Plants vs. Zombies 2 came out last week and so far it’s a great game. It’s still the same tower defense-style game you know and love with a few new themes, items and challenges. It is a true sequel in that it changes things up just enough to make it entertaining without feeling like a rehash (or something new). However, there’s one major difference over the first Plants vs. Zombies…PvZ2 is free.
You can download Plants vs. Zombies 2 for free and get your groove on but if you want extras like special characters and add-ons, you’ll need to make in-app purchases. In-app purchases are nothing new and work well with many games but sometimes I just want to buy the game. The full game. Many times I’m perfectly willing to shell out more money for something that is complete rather than upgrade over time. The first PvZ was a full-purchase that cost me like $7 or something. It was “expensive” for a game app but that money got me the entire game. I didn’t have to worry or spend more later. And I was happy.
When free isn’t worth it
The whole free-to-play era is upon us and I don’t foresee that changing anytime soon. Free is usually a good thing and it does get people to try your product without a second thought, they have nothing to lose. But why does “free-to-play” have to mean micro-purchasing within the app? Technically, a game demo is free-to-play. You get a limited set of options (or levels) and if you want the rest, you pay. I always spend more money when I have a demo rather than the in-app purchase model.
The thing with the in-app purchase model is that you should always be able to complete the game without extra purchases. It might be more difficult but it will be possible. That simple fact gets me to NOT spend any money on the extras. The goal is to complete the game, right? So why would I spend money if I can achieve that goal without spending a dime? Your standard demo doesn’t allow that and that’s why I spend more. If a demo lets me play 3 levels out of 10 and then stops, I’ll shell out $10 for the other 7 levels if the game had me hooked for those first few levels.
Now I understand that people don’t like to spend a lot so a $1 here or $2 there sounds better up front but we all know that over time that’ll turn into $20 or more for a single game. That’s great for the game developer but when it comes to cheap gamers like me this doesn’t work. Yet I’d happily pay $10 for a full game that doesn’t have any extra purchase options. So what would the developer rather have from me, no money or some money? They can get no money from me ever or $10 from me once.
How much is too much?
I think game makers like PopCap are seeing how far they can push the free-to-play model. In Plants vs. Zombies 2 a single add-on character is $3 or so. That sounds like a lot for a single game piece and I think they’ll find most people agree. I would expect to see that price drop to a single dollar for all add-ons before too long, but who knows, maybe there are fewer cheap gamers these days?
There has to be some sort of middle ground between a full purchase and the a la carte model. Maybe it’s subscriptions or just standard DLC, although each will only work if the game warrants it. There’s no silver bullet and it feels like that’s what developers are looking for. Wait! There is a middle ground, it’s called a demo! I guess I’m just confused as to what was broken about the demo model of selling games. If people play your demo and don’t get hooked then they won’t buy your game…and that’s okay because you don’t want “any” gamer you want the gamer that understands your game. And if it seems that no one is buying your game because of your demo then your game probably sucks and it shouldn’t survive in the first place.
Call me old fashioned but I just want to buy the complete game. I understand that many people don’t follow that thought anymore and would rather shell out a bunch of tiny purchases, so then why not offer both? Offer a free-to-play version and offer an “expensive” full version.