$3,000 worth of "gems"...
June 22, 2015 2:01 PM   Subscribe

Gaming Your Brain - How to top the leaderboard of Clash of Clans, and how Freemium games rake in billions of dollars from their players.
posted by Artw (77 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
George Yao's story sounds a little like the fate of a character in PKD's A Scanner Darkly.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 2:13 PM on June 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


so uh not the best time to mention Fallout Shelter in iOS huh
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:13 PM on June 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


I like to imagine that all the people involved in the creation of these games will spend their afterlife frantically clicking to avoid being lowered further into the jaws of a machine that will render them down into tiny jewels or fruit or something....
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:20 PM on June 22, 2015 [18 favorites]


So I haven't played Clash of Clans; is it a "game-ass game" or a glorified slot machine? I always thought of those types of games as being in a different class than something like LoL, but maybe I'm being unfair. The conflation in the article seemed odd.

Anyway, I feel bad for the people who need to obsessively pour cash into their iPads to make the worries of the world melt away, or what have you. I totally understand the impulse but I just boot up Skyrim and wander around when I need a break and yowza is that a lot cheaper.
posted by selfnoise at 2:23 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Clash of Clans has been terrible at getting money out of me. I am not at all adverse to throwing a little money at freemium games that aren't shamelessly pay-to-win but sorry CoC I'm a patient man and you have offer me something better than speeding up construction or troop production or whatever. Seriously, if Kim Kardashian can get a couple dollars out of me, you really ought to up your game.

As a companion piece to the FPP, here's a story about a guy who got drunk and spent $3,200 on Hearthstone cards in one night.

So I haven't played Clash of Clans; is it a "game-ass game" or a glorified slot machine? I always thought of those types of games as being in a different class than something like LoL, but maybe I'm being unfair. The conflation in the article seemed odd.

It's a bit like Age of Empires, if that works as a frame of reference for you?
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:29 PM on June 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


Yah, their tricks don't work on me. I've been playing Hay Day for years and have never given them a penny.

Freemium resistance: most underrated super power everrrr.
posted by lydhre at 2:31 PM on June 22, 2015 [19 favorites]


You can buy everything you need in League of Legends with the in-game currency you get while playing. The only thing you need to spend money on are fancy costumes for your characters. It is an excellent and fair system.

Most mobile F2P games are just skinner boxes that will lure you in then gate content behind money though obfuscated.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 2:33 PM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah a lot of the most popular f2p games are reasonable in terms of gameplay. There are obvious cynical ones, but the really big successes tend to be legitimate games on their own.

It's just that to win, you have to buy the special items, but you can't actually buy the special items, you essentially buy "booster packs" and hope they have the good rare stuff in them. Which is how they take advantage of the psychology of gambling.
posted by vogon_poet at 2:34 PM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Wasn't Travian doing this years before, just in a browser instead of as a mobile native game?

Man, I bet those guys kick themselves daily for not going mobile faster.
posted by GuyZero at 2:36 PM on June 22, 2015


On a related note, I don't think Neko Atsume is sufficiently monetized.
posted by maryr at 2:36 PM on June 22, 2015 [17 favorites]


Never tried CoC. I got into playing what I assume is a similar game, Battle Nations, but my habit was more like $20 every couple of weeks for a few months. It's the peer pressure from joining alliances that gets you.
posted by rocket88 at 2:39 PM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


so uh not the best time to mention Fallout Shelter in iOS huh
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:13 PM on June 22 [+] [!]


Fallout Shelter made me so mad I was compelled to write about my VERY STRONG FEELINGS about it.
posted by gc at 2:43 PM on June 22, 2015


And GamerGate has the nerve to say that SJWs are ruining gaming. THIS. This freemium shit is the shit that's ruining gaming. It's literally the reality TV of the gaming world.
posted by Talez at 2:45 PM on June 22, 2015 [14 favorites]


I agree.


Besides Hearthstone, that game is worth the money I'm putting in!
posted by Drinky Die at 2:51 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


On a related note, I don't think Neko Atsume is sufficiently monetized.

You are a bad person who should feel bad.

And if you could buy cute outfits for your cats in ねこあつめ, I would be ruined, I tell you....
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:54 PM on June 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't doubt someone could spend $46,000 on Game of War, or that it is a child that does so. People who wouldn't shell out $4 for an app will easily drop $100 on in-game goodies...it's insane.
posted by Chuffy at 2:57 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Video games were a core part of my identity when I was in my teens and early 20s, and sometimes I feel like I did myself a disservice, or even lost a little part of myself, when I let my cultural cringe over nerdiness cause me to drift away from video games about a decade ago. But then I read about how much of gaming is now pay-to-win — I mean, christ, isn't it enough that contemporary social reality is pay-to-win? do our games have to be pay-to-win too? — or I try to play a AAA-type game and get immediately turned off by the lazy, stupid writing, and I realize that maybe the medium itself is too damaged by its relationship with capitalism to be worth re-engaging with.

Shrug. Sometimes I still fire up nethack or like Sim City 4, and when I've got more of my dissertation done I'll probably give that new Sim City-style building game a try, but really I can't imagine the playing of new video games being a core aspect of my life ever again.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:02 PM on June 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


Funny thing I've noticed about Hearthstone. Those packs you win when you complete the "spectate a friend" quest very often seem to contain legendary cards.

The game sends out a notice when one of your friends opens a legendary card, so usually the person whose game you spectated will be informed of your good "luck" shortly after their game is completed, reinforcing the notion that game-changing legendary cards are just a $2.99 booster pack purchase away and maybe giving you a little psychological push towards buying some, much in the way slot machines make hella noise on a big payout so everybody playing nearby notices...

Anyway maybe my observations are coincidental and I'm just being paranoid but given all the methods mentioned in the FPP of separating players from their money it wouldn't surprise me if some packs are a little less random than others.

#HearthstoneConspiracy
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:04 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


This freemium shit is the shit that's ruining gaming

Bingo. While I never paid a cent into it, I've deleted the one freeium game I used to play because I've realized that I get a much better experience from the games I pay for once and then spend hours in front of, as opposed to the "check back in every so many hours" to poke the screen a few more times and save your resources and scrounge experience or items or whatever.

It's far worse than the arcades of yesterday, where you might plug quarters into a machine to continue a game - the "best" freeium games are not-quite requiring you to pay to get the things you need to keep pace with the other players while the worst require you to pay to even advance. At least with the arcade game, everyone's quarter was equal in terms of what it bought and the rest was skill; imagine an arcade game where spending a quarter got you in the game, but if you spent a buck you got special resources and to start on level 2. That's the freeium model.
posted by nubs at 3:05 PM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


imagine an arcade game where spending a quarter got you in the game, but if you spent a buck you got special resources and to start on level 2.

Well. This was the innovation brought about by the "Continue? Y/N" screen, wasn't it? In the Pac-Man days you paid your quarter and you did the best you could with the three lives it bought you; later games allowed you to keep going indefinitely as long as you kept feeding money into the machine.
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:08 PM on June 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


I have a ton of similar conspiracy theory feelings about Hearthstone, though I trust Blizzard isn't really messing with it that way. I got two legendaries from my first Tavern Brawl pack, friend of mine got one too. They are totally trying to rope me into playing Tavern Brawl more. Oh wait, no entrance fee.

I don't think freemium is ruining gaming besides on phones and tablets. If someone has found the diamonds in the rough out there I would love if someone could do a FPP highlighting the best games available on the various app stores that aren't freemium or pay to win. I've browsed around myself and I can't find much.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:11 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've played CoC for almost a year now and I've only put in $10, which I think is quite worth it for how much I play the game. It is the only mobile game I've played so far that seems to have a real game mechanism (as opposed to slot machine or cow clicker mechanism). There is a lot of strategy in working the game AI to do the perfect attack and how to build your base to mess with the AI and foil attackers.

You certainly do need to put in a lot of money to be in the top tiers of the game, but they have a decent ranking system for clan wars that makes the game fun at any level.
posted by recursion at 3:11 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


pbo, I don't have a problem with the "spend another quarter to continue" model in an arcade game, where the quarter buys the same three lives and they last as long as you can make them last and as long as you still have money in your pocket; it's the fact that in so many freeium games, putting in more money = making it easier to progress relative to every other player, which is an important factor when the game involves competition/ranking against other humans. As they all seem to.
posted by nubs at 3:16 PM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Nubs, spending money to continue in an arcade game does not reset you to back to zero, it's not the same three lives, its three more lives, to continue racking up a high score above the players who didn't spend.
posted by rustcrumb at 3:19 PM on June 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


If someone has found the diamonds in the rough out there I would love if someone could do a FPP highlighting the best games available on the various app stores that aren't freemium or pay to win.

I don't have the attention span to do a FPP, but here are some recommendations for iOS: Hitman GO, Monument Valley, Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery, The Room, Device 6, 80 Days, Super Hexagon, You Must Build a Boat

Also Papers, Please, which is actually a port from PC, but the iPad implementation is very smooth.
posted by rifflesby at 3:20 PM on June 22, 2015 [21 favorites]


If someone has found the diamonds in the rough out there I would love if someone could do a FPP highlighting the best games available on the various app stores that aren't freemium or pay to win.

I don't have the attention span to do a FPP, but here are some recommendations for iOS: Hitman GO, Monument Valley, Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery, The Room, Device 6, 80 Days, Super Hexagon, You Must Build a Boat

Also Papers, Please, which is actually a port from PC, but the iPad implementation is very smooth.
posted by rifflesby at 3:20 PM on June 22 [1 favorite +] [!]


FTL's port to iOS is also great. 100 Rogues is a great iOS native roguelike.
posted by gc at 3:27 PM on June 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


so....

how do i make one of these games....
posted by miyabo at 3:31 PM on June 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's also worth pointing out -- since it's a recent development -- that Apple now curates game-type-specific recs on the app store. So if you browse down the menus to "Featured Adventure" or "Featured (Other Game Type)", the apps shown to you were chosen by actual human beings as being worth playing, and in many of the subcategories they have a listing for "Pay Once & Play".
posted by rifflesby at 3:37 PM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


You Must Build a Boat

oh no there is a 10,000,000 sequel out, see you all next year
posted by Kwine at 3:38 PM on June 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


pbo, I don't have a problem with the "spend another quarter to continue" model in an arcade game, where the quarter buys the same three lives and they last as long as you can make them last and as long as you still have money in your pocket; it's the fact that in so many freeium games, putting in more money = making it easier to progress relative to every other player, which is an important factor when the game involves competition/ranking against other humans. As they all seem to.

If you want to really be competitive, though, you shouldn't be looking to freemium games at all, whether what you're after is pure twitch gameplay (FPSes), pure strategy (Hearthstone or MTG, although honestly in that case shouldn't even be bothering with vidya and go straight to poker/chess/go), or hybrids (MOBA, RTS).

It always make me roll my eyes when people bust out this excuse. If you consider yourself competitive or achievement-oriented but can't actually pick a meaningful yardstick, and refuse to pick a game that has genuine balance and a fair playing field for best-vs-best competition in the first place, why get emotionally invested in and then butthurt about distortions in the rankings?

Newsflash: if you want a game that's truly competitive, has coherent ranking/matchmaking, has some degree of depth and is fun to play, that level of game design and iteration has a cost. It's actually a hard problem that takes good people working on it. You need talented designers and then you need to pay them. Either you pay by buying a box up front (FPSes, RTSes, most fighting games), a subscription fee, or whatever, but that work needs to be compensated somehow. Anyone can throw all of their budget on assets and psychological profiling and make some ClickCow variant, but good competitive games cost money. No shit something with a freemium model is going to involve some kind of pay-to-win, because it's either that or a "hidden cost" for fair best-vs-best competition, like Hearthstone, where the real competitive scene begins once you've bought in enough to have every card*.

The only real exception I can think of is Dota2 and as far as I can tell it's just a loss leader to try and get more people to install Steam, but at least they picked up IceFrog in a recognition of his tremendous talent and I'm sure he's being very well paid. The Valve economic model isn't going to translate over to most freemium or F2P games, but the solution is for people to actually pay the money that good games cost if they want to play good games.

*Not that people don't confuse the hidden, fairly high cost of the real game with HS being "pay to win", but that's because they're idiots.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 3:40 PM on June 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


but really I can't imagine the playing of new video games being a core aspect of my life ever again.

Good luck on your dissertation. It's a Wild World out there, I'm not sure video games being a core part of your identity is the best use of your time. I don't know what is, but IMHO, who no one asked me for, it's not video games. Kind of like drugs: great distraction, not something to take over your life.
posted by alex_skazat at 3:42 PM on June 22, 2015


Well. This was the innovation brought about by the "Continue? Y/N" screen, wasn't it? In the Pac-Man days you paid your quarter and you did the best you could with the three lives it bought you; later games allowed you to keep going indefinitely as long as you kept feeding money into the machine.

There's a not-very-good game that I was way into when I was 18 called Splatterhouse. The local RPG shop had a Splatterhouse machine, and I was totally mad for it, and played through it a bunch of times. What I quickly noticed was that continuing zeroed your score- so you could keep playing and trying to beat the game (though every time you died, you went back to the beginning of the level or to the halfway point, so brute forcing with quarters would only get you so far without skill and familiarity), but your eligibility for the top score table was based solely on your score when you let the game actually end. That always struck me as an okay compromise, especially since I owned that top score table.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:47 PM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm currently deciding if Final Fantasy Record Keeper is worth continuing, because on one side it focuses on boss battles while somehow stripping them of all strategy and includes a stamina bar, which is the most nakedly hateful game mechanic on earth, but on the other hand you get to build your Final Fantasy Dream Team and everyone post-FFVI is depicted in FFVI style which makes them look much more appealing. There are in-app purchases but they aren't obtrusive and so far everything I've wanted I have bought with currency I've earned while playing.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 3:52 PM on June 22, 2015


Star Realms is a pretty fun Dominion-like game in Space that I've played on Android if you're in to that sort of thing.
posted by Carillon at 3:55 PM on June 22, 2015


The only real exception I can think of is Dota2 and as far as I can tell it's just a loss leader to try and get more people to install Steam, but at least they picked up IceFrog in a recognition of his tremendous talent and I'm sure he's being very well paid. The Valve economic model isn't going to translate over to most freemium or F2P games, but the solution is for people to actually pay the money that good games cost if they want to play good games.

DOTA2 is hardly a loss leader for Valve, their current run rate (estimated by outsiders) is about $200 mil per year and climbing rapidly, while they only have about 20-30 employees dedicated to DOTA2 (according to leaked staffing documents). The upcoming TI5 tournament is the richest e-sports gaming event in history (and continues to break records every year) with an over $14 mil prize pool (and continuing to grow), putting it within the top 10 sporting events worldwide - above events like NFL, Cricket World Tour, PGA Tour, even NBA. Their tournaments are crowd funded via sales of unique event cosmetics, of which Valve takes a 75% cut with 25% making it to the prize pool, so a $15 mil prize pool tournament will generate $45 mil for Valve.

They make their money by selling cosmetic items, just like League does, the only difference being League also charges for the playable characters while DOTA2 does not - and functionally I think the difference is academic. League has a much larger reach ($1 bil revenues with over 1000 employees) while DOTA2 is smaller and more focused ($200 mil revenues with 30 employees - and doubtless others not counted like those working on the Source 2 engine and general server infrastructure, but their total company size is only 300 people anyway)
posted by xdvesper at 3:57 PM on June 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


So much of the Dota2 prize pools are essentially self-funded by the playerbase, though, which I think essentially proves my point. The funding for good, competitive, balanced games has to come from somewhere, and ultimately it has to be from a pretty big slice of the playerbase to work. Do you know what the overall percentage of compendium buyers has been? I don't think it's anything like the whale model in terms of a fairly small section of the base subsidizing a much greater one.

At any rate, whether you call it a loss leader or no, I doubt Valve would have been able to put that much money into development without being Valve and having enormous piles of money from elsewhere, especially with the full roster being free and not doing any of the stupid runes/"pay $50 to unlock the whole roster for all time!"/xp-and-ip booster nonsense that other MOBAs, including League, did to increase their chances of making back their money while also diluting the gameplay and competitiveness. It was a pretty bold move and not one that many if any other developers could afford to take. I was kind of surprised and saddened that Blizzard gates most of the characters behind in-game currency in HotS, especially when their prices for cosmetics are utterly ridiculous.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 4:10 PM on June 22, 2015


Here's an example of how a freemium game can have it both ways.

Puzzle & Dragons is an insanely popular hybrid of jewel-matching, monster-raising and mythology, on iOS and Android. Like all freemium games, it has two currencies, gold and magic stones. The former is plentiful; the latter is harder to obtain and is purchasable in the shop for real money. Along with capturing certain units in battle, other powerful (and not-so-powerful) units are obtained by a gacha (slot machine) mechanic. One unit egg machine runs on an easily obtainable currency (friend points), the other on magic stones.

PAD is pretty generous, even more so on the Japanese server, with dribbling out free magic stones to players. The most cost-efficient pack in the store is $60 for 85 stones, but you can probably get 10-15 depending on events for free and one each for completion accomplishments (finishing a dungeon for the first time, finishing it in challenge mode for the first time, etc.). There are other uses for stones -- box space for units, friend slots, continuing after dying -- but the main is the Rare Egg Machine, which craps out one egg for five stones. Twice a month, there are Godfests in which rare gods are available at 3x normal rates, but it's still iffy that you'll get anything good from a couple of pulls.

At intervals, special collaboration Rare Egg Machines appear. Last week's was Hello Kitty (yes, this game lets you battle evil with a team of a Valkryie Hello Kitty, Batman, Mephistopheles, a leek striking a seductive pose and a bowl of noodles teaming up with a friend's Evangelion character.) This week's is the PAD Academy, featuring Hera, Lucifer, Isis, Athena and others dressed up as Japanese high schoolers. (Again, don't ask. There are somewhere around 20 variations on Hera in the game right now.) There are 18 unique monsters in the machine, and gold eggs (the rarer ones) are rare even in PAD terms. Someone on reddit spaded it out to around 1.4% likelihood of a gold egg, and a casual player will have no more than one or two pulls, perhaps a handful if they've been saving up.

So, those willing to pay can get premium rewards and those not willing to pay are reliant on charity and luck to get the better stuff. And many are willing to pay; a good godfest can have players ante-ing up for multiple stone packs. How can this possibly be balanced in any way?

Point one: Many of the rarities are very very good indeed. But many are middling-to-medium upgrades over more common units, ones that a dedicated player can farm for free.

Point two: There are a LOT of viable teams in PAD. There isn't just one "I win" team, and when there is they tend to tweak PAD's metagame to bust that strategy. By pulling a few here and a few there with free stones, you may not get an A-list team right away... but you can certainly score a B-plus and be at least capable of clearing a lot of high-end content.

Point three: While this is a socially oriented game -- you team up with friends and borrow their leaders for dungeon runs -- it is NOT directly competitive. There are no ranking battles, no competitions between players or groups, no "top 200 in this event get a superunit" grindfests designed to separate whales from their money directly. If some other player gets a great unit, it doesn't hurt me or impede my progress in any way -- and in point of fact it can HELP me if I have that player friended.

tl;dr: Freemium done RIGHT is where you don't HAVE to either pay-to-win or pay-to-play.
posted by delfin at 4:28 PM on June 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


The Master and Margarita Mix

Really hard to tell if DOTA2 follows the "whale" model. Valve's "thing" is to create value, to create a living marketplace. Players can create in-game items, and sell them via the store (Valve takes a 75% cut) and once players have bought those items, they can resell them to each other (and Valve takes a 15% cut of player trades). This means that unlike other games, say, if a player in League buys $100 worth of in game items, that's it, it's all sunk, while in DOTA2, if you buy $100 worth of items, you can easily put it back on the market to resell it, sometimes at a profit. You also randomly get free items while playing the game which you can resell.

While officially the most expensive item that Valve sells are the small handful of Arcana level cosmetics (around $25 each) there are rare items that regularly sell for hundreds of dollars on the store (which Valve takes a 15% cut), and the most expensive item sold to date was an Ethereal Flame type courier for $38,000.

Yet most players like me buy and sell in truly "micro" transactions, where I buy cosmetics for about 5 cents each, and resell the ones I don't want for 5 cents each.
posted by xdvesper at 5:09 PM on June 22, 2015


It's a Wild World out there, I'm not sure video games being a core part of your identity is the best use of your time. I don't know what is, but IMHO, who no one asked me for, it's not video games. Kind of like drugs: great distraction, not something to take over your life.

Well okay but this echoes critiques of the novel from the 1700s and early 1800s; like, isn't it immoral to waste your time reading all this fiction when there's life to be lived and work to be done and a God to be worshipped and blah blah blah? When we read those critiques today, we see that the skepticism of (at the time) new media has behind it an unpleasantly and unnecessarily constrained, instrumentalized idea of what people should be allowed to do with their time.

Beyond my simple skepticism of skepticism of new media, I strongly suspect there is something to how creative expression works in video games that is meaningfully different from how expression works in other media, and that that should keep us from dismissing the medium out of hand. Specifically, I think it's really interesting how video games can make persuasive arguments by structuring the actions that you take by rewarding some types of action and punishing other types. Basically, a really well-written video game can give you a changed idea of the world not through either telling you how you should change your ideas, or showing you how to change your ideas, but instead through convincing you (or conditioning you) to undertake a series of actions that only make sense in terms of the new idea the game is proposing. In theory, it's a really interesting way to shape peoples' experience. In practice, aside from a few uninteresting and just crashingly clumsily didactic educational games, as far as I can tell no one is using those distinct features of the medium to persuade anyone to do anything other than to play the game more and to spend more while you do it.

In video games we've got this really profound new way to persuasively communicate with people. Unfortunately, because we're stuck sucking on the fumes of late capitalism, most games only try to shape players' experiences in order to persuade/condition them to keep playing the game and keep paying money.

Or at least, that's my reason for simultaneously rejecting basically every extant video game, while also rejecting arguments against video games as a genre, and for being a little bit sad every time I dip my toes back in the video game pond and find that, yep, it's still really slimy and disgusting.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 5:12 PM on June 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


Sorry, I should clarify, my wording was poor. While officially Valve's DOTA2 cosmetics sell for between $2 and $25 on the lowest / highest end, there is also a community market where players are free to buy and sell items to each other at whatever price they want, Valve just takes a 15% cut. The majority of items end up changing hands at around 5 cents each, which I think creates a lot of value for players, but there is really no limit to how much players seem to be willing to pay (each other) for rare items - there are rares that regularly go for several hundred dollars, and the highest transaction to date was $38,000 for an EF courier.
posted by xdvesper at 5:18 PM on June 22, 2015


I would posit that wondering if certain things are a poor use of someone's leisure time is a poor use of your leisure time, but now I'm down the rabbit hole of wondering about your leisure time!

But freemium games aren't killing anything. Within 34 days of each other two games came out that will probably echo for quite awhile. The Witcher 3 and Batman: Arkham Knight. I would say it's amazing that a 3rd and 4th entry in series can go to new heights, but I think the world is finally catching on that making things well doesn't mean sequels are the worst in all forms of media.

it's the fact that in so many freeium games, putting in more money = making it easier to progress relative to every other player, which is an important factor when the game involves competition/ranking against other humans. As they all seem to.

They're not my bag, but who cares. Don't play them. There's a pretty hilarious take on social gamers in Video Game High School though. Which is somehow an overall excellent show even if you don't care about videogames at all.

The reason Yao parlayed it into a job was that he had 20,000 facebook follows so I have to assume he was streaming or doing something to generate buzz... while he played his 5 ipads in the shower........
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 5:32 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I just boot up Skyrim

Okay, but if you bought that when it first came out you paid like $90 for it. (Or probably games are cheaper in the USA than Australia so maybe a bit less).

I put money into freemium games sometimes, and the most recent one (which I am embarrassed to admit the name of) I have probably played for twice as many hours as skyrim lasted me, and I've put in about $20.

I'm not sure it's fair to say people paying to play these things are wasting more money than you are. (Especially if unlike me they didn't buy skyrim as well...)
posted by lollusc at 5:36 PM on June 22, 2015


I hate to break it to you, but games are insanely cheaper everywhere in the world than Australia. The internet always wonders why.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 5:41 PM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


South Park had a great take on this: these games aren't designed to be good games... They are designed to be good enough so that you play them long enough and just hard enough that they are annoying, and then they dangle a quick and easy paid for solution because there is a time when you've beaten your head against a wall and a buck seems like a much less painful solution to a shitty game that you've invested so much time into.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:48 PM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


I just boot up Skyrim

Okay, but if you bought that when it first came out you paid like $90 for it. (Or probably games are cheaper in the USA than Australia so maybe a bit less).


I bought it twice: once for PS3 for $35 used, and once for PC on Steam for $10. That said, if you are paying $20 to have as much fun as you'd have playing Skyrim, you are doing it right!

Personally, I have very rarely encountered a freemium game that seemed like much fun. Jetpack Joyride, I guess? I had some fun playing Tribes: Ascend, but I never spent any money on it.

Honestly, though, I don't think they are "killing" games anymore than anything else that people get angry about. Gaming has gotten so weird that everyone seems to have their own cloud to yell at. (Like take the cloud of gamers that seem to move locust-like from one unfinished, janky-ass Steam survival game to the next. What are you people doing? Get off my lawn!)
posted by selfnoise at 5:54 PM on June 22, 2015


so uh not the best time to mention Fallout Shelter in iOS huh

Funny thing about Fallout Shelter. It's currently got a bug where, if you don't accept the rewards to two of the starter quests (equip a character, and sell some items) then the other quest will cycle between three simple options, two of which give lunchboxes.

Once they are trivial to obtain, it quickly becomes obvious how poorly balanced that game is. So much of the 'rare' loot is terrible, either named crappy guns or pieces of average equipment.
posted by graventy at 6:34 PM on June 22, 2015


Clash of Clans is a legit fun game, and is great because unless you are at the top end you don't have to put too much time into it - just a few minutes here and there. That being said, if you are in a clan that does wars then you'll be a bit more active, but that isn't a bad thing either.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 6:49 PM on June 22, 2015


games are insanely cheaper everywhere in the world than Australia. The internet always wonders why.

Oh, that's easy - the translation costs are prohibitive.
posted by el io at 7:00 PM on June 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


and rewriting the graphics code so it renders upside-down
posted by rifflesby at 7:04 PM on June 22, 2015 [17 favorites]


I play two freemium games - DC Universe Online and Marvel Heroes regularly. I have spent $20 on Heroes (and that was a gift card from my little brother who was trying to guarantee my addiction). In Heroes, that money was spent on a new character (which you can get by farming for Eternity Splinters, an infrequent but regular drop, login rewards, or occasional giveaways) and a lot of stash space (I am lazy and a bit of a hoarder). MH seems good about avoiding pay to win, by the things you purchase being largely cosmetic or new heroes (which they regularly rebalance). Path of Exile also avoids the P2W problem by making real money purchases cosmetic only (or so it was when I was playing). Freemium games can be quite fun and rich on a budget if you show a little discretion.
posted by Samizdata at 7:11 PM on June 22, 2015


(Sorry. No money, so no IOS or Android devices. Should anyone want to donate...)
posted by Samizdata at 7:27 PM on June 22, 2015


Australian computers are made of spiders.
posted by Artw at 7:48 PM on June 22, 2015


Austrian spiders use computers.
posted by clavdivs at 8:13 PM on June 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


TouchArcade cites the domination of free-to-play and its preference for saturation advertising as the reason they felt it necessary to switch to a crowdfunded model. This is pretty depressing news.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:48 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Australian landmass is primarily composed of spiders, who are all avid gameplays and affluent through manipulation of the uranium trade, thus causing the imbalance in Australian game prices.
posted by Artw at 8:53 PM on June 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


Also: on Android right now there is an app called X-Laser. It promises to turn your phone into a laser beam if you get enough "points". You get points by playing one of half a dozen mini games (all terrible and buggy), or by sharing the app on Facebook, or by voluntarily watching ads.

It has 5 million downloads and is the #4 ranked game right now. The developer has probably made several hundred thousand dollars.

It is not possible to turn phones into laser beams.
posted by miyabo at 9:58 PM on June 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


And if you could buy cute outfits for your cats in ねこあつめ, I would be ruined, I tell you....

If I could pay for Cream-san to actually get his butt out and play with all those tempting toys I keep leaving out, that would be great. I've gotten all the so-called rare cats possible (except the ones whose signature toys I haven't gotten yet) but Cream has yet to show a whisker.

I would also pay for another extension. My dream is to somehow have ALL THE CATS playing in my garden at once, even if I had to save up golden sardines for a year.
posted by Athanassiel at 10:21 PM on June 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


I keep forgetting to check my phone until the food's run out and they've all left. ;_;
posted by rifflesby at 10:25 PM on June 22, 2015


Neku Atsume except the cats die if you don't buy them food.
posted by Artw at 11:36 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, they did that. It was called a Tamagotchi. Now also available as an app for Android and iPhone.

Nekoatsume is way cuter, and no guilt.
posted by Athanassiel at 11:49 PM on June 22, 2015


Some good IOS games I regularly play:

Agricola
The Witcher Adventure game
Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer
Lords of Waterdeep
Pandemic
King of Dragon Pass
Warhammer Quest
Carcassonne
Le Havre

Most of these are IOS versions of boardgames I like.
posted by Pendragon at 12:56 AM on June 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Are there any good soft Roguelikes out there? By that I mean the general dungeon exploring stuff but without the permadeath or relatively high difficulty level. And yes, with better than average graphics. But I don't want Diablo style click to kill cause that always kinda sucks on tablets to me. My tablet is a Fire so on the Amazon app store is what I'm looking for.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:14 AM on June 23, 2015


It's perhaps perverse, but I take a deliberate pleasure in playing freemium games and refusing to spend a dime out of sheer anger at them trying to take me for a ride. Not one red cent!
posted by corb at 1:19 AM on June 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


You should give Hearthstone a try if you haven't. If you can succeed in arena mode you can build up a collection totally for free, but it does take skill to do it. It's a great game.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:23 AM on June 23, 2015


I don't think i've been more letdown by a game like, trailer/prerelease stuff Vs reality than i have been with Hawken.

It looked to basically be something along the lines of mechassault/mechwarrior 4 but you know, new so it would have a decent playerbase.

And see, i fucking love mechwarrior and anything that promises to basically be conceptually similar. As a kid, i wasn't allowed to play FPS games for the most part... or play with toy guns, or any number of other things. Granola-y parents. As a result, i played a ton of mechwarrior, starting with 2. Every time i see a game that looks like an updated version of that concept it's a freaking blast of nostalgia.

So i was really excited for Hawken.

And then it turned out to be a glitchy, F2P unbalanced hunk of crap. Everyone either plays the default loadouts on the "test drive" mechs, or one of the super overpowered heavy or specific builds that are borderline click to win.

And to be fair, Everyone haphazardly pounding on eachother with the free mechs can be fun in a screaming-lets-play-video sort of way for a little while. But then you get bored and you want to either customize your mech at all which instantly gets you in to the pay part of the F2P, or you encounter the people who spent even $5 on creating a total murdermachine that even if you did pay for a custom build, would still just get creamed because the balancing is shit.

I guess i'll just keep waiting for mechwarrior 5.

Why'd everyone stop playing titanfall anyways? That seemed mostly good.

and rewriting the graphics code so it renders upside-down

I was once discussing "inverted" type PC cases where the GPU fan/heatsink faces upwards instead of downwards.

"Does that cause any problems?"

"Well uh, how do you think they work in Australia?"
posted by emptythought at 3:01 AM on June 23, 2015


Also, on that point, if someone made an iOS/android version of mechwarrior 2 i would play the shit out of it even if it was a terrible F2P moneysink. And that game had such simple graphics that even a $30 prepaid android junker from walmart could run it.

Wouldn't be a hard game to adapt to touch screen either. It's not exactly a twitch shooter.
posted by emptythought at 3:03 AM on June 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


imagine an arcade game where spending a quarter got you in the game, but if you spent a buck you got special resources and to start on level 2.

The 1982 arcade game Lost Tomb was a Robotron-style game in which you played an Indiana Jones type character armed with a gun with unlimited ammo (that needed to be reloaded occasionally) and a limited number of whips that would destroy all surrounding enemies. As you can imagine in this type of game, the whip was quite useful and nearly every novice player went through them fairly early in the game.

Every so often the player would arrive at a screen where she/he was presented with two options, an easier path to a door that led to the next level or one allowing the player to skip levels. Approaching the second door unleashed a swarm of bats that more or less required the whip to pass.

If you finished a level with no whips left, the game would give the option to purchase more whips for an additional quarter. While I never once saw anyone purchase the extra whips in 1982, I'm surprised that an updated version of this game isn't in every Dave & Busters and Chuck E Cheese.
posted by dances with hamsters at 4:30 AM on June 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


> on Android right now there is an app called X-Laser. It promises to turn your phone into a laser beam if you get enough "points".

I thought you were kidding... So I looked up X-Laser on Amazon's app store.

* Super Laser in your Android!
*The most fashionable thing megadeth 2015! The explosive simulator jokes weezer, which is easy to fit in your mobile device based on Android! Run applications X-Laser Pointer Sim himself all know megadeth!
* Bright laser - it is an occasion to create thousands of different siriusxm jokes and gags! The super laser, five bright colors megadeth. Choose any color rocksmith weezer and start your laser! The device does not spoil vision, so that the light and enjoy rocksmith! Do not be afraid to dazzle each other!


I'm... still not sure.
posted by ardgedee at 4:50 AM on June 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


That X-Laser does not appear to be as popular as described.

Maybe miyabo means Laser Pointer X2? That was #5 on the Free Android Games charts as of a few minutes ago.
posted by box at 5:47 AM on June 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've been playing one of these "upgrade and wait" iOS games since last fall. I don't ever spend real money but have managed to get to maybe the top 3500 players or so worldwide, which is fine by me. Honestly for me the fact that I can't play for that long at a time is a benefit over games that have open-ended time commitments. I feel bad that people get addicted and start spending money, but it's certainly possible to play these things and not lay out the cash.

My preference would be to shell out say $25 for a good iOS game with no ads or in-game purchases, but that's generational I think. Everyone these days wants everything to be free, even if it's just the appearance of free.
posted by freecellwizard at 6:05 AM on June 23, 2015


I did once pay $3 to disable the ads in the f2p mobile version of You Don't Know Jack.

...a week before they announced that the server was being shut down.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:26 AM on June 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Supercell's plan is simple. They prey on the impatient. George Yao could have easily achieved his top-dog status in the game without spending a dime. He just wanted his barracks/town hall/troop upgrade done NOW!!!!!!

Solution: Have a life so that over the 4 days it takes your thing to upgrade a level, you have other stuff that occupies your time... like, I don't know, friends and family.

It's a game you idiot.
posted by prepmonkey at 7:46 AM on June 23, 2015


At least with the arcade game, everyone's quarter was equal in terms of what it bought and the rest was skill; imagine an arcade game where spending a quarter got you in the game, but if you spent a buck you got special resources and to start on level 2.

You mean like SNKs continue bonuses? I mean, you lost this round, but WHAT IF you put another quarter, and we'll take a cyber-wrench to his knee and get his health to half, or give your character some roids so he can start with a full special move bar . Obviously keeping this in mind.
posted by lmfsilva at 8:38 AM on June 23, 2015


You Must Build a Boat

oh no there is a 10,000,000 sequel out, see you all next year

I bought this last week, and the next morning telecommuted instead of going into the office because I'd spent my driving time glued to the screen. It's good.
posted by Blue Meanie at 9:12 AM on June 23, 2015


If you finished a level with no whips left, the game would give the option to purchase more whips for an additional quarter. While I never once saw anyone purchase the extra whips in 1982, I'm surprised that an updated version of this game isn't in every Dave & Busters and Chuck E Cheese.

I would love to read a "history of pay to win games" type of article, that basically traced this sort of mechanic back to the beginning in video games(i'm sure some pinball machine did this in 1930 or whatever). I'd be super curious to see the evolution of it.
posted by emptythought at 2:34 PM on June 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I play both Puzzle & Dragons and Clash of Clans for free. I think it's hilarious that I'm effectively working for the designers: they apparently make most of their money from "whales", but those big spenders wouldn't play if they didn't have guys like me to play against.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:34 PM on June 23, 2015


Pretty sure that continuing in most arcade games reset your score, and just kept your progress. I can't pretend to have played the majority of them though. I pretty much left the arcades in the early 90s.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 8:54 AM on June 26, 2015


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