I’ve talked about freemium games before, and things certainly haven’t gotten any better since then. You’d be hard pressed to find a game that isn’t based on that system these days, and when I saw Mega Run in the App Store the other day, I realized just how messed up the mobile game industry has become.
Mega Run is by the same developer that made Mega Jump, and it’s essentially a Sonic-like platformer with great graphics and a lot of thought put into it. The game is free to download, and the way the developer makes money is by selling in-game currency that can be used for things like upgrades. That’s not all though, if you fall down and die during the game, you can pay to continue on. I mean seriously, what the heck? I can’t help but think back to when I was little and played Super Mario World on the SNES, and how ridiculous it would have been if the white checkpoint portal you ran through in the middle of each level had been removed and the game instead asked you to pay when you fell off a cliff.
The main problem with these freemium games is that they quickly end up costing more than a console game does. Mega Run used two types of currencies, where the most expensive bundle of each is $50. That means the game designers have actually made paying $100 for this game a standard option in the game. $100 for a mobile phone platformer? And not even that would permanently unlock everything if I know these types of games correctly.
This isn’t new, with Farmville-like games pulling this stuff for years. It’s the first time I’ve seen it in a platform game though. It’s a new low if you ask me, and the fact that this is apparently becoming the most profitable way to make money on mobile games is disturbing because it means we’ll just see more and more. I’m not even going to say that I hope Apple does anything about it, because Apple makes enough money on these types of games for that to be extremely unlikely. At this point I just hope that something steps in before we end up paying per block in Tetris.