You had me at free, lost me at freemium

I’m a big fan of having the chance to try things out before I buy them. Before you buy a new pair of shoes, you try them on right? You have to see if they fit, see if they’re your style. I feel the same way about Apps on my phone.

Before I shell out my hard-earned money on an App, I want to try it out and see if it does what it says it does. Or see if it’s as entertaining as it claims to be. For this reason, I love free and lite versions of games. But I have a new pet peeve—freemium games.

I have managed to rid my phone of freemium games, but there is one straggler. I don’t know why, but I’m a sucker for golf games. I bought the first Let’s Golf! after thoroughly enjoying the lite version. So when I saw Let’s Golf! 3 for free, I wasted no time in downloading it.

I was really excited it wasn’t the lite version, I thought I’d scored some give-away deal to land the entire game for free. I shot a birdie on my first hole, after which my golfer did a backflip to celebrate. But after playing a few holes, my young golfer informed me he was too tired to continue. My 64-year-old father can play more golf that that without getting winded.


I had two choices. I could let him rest for several hours (maybe if he wasn’t doing back handsprings every two seconds he could play more golf), or I could buy him more energy. I would happily pay a few bucks for this game, especially if they update it with new courses, but I refuse to buy my golfer little pick-me-ups every few holes. At that rate, I’d be spending quit a bit of my cash just to play each course.

I had a similar experience with Contract Killer: Zombies. It was the first new title I downloaded on my new iPhone 4S, and I loved it right off the bat. I was even using Airplay to stream and play the game on my TV at home. But after a few missions, you realize you’re going to need a better gun. And you guessed it, new guns aren’t cheap. They cost gold, or tens of thousands of video-game dollars, which can be purchased for real cash.

Here I was, trying to save the human race from zombies, and I was being nickeled and dimed for adequate fire power. Sure, you can earn money by blowing off zombie’s heads, but not nearly fast enough to buy yourself the types of heavy machinery it takes to make it to the next level.

The nice folks at Glu, who make CK: Zombies, did include some options for those of us that don’t want to use our real cash to get upgrades. You can “earn free gold” by signing up for a magazine, or gym membership, even an auto insurance quote.

“Did I really just sign up for an auto insurance quote for digital gold to buy weapons? How am I going to explain to the insurance salesman that I don’t even need insurance, I just really wanted to upgrade to the Mortara M75 machine gun, to protect myself from the zombie apocalypse?”

That won’t raise any red flags with Homeland Security…


Earning “free gold” leaves you feeling dirty. While you’re doing it, you know it’s never going to be enough. You’re just going to have to keep coming back for more gold to get a new gun to pass the next level. I started feeling like an addict.

Eventually you end up spending more time trying to upgrade to new machine guns or golf clubs, than you do playing the game. Or else you end up spending a ridiculous amount of your own real cash. The ultimate machine gun in CK: Zombies is the “Hellfire,” which requires 995 in gold, or roughly $34.97 in cold-hard cash.

I feel duped every time I download a freemium game. Remember trying on shoes before you buy them? What if those new shoes you tried on fit perfectly, you loved the way they looked, and the salesperson told you that you could have them for free; but every few steps you had to pay to walk a little bit further? Wouldn’t you rather buy them up front, that way you’d know what you were paying? I hope users get fed up with this trend quickly. I know I’ve had enough, or I will… just as soon as I get a few more quotes for auto insurance.

What are your thoughts on freemium games? Here at Brainium Studios, we’re against using this model. That’d be like us giving away our Spider Solitaire, but making you pay to move stacks up to the foundation. Don’t worry, we’d never do that to you.

Daniel Savickas works at Brainium Studios, where he works to inform the world of theirstylishly-addictivegames. When he’s not playing Brainium’s new Spider Solitaire or Jumbline 2, he’s hanging out with his wife and their dog, Dexter. He loves his iPhone, beer, comics, and lots of other stuff and things.

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