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Mobile games have been around for a long time now. Believe it or not, the very first mobile game was introduced in 1994. It was a pre-installed game of “Tetris”.

Over two decades later, we now have hundreds of thousands of games available at the tap of our fingers. When we look back at the past years, countless developments and upgrades were made especially in the mobile gaming industry. But, along with the advancements are the problems that the industry faces. In this article, we take a look at what’s wrong with free to play mobile games and more.

History of Mobile Games

History of Mobile Games

The concept of free-to-play mobile games has been around since the 1980s. They were first used for software to offer a time-limited version which would eventually encourage users to pay for the full version.

In the beginning, mobile games were pre-installed on devices such as Nokia. These popular games such as “Snake” were a massive hit with people worldwide. It wasn’t until smartphones came around that the concept “freemium” really came about.

The first games uploaded to the Google Play Store/App Store either were completely free or paid. As smartphones evolved, so did the mobile gaming industry. They realized the potential of gaming on mobile devices, so they created the system of what’s known today as “Freemium” games.

Nowadays, there aren’t really “free” games. There are several ways developers make money on these so-called “free” mobile games. To a normal mobile gamer, these methods may not be as obvious that’s why it’s become so effective. But even if they were, there are still a lot of people willing to pay real money to play the full version of these mobile games.

How Freemium Mobile Games Make Money

For mobile games, making money isn’t as obvious as you may think. Sure, you know that paid games make money by charging you upfront. But how about freemium games? Do you really know how they’re making money off you? You may have some idea, but here are the ways developers make money from mobile games.

Ads – Perhaps the most popular way to make money on mobile games is through advertisements. These are the little annoying things you see on your screen that sometimes pops-up all of a sudden. By allowing your app to display ads, you’re getting paid by advertisers. This is especially true for popular games were the number of people that sees their ads determine their income. But what about less popular games? Well, they make money when you click on ads which make them money through commissions. Some apps allow you to get rid of the ads by paying. That’s how they make money.

Microtransactions – Freemium games are free to download but offer small in-game purchases called microtransactions. Think of games such as Fortnite Mobile, Clash Royale, Clash of Clans and Candy Crush. The in-app game purchases differ from game to game, they can come in the form of extra levels, skins, characters, gears, loot boxes and more. Some in-game purchases make a significant upgrade to a player’s character attributes some games allow these for cosmetic purposes only.

Games WIth Paywalls

These games allow you to download and install the game for free but for a limited time or limited levels only. In order to progress, you’ll need to unlock the game by paying money. The idea is simple, to entice the gamers to pay for the full experience. This works for some games because players can decide whether to pay or not. If not, there’s no harm done but for those who buy, that’s where they get their income. This model is somewhat outdated though since most of the games today are freemium.

Out of the millions of players worldwide, it’s widely known that only 10% of gamers spend big money on mobile games. These people are the target of the developers. Even if the percentage is small, it’s enough to propel this industry to a billion-dollar one.

What’s Wrong with Free to Play Mobile Games

What’s Wrong with Free to Play Mobile Games

At first glance, freemium games seem to be harmless. Unlike video games where you need to buy it first before you can play it, freemium games are the opposite. You need to play first before you buy anything. What’s wrong with this, you ask?

Unfair advantage – One of the biggest issues that have haunted free to play mobile games over the years is the unfair advantage players get when they spend money on these games. Little upgrades may be nothing but players who spend thousands of dollars on these games begin to have an unfair advantage over those who play only. These games then become “Pay-to-win” as most people call it. This unevenness causes the game to lose some value which is detrimental in its growth and for players.

They force you to spend – For those who can’t control their urges to purchase in-game, it’s detrimental. Freemium games are designed to make players spend as much as possible so it’s impossible for some not to spend. When some guns or levels cost money, you can’t possibly enjoy the game fully if you just play without buying those. Those are exactly the type of people that developers are targeting.

They make it easy to spend huge money – There are known cases of children or teens spending thousands of dollars on freemium games. How did this happen? By using their family member’s credit cards. Google Play and App Store have made it easy to purchase in-game items – by linking your credit/debit cards. When children are unsupervised, they can easily spend money without knowing the consequences. That’s exactly why freemium games are dangerous to play if you don’t know what you’re doing.



Those are the reasons why free to play mobile games isn’t all pretty. However, freemium games also have advantages such as allowing players to play the game for free. Another advantage is that they are bringing a lot of advance games to a huge market which allows players to easily download them. However, you just need to be careful when playing these games if you don’t want to end up overspending.