13
Jul
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If there's one thing that sets people off upon purchasing or downloading an app (games in particular), it's opening it up and finding it has in-app purchases.

And this is, generally, a good instinct for consumers to have - hundreds, if not thousands of mobile games blatantly take advantage of people's willingness to nickel-and-dime themselves out of money they would have never otherwise spent buying a game in the first place. Basically, see 50% of Zynga's business model (the other 50% being stealing other developers' games).

blog-coins-cash1

Farmville

In fact, it was Zynga that sparked one of the most notable in-app purchase hate campaigns from users when it added consumable cheats (essentially) to Words With Friends that allowed players to gain advantages over their opponents for a fee. The buggy app aside, I count myself among many that probably uninstalled Words With Friends because of this change. Of course, Zynga doesn't really care - millions of people still play the game every day, and many of them spend money on it. It doesn't take an Einstein to understand just how utterly illogical it is to spend real money to cheat at an online board game, but that certainly doesn't stop people from doing it, and Zynga understands this all too well.

wpid-sc20111212-1829231 WwF-1

This is the business model many game developer-publishers like Zynga, Gree, and others have come to rely on. Mainstream consumers, or "casual gamers" have never been indoctrinated with the practice of buying a $40-60 piece of software that has been worked on for upwards of a year (usually) by a major game studio. And mobile hardware, as quickly as it is advancing (and perhaps partly because of that pace), just doesn't fit with that model. Nobody wants to buy a $20 game for a phone, or even a tablet. But developers of some games are managing to extract that amount from users with the in-app purchase mechanic, patiently over the course of weeks and months, as opposed to right out of the gate.

Let me be perfectly and utterly clear about this practice: it is wrong. And companies like Zynga are jerks for doing it. They take advantage of people's impulsivity in the same way a slot machine does: "just one more time - just another dollar."

And this is why so many enthusiasts and gamers absolutely despise in-app purchases of any kind. The vast majority of games that do it are using it in a way that is, frankly, immoral. Japan has gone as far as to ban one particular in-game purchase mechanic called "gacha," where players are goaded into giving up small amounts of money for the random chance to win a special item, over and over.

The Witch Hunt

But this has led to an unwavering, absolutist sentiment among many people that all in-app purchases in games are equally guilty of the same offense. And I don't think that's true. The most recent focal point for this anger has been Madfinger Games' new title Dead Trigger. While it has maintained a 4.0 rating on the Play Store and a 4.5 on Apple's App Store, the top three reviews (all one star) on the iOS version say it more succinctly than I ever could:

"This is a pretty good game with good graphics and variety, but the in app purchases ruin EVERYTHING." 1 star, 158 out of 169 found this helpful.

"The biggest problem is the in app game purchases. Are people really that cheap or broke that they cannot afford 2.99 or 6.99 for an entire game like the good days of old?" 1 star, 98 out of 104 found this helpful.

"For the 99 cent asking price the game is basically unplayable unless you pony up additional for just the first weapon. It's take hours of grinding just to get past the first main mission after the introduction. I feel cheated. They should have just asked for 6.99 upfront, instead of this scam." 1 star, 70 out of 77 found this helpful.

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I'm not sure what people were expecting, though. Did anyone honestly believe that Madfinger was selling a cutting-edge, highly polished mobile game in its entirety for just a dollar? This isn't Angry Birds. If you're a more casual consumer, maybe I can see a slight bit of surprise here. But making games isn't cheap, and anyone who follows mobile gaming knows that a title of this quality could easily justify a price upwards of $5. When I saw that it was just a buck, I knew what I was getting into by purchasing it, and as the person reviewing it, my thought was "Well, let's see just how bad this is."

So I played it. And I decided not to use any of the in-app purchases as long as I possibly could. With 4 hours 28 minutes spent in-game actually on missions now (see screenshot), I still have yet to spend a dime past my initial dollar. I have the best cash-purchasable weapon in the game.

Screenshot_2012-07-12-15-40-10

Screenshot_2012-07-13-13-34-04

I find any review claiming that the game is "unplayable" or "too difficult" without in-app purchases rather hard to take seriously. Yes, it takes more than 20 minutes to get enough money to unlock the gun that's above the god-awful pistol you start with. But last time I checked, isn't the entire purpose of a game to entertain you by challenging you? It seems a little backwards to me that some people consider the key to making this game more "fun" to be making it easier. Are we so impatient that the notion of a game requiring more than 15 minutes of our time to advance without paying real money is somehow offensive?

These App Store reviewers must never have played the Sega Genesis version of Ghouls'n Ghosts.

It's All About Balance

In-app purchases can be done right, and I'd argue that's what Madfinger has done here. I'd also say they're the exception, not the rule, and that more developers should follow their lead and use the IAP system in a fair way. And the key to using in-app purchases in games fairly is to provide the proper balance between:

  • The quality / length of content available out of the box (eg, without IAPs),
  • The difficulty / ability / level of repetitiveness to advance without purchasing additional content - is the game reasonably beatable?
  • The advantage conferred to IAP'ers in multiplayer modes (not relevant here)

The first one is sort of self-explanatory. If the game costs money before IAPs, is it worth the money you paid for it without considering that additional content? Dead Trigger answers that question, in my mind, with a resounding "yes." I'd say it's probably worth even more than a buck out of the box. The way I think of it is this - if all of the extra purchasable content was gone, would I feel like my dollar was well-spent? And I think that if your answer to that question is no, you're just being contrarian. This is a highly polished, cutting-edge title with visuals unmatched by any other game on Android that I'm aware of. It's also just a lot of fun.

The length of content available is very respectable, too - I have 4h30m of in-game time, plus probably an hour or so in the map UI. This is almost the amount of time it took me to beat Shadowgun, and that game costs $5. Dead Trigger is definitely a good value even before IAPs are considered.

Next, we look at the difficulty of advancing in the game without making any purchases. This is where most people seemingly become upset. They're basically saying Madfinger made the game too difficult to play without spending money, and that this is the reason they feel cheated. It's funny, I've found that "feeling cheated" and "not spending much time with the game" are rather synonymous. Having ground my way through 74 successful missions on my Nexus 7, I can say with authority that the game is not "too hard" to advance in without spending money. In fact, it's actually pretty easy - I've only ever died 5 times. If you can't make it past the first few levels with the pistol, I'd say either your phone's screen is too small to make this game worthwhile in the first place, or you're just not trying.

But is it too repetitive without making IAPs? Again, I'd argue no. Even if you make IAPs, I think the game would actually be a lot more boring. You'd have one goal to work towards (increasing rank), and that still means grinding through a bunch of missions to gain experience. You have to be a certain rank to go on main quests, too, meaning you'll finish the game only marginally faster. It'll be easier, but also way less satisfying - games stop being fun when the only thing you're focused on is blasting through them as quickly as possible. There's not exactly a compelling story to look forward to, either.

The entire fun of the IAPs in Dead Trigger is getting the weapons you can only attain by paying money. And why do you want them? Because you can't have them. They're exclusive. And just because you want them doesn't mean you're entitled to them for free. Seriously, you don't hear people getting so worked up when Valve releases special hats and weapon packs for Team Fortress 2 that are basically only attainable through psychotic levels of devotion without coughing up the bucks (and usually a lot more than we're talking here).

On the note of multiplayer, obviously don't pull a Words With Friends and encourage people to "out-cheat" one another. Conferring major advantages in online play for money is despicable (I'm looking at you, Zynga). Team Fortress 2 manages to have purchasable content that people will want to buy without giving those who do buy it a real unfair advantage. But since Dead Trigger isn't a multiplayer game, that doesn't really apply here.

This isn't a game where purchasable items make up a major part of the core content, or where ridiculous challenges that can only be beaten if you cough up another $0.99 are thrown at you left and right. It's a game with extra stuff that you can buy should you choose to, and that extra stuff can make the game easier, and speed up the pace at which you complete it. That's it. I fail to see what is wrong with that.

Why Not Price It As The "Full Game"?

This is probably the most common thing I hear about games with IAPs. "Why not just price it at $5, or $6, or $7? I'd buy it." And I believe many of those people - they probably would. I would, too. But a lot of other people wouldn't. And if you're going to spend the time, money, and labor making a really great game, one of the worst mistakes you can make is pricing yourself out of the market.

An example of a game that did just that is Metal Slug 3, a port of the popular console franchise. It has only been out for a little over 24 hours, but after receiving a barrage of media coverage, it still has under 500 downloads. And this is a game with a highly recognizable brand, retro appeal, and generally positive reviews. Unfortunately, it seems to have simply outpriced itself - I doubt anyone unfamiliar with Metal Slug would be willing to pony up $7 to play it.

There are exceptions to the rule - like Final Fantasy 3, which Square Enix recently ported to Android. In 10 days it has amassed over 50,000 downloads - with a $16 price tag. That means Square Enix has made probably over a million dollars on this port of a 2006 remake of a game that was originally released in 1990. Those guys know what they're doing. Of course, Final Fantasy is also the single most valuable brand in the RPG business, and has been around for 25 years.

But let's go back to one of Madfinger's titles, the very successful Shadowgun. Shadowgun has been available on the Play Store since late last year, and has even received the coveted Editors' Choice award from Google. It costs $5, and has been on sale in promotions previously. While it's listed at 100,000-500,000 total downloads, that's a really large range. Instead, let's look at the number of ratings, it's probably a somewhat more reliable metric in terms of comparing the popularity of titles.

Shadowgun comes in at around 8000 ratings (counting both the standard and THD versions) after well over 6 months on the Play Store. Dead Trigger has 4000 ratings. In 10 days. And for those who would suggest there may be skewing due to the number of 1-star reviews related to IAPs (angry people are more likely to review than satisfied customers) - there isn't. Both games have a similar proportion of 1-star reviews. It's worth noting that many new games receive a disproportional number of such reviews because of compatibility issues, crashes, and bugs that are later fixed - Dead Trigger's overall rating will likely go up once the first update is released.

DT SG

Left: Dead Trigger at 10 days, Right: Shadowgun (non-THD) at 6+ months

I think the numbers here speak for themselves. Pricing a game at $5 as an indie developer on Android, even as a fairly well-known one, just isn't going to rake in the downloads that the magical $0.99 mark does. And let's be real - it's not like Madfinger isn't taking a risk by doing this. If people buy the game, decide it isn't any good, and therefore don't purchase anything afterwards, Madfinger probably isn't going to turn a profit. And that's why it isn't free, either. The developers put a lot of time and effort into this game, and considering the hours of enjoyment that can be had without buying anything beyond the game itself, they're earning a very well-deserved dollar. And make no mistake, that $0.99 price point is quite magical, just look at the Google Play Store's 20 most popular paid games:

pstore

I've highlighted the five of the bunch that cost more than a few bucks. One is a movie game, which I'm not even going to start discussing the non-merits of. Another is Final Fantasy, a franchise known round-the-world. Minecraft is an absurdly popular game for PC, Grand Theft Auto III was one of the best-selling games of all time, and Shadowgun rounds out the list. A full 12 of those 20 cost $0.99, with a few like Osmos HD and Fruit Ninja costing a bit more. You can see why a developer might want to sell a game for a dollar on the Play Store - it's pretty obvious people generally don't find the idea of paying more than that very appealing.

A freemium game, by comparison, is to me generally rather offensive. Any well-polished game that's free is going to necessitate spending money to advance throughout, and often multiple times. There's a reason it's free: they aren't giving you much of anything out of the box. You're going to reach a "wall" point, whether explicit or implied as a practical impossibility of further advancement. Madfinger, on the other hand, said "hey, we're going to give you a lot of content for a dollar, including the ability to beat the game if you work at it, but if you want to spend more, you can get more stuff and make the game easier."

But what about the way they did it?

In-Game Currency Is Still Basically A Bad System

This is one point I'll concede: in-game currency is stupid. I don't want to buy a lump of arbitrary funny money, I want to buy the content. It can be made less stupid, though, and in Dead Trigger, it isn't exactly horrible.

Screenshot_2012-07-10-12-27-31

In most games with buyable currency, you're not really sure how far that "money" is going to go. Some items or levels aren't unlocked yet, or you're constantly using that money to buy consumable items that you burn through quickly. This is especially true in multiplayer titles (... Zynga).

In Dead Trigger, most of the things you buy A.) stay in the game forever, and B.) have their costs well-defined. You know from the moment you unlock the shop area how much every gun in the game costs, and how much every item and character upgrade costs, too. It at least tries to be transparent. And the consumable items really aren't worth buying in the first place, typically.

Still, currency holds a stigma for a reason - you're buying something you don't fully understand the value of, and you're at the mercy of the developer to decide how much is "enough." The model Valve has used in Team Fortress 2, by contrast, is much better: make items cost money directly.

For example, if you want to buy a new gun, you can purchase it for a dollar amount - usually a few bucks (Team Fortress 2 is, after all, a much higher-end, more popular, content-rich game - it's also free).

eg

Team Fortress 2

But considering how much game time you can get without buying any of those monopoly dollars in Dead Trigger, Madfinger's implementation of in-game currency just bugs me a lot less than most. I'd also say they could fix it, too - I'm not here to preach for them. There's no reason you can't have a secondary option, such as a "unlock all weapons" or "unlock all character upgrades" in-app purchase. Many games on iOS do this, and it's quite lucrative. Instead of coughing up $13 for 4000 Gold (basically, more than can be used on all the content in the game by a fair margin), why not just charge $5 for the Weapon Pack, and $3 for the Upgrade Pack?

Not only will players like it more, it's much simpler. That said, some people then wouldn't go for this, and would want to be able to buy things piecemeal, which would be difficult to implement without eliminating the currency system - it'd just get too complicated.

And if you really just want the gold-only guns, the $2.99 650 Gold option gives you enough to buy all of them and then some. God forbid you throw the developer a bone for making an awesome game, even if the in-app purchase system is imperfect.

Conclusion

To wrap things up, the point I'm trying to convey in this really long editorial is pretty simple: not all in-app purchase systems are bad.

By pricing Dead Trigger at just a dollar, Madfinger is going to get a ton of people to buy it. And the vast majority of those people (I know I can't convince everyone here) will like it, and many of them will spend money on those in-app purchases. And what's so wrong with that? That money goes into development, making more content, and generally helping an indie developer keep doing what they love: making great games.

And if they can't make a profit doing it, they can never take it to the next level and bring us something truly amazing. So cut developers some slack - they're just trying to get as many people to play their games as possible while still remaining successful, and it's clear that in this day and age, that means doing things a little differently. Some developers are doing it in a sleazy, conniving way - and they need to be called out. But some aren't, and they aren't deserving of such generalized ire. In fact, they should get our praise - I might even buy some of that gold just to say "thanks" for a great game.

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • Coppanuva

    Wait the game only costs $1 forever? Ok honestly I feel fleeced now. I was led to believe, from this website, that the $1 was a temporary sale. So I bought it. I had no idea that the majority of content was either pay or grind to unlock, I thought it was just a full game sold for $1 as a promotion. Really AP, I feel let down by you and your misleading article at launch.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      You feel let down because you spent a dollar when you thought you were saving more money? It does appear we incorrectly stated it was a temporary price (as far as I know, it's permanent), but how does your decision to buy it in any way constitute getting "fleeced"? You spent a dollar. You got the game. If you feel that cheated over a buck, email the developer and politely ask for a refund.

      • Coppanuva

        Fleeced is perhaps the wrong word. What I meant to get across is that there was an expectation built in my head that it was a "complete" game in the sense that Shadowrun has shown to be. One without microtransactions built as part of the design methodology. Misled is perhaps a better term, and one that I arguably wouldn't have run into had I not bought the game upon release under the impression that by waiting I would have to pay 5-6x as much (judging on the price of Shadowrun and other games of this caliber).

        It's a solid game, but I still feel somewhat more letdown by microtransactions than I would have, had I gone in expecting them. I'm ok with them as long as I'm either prepared to play a game I know has them. Had the app mentioned it in the write-up, I feel like the reaction would not be as harsh since people would be expecting it.

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

          I figured out what happened. All Mad Finger games went on sale for $0.99 the day before the release, so Cameron kind of took that to mean Dead Trigger was also on an introductory sale. That was not the case, but the bit about that was never caught until today. I've just fixed it for posterity. Thanks for the note.

          • Coppanuva

            Honest mistake to make, and I understand that. Thanks for fixing it though. Though I suppose this makes me part of the consumers he mentioned in the article, someone who thought they were getting a full-game for $1 without microtransactions (and for those who argue that it is a full game, Farmville I'm pretty sure lets you do everything for free as well, it just takes forever).

        • Joris

          @8719e6f5f2be7f317eddfff317782890:disqus: If you'd read the permissions the game needs, you'd have known that it uses microtransactions :) ALWAYS check permissions :)

    • Perry Ahern

      You received all of the levels and, as I understand it, most of the weapons. You can play the game start to finish without needing those other weapons, so what are you missing? You progress through the game by working your way through the levels and gaining new equipment, just like most other games. It's not "pay or grind to unlock."

      • Coppanuva

        The thing to me really is how they present it. Had I known it had microtransactions built in as a model, I wouldn't have been so shocked. I, however, bought the game expecting it to be a full game without transactions, at least at launch. I feel like the description should be ammended in the play store to mention that.

  • Spanked

    I cant really add anything to what has been written, awesome article by the way.
    What games really do it right are e.g. Team Fortress 2 and the up coming Dota 2.
    I really enjoy both of them, they are rewarding and I know for sure no weapon, for as much money as a human could spend, is better than mine.
    Dota 2 basically rewards you for finishing a game, even if you loose. Just dont leave early.

    Like you mentioned: When I see one of these freemium games, and hell "Top grossing" reveals them all, I do not even think about downloading them.

  • theineffablebob

    I don't see what the big deal over Dead Trigger's microtransactions are. The base game is $1 and the in-app purchases are cheap compared to other games. In-app purchases exist because people are willing to do it and it makes more money for the developers.

    People don't want to pay $10 or $20 for a mobile game and that's why you don't see many of them.

  • Jonathan Martin

    I believe that Dead Triggers in-app purchases are a lot more like donations to the developers then anything. I've played halfway thought this game without using any of the in app purchases and I have to say that I haven't ever felt pressured into buying any of the in-app purchase items. The difficulty of the games never spikes and is balanced all the way through.

  • Mr. Mark

    tldr

    • Perry Ahern

      Sesame Street version: Dead Trigger is playable end to end without making a single in-app purchase. If you want to use IAPs, though, Dead Trigger's system is better than most. Either way it's a great deal for $1.

    • Simon Belmont

      Then you missed a thoughtful editorial. David did his homework and it shows.

      I think he hit it right on the mark. Kind of ironic that you're named Mr. Mark.

      • Wayne Randall

        lol, please define irony.

  • Michael

    One point you didn't really hit on is on other games (Zombie Cafe comes to mind) when doing the tutorial on how to play the game they make you use your currency that they give you. I literally just had to wait until the process was done to continue the tutorial. As there wasn't a skip to next step button or close this bullet. I don't mind in-app purchases for games like Dead Trigger. But games where they are making you use your currency in the beginning without explaining it is ridiculous.

  • Aaron Berlin

    This is what happens when an entire generation has never had the opportunity to visit a real live arcade. "Gather round children, let grandpa tell you about when it used to cost 25 or 50 cents or [gasp!] even a whole dollar just to play a game for less than two minutes."

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

      That's a very good point.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

        Indeed it is.

        • Josh Legoza

          Is it though? There is a reason that the arcade model is dead/dying. And that reason IMO is that people are more satisfied spending $40-$60 buying a complete game rather than blowing money piecemeal on playing part of a game. It seems like freemium/IAPs and $6 games on mobile are the respective arcades/home console games of the 90's. If the same holds true, I would expect over time that IAPs will slowly die like arcades are.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002034671333 Brian Maher

            Arcades died because you could play at home without leaving the house.

            Freemium games are here to stay for better or worse especially on mobile but probably via smart tvs too.

    • TheWhiteLotus

      The difference, though, is that you don't buy the entire game in an arcade.

      • http://twitter.com/homncruse Aaron Burke

        No, you're right. You don't even get to play it later.

      • Bobby Phoenix

        Right. When you went to an arcade you spent 15 min or less sometimes. I remember spending a ten dollar roll of quarters on a game that I liked, but wasn't good at, and it only took me like a half hour to do it. $10 for 30 min, and it's gone. At least when you pay for a game in the Play store you keep it. Even in app purchases help the game in the long run. Spend $20 buck on "power ups" but you can play over and over after that. Arcade there is another $10 gone and nothing to do later.

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

        Pretty sure that illustrates his point even better.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-Marshall/1393515108 Chris Marshall

        oooh trust me when i was a kid playing the first street fighter in arcade (yeah you know the one with the horrid controls that always got you killed) by the end of the year I could have probably bought the 400.00 cabinet.

    • http://twitter.com/homncruse Aaron Burke

      You, sir, have just unlocked a new hat.

      NEW HAT: Generational Gap Logic

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-Marshall/1393515108 Chris Marshall

      Street fighter, and Mortal Kombat... God so much money was spent on those arcades back on the day.

    • Bariman43

      It's infinitely better than pay-to-win, that's for sure.

  • Jared Busch

    This is the most accurate article i have ever read regarding this IAP situation. Cheers David for a very informative and insightful read.

  • Vladimir

    After virtually finished the game (5+ hours of game-play, currently rank 18), I just found the settings button and saw that there is an option to select the graphic details ... How sad ... I just played almost the entire game on low graphics :)). Never mind ... Now, the game rocks even harder, it's like a THD version, blood everywhere ... Playing it on my international Samsung Galaxy S2. Waiting for my Nexus 7 ... Such a beautiful game and so addictive. Totally recommend it !

  • Erik Patrón Coral

    Excelent game, but i give it 3 stars because i had to root my phone to play it with my Xperia Neo. Yes i know they clearly put in the description "Not tested in Xperia devices" but... i just couldn't resist to that game and it was the first app that i buyed in the Play Store. Anyway i will increase the stars when they fix the problem with the xperias.

  • http://twitter.com/perpetumdesign Pavel Lahoda

    This is really fascinating. Let's look at two sentences of the editorial :

    > But making games isn't cheap, and anyone who follows mobile gaming knows that a title of this quality could easily justify a price upwards of $5.

    >With 4 hours 28 minutes spent in-game actually on missions now

    Well I am not sure what "upwards of $5" really means, but let's assume it is something like $6.99 rather than $50. Because, lets face it, for $0.99 or $6.99 as the price for the 4 1/2 hours of entertainment this is really a bargain. Don't compare it to the other apps, and don't say "I feel cheated I paid $0.99 for THIS. Mobile app prices hardly reflect any real value or expenses that went into production of the app.

    Just look what $0.99 to $6.99 range brings you as entertainment value OUTSIDE mobile gaming. Can you find 4 1/2 feature movie or concert for $6.99 ? Good luck with that... Hey, some bars and discos ask you to pay more than $6.99 just for the privilege to buy dozen of over-priced Red Bulls for additional $100...well that's overpriced "In app purchase".

  • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com/ Cody Toombs

    Excellent article, it really hits the mark. IAP isn't bad, but bad people can do bad things with it. It's sorta in line with the argument, 'guns don't kill people, people kill people'. I've long felt that IAP is a great solution when used to remove advertising, unlock large level packs or to significantly expand the game.

    The only thing, which I almost think deserved an even harsher detailing, is that IAP for consumables of any kind are almost always horrible. I take that standpoint for a very specific reason, because those IAPs (or the things they are ultimately spent on) are almost never persistent for the user. If I move from one device to another (perhaps upgrading, replacing, or just playing on more than one device), the value of the money I spend is completely lost. Technically, this can be solved in the game developer is using their own servers to maintain user accounts (Glu does this), but it's highly error prone and typically requires the user to take extra steps to create accounts with passwords (too complicated for a lot of people to bother with). I personally believe that single-payment solutions are better. Some examples might be unlocking entire sets of items (as mentioned in the article), or even paying to have the in-game store significantly lowering the price of everything. Consumables are almost always a bad solution, and I avoid them absolutely (at least, I haven't found a game yet that I've been willing to pay for consumables).

  • pelawaks

    I'm not against IAP, but I'm kinda feel cheated by this game. No, not because of the dollar I spent of the game, but the fact that they don't say anything about the IAP at their game descriptions. They first tease us with a great gun at the beginning of the game, we play for 15 minutes (when exactly the refund period of the play store is over) then suddenly they just give us a pistol to confront with a tons of zombie. The scheme of the IAP itself is also too skewed and force us to buy additional money and gold. I don't mind with the IAP as long as we can achieve anything in the game through our own hardwork, so IAP serve as a "fast forward" kind of thing rather than a "necessity". Even the FREE games who also have IAP such as strikefleet omega doesn't force us to buy and the game can be completed without a single buck.

  • Wayne Randall

    i don't dig any iteration of IAPs thus far. so i don't support those games/developers. these cheap games aren't AAA Xbox/PS3 games, which use DLC to bolster a game, and are priced at 1/10th to 1/4th the price of the original game. when IAPs follow this more closely, perhaps we can talk.

    thanks for your time David, but you won't guilt me into changing my opinion about shitty implementation of IAPs. Dead Trigger included.

  • Simon Belmont

    I liked the Ghouls'n Ghosts reference, David. Also, now I feel old.

    Temple Run (the original, not the Brave one) is a pretty good example of a freemium game done right, in my opinion. It's free and I've never felt forced to purchase currency to advance. In fact, that game just eggs me on to complete it without spending a penny. It's that fun.

  • denbo68

    I spent more time reading this post than playing the game. I think the game is "ok". The in app purchases didn't bother me.

  • http://twitter.com/schtuka Schtuka

    Bought it. First FPS on android. Have hard time walking shooting and aiming with two thumbs. Bought 200 gold, but doesnt transfer from tablet to phone. Sucks.

    • aiden9

      Titanium back up the game from the device you bought the gold on, then transfer it over to the other device. Pretty sure that works.

  • ScroatFan

    Long but informative article. Good stuff. Its a buck, if you don't like it, don't give them any more money. again, its a buck

  • Ben Napper

    Great article! Thoughtful and balanced. Android Police is now in my daily website cycle.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=636165701 Zaeem Shahzad

    I think the developers of the game made quite an effort on it. They deserve money and they know that by pricing the game at around $1 will rake in enormous amounts of revenue (which still won't be enough for their efforts). This in-app purchase system for Dead Trigger is justified.

    People need to take a look at Radiant Defense. Free game but you can't get past more than a few levels without in-app purchases. It's darn expensive, too. :-/

  • ElfirBFG

    Some of the complainers would die if they got hooked on Simraceway. Grinding for credits is almost futile because 1 lap earns 5 credits, witch is about 0.5 cents. Cars start at about $0.20 and can go all the way up to $30. However, the game is free, and is a damn good simulator, so I've had no issue with adding money to the account to 'own' some other cars. Have yet to spend over $5 on a single car though, so I do feel that some IGP are priced too high.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-Marshall/1393515108 Chris Marshall

    Now this is a great article David. And man do I agree with you about Words with Friends. It went from a fun little game to a joke in less than 10 minutes when they changed it over. As for Dead Trigger, I also agree that they went the route of either all weapons for a price, or gave real dollar amounts. Either way though, can't wait to get my hands on it. This article will come in handy with a few of my friends who have this holier-than-thou attitude with IAPs. This is most certainly your best angle. I hope to see more articles likes this from you about games.

  • Himmat Singh

    A good full-length article. I agree that Dead Trigger is very much playable w/o IAPs. What I don't agree with though is that the game is mighty repetitive - w/ or w/o IAPs.

  • Himmat Singh

    "Any well-polished game that's free is going to necessitate spending money to advance throughout, and often multiple times."

    Not always true. Have completed freemium games like Wind Up Knight and Major Mayhem. But yeah that's the case 96% of the time.

  • Colin

    Fictional currencies (rather than dollar amounts) are probably there for internationalisation reasons. I'd want my IAPs in British pounds please!

  • Yuriy Melnik

    "
    I'm not sure what people were expecting, though. Did anyone honestly believe that Madfinger was selling a cutting-edge, highly polished mobile game in its entirety for just a dollar? This isn't Angry Birds."

    No, you're right - however, i still think that if in-game purchases are in use, the game should be FREE.

  • faceless128

    i'm sure that most of us posting here wouldn't have any problems playing Dead Trigger with the starting weapon and grinding to get more, but think about the average person... they're the ones who are upset and complaining because it's too hard... for them it's a valid complaint.

  • As long as it’s not mandatory

    haven't played it past the "tutorial" yet, but if it's anything like radiant defense where you simply cannot go past level 6 (if i remember correctly) without in-app purchases, it's retarded and wrong.

    but if you can overcome the barriers put to you without relying on real money, then i can live with it just fine.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bertman5050 Robert Lamb

    I paid 99 cents for the 200 gold IAP, upgraded my AR and play the hell out of the game. Deserves 5 stars across the board. Don't bitch about the game. If you feel it's too difficult, which it is far from, then don't play it. So what, you lost 99 cents on it if you go pass the refund period.

  • http://twitter.com/grundo xe

    I hate iap because you dont know what are you buying and the company or google play dont say how much is the game I m a player not a cash machine,

  • thatdefault

    People forgot about gameloft. modern combat 3 and NOVA3 costs 6.99 and IAPs are everywhere.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1849765376 Jordan Rushing

    What I don't understand is...people say they'd rather buy the game for 5 or 6 dollars to have everything unlocked. Yet, the starting price is 99 cents, and the in game currency is around 99 cents as well (lowest price) so with this in mind, why not buy the game for a buck, and pay 5 to 6 dollars to buy currency and unlock everything in-game? This is essentially the same difference.

  • Jay

    You should have included Glu Mobile in there.
    Them b*tches are like mobsters running an operation that relentlessly tries to push you into spending cash after every turn.
    I'm using Deer Hunter Reloaded as my example.
    I loved that game but unistalled it because they make you spend your gold from the moment you launch the game!
    F*CK YOU GLU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • marcusmaximus04

    Honestly, reading through this, this still sounds like a bad system. The *only* valid reasoning I see for dlc is extra actual content that wasnt in the original product(wasn't in the original budget).

    If you're charging for new weapons, I'd mark that under "ripoff". If you're charging money to get a gun that's already in the game, that's far, far worse. Either trust your audience to be able to play your game, or make is easier. Don't sell cheats.

    Anyway, hopefully my own game(coming soon!) wont draw this kind of ire. I am using in-app billing, but its more of a donation-type thing. The game is free to download/play and there's no other content received for purchasing

  • lthevenot

    Why is the game so ridiculously difficult. These in app purchases are too expensive. They take the fun out of it and only serve to line the
    developers pockets.

    • John Petersen

      Ridiculously difficult? Seriously? Have you ever played an FPS before?

  • lthevenot

    These in app purchases really turn me off!

  • http://www.facebook.com/johnny.faber.3 Johnny Faber

    I found this app called walletguard that stops android apps from making any malicious in app purchases. It is great when you want to let your kid play a game on your droid without risking them inadvertantly charging hundreds to your account

  • Supernat

    I am a developer for both Android and iPhone, an indie developer, trying to make a go at it full time in the near future, so I've done some research on the best monetization technique. I do agree it's sleezy to offer cheats for games you play against other people or that have match ups and leaderboards where the player will gain an advantage above someone not spending the money on it, like Words with Friends.

    I agree with a majority of your article; however, why the negative attitude toward games where you may purchase in-game money for a single player game? If someone has the cash and wants to move the game along quicker, why is that a bad thing? I personally didn't have time to play the entire Bard's Tale, one of my favorite Android games, so I paid 10 bucks to get some upgrades. 1) That saved me time, and I need it with a 1 year old at home and 2) I think they deserved a bit of extra cash for making a great game. I know these aren't necessarily the sentiment of most players, but I feel like you were a little harsh on the developers.

    As a developer, especially an indie, there's really no other way to make money. The big companies put out the games for free now because of the ridiculous 80% piracy rate on Android, which I really think your article should have addressed, and they include in app purchasing to make their money back. Rovio specifically went ad-based on Android.

    America (probably the world, don't really know) has an "entitlement" problem. To think that someone, a large company or indie company, should spend upwards of 6+ months developing a game and then give it away free is sad, and if you charge a freaking single dollar, it's pirated out of China all over the world for the same people that think they shouldn't even have to pay a dollar. I've actually read comments in the Android marketplace like "Not worth a dollar" for games that were reasonably well done, just lacked content. Really, not a dollar? I think developers leave out content so they can move on to put out more games per year so they can actually make money. Other people rate 1 star JUST because a free game has ads. So I guess we can't expect to make money there either. I think it's disgusting. If I didn't have such a drive to make new/refreshing conceptual games for these systems, and the mobile market is the easiest for indies, I wouldn't be bothering at all.

    My approach is to give a lite version of the game away with an in-app option to expand to the full version. I also have to add several weeks of time for anti-piracy code to the Android platform to prevent copy/paste of the game to any device, and a lot of time to support thousands of variations of devices. I may even throw in some in-app purchases for my banking-based game to increase the starting funding, etc, sorry if that offends, but you can certainly play the game without them.

    All I ask is that people show respect to the developers that are working hard to make games/apps (that's asking a lot these days where respect is shown for anyone far and few between). If the current trends continue, I could see indies giving up completely on Android.

    • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com/ Cody Toombs

      Did you read the same article we did (from 6 months ago, when IAP abuse was considerably worse)? I suppose David's opening on the subject of IAP to get in-game currency being stupid, well...sounds harsh. However, David went onto give context to that which I personally thought was perfectly clear. In many games, it isn't clear how much more money the consumer is going to have to spend. I'd also be inclined to add my own point to David's list, in many games the publisher tries to fool customers by giving awkwardly positioned purchase prices (ie. you buy coins in increments of 500, but everything costs 350 or 600 coins).

      David is talking about the overall practice of abusing IAPs: sneaky value, using them for multiplayer cheating, not mentioning IAPs when the game already costs money in the up-front price (I think that one is particularly bad form), or when IAPs only buy a chance at getting value (gambling on what you'll get). He's defending the standpoint that IAPs, done responsibly, are a valid business model.

  • Hcanehbird

    Dead trigger 2 has a little more insiduous in-app purchase setup, but still a fantastic game. I had to stop because I spent about $50