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Editorial: Dead Trigger and the backlash from a risky business decision

Developers are always free to monetize their games in whatever way they seem fit whether it is free-to-play, freemium, paid full version or free with ads or any combination of those. Sometimes the results may not be what the developers thought they would be. The same applies to gamers as well. Dead Trigger from Madfinger Games is a prime example of this.

Released onto Android yesterday, Dead Trigger is Madfinger Games’ latest release featuring some down right impressive visuals and FPS zombie face shooting gameplay. Needless to say that a lot of people were eagerly awaiting the release of this game which, when it finally happened, made everyone even more happy at the $0.99 price tag a high-quality game such as Dead Trigger came with. That is when everyone found out that Madfinger Games had gone with a bit of a risky business plan for Dead Trigger.

While charging $0.99 for Dead Trigger, the game also comes with a selection of in-game purchases, some of which can be bought with the cash you earn in game while other weapons and items can only be unlocked through the use of the secondary currency. This secondary currency is acquired by spending real money, something most people should be familiar with if they have played and free-to-play or freemium game.

This, of course, angered the general population of Android gamers who had just indulged in purchasing the game and were all excited to get going on their zombie killing adventure. The decision to have a game cost money and then include in-game purchases is a risky one but it has been done before. While some people liken it to buying a car with missing parts like the steering wheel and then having to turn around and buy the steering wheel to actually drive the car, that might not be the best analogy to use.

A bit of a better comparison would be looking at how a lot of people buy Android phones in a lot of countries like the United States. Buying an Android phone through a carrier gets you a cheaper price if you choose to sign up for a 2-year plan. The cost is subsidized by the carrier with the 2-year agreement, making the Android phone more affordable to more people who can afford to shell out $199 for a phone instead of $599 for one that isn’t locked down on a plan.

This is what I believe Madfinger Games was trying to accomplish with how Dead Trigger is monetized. Instead of making the game $4.99 or higher, which a lot of us would be perfectly fine paying, they decided to subsidize the pricing with in-game purchases, offering the game for $0.99. This make it more accessible to a bigger demographic of people who general only pay a buck or two for mobile games. Should they want the nifty little perks that are available as in-game purchases, they can choose to get those at a later date if at all.

The issue isn’t how the game is monetized. This is evident in the plethora of comments across numerous Android sites where people were all peachy with getting the game until they found out that it contained in-game purchases. People were under the impression that the game would come as a whole package with everything included. The real problem is the mistake Madfinger Games made when not publicly disclosing the fact that the game comes with in-game purchases which, in turn, made a lot of people feel a bit cheated.

If Madfinger Games had openly stated in the market description that Dead Trigger would come with in-game purchases, there would probably be 75% fewer comments across all the Android sites expressing anger. That is, of course, aside from the usual ‘freemium sucks’ comments that come pretty much standard with any free-to-play and freemium game release.

Is the game good? Yes it is, very good in fact. Visually it is probably one of the most impressive games available for mobile right now. Even the area map / menu is great looking. Is it worth $4.99? Absolutely and probably more. Can everyone afford to drop $4.99 or more on every high quality game that comes their way? No, probably not. Do the in-game purchases break the game? Not at all.

A lot of the items you buy are more of a perk than anything. Regarding the weapons you will have more of a choice if you buy the in-game purchase enabled ones but it won’t break the game for you. There does need to be a little balancing of prices, both for in-game cash and secondary currency but this article isn’t meant to be a review.

There isn’t anything wrong with trying to pull a profit from all your hard work making an excellent game and there is nothing wrong with trying out new business models either. What developers need to make sure of is that they properly inform their potential customers about what the game consists of such as having in-game purchases. Sometimes trying new things works out and other times it doesn’t. This is something Madfinger Games is obviously learning as this is the first time they have tried something like this.

This should serve as a reminder to any Android game developer out there who are thinking about trying to monetize their new games in new ways. Always be sure to include important facts in the market description so that the people buying your game(s) are not surprised when they find things like in-game purchases after buying the game itself.

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