Sunday, February 19, 2012

What Grinds My Gears: Free-to-Play Games That Aren't Really Free

Recently, I've jumped on the iPhone train, and so I've downloaded some games to play while I'm in waiting rooms to pass the time. Since I'm on a budget and I don't want to drop bucks on a game without playing it first, I decided to browse the free games and download a couple to see what they have to offer. I've downloaded more than a few, but I keep coming back to a game called, "Pet Shop." Pet Shop is nothing novel or amazing - basically bring new pets into your store with the money you earn and then you're constantly upgrading parts of the store. Each day, you can log in and collect a bonus amount of money, and throughout the day your pets continue to earn you more cash. I like Pet Shop because it's simple enough for short play sessions and because I enjoy simulation games. But Pet Shop is never a game I would actually drop cash on because, honestly, it's little more than the same situation over and over. Sure, it's fun to get new puppies and breed them for even more pet options, but outside of that there's not much of a game here.

Here's the thing, I understand games need to profit somehow to stay "free" and I'm perfectly okay with that. It didn't bother me at first that I couldn't access certain breeds because I didn't have these special purple gems that you must cough*BUY*cough to advance. These gems can also speed up your breeding speed, but I didn't mind waiting, even if sometimes the wait was a full two days. That was fine, but what really was the kicker and what grinds my gears was when these gems were required to expand my pet shop. At this point, I've filled my pet shop to the point where there's no more space for new animals - I'm at a complete standstill. These gems you have to pay for have locked me out of playing the game any further. The game does offer one way to get around paying for the gems: You can ask other people over the social network to give them to you. Umm... something just doesn't seem right about that, why would complete strangers give me gems that they had to pay for? And, seriously, if I let them, what kind of hidden social contract am I entering into? Paid content is fine to keep your game afloat, but it comes an issue when you lock out the non-paid subscribers from playing the game. My point here is you might as well make your game paid then.

I've learned my lesson here - I'd rather spend a one time entrance fee to a game than be led on that it's free and be manipulated into spending money on it later. The problem with Pet Shop is that these gems are costly - you can't just buy one or two - the smallest package is 24 for $4.99, while you can go up to buying 580 for $99.99. Let's be honest, most iOS games cost .99 to $3, and only the triple A titles cost more - Pet Shop is not a triple A title, but it expects you to invest money into it like it is. So, Pet Shop, you've taught me a valuable lesson - very few things in life are really free, there's always a hidden agenda. Forcing the player to invest in the game to move on is just absurd. By removing the option, you remove my desire to support the game at all.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Blog Resurrection!

Hello all,

I've missed you dearly. I ran into a couple of busy months, but I'm happy to say I'm back. I've also decided to make this blog a little bit more column-driven. So far, I've decided to have a monthly post where I talk about about well-written characters. Also making a debut - in homage to Peter Griffin - will be a "What Grinds My Gears" post, where I talk about frustrations in gaming and the community. I plan to also up my retrospective pieces, since I think it's important to discuss what made these games great and how they can better impact our future. I also just got a big bad Gaming PC, so I plan to chronicle my descent into PC Gaming from being a console girl for practically all my life. Although, I will admit: Myst, Doom, and Leisure Suit: Larry were formidable in shaping my gaming childhood. Expect a little "pizazz," to hit this blog (not the Jem villain, but the awesome.) I'm excited to see what I can provide for your entertainment.

As always, I'm curious, what games are you most looking forward to? I'd be lying if I didn't say Mass Effect 3, Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, and Tales of Graces f weren't the highest on my list. And I can't wait until we get a confirmed release date for Bioshock Infinite and the Tomb Raider Reboot. And, of course, I'm still waiting for that Kingdom Hearts 3 announcement, but Dream Drop Distance will have to do for now. :-) It's time to give this blog some swagger!

-Kimberley

P.S. I'm also considering having a podcast randomly appear here every so often!