Good freaking lord! Why is it so hard to find a good mobile game anymore? I have recently tried a slew of games and man… they are fucking stinkers. The thing is that these games aren’t always terrible. Some have good ideas on game play mechanics, some have amazing graphics, and some have a really good concept. So what is the issue? The wall! So many good games are being completely destroyed by this wall.
The wall of course is the point in any free to play game where you suddenly and almost inexplicably are unable to progress in the game. Lionheart: Dark Moon has one, Juggernaut Wars has one, Summoner’s War has a smaller one… nearly every single mobile game has one anymore. But why are they so popular? Well… the biggest draw is the hope that you are going to hook a whale or a hundred whales.
Whales are players who spend the most on games. In 2014 they accounted for 50% of mobile game revenue but consisted of just 0.14% of all players. In 2016 the top 10% of spenders accounted for 70% of mobile gaming revenue. That means that if a game wants to survive it needs to be able hook these players for the long haul. In 2017, the top mobile game made roughly 1.9 Billion dollars in revenue. As whales grow, the company also will see benefits from their minnows.
Those players who pay the least will begin to pay more as companies offer “hope” packages to these players. Essentially, bargains that seem like a good deal and might let a player move up in the ranks from the dreadful to… the less dreadful, but these packages will never let the player catch up to the Whales, it is an illusion of benefit that gives the company some return from these players and might even make them longer term players.
Free to play games have essentially become an ATM for their creators and you now see countless clones of games trying to benefit from the quick hits. For every Clash of Clans you have 100 clones. For every Order and Chaos you now have 300 sucky MMOs that auto play but quickly become a cash grab.
Games that are just games have become rarer and rarer of the 160 Billion app downloads in 2017, about 80 Billion are free apps and 40%, or 32 Billion, of those are free to play games. That is a lot of free to play games. If a developer can harness that amount into money, even at a couple dollar average per gamer, a game that was downloaded a million times can become a moderate success.
Free to play games have essentially turned the market on its head. Instead of paying for a game upfront, you are playing for a crippled game that 80% of players will demo for a day and dump while 10% will pay out the teeth to play. What drives these players? Well, the key to success lies in the “Arena” strategy. Essentially you are pitting players against each other (or more honestly against a computer controlled version). You can see yourself rank up and up and if you spend enough, you might be the best.
You might not actually be the best, but spending money comes with benefits. As a player, I have pretty much abandoned the idea of playing games on my mobile device. I have stripped it down to 1 game and I might get rid of that game soon as well. As games auto play more and more, as developers ask for more money, and as games substitute real ingenuity, game play, mechanics, and story for quick bucks and flashy graphics the mobile game market has gone from promising to a pile of donkey shit.
Mobile free to play games are literally the reason everything sucks.