Paid app models have always been fascinating to me - I've even had a TODO sitting around in my post ideas list to explore various methods of distributing software without inundating users too much. Pro features, time trials, disabling ads for money, in-app key unlocks, lite versions, paid-only ones without trials - these are all on the list and all have their pluses and minuses.

This new idea, however, is so radical, brilliant, and crazy compared to the rest that I think it might just work, and I'd like to run it by you to see if I'm not alone. Headcase Games' new action-puzzle game "180" has 2 versions, just like you would expect - a free one with ads and a $1.99 one without. Here's the kicker - if you play the ad version for 10 hours total, all ads will disappear. Permanently.

Let's think about it for a second. I'm not sure Headcase Games will be able to break even with the $1.99 version after only 10 hours of ads (depending on how visible and prominent they are), but, in my opinion, it's a win-win situation.

Users who hate ads are still able to buy the Ultra version for $1.99 right away - no changes here.

Users who don't want to pay will download the free version and play, but here's the difference - like a carrot on a stick, the subliminal goal to reach those 10 hours of play time just to unlock something premium - anything really, no matter what it is - will continuously gnaw on their brains. Why have ads when you can disable them, and for free? Even if these users are not going to end up being worth $1.99, they've already done their jobs by playing the game, hopefully enough to get hooked (if the developer has in turn done his or her job).

At this point, these users become much more valuable than even those who bought the premium version. They can help the game go viral by telling their friends. Heck, they have probably already let their family members in on the fun. After that, it's like a chain reaction - it is a lot easier to rise up to the top of popularity charts and get noticed when your product is being talked about.

Without going deeper analysis, I'd like to hear from both users and developers alike. Users, do you like this idea? Developers, is this a viable model for you? The lonely rectangular box down below is eager to be filled with the thoughts coming from your giant brains. So, let's discuss.

via reddit, thanks @c0uP

Artem Russakovskii
Artem is a die-hard Android fan, passionate tech blogger, obsessive-compulsive editor, bug hunting programmer, and the founder of Android Police.
Most of the time, you will find Artem either hacking away at code or thinking of the next 15 blog posts.

  • mengineer

    I think it's a good idea and good way to generate buzz. On the other hand I hope the internal clock is encrypted, what's to stop an advance coder from just bypassing 10 hours by editing a number.

    • Kane

      I think it should use the same logic as if it were using an in-app unlock code. If you can make that relatively secure, you can make this just as secure.

    • SquirrelWithAGunAtTheZoo

      I haven't really thought about it extensively but basically a Developer might be able to use the Chronometer class to generate ticks for those 10 hours. You'd have to reverse-engineer the program to get the 10 hours down to a few seconds, and if you're gonna do that almost no anti-copying safeguard will be reliable.

  • nitramoh

    What's to stop someone from stopping thier phone from sleeping and allowing the app to run over night while charging?

    • zbeeb

      developers could implement a check for periodic user action (button presses, touch screen usage) and stop/start the timer accordingly.

  • http://twitter.com/benmarvin Ben Marvin

    If implemented right, I could see that turning out very well. I could also throw in that it depends on the type of game as well. If the game could boast at least 30-40 hours of gameplay, it would be worth it. But something like Paper Toss, which you play for 2 minutes at a time on the subway, doesn't seem like it's worth it.

  • Kenshin

    Another idea would be to put ads in the game and tell the user if you click my ads 15 times then you will get the premium version for free. That way you get the app for free and the developer makes money. I mean is this developer making money just by displaying the ad or is it per click? It must be by just displaying it cuz the latter doesn't make sense because you can run the game for 50 hours but it doesn't mean you will make money if no one is clicking on the ad.

    • satoshi

      I believe telling your users to click your ads is against the policy of many of these ad companies.

      • Kenshin

        Oh I didn't know that. Makes sense though.

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      Yeah, that would put you on the fast track to getting shitcanned by the ad provider. That is a fact.

  • adh8t3r

    just root and block ads, then you win

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      You may win but the developer doesn't. If everyone does this, there will be no incentive to create freemium games at all.

      • http://headcaseGames.com ron

        thanks again for the mention, any chance your site could do a review of this app?

    • ari-free

      And then android ends up like Linux where the only games are bzflag, freeciv and tuxracer and ios gets all the good stuff.

      • Jubba

        Hey, bzflag is awesome!

        I think getting to a certain point or to a certain goal in the game to turn off ads would be great.

        As and example Pew Pew 2 uses a certain combination of "medals" to unlock new ship types. If they had ads they could just as easily turn off ads using the same system.

        At that point they could easily estimate the amount of time it would take the average person to achieve that goal in order to adjust the goal to average 5, 10, 15 hours of game play.

  • Jose

    It's a different model that hopefully works out for both the user and the developers. Some of the initial comments were that it could be bypassed, but I think the people that would do that are in the minority.

  • Edd

    Maybe the opposite would be better...? Play for 5 hours with no ads, and then ads kick in...

    I actually prefer their way, just thought I'd throw it out for discussion.

  • Fins71

    I dont have any problem with the concept. I use the lite version to see if I and my 4 yr old like it. If its good I buy the full version so my boy doesn't click on the adds as kids are prone to do. Support the devs of your favorite apps
    so they can continue to put out great apps.

  • Jordan

    love this idea.
    Like your article says - seems like a win-win

    Also just this idea alone seems like it has worked for the game to get more downloads. ie: you wrote this article about it. in turn i downloaded a game I may not have ever heard of otherwise.

  • Mark

    Good luck to anybody that is willing to let EVERY free app they get run overnight while their battery is charging JUST to get the paid version. You will do nothing but severly hurt your battery life, screen life etc. The money you were avoiding to pay for the app will show up in the need to buy a new phone (4x).

  • http://headcaseGames.com ron

    thanks for the discussion everybody (I'm the developer of this app)

    Just so you know, the unlock only considers the time actually spent playing the game, not if it is merely sitting on the title screen or while it is paused or in any other kind of mode. I picked 10 hours after researching how much the average person (who had a positive experience with the game) had logged and wanted to make it reasonable and attainable. I'd have loved to make it a full day but I expected a lot of people would probably be pretty outraged if I did that - slightly less than one half-day seemed like a good compromise (something like 5 hours didn't really seem worthwhile)

    Thanks for picking up our game, please help us to spread the word!

  • OFI

    Nice idea, good to see someone try something a bit different :)