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What if in-app purchases (IAP) didn’t exist in mobile games

In-app purchases or IAP, are working in a variety of ways to change the experience of mobile games for players, at the expense of real money. Word “differentis probably an understatement in this context, since game developers take this feature at opposite poles to others.

While some developers give cool cosmetics through IAPs that only serve to make you look better, others may reward payouts with game-changing items that automatically put you on a higher level of competitive play than a significant proportion of the fan base. Examples of these are fortnite and Mobile FIFA respectively.

As you may have guessed and experienced, this last of the above tends to split the fan base. Why can’t everyone start at the same level of competition, without the ability to purchase your place in the leaderboard? Well, what if that happened? Let’s just say that in-app purchases became a rule violation and had to be removed. What would happen to the mobile gaming industry?

Free-2-Play Players – Rejoice

Many industry-leading games, like FIFA Mobile, PES Mobile, PUBG Mobile, and more, all tend to have in-app purchases that automatically grant you goods, and sometimes exclusive rewards, which are usually hard to get. The focus here is on these exclusive buyer-only rewards. If ISPs weren’t a thing, there would be no exclusivity. Almost any rewards would be attainable for any regular player, unless they can undertake the effort.

FIFA Mobile is a prime example. Every year, EA releases tons of items that can only be mathematically obtained if you spend money. It’s quite a controversial idea, but it’s the truth. There are plenty of games that do something similar by locking really good items behind a pay door.

It is completely guaranteed that at the first sight of the removal of IAPs, many players would burst into excitement. That is until they hear what would happen next.

Pay-2-Play Players – Clueless

If you’ve spent your own hard-earned money, only to hear that it was useless, you’d surely feel annoyed, and rightly so. These players deserve some sort of compensation.

Rocket League went from paid to free in summer 2020

When rocket league on PC/Console changed to a free game, people who had paid before received free cosmetics as compensation. This is the most resource-efficient way for game developers to apologize, as opposed to refunding payment. Another way would be to give those gameplay-boosting elements that give you the edge to confuse free players one last go.

All in all, this kind of thing would depend on the circumstances, guidelines, etc. This would definitely cause a huge ruckus among all players and developers, which may be a reason why IAPs are still kept.

The style transition of mobile games

Currently, the trend of mobile gaming is generally free-to-play, with remunerative aspects inside. The good thing about this is that you can still play the game you love on mobile, without having to pay any upfront fees.

Without the ISPs that make up a large part of a developer’s income, owners will have to find another way to earn their daily bread. A very likely option is the additional implication of upfront costs, such as PC/Console. However, it would be difficult to determine how much it would cost. Most current paid games like Minecraft and soccer manager are all under/around $10. However, for a mobile edition of Call of Duty (without the paid aspects), you would think that the price would be higher.

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

Hypercasual games thrive

As on PC/Console, in addition to paid titles, you also have free games. The hypercasual industry involving voodoo and the like would play this role. If premium games became pay-only, hypercasual games would be the ones that would thrive. They are already earning their money on all their advertisements which would keep them free.

Hypercasual games

It’s not like premium games can’t have ads, the only hurdle for them is the underlying reputation. Hypercasual games tend to have all sorts of banner ads, pop-ups, and forced ads all over the place. If you’ve played them before, you’ll know that it definitely gets irritating after a while. Something like that just wouldn’t match the fast-paced, competitive gameplay of COD Mobile. They can definitely have more ads, but it wouldn’t be close to the level of hyper casual games.

Final Thoughts

Most gamers would have typed in excitement upon learning that in-game purchases would be non-existent and no longer a thing. On paper, this would level the playing field for gamers, which is something mobile gamers would love to happen. However, with a lack of IAP, various issues would arise and the industry would change as we know it. Maybe getting rid of it completely isn’t exactly what you want. A change to a more cosmetic orientation would be more realistic and sensible. After all, mobile games are known to be widely available to everyone, unlike PC/Console.

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