iPhone and iPad

Plants vs. Zombies 2: Does Going Free-To-Play Mean The Death Of The Series?

Dave LeClair 31-08-2013

I’ve made it no secret that I think Plants vs. Zombies is easily one of the best games on iOS Plants Vs Zombies Is Still One Of The Most Fun Things You Can Do On Mobile [iOS] The world of iOS gaming moves fast. Games come out, generate hype, and are forgotten all in a matter of a couple of days. On consoles, gamers will stick with a game longer, but with... Read More . 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.

Seeing it happen to Plants vs. Zombies 2 is a big shock, and it leads to the ultimate question: did EA make a mistake, or is going free-to-play 5 Free-to-Play Games Coming to PlayStation 4 The PlayStation 4 has some fantastic games heading its way, which is one of the multitude of reasons why you should buy the Sony console over the Xbox One. Having already looked at five games... Read More the smartest move for the franchise?

The Good

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 Need A New Game? Candy Crush Is Boring Compared To This One [Android] At first glance, I Need A Hero did not seem like the right kind of game at all. The name sounds cheesy, the graphics and music did not impress me, and the background story was... Read More , 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.

Plants vs. Zombies 2: Does Going Free-To-Play Mean The Death Of The Series? money

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.


The Bad

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.

The Prices

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.

Plants vs. Zombies 2: Does Going Free-To-Play Mean The Death Of The Series? PVZ2F2P2

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.

Plants vs. Zombies 2: Does Going Free-To-Play Mean The Death Of The Series? PVZ2F2P1

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.

Plants vs. Zombies 2: Does Going Free-To-Play Mean The Death Of The Series? PVZ2F2P5

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.

Plants vs. Zombies 2: Does Going Free-To-Play Mean The Death Of The Series? PVZ2F2P4

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!

Related topics: iPhone Game, Tower Defense Games.

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  1. Ashurii
    August 14, 2019 at 9:37 pm

    EA ruins everything it touches, because their main motivation, is GREED.

    I loved Plants VS Zombies 1, I still play it to this day! But when I first tried PVZ2, the game got so impossibly hard, that it forces you to spend money to get upgrades and power ups to help you fight. I immediately, hated the game afterwords, because its not properly balanced, its designed to make you spend money, and much more then you would then if you just bought the game outright for 20 bucks. And for the record, I didn't spend a single cent!

    What I did do, is I uninstalled the game, and have never returned to it in all these years. I been hoping that EA would put out a buy the game traditional version, thats what I been searching for. But it looks like they abandoned this game after ruining the franchise after the 2nd game, typical. EA is the worst game company ever.

  2. HoraceSciep
    July 27, 2018 at 2:10 pm


  3. Dick Face
    September 14, 2013 at 8:34 am

    I think it is good and bad
    bad because how expensive the in app purchases are, like srsly

    i like it because it is Challenging, free and (sort of) like the original game

    but the worst name yet:PvZ2:its about time
    yet, i dont blame Popcap for this, popcap might have had NO CONTROL over this


  4. Hulsinator
    September 12, 2013 at 11:25 am

    I would have happily paid $10 for this game but I will never pay to win.

    "And the 100m sprint Olympic Gold medal goes to ........ Bill Gates."

  5. Keith
    September 3, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    PvZ 1 is far and away my favorite game on Android. I was extremely disappointed to hear PvZ 2 was going to have in app purchases. I do not like games that nickle and dime you to death just so you can achieve some digital accomplishment. Use your heads people. Do not fall for the trap of the in app purchases. If none of us bought into this scam then the "free to download, pay to play" model would fade away.

    That's not to say I won't spend money on a good app or game. I would happily hand over $10 - $20 for a quality game like PvZ 2. What I won't do is spend $3 here and $5 there until the next thing I know I have spent $50 - $100 on some silly game. Use your heads people. A top of the line game like Call of Duty or Madden Football on PS3 around $60. Don't pay to play, you are only making it worse for the rest of us.

    • duong
      November 20, 2013 at 1:58 pm


  6. Victor O
    September 3, 2013 at 4:00 am

    I have played the game and I must say that I quite like it. I actually like the fact that it is prolonged and challenging, as I feel that if it were too easy, then it wouldn't become a game at all!

    • Yannis V
      September 3, 2013 at 8:11 am

      I agree with you. I think that the idea here is that if you don't want to go through the hassle of doing the challenges then you can pay. It almost feels like they are catering to two separate crowds: those who want a challenge and those who don't.

      While popups are annoying, I don't think they are as annoying as to make me not want to play the game. They don't come up all that often and their demise is merely a touch away. Coaxing people out of their money is not something new or strange. It's been going on for probably as long as the human race has been around. The methods have just changed. I think with a tiny bit of cool-headedness topped off with some I-dont-care-about-this one can easily get over a few pop ups here and there.

  7. Emil L
    September 1, 2013 at 11:12 am

    I loved the first game and the new could be just as fun but I prefer to pay for the game and then play all I want. The pricing modellmade me uninstall the second one after less than 20 minutes an I will not come back unless I can buy the whole package for a reasonable fixed price.

  8. Mac
    August 31, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    For this customer, it was a bad idea as I would have gladly paid a few bucks for the game if it wasn't free-to-play. But since they went down the wrong road, I won't be spending a dime on in-game content. And since I'm not, the game is much more difficult and less fun to play in the end.

  9. Lisa O
    August 31, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    I love the original game and was excited to see that PvZ2 is free. Haven't played yet, but I think it would be pretty good.Of course, that might change depending on how the adverts are showing. I tolerate freemium as long as it doesn't go all its way to annoy me into paying.One thing I can agree for certain, the in-app purchase prices are insane.

  10. Dan
    August 31, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    First off, don't worry, I'm not a spelling nazi. ;-)

    Second, I agree with you that I would prefer to pay for PvZ2 only once. I paid about a dollar for PvZ1 for Android and it was money well spent for a quality title. I'll wait for PvZ2 to get ported to Android and see if I would support EA financially.

    Third, I really hate these IAP-heavy games. I bought Where's my Water for my son, and I had to pay up two more times to unlock the other 2 crocodilian characters. And Samurai Vs Zombies where it costs a fortune to unlock special characters.

  11. Howard B
    August 31, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    "...collect a certain number of starts..." Did you mean STARS?

    "The Content Feels Like A Chore, Even If Its Actually Fun" *IT'S*. "Its" always means "belonging to it." Important to know the difference.