In the latest instalment in Team Talks - our series of round-table discussions held over Skype - we had a debate earlier today in the PG office on freemium gaming. A heated debate. So heated, in fact, that we have to air it out in public for fear of Skype meltdown. No topic was off-limits, and the words you're about to read are largely unedited.


Today's hot topics...

- Why bother writing reviews of freemium games?
- What's more valuable: your time or your money?
- Is the consumption of mobile games analogous to the consumption of TV shows and movies?

Below, you'll read a conversation on those three hot topics, starring Chris James, Mike Rose, Rob Hearn and me.

Make sure you have your say on the points raised in this discussion in the comments section below.


Pocket Gamer avatar Mike Rose:
Here's a question for you all: why the heck are people searching for free-to-play game reviews? Is it solely so they can check that other people's thoughts on a game are the same as their own?
Chris James:
I don't think so, Mike. It's not about money, obviously, it's about time. Most of these games require you to sink a fair chunk of time (and possibly some cash) to actually make progress, so is it worth it? You used to be able to play demos of PC / console games - did that mean you wouldn't read the reviews for them?
Pocket Gamer avatar Mike Rose:
Well, obviously that's a bit different because you can play a whole free-to-play game for free. No one ever reviewed demos.
Pocket Gamer avatar Peter Willington:
I think by that logic, Mike, why anyone would read a review of a 69p game? It's only 69p after all. Personally, I don't see the difference. Ultimately, it's about people's time, which is surely at a higher premium than the entry cost of any game. Except maybe Kizuna Encounter.
Chris James:
Okay, Mike. How many F2P games are there? Let's say, for the sake of argument, there are 100,000. Now, let's imagine that you need to invest 30-60 minutes into a game to get a proper feel for it or to progress, and you possibly need to sink some cash to speed that up. How much play time do you have in a day? Two hours? Three? Four? Assuming that some of that is taken up by games you're already playing (and many free-to-play games are quite time intensive), you probably have, say, one hour a day for new games.
Pocket Gamer avatar Mike Rose:
It's funny, isn't it, how time has become a currency in video games because of F2P.
Chris James:
Time was always a currency in video games. Time is money. Entertainment is always competing for your time.
Pocket Gamer avatar Mike Rose:
Well, no, it wasn't. You paid money and then the developer didn't care how you spent your time after that.
Chris James:
Maybe the dev didn't, but you did.
Pocket Gamer avatar Mike Rose:
Yeah, but that's not currency, as such.
Chris James:
At some level, the dev did care - that's why most reviews end up including some reference to play time or replay value.
Pocket Gamer avatar Mike Rose:
That's just "how you spend your free time".
Chris James:
Well, exactly. And you don't see that as currency? Interesting.
Pocket Gamer avatar Mike Rose:
Today, devs actually need you to pay with your time before they make any money.
Chris James:
Like TV stations. Or radio stations. Or web sites.
Pocket Gamer avatar Mike Rose:
Yeah. But that's never how video games worked.
Chris James:
I don't think it's that clear cut. There's always been the issue about having spare time and choosing to spend it on video games. If you didn't have time to allocate, you wouldn't spend £50 on a video game.
Pocket Gamer avatar Mike Rose:
I do do that regularly, though, Chris, and I know a ton of other people who do. I have the biggest stack of games imaginable.
Chris James:
That you've never played?
Pocket Gamer avatar Mike Rose:
Yeah, still in wrappers or downloaded but never played.
Chris James:
That's slightly odd.
Pocket Gamer avatar Mike Rose:
Ah, but here's the thing. To me and other people, the odd folks are the people who are spending hundreds of pounds on free-to-play games.
Chris James:
Rather than paying for games they don't play?
Pocket Gamer avatar Mike Rose:
I do play them, just not straight away. I pay how much I reckon a game is worth... to support the dev.
Chris James:
Well, that's a totally different economic model you're creating there. It's more like Kickstarter really, or a charity.
Pocket Gamer avatar Mike Rose:
Don't you think that's terrible in some senses, though. We call it 'charity' when I choose to pay the asking price for a video game. And, really, the prices they are setting aren't that awful.
Pocket Gamer avatar Rob Hearn:
I think most people pay depending on what a game is worth to them, and how much money they have, rather than to support anybody.
Pocket Gamer avatar Mike Rose:
£25 for a ten-hour long game seems pretty decent to me.
Chris James:
And yet if an app costs 69p, people will complain.
Pocket Gamer avatar Mike Rose:
Yeah, and I will never understand that. If you have to think hard about spending 69p on a game, you need a reality check.
Pocket Gamer avatar Rob Hearn:
It's all in context, though. I could see you thinking hard about your next 69p purchase if there are 1,000 other 69p games on the market. I regularly think hard about spending £1 on something, and then go spunk £3 on a pint.
Pocket Gamer avatar Peter Willington:
£25 vs 69p is a totally different proposition, though. The £25 video game is (increasingly) becoming a visual spectacle, with a huge narrative, multiplayer, etc. The equivalent of a big-budget action movie. Mobile is more like TV: consume it and throw it away.
Chris James:
Interesting point, Pete. Although TV caters to a very wide spectrum of tastes. A lot of TV is better than cinema these days. HBO's output, for example.
Pocket Gamer avatar Peter Willington:
Sure. And a lot of mobile games are better than console games today.
Chris James:
Exactly. Plus, you also get The Only Way is Cardiff's Next Top Talented Model or something on TV. Hardly revolutionary.
Pocket Gamer avatar Rob Hearn:
I think the reasons people might need reviews for freemium-type games are a) that there is a large time investment involved in playing them, and b) that there are an awful lot of s**t ones. A map is more necessary when you're in a poo swamp.
Pocket Gamer avatar Mike Rose:
There's a quote for you.
So, what's YOUR view on the freemium gaming scene? Let us know by dropping a comment into the virtual comments box below.

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