I have written quite a lot about this subject. Hidden throughout my reviews of mobile games you will often find a rant about microtransactions, and how they have now evolved into something much much more annoying than they ever were. However, there is a more current trend of microtansactions that most mainstream mobile companies are now adopting and it just seems like the worst possible solution to that age old question of how best they should be implemented.
Over the last few days, I have been playing the free to play game Stella POP, the latest games from Rovio, the creators of Angry Birds. Now they are no small players in this market and it’s hard to think of another company, with the exception of King, that may know more about the mobile gaming scene. Stella POP may use the same characters as popular game Angry Birds, but mechanically it’s nothing alike. That’s not to say that this game is unique either. Another trend for mobile games is to simply rip off an old concept and replace it with your assets, but that is a topic for another day. Stella POP revolves around firing coloured balls up at other balls to get 3 of a kind, therefore eliminating that row, sound familiar? Yeah, well everyone thinks so too. However, with different game modes creating new and interesting challenges, I am having great fun playing, when I get the chance that is.
The thing that Stella POP does wrong is assume that I want to play the game every second of the day, and if that was the case then I would be seriously out of pocket! After breezing past the first few levels, getting the winning moves presented to you like a delicious meal, you may come across a level that takes you more than a few goes to beat. But don’t expect to fail more that 5 times without running out of lives. When you do finally run out, you can either pay for coins or wait for a couple of hours until they all come back. Now I have said in the past that I hate this mechanic. Why punish the player for wanting to play your game? Luckily if you put the game down, do something else and come back, it has normally reset and you can play again.
Thats not the big problem though, and this particular nasty I have not seen before. When I finally beat a level that I had been working on for 2 days (no joke), I was greeted with a lovely congratulations message for finishing the first section of levels only for the game to tell me that I either had to pay to get to the next section, ask my friends on Facebook to play or wait 24 hours! 24 hours, what the hell is that all about?! I could walk down to any shop and buy another game in that time, or spend the whole time looking for a hundred better games on the app store. I mean really, what the hell is this all about. Don’t get me wrong, I will pay for a game if I think that it’s worth it, and if I could unlock all the content by paying £2.99 for this game right off the bat then I would. But Stella POP is much more evil than that. It knows that it is fun to play and so taunts me to pay money every time I find something challenging or just want to move on.
If you do get stuck on a mission then you can get special balls the can help, but there is no way to earn these naturally – so again you have to pay. All this just adds up to a very bad taste in the mouth and thoughts start to emerge “is this game hard because they want to challenge the players, or is it hard so that people get annoyed and splash cash to move on?”. Well sadly I think it is a bit of both, with a big focus on the latter. By making these games free to play Rovio are not our friends, inviting us to play there latest games, but drug dealers, getting us hooked for cheap then taking our drug away to watch us prostitute ourselves for any coins we can get our hands on. Either make me pay for the game or make microtransations an added extra that I buy for my love of the game, not because I get to play a level 24 hours sooner.