PaigeFTW: Feed The Fremium Beast

One morning, I woke up and had no desire to engage in my typical routine of Avengers Academy and Fire Emblem Heroes. My nigh-religious ritual dissipated in less than a heartbeat. One second I wanted to do it and the next I did not.

            Somehow, somewhere, the comforting regularity of free-to-play mobile gaming suddenly ceased to be.

            The much-maligned genre is not entirely without merit. The balance requires developers offer players just enough leeway to progress without paying, while dangling tantalizing rewards just behind the paywall, to make parting with $10 easy and worthwhile.

As long as the balance is right, people will play (and occasionally give up cash) and keep playing. When the game dips into too easy territory, players will advance too far, have nothing left to do, and give up. As soon as it veers towards too hard, players will get frustrated and quit. A steady stream of content is the key, which seems easy enough a formula to follow, right?

But many mobile games — particularly the single-player ones — eventually fall prey to what I have dubbed “big event syndrome.”

All these free-to-play mobile games have a base story. Zealous early adopter players can whip through these initial levels and missions in no time flat.

So developers push out special, limited-time events with rare prizes and bonuses. Players, with nothing else to do, play on. And then the next event starts, and the next one, and the next one, and the next one.

Eventually, one in this endless stream of events will be the last straw. Bit by bit, players will burn out and disappear.

It seems such a waste that a genre that can so easily cultivate devoted, daily play would do itself in like this. Developers ask for $20 from a few when they could get $2 from many. Players consume too hastily and get bored the minute the excitement ceases.

Perhaps this genre really only exemplifies modern greed?