The Real Cost of Selling In-Game Accomplishments

Asking for real world money for in-game items could be turning away casual players.

By , Contributor

Over the weekend, I spent some time with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 on the iPad. It's a fun, $1 throwback to the simpler Tiger experience that existed on the Xbox and PS2. It even looks like one of those franchise editions.

What's changed is the ability to purchase statistics, leveling up your golfer not merely a game of skill. Each stat costs a few (real world) dollars to max out, while in-game cash is readily available to purchase via a glowing star icon in the upper right corner while on the fairways.

You can't blame the developers for this decision, but you you also can't help but wonder how it comes across to a more casual player, i.e., the friend of the family who owned the device. While showing him the ropes and explaining how to gain experience and money (and how to avoid the real money portion) he asked, "What, is the game not good enough to earn this legitimately?" It created an instant, unbreakable wall, almost a minor paranoia about what future downloads may require without his knowledge, or what he may spend by accident.

It's a thought process I've never considered before. EA has been charging for a quick putting skill boost (and others) within the console Tiger for years, effectively cutting out the entire industry side that used to be dedicated to cheats. If this concept has existed earlier, and under the EA banner, the Konami code never would have existed.

Clearly, it could be having an alienating effect as well. Those users jonesing for a $1 app are suddenly inundated with glowing icons and dollar signs, the parallel to the cheaper, more accessible iPad experience. And yes, it begins to question whether or not EA, as a publisher, has enough faith in the product as it stands. Is the gameplay experience so dry that no one wants to take the time to earn things through legitimate means? Or, is it more representative of the iPad user, a more on-the-go type of gamer who doesn't want to spend hours just to reach a perfect swing impact level?

Both sides are relevant, and an applicable example of the divergence between a widely growing gap between luxury entertainment experiences. But, if you're losing people to something that is seen as detriment to your product, is the financial gain actually worth it?

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Matt Paprocki is a 13-year veteran of the video game, movie, and home media scene. He has written thousands of reviews, has been published on a variety of websites, and contributes his thoughts daily on a diverse range of topics.

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