Editorial

What if In-App Purchases (IAPs) were non-existent in mobile games

A thing to ponder!

In-App Purchases, or IAPs, work in different ways to modify the experience in mobile games for players, at the expense of some real-world cash. The word “different” is likely an understatement in this context, since game developers take this feature in poles opposite to others. 

Whilst some devs give cool cosmetics through IAPs which only serve the purpose of making you look better, others can reward payments with game-changing items which automatically put you at a higher level of competitive gameplay than a significant proportion of the fan base. Examples of these are Fortnite and FIFA Mobile respectively.

As you may have guessed, and had possibly experienced, the latter of the above tends to divide the fan base. Why can’t everybody start at the same competitive level, without the ability to buy your way up the leaderboard? Well, what if that happened? Let’s just say, In-App Purchases became a rule violation and had to be removed. What would happen to the mobile gaming industry?

Free-2-Play Gamers – Rejoice

Many of the industry’s leading games, like FIFA Mobile, PES Mobile, PUBG Mobile, and more, all tend to have In-App Purchases that automatically grant you the goods, and sometimes exclusive rewards, which are usually difficult to obtain. The key focus here is on those exclusive rewards for purchasers only. If IAPs weren’t a thing, there would be no exclusivity. Pretty much every reward would be achievable for any regular player, barring they can undertake the effort.

FIFA Mobile is a prime example of this. Every year, EA releases tons of items that are not mathematically obtainable unless you spend some money. It’s a pretty dividing idea, but it’s the truth. There are a lot of games that do something similar in locking some very good items behind a paid door.

It is very much guaranteed that at the first sight of IAPs being removed, many gamers would erupt with excitement. That is until they hear what would happen next.

Pay-2-Play Gamers – Distraught

If you’ve spent your own hard-earned cash, only to hear that there was no point, you would surely feel annoyed, and rightly so. These players would deserve some sort of compensation.

Rocket League transitioned from paid to free in the Summer of 2020

When Rocket League on PC/Console made the switch to being a free-to-play game, the people that had paid before were given free cosmetics as compensation. This is the most resource-efficient way for the game developers to apologize, as opposed to refunding payment. Another way would be to give those gameplay-boosting items which give you the edge, one last time, to again, unnerve the free-to-play players.

Overall, this kind of thing would rely on circumstances, guidelines, etc. It would definitely cause a huge ruckus amongst all players and developers alike, which may be a reason why IAPs are still held onto.

The transition of Mobile Games Style

Currently, the game’s trend on mobile is generally free-to-play, with money-grabbing aspects squeezed inside. The good thing about this is that you can still play the game you like on mobile, without having to pay an initial fee.

Without IAPs making up a lot of a developer’s income, the owners will have to find another way to earn their daily bread. A very likely option is the further involvement of upfront fees, like PC/Console. It would be difficult to determine how much this would be though. Most current paid games like Minecraft and Football Manager are all under/around 10 dollars. However, for an on-the-go edition of Call of Duty (without pay-to-play aspects), you would think it would be priced higher.

All the high-profile games would likely jump on this trend, and doing so would basically change what mobile games are known for. Technically, it would just become another PC/Console that you can carry on the go.

Hypercasual Games Thrive

Like on PC/Console, along with the paid titles, you’ve also got the free games. The hypercasual industry involving Voodoo and the like would play this role. If the premium games became paid only, the hypercasual games would be the ones that thrive. They already make their money off all their ads, which would allow them to stay free.

Hypercasual Games

It’s not like the premium games can’t have ads, the only barrier for them is the underlying reputation. Hypercasual games tend to have all kinds of ad banners, pop-ups, and forced ads everywhere. If you’ve played them before, you’d know that it definitely gets irritating after some time. Something like that just wouldn’t fit the competitive, fast-paced gameplay of COD Mobile. They may definitely have more ads, but it would not be near the level of Hyper casual games.

Final Thoughts

Most gamers would have been punching the air with excitement upon hearing that In-app purchases in games will be non-existent and were no longer a thing. On paper, it would level the playing field for gamers, something mobile gamers would love to happen. However, with a lack of IAPs, various problems would emerge, and the industry would change as we know it. Perhaps getting rid of them completely is not exactly what you would want. A change to a more cosmetics focus would be more realistic and more sensible. After all, mobile games are known to be widely accessible to everyone, as opposed to PC/Console.

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