Google is right to take a closer look at free-to-play games

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candy-crush-saga-300x1871The term “free-to-play” has grown more and more misleading with the way some games handle microtransactions. The European Commission has asked companies to be more forthcoming about games listed as free that are nearly unplayable without spending some money. Google will implement some of the changes asked for in September. Those include not listing games with in-app purchases as free and having targeted guidelines to prevent companies encouraging children to make purchases.

Now there are a number of folks doing free-to-play right, such as Blizzard’s excellent Hearthstone game.  As often happens, the offenders have tarnished the reputation of everyone, including the people doing great work. The very term free-to-play has developed a used car saleman-like connotation among gamers. Being more upfront about what is and isn’t free is an important first step in changing that.

Games such as EA’s onerous Dungeon Keeper remake ruin it for everyone. Don’t worry, though. It figured out the problem, according to EA Mobile head Frank Gibeau. He believes EA “innovated too much” where this game was concerned. Yeah, Frank. That’s absolutely what happened. He has also predicted free-to-play will be the dominant pricing model by the end of this decade. If entities like the European Commission keep stepping in, that may no longer be the case.

There are also the reports of kids spending thousands of dollars on these allegedly free titles. Gamers actually love spending money on games that we enjoy. When a developer makes a great product and is upfront about asking for some money, we don’t have a problem paying it. What we hate is feeling like the game is rifling through our pockets while we’re playing.


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  • Matt

    Candy Crush got boring so I started up on Cookie Jam and it’s a great ‘Match 3′ type game. I keep playing because the game itself is good but the push to buy more moves and lives all the time simply gets old. Especially since the total price, if I had agreed to buy power ups throughout would have me spending 100’s of dollars. Maybe good for the company but bad for the industry and paradigm. Eventually, I won’t even look at games like this and only those marketed with ‘no annoying in-game selling’