Stop throwing your money away on crappy phone games. That’s the dumbest thing you can do with your money. These supposedly free games make a killing off of bored people who want an excuse to touch their phone. There was a time not too long ago where it was OK to stop touching your phone for five minutes. My Freemium gaming experience was specific to one game, but all of these games are the same. They get money out of players in two ways. The first is that they lock the game and prevent you from playing it unless you pay a fee. The second is they allow you to pay to unlock things like new characters, weapons, and power-ups. It’s really easy to fork over a dollar or two when you’re waiting at the dentist’s office or sitting at your desk at work. Those dollars don’t seem like much at the time, but they add up quickly.
My experience with Freemium gaming was The Simpsons: Tapped Out. This is a free game where you get to build the fictional town of Springfield from scratch. That’s what I was told anyway. The game play in The Simpsons: Tapped Out consists of placing buildings and then waiting a pre-set time period to click on them to get money to buy more buildings. This leads to every town having huge blocks of buildings placed as close together as possible because you don ‘t want to waste an inch of real estate space. That’s not really my idea of proper city planning.
The Simpsons: Tapped Out is actually a money grab thinly veiled as a video game targeted at long-time fans of a beloved television show. I was strong when I played. I somehow got out without paying any extra to the game. Many of my friends were not so lucky. One friend estimated that he spent over $200 on in-game purchases in The Simpsons: Tapped Out in less than a year.
As you play the game, you buy more buildings to place and collect more characters who aimlessly wander the town. Unfortunately, all of the cool buildings and characters have to be unlocked by spending the premium in-game currency known as donuts. Those donuts cost real world money.
Donuts can be purchased in bundles that cost between $1.99 for 12 donuts and $99.99 for 2,400 donuts. The game does give you a few free donuts, but it’s not nearly enough to buy most of the large buildings. If you think people wouldn’t actually spend money on something that stupid then you underestimate how stupid people are.
You’re allowed to visit the towns of friends once a day to collect money. This is a great ploy to get you to compete with your friends to see who has the nicer town. It’s hard not to get a little jealous when you see that your friend splurged for the giant Volcano Lair that comes with The Simpsons’ version of a James Bond villain – Hank Scorpio. The Volcano Lair costs 200 donuts to purchase. In real money, that’s between $34 and $8 depending on what donut package you purchased.
The final straw for me was when The Simpsons: Tapped Out introduced lottery tickets to win more donuts. These lottery tickets cost $1 of real American currency. You know what else you can buy for $1? A real lottery ticket that lets you win real money. It almost felt like the game designers were mocking me. I deleted The Simpsons: Tapped Out right then and it was the best decision I ever made. Way better than the time I decided to go to college. That’s for sure.
As of right now, Think Gaming estimates that The Simpsons: Tapped Out is earning over $100,000 a day. The $100,000 a day revenue is nothing compared to some other Freemium games. The Simpsons: Tapped Out only barely makes it in to the top 10 grossing games. The biggest earners are Candy Crush Saga with $938,000 and Clash Of Clans with $1,186,000. That’s daily revenue, not weekly, not monthly.
Most people who play these games use the excuse that it’s a good way to waste time. I think it’s a terrible way to waste time. You’re doing the digital equivalent of cleaning out a junk drawer. It’s an even worse way to waste money. Put the phone away and enjoy real life for a few minutes instead.
Zach Ames is a half-human half-pizza monster of modern science who lives and writes in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @zachlunch