I’ve made it no secret that I think Plants vs. Zombies is easily one of the best games on iOS. For a moderate cost, gamers can jump in, enjoy the game and everything it has to offer, and move on with their day. Seeing as the game was consistently among the best-sellers on the App Store, there didn’t seem to be any reason to adjust anything.
Since EA has taken the reigns at PopCap, Plants vs. Zombies 2 has been released for free. When I say free, I am referring to the game being free to download initially with plenty of in-app purchases to keep the money flowing in. This is a delicate issue, and one we’ve covered here at MakeUseOf before, but it’s usually something that happens with new games, not established franchises.
There are two sides to every argument, and the freemium debate is no exception. The game going free certainly offers some benefits, both to gamers and to the company responsible for making the game. Let’s take a look at why it just might be beneficial.
You Can Play The Game For Free
This is pretty obvious, but it’s a huge reason free-to-play games, and specifically PvZ2, can be good for gamers. If you are willing to put in the effort, you can enjoy almost every aspect of PvZ2 without spending a dime. While the first game required you to spend some money to even get in the door, here you can play all you want for free.
EA knows plenty of gamers are going to go this route, and they are banking on the few that do put in money to spend enough to support the ones who don’t. This is standard in the gaming industry; the few support the many. There are hurdles to playing the entire game without paying, but it’s not nearly as egregious as something like Candy Crush Saga, which is essentially a pay to win game.
The Game Is Actually Longer
This could be conceived as a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how much you enjoy Plants Vs Zombies and its fundamental gameplay mechanics. How is it longer? Well, when you beat one of the stages, you are taken to a stargate, and in order to advance, you will need to either pay $4.99, or go back and collect a certain number of starts in the stages you already completed.
To make playing through the same levels more interesting, special challenges are added, and these are how you accumulate stars. The challenges might consist of only using a certain number of plants, or producing a high amount of sun during the level. They are actually good fun and for hardcore fans of the game will not feel tedious at all.
EA Can Potentially Make More Money, But You Aren’t Forced To Pay
Do you care if EA makes more money? Probably not, but in the long run, the more money the game industry makes, the better off it is for gamers. The money a free-to-play game like this generates can be massive, which gives EA more to invest in its triple-A games we all love. Want that sequel to Mirrors Edge we’ve all longed for? Well, games like this help support that coming to fruition.
Of course, the nice thing here is while EA could stand to make millions from this game, you don’t have to pay if you don’t want to. It’s like walking into a grocery store and them telling you the food is free, but you have to make it yourself. If you want them to cook it, you’ll have to pay. The choice is yours, which is good.
You Can Try It Before You Buy
If you are the kind of gamer willing to spend some money on in-app purchases, then this allows you to get a good feel for the game before you ever spend a dime. If you’ve played the original Plants vs. Zombies, you will probably like the sequel, but for new players, testing the waters before they invest anything can be valuable.
Generally, I am not a fan of the free-to-play model (with Dota 2 being a major exception). I’d rather just pay my one-time fee and enjoy the entire game. Generally, these games tend to feel like a hard sell at all times, and sadly, PvZ2 is no exception. While some good has come of it, there is plenty to leave a sour taste in your mouth.
Earlier, I mentioned that if you choose not to collect enough stars, you can pay your way to the next world for $4.99. Let me say that again: Five. Dollars. That’s more than most iOS games cost just to get through the first star gate, and the rest of the prices are equally disgusting. EA really dropped the ball here. Small 99¢ purchases are easy to stomach, but here gamers are being charged $5 for a new world and $3 for a single plant.
I want to say there are some good deals here, but to be honest, there aren’t. Even the ones EA lists as providing the best value actually cost the same as the lower values in most cases, it’s just multiplied.
The Content Feels Like A Chore, Even If Its Actually Fun
By offering gamers the ability to pay their way out of content, that makes me feels like it’s a chore, and something I should not want to play. Playing the game is supposed to be fun, and personally, I find it quite enjoyable, but when the company tells me that for the low cost of $5 I can skip it, I start wondering if they even like what they made.
Don’t take this the wrong way, I enjoyed going back and playing the challenge mode to earn stars, as I genuinely had fun playing PvZ2, but I just think that encouraging me to skip content sends a very bad message. It would be like buying a video game where the developer says: “hey thanks for buying it, it’s not that good, so why not just pay us double and we’ll show you the end.”
The Hard Sell With Adverts
Do you like constantly being reminded of things to buy? Of course you don’t, but EA loves to show them to you. Sure, it’s quick to just click the “X” and close the advert, but it doesn’t make it any less annoying. I understand EA didn’t make this game out of the kindness of its heart, and the goal is to make money, but being intrusive to my enjoyment with pop-ups is not going to make me buy a thing.
This is not the worst offender for ads trying to coax you into buying content, but it’s still not a good thing. They don’t happen that often, but when they do, they are annoying. Sometimes it’s not even an advertisement to get you to buy things, sometimes it’s just a request to rate the app. Either way, I’d prefer not to see them as often as they come up.
Maybe I wouldn’t mind the ads so much if not for the aforementioned ridiculous prices, but as it stands, they are just a grim reminder that, even with “30% off” the prices are gross.
So, Good Or Bad?
While I think going back and offering the challenge modes to collect stars is fun, there is no reason that couldn’t be done in a traditionally priced game. If the prices were more reasonable, especially for things like new plants, I would be okay with it, but as it stands, I have a hard time seeing it as a good thing.
It seems the App Store agrees with me, because as of this writing, PvZ2 is the most downloaded free app, but it’s not even in the top 20 grossing chart, which means gamers are downloading it on a massive scale but far less are opening their wallets to buy anything.
Download: Plants vs. Zombies 2 for iPhone, iPod Touch & iPad (Free)
What do you think? Did EA screw up going free-to-play in PVZ2, or was it the right call? Hit the comments section below and let us know!