Here at Android Police, we've made our position on the prevalence of free-to-play mobile games perfectly known, to wit: most of them suck. It often seems like instead of embracing the audience-widening possibilities that the phrase "free game" implies, developers and publishers use it as an excuse to design games around compelling in-app purchases for more and more fleeting rewards. The phenomenon is well-documented, so I won't bore you with the inherently manipulative methods of most F2P games - you can read here and here if you really need a refresher.
Pictured: not something you want to see in your "free" game.
The original Beach Buggy Blitz was one of the first graphically-intensive games on Android, a frequent install for people who wanted to show off the power of their new phone or tablet. That being said, it was a bit simplistic: you "raced" along an endless beach, more or less playing catch up until you ran out of time. The sequel, Beach Buggy Racing, is much more of a conventional kart racer. It's got full races, power-ups, multiple characters and carts, and even single-device split screen multiplayer.
The graphics are a little better in the sequel, though the handling is what has really improved.
After toying around with Assassin's Creed Pirates' price tag over the past few months, Ubisoft has decided to drop it entirely. The game contains in-app purchases that raise revenue through other means, but now players are empowered to hop in and start sailing without having to pay a cent.
Ubisoft has also updated the app with a "Cold Blood" chapter that leaves behind the warm Caribbean for the frigid Arctic Seas. A new crew member that can help gather resources is present to help players survive this new adventure, and there are new ship customization options.
Pirates may sound like a companion title to any of the recent Assassin's Creed console titles, but it's actually a full standalone game that's exclusive to mobile titles.
When a vastly updated 1Password app hit the Play Store earlier this summer, developer AgileBits still wasn't sure on how it was going to price its revamped product. At the time, the app was free to use for anyone who wanted to put it through its paces, but the company planned to eventually tuck most of the features into a premium version. Now the team has followed through and settled on a freemium pricing model, which it is introducing with the app's 4.1 update.
The free version of 1Password will function primarily as a reader app, with users able to view and delete (but not create) items.
Many game developers these days are going free-to-play, permitting people to download their creations for free only to nickel and dime them for additional lives, time, characters, levels, coins, or anything else that may be required to make the experience actually enjoyable. In an interview with Pocket Gamer, Double Stallion, the team behind Big Action Mega Fight, explained how it decided to buck this trend by turning their freemium game into a premium one - and how they ultimately ended up making more money in the process. Going forward, the crew has decided that it's done making free-to-play games.
With a name like "Disco Zoo," you can probably tell that Tiny Tower developer NimbleBit isn't taking its latest game entirely seriously. And indeed, this really isn't a Zoo Tycoon-style game, and it isn't trying to be. In Disco Zoo, you "rescue" animals under questionable circumstances, then display them in marginally unsafe conditions to farm money out of gawking patrons. And then you throw a disco party.
Disco Zoo is a mix of Kairosoft-style pixelated property management (slightly modified to fit the free-to-play model), and, strangely, minesweeper. Your sojourns to the wild via hot air balloon are played out on a grid with a limited number of moves available.
Update #1: Rovio has since taken to its blog to address the issue. Regarding Android in particular, the company has this to say:
On Android the issue occurs because, for technical reasons, the purchase history cannot always be restored on that platform. Our customer support is aware of the issue and we would recommend contacting us at [email protected] to anyone who is still experiencing this.
We've reached out to the company for further clarification.
Update #2: Rovio has confirmed that previous customers should still have access to the original five levels without having to buy anything again, but it encourages them to contact its support line rather than wait for the app to recognize their purchase history.
If you're a dedicated gamer who's wary of the ever-present freemium model (or an Android blogger who's tired of reaching for his phone for every app in the roundup), there's good news tonight. A recent adjustment of the Google Play Store website will let you know whether an app features in-app purchases or not. It appears just below the Install button, right next to the drop-down list of compatible devices.
The rise of free-to-play games littered with in-app purchases is a contentious one to say the least. More traditional gamers tend to prefer the old model, with a paid and complete game and perhaps a free demo, but the freemium model has proven too lucrative for most game publishers to ignore. Android user "Mattayx" left the following review on the international version of FIFA 14:
Well done, Matt. EA has been particularly heavy-handed with its freemium games lately, with big titles like Real Racing 3, Madden 25, and FIFA 14 laying it on thick. That's not to say that in-app purchases can't be done well - check out EA's own Plants vs Zombies 2 and pretty much all of Rovio's games for good examples of free-to-play titles done right.
The first game that I ever played from Adult Swim was called "Five Minutes To Kill (Yourself)." It perfectly encapsulated the nihilistic and sarcastic tone of Adult Swim as a programming block, and it was a pretty hilarious game to boot. Now the boys in black have returned to their roots with Giant Boulder of Death. It's about a giant boulder that kills people, among other things.
GBoD is what Katamari Damacy would be if it was about ten times faster and replaced stickiness with destruction. You play a sentient boulder whose only joy comes from smashing the homesteads of subsistence farmers and friendly people in lederhosen.