As many of you know, I’ve been experimenting with iOS for the past couple of months, but not because I’m bored with my Windows Phone. More so because I wanted to be familiar with every OS so I won’t be as “biased” and can defend and promote from my personal experiences. So the more time I spent with iOS the more apps I downloaded because let’s face it, there’s plenty to choose from! Now as a huge gamer, most of these were apps like Angry Birds Space, Scribblenauts, Peggle, and Bad Piggies just to name a few. These games made me think about how many gaming experiences are being denied from the Windows Phone community.
Current developers have said that they won’t support Windows Phone 7 for one of two reasons. Either because the gaming engine they use doesn’t support Windows Phone or because the Windows Phone platform doesn’t support in-app purchases. Well the first reason we no longer have to worry about because numerous popular gaming engines have announced support for Windows Phone 8. And after downloading a mass of games on iOS, it’s the latter reason that has me worried. You see, the games I named above are Triple-A games which implement in-app purchasing the way I feel it should be. Each of them let you beat the game with no hiccups, but the in-app purchasing allows you to buy extra content, such as new levels. You may be familiar with this on console games, it’s called Downloadable Content (DLC). DLC can add to the experience, raising the replay value to the game so you get more out of what you paid for. But the mobile gaming industry has taken advantage of DLC, almost turning it into a genre of its own.
I’m referring to games that are known as “freemium.” Freemium games are literally free games, but they handicap the experience by making numerous items only available via in-app purchases. These games have littered the App Store on iOS and have become even more popular on Facebook. The best example of freemium games are any of the “Ville” games developed by Zynga. In these games you create your “community” by finding and earning the resources to make these “communities” thrive. Yet, there’s always a point where these “communities” fail. That’s where the in-app purchasing comes along. You can use your real world money to buy some in-game currency to get the show back on the road. It becomes a hassle to avoid using your own money and you start spending way more that you thought you would on the game. The worst encounter I’ve had with this was when a freemium game gave me an ultimatum to buy the rest of the game for $1.99 or watch 5 video ads! 5!! You better believe my first response was to instantly close the game and delete it for all eternity! These freemium games have gotten so out of hand that a developer recently released a free game that he described as, “a completely free game, not “free to play”; there are no in-app purchases or any of that nonsense.” As a result, his app was denied until he took this text out of his description!
This is why I’ve grown concerned for the Windows Phone Store. In the past couple of months we have seen a rise in Xbox Live enabled freemium games such as Bug Village and Gun Bros, just to name a few. I personally hate freemium games, but one advantage I see for playing these games on Windows Phone rather than iOS and Android are the Xbox achievements! Those who are an achievement junkie like myself will do anything to increase their gamerscore. However, in-app purchasing won’t be exclusive to only XBL enabled games this time around. So what worries me is what will happen when all of the indie game creators get their hands on the new SDK (whenever that will be). Now we all know developers will take advantage of this feature, but the true question is how many will truly take advantage of this feature.
Despite my arguments, I’m not saying in-app purchasing is wrong. I’m simply just saying it can be easily taken advantage of in a way that hurts the consumer, and helps the developer. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the hard work and time that developers put into there apps and games. I just can’t appreciate a game that only milks us of every dime we have just to complete it. So the real question now becomes, do we really want the Windows Phone Store to be just like the App Store?