Are In-app Purchases Ruining Gaming?

Posted on February 5, 2014 2:45 PM by Rob Williams

As I’m sure most gamers have, I’ve developed a big list of gaming-related pet peeves over the years. Some are admittedly minor, but others are what I’d dub “severe”. Take in-app purchases, for example, something I feel has to be one of the worst things to ever come to gaming.

When I rant about IAPs, I tend to be talking about mobile gaming, and there is no exception here. While IAPs exist in console and PC games, it’s mobile where the problem is at its worst. Call me old-school, but I fancy the idea of purchasing a game and simply enjoying it, not worried about having to extract funds from my bank account. I don’t even mind DLC or expansion packs, since those could result in a lot more content.

Google Play Games

But DLC and expansions are a far cry from in-app purchases in mobile games that are designed to milk as much money from you as possible. The irony is that a lot of people have a hard time stomaching $50 for a brand-new AAA game. At the same time, these mobile games that one person can build and has substantially less content are designed to encourage you to spend that much, or more.

If you peer into the games section of an app store, be it the Apple App Store or Google Play, I can tell you what you’ll see: About 75% of the games marked “free”. You’ll see a handful of games at about $1. About 90% (I am just making numbers up, but I believe them to be close) of those will have in-app purchases.

It’s not that I’m opposed to spending money on games… that’s not the point at all. I just want to pay for a game up-front, rather than pay for individual things in a game that was creatively designed to make you want to spend money. In an article a friend passed me the other day, it’s demonstrated how the new version of Dungeon Keeper is nothing like the old one – it takes you far longer to accomplish the same exact objective in-game. Why? To get you to cough up funds to speed the process up, of course.

Asphalt 8 - In-app Purchases

The entire concept is annoying to me. A lot of indie titles on the PC have a flat up-front fee, and tend to be far beefier in the content department. Then we have games like Dungeon Keeper and many others which think nothing to include a $100 option in the game. Imagine spending $100 on a mobile game, rather than $100 on two brand-new PC titles. Or hell, 20 or so games during a Steam sale. It’s foolish, and disgusting.

But that’s just me. The entire situation has come to bug me enough where I don’t even look at the games section at Google Play anymore… I know what’s there without looking. There have been a couple of games I’ve purchased out-right that don’t have IAPs built-in, but they are far and few between. It’s rather unfortunate that this is what mobile gaming (and gaming in general) is becoming.

  • The Focus Elf

    I still pay retail prices… something of an instant gratification problem, but I hear you Rob, these are awful. I have paid full price for AC:BF on two platforms… as recently as yesterday…

    • Rob Williams

      I’m not sure I’d consider purchasing the same game for multiple platforms to be the same thing as IAPs. At least with the full games, you’re actually paying for real content, rather than paying for what amounts to boosts. Most IAPs are cheat codes in disguise, really.

      • The Focus Elf

        Rob, it is like you don’t even know me. I PC game primarily for the ability to crack or access the command line… =] My IAPs on Assassins Creed are the Instant Hold size-boost, removing the need for Blueprints for the Elite upgrades… mmm… delicious cheats.

        I just DL’d dungeon keeper though, and my goodness the IAPs are ridiculous…

        • Rob Williams

          Yup – it’s a total insult to fans of the series, really. Typical EA.

  • Jamie Fletcher

    The games offering in-app purchases is only part of the problem. The other, more important part, is that people are actually paying for them. That to me, is what disgusts me more. Yes, it’s their money, they can do what you like with it, but don’t come running when every other game on the market copies the idea and we’re left with nothing but no-return gambling simulators.

    • Rob Williams

      “The other, more important part, is that people are actually paying for them.”

      You said it. And look where it got a company like King (Candy Crush). Funding a crappy game to fund an equally crappy developer that wants to make other people’s lives crappy.

  • xOptix78

    I’m with Jamie on this one. Don’t encourage them.

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