How does spending $100 on an IAP feel? Disappointing & hollow says this author

There mornings when you wake up, groggily recall what you did the night before and realize you fucked up. Sometimes this comes in the form of a poorly chosen hook-up, other times you rush to the toilet because you imbibed far too much alcohol. Or you’re me and wake up with a $99.99 iTunes charge for an in-app purchase in Game of War.

Many games that offer such large IAPs are advertised as “free-to-play”. My own interpretation of F2P has always been free-to-pay, because gaming today has morphed into an industry in which consumers are always able to spend if they want to. And believe me, they’ll want to. There’s a reason Game of War developer Machine Zone Inc. is valued at $6 billion. They’ve figured out exactly how to prod gamers into purchasing items and top players never get where they are for free. Their “trade secrets” on the best way to milk gamers even sparked litigation when a developer from a competing company claimed to have seen an investment pitch.

wow-celestial-steedThe success of “F2P” games has also led paid games to even offer ways to buy currency, speed-ups, cosmetic items, or other trinkets. The first cash shop pets and mount in mega-popular MMORPG World of Warcraft (which was seeing better days five years ago) sparked a huge debate about the ethics of charging for a game, the expansions and a monthly subscription, but still gating some items behind more purchases even after spending all that money.

PC and console games… OK. I can understand the allure. Items in titles that you’re heavily invested in which feature rich, detailed worlds and engaging game mechanics aren’t too hard to forgive. Maybe not $20k like this Redditor claims to have spent in ArcheAge, but a reasonable amount, sure.

gow-worst-purchase-everBut when offered with $100 purchases in a mobile game (I’m not saying that disparagingly, but the hardware doesn’t allow for as much depth) you have to wonder who would ever spend that much?! I’ve already shamefully owned up to my purchase and it does not make me proud to admit the amount I spent. It should be noted that I was in a more susceptible state, because I was in bed on prescription sleeping medicine, but the psychological hooks that led to my downfall were already in place long ago. Tons of chests containing random parts for crafting, double the premium currency, 3 years of speed-ups(!) was just too enticing to resist. Yes, that last part is correct and yes, some research takes half a year or MORE without boosts.

I’m writing this as a public walk of shame, cautionary tale and hopefully a stark look at what the industry has become and where it is deriving profit. There is charging for great content, then there is charging to be able to skip artificial barriers so large that make forking over a  Benjamin seems somehow logical. Oh, and this was a thank you sale. Thanks customers: a special new $100 collection of goodies from your friends at Machine Zone.

There are people who are spending a lot more than me. There are people who will continue to spend in free-to-pay games. Luckily others are dissatisfied and some may just need a sharp reminder that there are better things to do with money. Hopefully this sharp rap on the knuckles for me might save you a few bucks down the line. It just isn’t worth it.

Pokémon fans get a little MOBA lovin’

rayquazaThe 3D MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) SMITE has thrown a bone to fans of the Pokémon franchise in the form of a skin for Kukulkan, one of the playable mythological gods around whose combat the game is based. Of course, the developer Hi-Rez Studios won’t be officially acknowledging the resemblance of its newest store item to the legendary Pokémon Rayquaza, but it is a cute wink-wink nudge-nudge reference that toes the line of homage and copyright infringement. There’s even new audio for the Mayan wind serpent which includes such cheesiness as, “A wild Kukulkan has appeared!” Had Smite really had their head in the game though, they’d have designed it around the awesomely powerful Mega Rayquaza instead!

SMITE is free-to-pay for PC & Xbox One, so there aren’t many excuses not to at least give it a go! We’d also love to hear about what other cross game references you’ve enjoyed in the past!

League of Legends PROJECT: Poll

The world’s most popular MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) game League of Legends has just released a slew of new champion skins. The new PROJECT skins (Fiora, Lucian, Leona, Yi, Zed) have been added to the previously available PROJECT: Yasuo and seem to be leading up to the next in-game event which will also be part of a new champion reveal. For those unfamiliar, the game is free-to-pay, but generates money through champion “skins” which affect the characters’ appearance during a match. These new coordinated skins include not only new looks, but also a lot of nice attack animations and even new voiceovers (for Master Yi). You can preview them in the video below:

This got me curious though; which PROJECT skin is, or will be, most popular? Through highly scientific and accurate means unaccountable internet voting  we can find the answer! Take part in our poll below and do your part to help out! Please select which skins you have already purchased OR those that you will be purchasing in the near future. There is a bonus loading screen for this first week of their release, but next week they will be on sale so I realize that some of the more frugal players are holding off.

What PROJECT skins did you purchase?

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The more people that vote the more accurate the results will be, so make sure to share this with your League friends! Check back in to see the results!

MMOnday: What am I subscribed to?

The MMO genre is filled with enticing free-to-pay games; enthusiasts these days don’t have to pay a cent to enjoy high quality titles. Even those releases that were originally subscription-based have instead become buy-to-play or completely F2P, such as WildStar which will be re-launching on September 29th as a game that can be enjoyed without opening your wallet. With so many free options, why opt to subscribe to anything at all? I’ll explain my current choices below:

EverQuest II: One of the reasons I thoroughly enjoy dabbling in EQII is the nostalgia factor. Not because I played the game when it was released in 2004 (I didn’t), but because the graphics and atmosphere capture a certain style which has fallen out of favor in modern games. It reminds me of classic fantasy games such as Morrowind and the robust game systems show the amount of love put in by developers.

It is also F2P now, but there are certain advantages to subscribing. When they released two brand new servers based on the original game (and perhaps the first couple of expansions) they also put a subscription requirement on them, which is completely fair. I wanted to try them out and get a taste of the grind life, so I was willing to lay down the $15 for a month in August. Unfortunately, I just don’t see myself having enough time to dedicate in order to justify paying each month to play those characters. They did get a second month out of me though; I just re-subscribed today to take advantage of the double XP on normal servers and I also needed to use the expanded character slots offered to subscribers in order to re-roll a new character.

World of Warcraft: Friends shouldn’t let friends play World of Warcraft (an expensive and time consuming habit if there ever was one), but my interest in WoW’s upcoming Legion expansion made me susceptible to re-subscribing and a friend returning to the game pushed me over the edge. Been enjoying leveling a new character with him, but I have not made up my mind on whether or not I’ll be playing for another month. Subscription games are the best deal when you have time to play every day (only 50 cents a day!), but if you’re only logging in a few times a month the cost is suddenly much harder to swallow. I’ll keep my ears open for information on Legion, but I’m leaning towards not renewing. Aforementioned friend is also planning to let his subscription lapse after being kicked out of a raid on the last boss in LFR (Looking for Raid).

What are you currently subscribed to and why?

Gameloft’s Game of War clone just isn’t doing it for me

I love me some Game of War: Fire Age, both for the strategic elements and social aspects, and I enjoy trying out similar games on my iPhone and iPad. There have been a hundred and one Clash of Clans-style titles released on the App Store (which feature a battle style with user interaction), but not so many games which feature the more hands-off approach of Machine Zone’s profit-generating behemoth.


Not surprisingly, when I saw Gameloft’s new title, March of Empires (iOS/Android/Windows), I was more than willing to give it a try. The initial tutorial is much the same as any other game in this genre, the early levels let you build quite quickly while everything is still under the 5 minutes of “free” time you get and it just requires a lot of tapping. The true appeal lies in the later stages in which you choose where to spend points in your hero’s skill tree, what armor you equip him or her with, how you construct your army, etc. Many people complain that these are “spreadsheet” games which essentially make gamers track minute stat gains or optimize for fractions of a percent in increased power and I’m not going to try to disagree. It isn’t a game type that will appeal to everyone.

The glorious hive
The glorious hive

While Gameloft’s usual polish was nice, and the graphics appear much more modern than GoW, there just doesn’t seem to be as much depth. The skill trees available are much more level-gated and the second set that I’m working on didn’t unlock until my academy was at level 10. That took two weeks of semi-frequent babysitting of the game and the second week was spent doing no research since I had completed the first set quite quickly. Time is money in these games and while I’m sleeping I want to have an 8 hour timer ticking down. It felt seriously wasteful to have my research bar sitting empty, something that has never happened to me in Game of War.

At first the game didn’t offer a “sale” upon opening the app and I thought perhaps this non-intrusive approach would be an altruistic move on the part of Gameloft to generate goodwill from gamers, but a few days in they updated the app and now I’m tempted with deals ranging from $4.99 to $99.99. Upon finishing the tutorial you’re also offered a five dollar pack and I did buy it. Why? Strictly for research (maybe). Really I was just curious how much of an advantage it would give me. Game of War regularly includes permanent access to their “premium” version of the dungeon, which is basically a re-skinned casino wheel that gives prizes, but there was no impressive account unlock in March of Empires.

Overall it just hasn’t felt too deep and one of the more unique elements, the ability to position troops in battle, is not explained in any depth at all so without doing some online research on my own time it won’t be something I utilize. Luckily I’ve been able to be active in a Japanese alliance which is currently the third strongest on our server (I’m assuming that there is, or will be more servers) and my own empire is within the top 1,000 last time I checked. I’ll keep plugging away, but so far it hasn’t impressed.