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State Of Freemium And iOS's Best Freemium Games

12-26-2011, 11:31 AM
Joined: Nov 2011
Posts: 260
State Of Freemium And iOS's Best Freemium Games

Like it or not, the freemium model is here to stay and even major developers like EA and Gameloft are adapting to it. PC gaming had a huge resurrection over the past a couple of years against consoles, and companies like Zynga (huge IPO that makes them one of the most valuable gaming companies out there) made huge contributions with their freemium revenue.

The industry as a whole will inevitably shift toward that direction as the freemium/IAP model is simply more lucrative with the exception of a few established franchises like Grand Theft Auto, Modern Warfare 3 and Skyrim. The cost of creating such franchises is extremely high and most developers will resort to freemium or low cost premium+IAP models to reduce risk. Even the once untouchable Blizzard added real money auction to Diablo 3, another form of IAP which will inevitably result in the company moving toward this direction. Can you imagine iOS Diablo 2 with HD visuals + freemium? It will be a huge huge money maker!

Contrary to the popular opinion, it is actually very challenging to create a profitable freemium game given the amount of competitions out there. Gameloft recently had two failures with Six Guns and Dungeon Hunter 3, neither landed on top 200 grossing charts and their premium+IAP titles are still performing a lot better.

The Freemium Golden Rule:

If you don't pay, you will be weaker than people who do pay, accept it.

Personally, I have no problem with this as iOS gaming for me is meant to be fun and casual. It gives me more satisfaction when I beat people who spend real money and the games in general are more challenging when you have IAP disabled. If you take games too seriously and must have the best of the best items then freemium is not for you. Also, most freemium games make it more efficient to wait long stretches between playing sessions unless you pay IAP to speed things up, it is fine with me as well as I do not expect to be able to play iOS games for hours at a time.

Types Of Freemium Games:

1) Casual - Smurf Village, Dragonville, Crime City, etc are all good examples.

Generally the game rewards you for coming in for 3-5 minutes many times a day, set up your shop, collect your resources, and move on. There is not much "playing" involved but you feel the sense of progression nonetheless. This is still the most lucrative freemium model out there because the casual market is biggest, and those games consistently land high on the charts. However, for every successful hit there are dozens if not hundreds of titles that fail. Being charming enough to capture the heart of casuals is not easy.

2) Grinding - Gun Brothers, Six Guns, Dungeon Hunter 3, Contract Killers, Frontline Commando are all good examples

The game is based on short and simple missions/arena fights and you run through them to get money to buy gear. Things tend to get repetitive in a hurry and you will usually be stuck in grinding the same missions over and over to earn cash to move to the next tier. In my opinion, despite Glu's huge success this year with Contract Killers + Blood & Glory, this type of games is on the way out. It is not casual enough to draw a big audience and it is too repetitive for the more advanced iOS gamers. You are often required to grind lower end missions over and over again for low benefits until you can buy a better weapon to proceed to the next tier. It would be nice if you can wait 12 hours and come back and your character would have made some progression. I believe a base building / resource harvesting component tied into the missions would be a lot better.

3) Premium quality games supported by IAP instead of one time charge - The category I will discuss below. Those are full quality games with IAP friendly mechanics. They are every bit as good as your typical iOS premium game but set up toward IAP instead.

Here is my list and keep in mind I have IAP disabled and have no problem progressing through any of them:

1) Zenonia 4


There are many other free Korean RPGs out there supported by IAP but Zenonia 4 is clearly in a class of its own. Best HD graphics for a 2D RPG and the story/combat system are both compelling. I never got into the first three and their Super Nintendo graphics, but this one is just so incredibly good with updated visuals and native touch UI.

Multi-player is amazing! You get to duel other players 1v1 (the skill cap is actually very high as you have to avoid other player's special attacks while look for ways to set up your own, and different classes with different skills/builds make it very diversified) or even 2v2 to win exciting items and there are team dungeons as well. The PVP is about as balanced as say, dueling another player in Diablo 2, so yes there will be overpowered characters/builds/items but it is still fun! You are not be allowed to use consumables so even if you lose, nothing is lost and if you win you have a chance to win great items!

Complete with hell difficulty and four very distinct classes, this is the only action RPG you ever need on your device.

2) Kingdom Conquest


For me this is the best strategy game on the device bare none. The graphics are a little dated as this came out in 2010 and user interface takes a little getting used to, but no other strategy game has the same depth. You build your city and conquer lands (including other player's!) to build more cities, building up resources and military buildings along the way. You go into dungeons with up to three other players Diablo style to get random loot for your character and random monsters for your army.

The monster system is incredibly rich in that you have to build a team with front, center and rear monsters, each with different skills that are useful in different situations. The monsters are randomly looted from dungeon runs and you can cross-breed them to add skills from say a zombie to your stone golem. When your army clashes another the game runs an automatic yet complex turn based battle based on the way your unit is stacked and the way skills are aligned on each unit. There are endless combinations and discussions on how to build a strong deck in Kingdom Conquest forums, it really feels like a card game of its own and it is incredibly exciting to win a great card that completes your build after a dungeon run.

My only complaint is there is no character customization beyond picking different gears. A talent tree and skill selection for the Diablo side of the game would be awesome. But even as is, this is like Heroes of Might and Magic with a healthy dose of Diablo to acquire your monsters, it is absolutely amazing once you get used to the UI!

I would love to see Sega create a more up-to-date version of this game with better graphics/UI, making it more accessible to the greater population. Looks like they are doing it for PS Vita and hopefully it will be ported to iOS as well.

3) Battle Nations


Take trade nation's city/resource building and throw in a turn based mini-war game for combat, and you get Battle Nations! The visuals are extremely polished, the campaign is awesome and filled with great writing and charming personalities, and there are many opportunities to earn Nanopods, the game's premium currency which you can save for premium units.

The combat is short and sweet and far more compelling than say, double click on a player and have the game calculate my attack is greater than your defense (cough cough, Crime City). The number of infantry and vehicle units is huge although unfortunately, Z2live hasn't fully balanced the battle system so many of the units are useless and some of the units are simply overpowered. Of course this is not very different from most other strategy games, but a little more unit synergy and mix up would be welcome.

My bigger beef is, you can only attack players who are on your friends list. There is already a PVP flag which you can turn on or off (takes a couple of hours however) to make yourself a PVP target or not. Ability to attack any player equal to your level, plus bigger incentives for PVP would make this game so much better!

Add your favorite freemium game here!

Last edited by hitmantb; 12-26-2011 at 11:54 AM.
12-26-2011, 12:00 PM
Joined: Jun 2010
Posts: 3,088
Clearly you have not played Tiny Tower or Pocket Frogs

Betas: Victory Day, Victory March, Zombwich, Mission Europa, Shadow Era, Slice It!, Baseball Superstars 2011, Queen's Crown, Aralon: Sword and Shadow, Zombie Runaway, Third Blade, Tower Defense: Lost Earth
12-26-2011, 12:13 PM
Joined: Jul 2011
Posts: 1,201
Dungeon Hunter 3 has been out for a few days.. -_-

Also excuse my ignorance on this part but MW3 probably took $200 total development cost to create some maps and decide what features to add/remove this time.

On topic: as much as people may hate the payment model, Let's Golf 3 is a pretty decent casual freemium. It's also well supported.
12-26-2011, 03:30 PM
Joined: Sep 2011
Posts: 4,269
MetalStorm: Wingman. It's freemium well done. Yeah, it's difficult to earn some coins, but you don't need them for everything that is in the game. You can upgrade and buy new ships with normal credits that you earn after playing deathmatch, survival or campaign.
Other cool freemium games are Battle Bears Royale and Bullet Time HD. You must play them.
In these three games you can advance without spending a lot of money in IAP. Yes, it costs some time, but at least it is NOT impossible.