in Flame Wars, iOS

Freemium apps are killing the App Store

If you take a gander at the App Store right this minute, you will see a large number of large “free” titles. These titles have come to be known as “freemium” titles. What does this mean? This means the developer is being as tricky as possible to get you to purchase in app “upgrades” to drain your bank account.
Freemium apps are now all of the rage, especially when you see reports of in-app purchases accounting for 76% of iPhone app revenue. That is HUGE!

With the mad rush to get paid, developers are resiging to the fact that the easiest way to get that dollar, is to trick as many folks as possible. Mike Schramm over at TUAW posted up a great article about the latest in freemium apps, Dunegon Hunter 4.

It is a popular game by a well known developer, but boy did they pull a fast one. Free up front, but to “enjoy” the game you have to pay, and pay you will.

Dungeon Hunter 4 is a freemium title, and I’d go so far as to say it’s viciously freemium. It’s up to you what the most annoying of its many in-app purchase tricks are, but they include putting a timer on potions so that you have to wait or pay to use them frequently, teasing the player with better items for sale right there in your own personal inventory, or making you wait in real time (or pay, again) for item upgrades and crafting.

This has become the norm, a bad norm if you ask most players of these games. Putting a timer on something unless you pay for it is plain sleazy!

The plea is simple, let us pay up front for a solid game and know we get to enjoy all of it, for that price.

Let us choose to pay 16.99 for an app such as Final Fantasy 5. It’s our choice. I do understand that not many folks will pay for it, but for the ones who do you can rest easy that they will enjoy your game that you worked so hard for. They will enjoy the game as it is, not a piece, small piece, of it prior to deleting it. As for games such as Dungeon Hunter 4, most would pick it up, play it once, understand the business aspect, which outweighs the game aspect, and delete it before their iPhone gets cold.

It’s sleazy, it’s business. Let us enjoy the game!

What say you!?!



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  1. An app like Dungeon Hunter 4 is terrible. Although, I don’t think all Freemium apps are bad. Most I feel give you a chance to play the game before you buy it and many can still be enjoyable to play even without doing in app purchases.

    • Chad thanks for swinging by, I agree that “some” very small amount of games are enjoyable before you have to pay. BUT the problem is that once this catches on, it will become a larger and larger gap.
      My two cents.

  2. In-App purchases are a double edge sword. Sometimes, this is the only way to get people to give your app a “trial” run. Apple doesn’t allow trial apps, so the only way for a single developer to give people a reason to buy the app is by providing it for free with limited functionality and then if people like it, they can purchase “full version” via in-app purchase.
    This was the case with Letterpress (free for only one game at a time), in-app purchase for full multiplayer support. A perfect example right now is Mail Pilot. App looks great, but I wouldn’t put down $15 for that app if it ends up being crap. If the developer had given away the app for free for only 1 email account and limited functionality and then offer full-featured in-app purchase, we would make that decision based on using the app.

    With that said, there are those who abuse this approach and give away a fairly crippled and terrible app with may in-app purchases that end up draining lots of money. At the end of the day, the consumer makes that decision.

    • Pretty much agree 100% with what Moe said. I don’t mind the in app types of things if done only from the perspective of a trial or true “lite” version of the software. Above and beyond that it gets irritating.

  3. I agree with the OP. Freemium apps are just too sneaky and I try to avoid them like the plague. I would much rather pay up front and get full functionality on whatever program (sorry…app) I choose to buy; right up front. Don’t cripple the program by having to purchase later, or worse yet, in the middle of the game where impulse buying would be at it’s highest. THIS is where I find it sneaky. Impulse buying is what (I believe) they are banking on…quite literally.