenish…unless you buy some in-game currency to instantly replenish her energy so you can finish raiding that tomb!
Yeah, that would absolutely piss me off. That’s why I don’t like these freemium games, and why I avoid them as much as possible.
I am sure a lot of gamers feel the same way. I am perfectly aware that a lot of women play these games, and that there’s a lot of them willing to spend real money for furniture, extra lives, extra moves, special power-ups or whatever else they need to finish the game. I don’t really know why.
I have not spent any money on the Sims Mobile or the Furistas Cat Cafe. I have only spent two dollars on the Sims Freeplay, despite having played it for several years, and that was because I really, really wanted the pool cleaner (otherwise, your sims would have to manually clean their pools, something that takes three minutes to do…now multiply that by, like ten pools and that could take a while, even if you had ten sims cleaning pools).
Most freemium games are also supported by in-game advertising. Some are really nice and they’ll give you a reward (usually in-game currency) for watching a video ad.
The Sims Freeplay has a truly obnoxious ad system right now. A big, full-screen video ad will play, and the close button is disabled for thirty seconds. This ad shows up right in the middle of me actually tapping on an item, and it’s really annoying. There is a reward for actually viewing the ad in its entirety – whatever action you’re doing will be completed instantly if you watch it. I hate ads with a flaming, blazing passion, so of course, intrusive ads absolutely piss me off. To their credit, the Sims Mobile and Furistas Cat Cafe do not have intrusive ads. In fact, I haven’t seen any ads. You have to actually tap on an option to view the ads, and you get a reward for doing so.
So no, this woman doesn’t hate mobile games because she’s a sexist pig…this woman hates mobile games because too many of them are freemium games, and those things really, really suck ass.