Freemium: A Costly Mistake for Gameloft

Now I’m sure Gameloft has made some money off using the freemium model.  They’re most recent game, Starfront: Collision, is ranked #46 in the top grossing chart.

Wait… #46?  Even after Apple featured Starfront: Collision as the iPhone Game of the Week?  Gameloft releases have been known to storm the top grossing charts at #2, #10, so on and so forth; never so low in the charts.  Look at the Sacred Odyssey: Rise of Ayden, which is nearly off the top 200 grossing chart altogether after only a week of sales.  And even after a good couple of months of being released, Modern Combat 2 is ahead of both of Gameloft’s recent freemium games.

The best part is is that Modern Combat 2 isn’t even on sale; it’s at its full price of $6.99.

Along with the fact that Gameloft hasn’t made as much as they have with other games, their fans seem to have felt like they have been deceived.  For Starfront: Collision, the first four reviews have all claimed that in-app purchases are stupid, Gameloft should get rid of it, there are uncertainties regarding in-app purchases, etc.

For Sacred Odyssey: Rise of Ayden, people are clamoring on how it’s just a demo after they thought it was going to be the full version for free (I know, ridiculous).  And of course, along with that, people are complaining about the in-app purchase in general.

And for me personally, I don’t want to download Starfront: Collision and Sacred Odyssey: Rise of Ayden.  I haven’t yet and I don’t think I ever will.  What good is it to download all 403 MB only to find out the game is horrible or to find out that I just flat out don’t want to purchase the game?

I rarely download lite versions, and I look at both of those games as lite versions and not full.  It’s just a waste of time to download, buy an in-app purchase, etc.  Waste of space, waste of time.

Now again, like stated in the beginning, I’m sure they’ve made some money.  But have they made enough?  And is it worth making the consumer displeased?

About Daniel

I have been an iPhone game addict ever since the NES emulator came out on the 1.1.4 iPhone 2G. After 2.0 and the App Store came out, my iPhone homescreen has never been the same. Other than writing reviews for App Store games, I play soccer/football, American football, volleyball, and golf. I love going to the beach and fishing on the pier. Some games not available on iPhone/iPod Touch that I truly love are the Call of Duty series, Guitar Hero III, Madden NFL 09, and PGR: Gotham Racing.

10 thoughts on “Freemium: A Costly Mistake for Gameloft

  1. This is a ridiculously stupid article. While I don’t really think that Gameloft’s new in app purchase business is the best idea, I still can’t see why the writer wouldn’t download the games mentioned here to try them out… just coz they’re big? a waste of space? What… unless he’s on a terrible internet plan which only gives him 2 gb per month… lol..

  2. Like I mentioned in the article, I don’t download lite versions. That’s just one of my quirks and one reason why I didn’t download these two.

  3. This article just makes my brain hurt. Daniel, lets do a quick mental exercise. Let’s say Sacred Odyssey were available only in the traditional way. If you were interested in the game, you would do the following:

    1) buy it at the iTunes store for $6.99.
    2) download download all 300 Mb of it.

    Let’s say that after playing you realized that you hate it. You would then:

    1) delete the game from your device.
    2) be out $6.99

    In the IAP model (not Freemium — that’s something else), it goes like this:

    1) you download the game from iTunes for free.

    If you hate the game, you:

    1) delete the game
    2) still have $6.99 in your bank that you could use to buy a different game

    Unlike with a lite version, there’s only one download: if you happen to like the game, the IAP purchase takes basically zero time to activate the full version. It’s hard to understand what’s so onerous about that process.

    The only somewhat valid argument against this type of IAP I’ve seen requires so many “what-ifs” that it just gets kind of silly (“if I delete the game from my device,” if the game gets pulled from the App Store,” “if I decided to reinstall it,” etc).

    If the IAP models turns up to be a failure (the jury is still out), it will really have nothing to do with the model itself. Rather, it will have more to do with the fact that many gamers are barely functioning neurotics who freak out in the face of change.

  4. squarezero, a valid argument. But from a purely financial standpoint and from a fanbase standpoint (the two points I mentioned in the article), freemium doesn’t work. Consumers don’t like it, and financially, they’re making less than their other games (based on the top grossing charts).

    And like I mentioned in the article, I don’t download lite versions. Your argument will only pertain to those that always download lite versions before purchasing; for those of us that just want the game itself, it’d be much better to just have it available.

    A solution to the problem may be adding both a paid, $6.99 version and a “lite” version with in-app purchases to unlock the full version. I see where you’re coming from, but you’ve got to understand where I’m coming from as well.

  5. That’s the problem: I don’t understand where you are coming from. The paid $6.99 version is already available — all that it requires is a couple more clicks, not a separate download.

    Splitting the IP into two different games (a fully paid and a free+IAP) makes no sense in the App Store, since it would also split the download and grossing count (and make it even more difficult for the game to get listed). It would also create all sort of confusion when it comes to updates, since there’s no guarantee that both version would run in the exactly the same approval track.

    You may be right that this new model is being rejected by the fanbase. But my point is that the fanbase is being irrational.

  6. Obviously I did a poor job of explaining. Point is this: the freemium model, as evidenced by the low position in the grossing chart, is not working for Gameloft. Also voicing my opinion on why I don’t think, on a broader sense, that freemium should be used by every developer out there.

  7. Interesting read, but I think you may come off as a little hasty in coming to your conclusions, Daniel. While I do think it’s interesting that these two titles are not performing better on the charts, I think it’s a little early to say going with the freemium model is a “costly mistake” or not.

    I completely agree that the transition in their sales model seems to be confusing to a significant part of Gameloft’s consumer base, and this is never a good thing. However, it doesn’t mean that is the only reason these games are selling well or poorly.

    You compare their sales to Modern Combat 2, but consider these facts: Modern Combat 2 is a sequel to a Gameloft title that was already reasonably successful. In addition to that, it added what was hands-down the best online multiplayer F.P.S. experience at the time of its release, and improved on the somewhat glitchy scripting and AI issues of the first title. Starfront: Collision and Sacred Odyssey are both first attempts, so they don’t have the success of another previous title to build on. And also, in my opinion these games are in somewhat more niche genres than Modern Combat 2.

    Another potential issue which may well be affecting these games’ sales is that they are among Gameloft’s first titles which only support newer hardware. I know that personally, my 2nd generation iPod Touch makes me ineligible to play these games, and I know I can’t be the only person out there who is still using older hardware (fairly happily too, although of course I’d like a newer one.)

    And I don’t quite understand why you think Gameloft’s new model makes getting the full version of these games significantly more tedious. Basically, the game still takes up the exact same amount of memory as downloading a full version would. Once you play the free segment of the game, if you like it, you just pay for it. All told, I’m sure unlocking the full version of the game takes less than a minute and a half.

    Anyhow, one of the things I love most about writing for this site is that we get to do opinion pieces like this one and call ’em like we see ’em. I just think you may be sort of jumping to a couple conclusions if you think Gameloft’s new sales model is doomed based on the performance of these two games, considering they’ve both been out less than two weeks.

  8. Hey Caleb, thanks for your thoughts. Again, I agree with a lot of your points. And again, I’m going to reiterate this: Gameloft’s games are not meant for freemium. Those are just my thoughts, and I just don’t like the fact that so many developers are switching over to freemium just because some other developer made tons of money. It’s mainly criticizing Gameloft’s choice to switch, not criticizing the freemium model as whole.

  9. Wait, you actually bothered to type this all up and put it on the web?

    Great waste of time – looks like you’ve found your very own version of freemium gaming, and you don’t even need any apple product!

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