“Freemium” Titles

EA released an update to it’s popular Real Racing series today — we recommended its predecessor in a post just last week, and just like that one this app has stunning graphics and very well done gameplay. But there’s controversy — Real Racing 3 is a freemium title.


This is something we talk about in our classes a lot — what it means when an app looks free but ends up on the top grossing charts anyway. The answer is that developers use In App Purchases to unlock in game bonuses or capabilities. In Real Racing 3’s case, those purchases allow you to repair your car without a time penalty — basically, you can play the game for free, but if you want to play without pause, you have to pay.


The reason why so many games use this model is because they make a lot of money. Instead of charging someone a one time cost of $4.99, they tempt them to make constant purchases in game. Many games use this model, which is why we caution people when they see a free game. This is also why you should be careful with your Apple ID — don’t share that password. Parents who share it with kids have found themselves with hefty bills from in app purchases (Apple has recently settled a lawsuit over the practice, and added a method to turn off in app purchases some time ago. To turn them off, go into your settings > general >restrictions. Enable restrictions and pull the slide for in-app purchases to off.)




We are not saying that freemium titles are bad or should be avoided. You’ll find plenty of freemium content on our personal iPads — and we have varying levels of tolerance for making in-app purchases for ourselves. We know that some folks would like to avoid them, though — it’s easy to enjoy a game enough that you are tempted into making those quick purchases. If you want to avoid freemium titles, make sure you look at the details of an app before you download it. There’s a section that shows what the top in-app purchases are — sometimes you’ll only see a DLC (DLC is downloadable content — essentially an expansion to the original game, or a case where you can trial the game for free but unlock the full game with an IAP), and sometimes you’ll see a list of things. That list signals a freemium title.