Are In-Game Purchases Doomed?

I prob­a­bly made my last in-game pur­chase last week on my iPad. Something hap­pened that got me to think­ing and won­der­ing. Are in game pur­chas­es even­tu­al­ly doomed to fail­ure? Are the com­pa­nies who make and/or dis­trib­ute the games, espe­cial­ly the ‘free’ ones, going to go too far and alien­ate their users so that the rev­enue stream from in-app pur­chas­es will even­tu­al­ly dry up? Probably not. But if enough peo­ple react the way I did, and enough game com­pa­nies start to get greedy and stu­pid, they may be doomed.

Admittedly, I am not a big in-app pur­chas­er. Most of the time, if I do pur­chase some­thing in an app on my iPad or iPhone, it is a book or music. However, I have made a cou­ple in app pur­chas­es because the app was free and I want­ed to do some­thing to sup­port the devel­op­er. For exam­ple, I don’t know why I like Pocket Frogsexternal_link from NimbleBitexternal_link, but I do and as a minor way of sup­port to the devel­op­ers, I bought in the game a doo­dad that makes the game a bit more fun. What is impor­tant, the doo­dad wasn’t required to play the game or enjoy it. Angry Birds has the Mighty Eagle as an avail­able in-app pur­chase to help you get unstuck, if you want to, it isn’t required. And being good, I haven’t need­ed it .

But this last week, one of the games I had been play­ing a lot and have made sev­er­al in-game pur­chas­es because I felt it would sup­port the devel­op­ers and keep them devel­op­ing the game, well, the distributors/developers did some­thing that got me fair­ly riled up. I even threw some hasti­ly writ­ten tweets out. After think­ing about it, I made the deci­sion to not ever do anoth­er in app pur­chase in any of the apps that have that par­tic­u­lar game company’s name on it (and I have 5 of them). They made an in-game pur­chase need­ed to be able to accom­plish a goal for the game. Suddenly, an in-app pur­chase felt required to get beyond a point. And I sup­pose what real­ly got me riled up, I had already pur­chased the doo­dad a cou­ple months ear­li­er. They want­ed me to buy it again, this time not because I want­ed to but because I had to.

But my deci­sion has got me look­ing at all in-game pur­chas­es, not just those from that one com­pa­ny. I will prob­a­bly be a lot less will­ing to do any more in-game pur­chas­es because of it. This is true not only of apps on a mobile device but the desk­top ones too. For exam­ple, there are a lot of items you can buy to use in WoW. There are mounts, pets, and oth­er nifty items not need­ed for game play but fun to have. I get to won­der­ing if I real­ly want to spend that kind of mon­ey on some­thing that is so tran­si­to­ry.

Of course, there are some in-game pur­chas­es that just has me head scratch­ing won­der­ing who would pay that much for that. For exam­ple, one game I have looked at has spe­cial deals to buy a lot of in-game play mon­ey for a whole lot of real mon­ey, $99.00! For a game on my iPad? Ok, I hear some of you chuck­ling, point­ing your fin­ger say­ing, you spend more than that to play WoW in a year. True.  But then again, I am not just tap­ping on a few things, plant­i­ng flow­ers, bak­ing a cake, or what­ev­er for a few min­utes and then close the game up. WoW is immer­sive with a lot more con­tent to play with.

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