Monday, April 30, 2018

"Freemium" Harry Potter Mobile Game is No Better Than Pervasive Loot Boxes

The new Harry Potter: Hogworts Mysteries game is out on mobile is like any other F2P mobile game that tries to convince you to pay for the "privilege" of moving forward in the game at a steady rate instead of waiting for days. But as Eurogamer found out, the consequences of waiting are disturbing.

I've gotten to the point with mobile games that I no longer download the ones labeled "free." If the games aren't full of advertisements, they do what they can to remind you to buy in-game currency or power-ups so you can play. The bottom line will always be about money. So Harry Potter should be no different. And yet, it feels different. I did not download this game, but I did watch a streamer play it over the weekend. For a game with a demographic aimed towards children, it doesn't hold back on pushing the paywall.

In order to progress in the game you need to use energy for actions. With each action you use up energy. Fairly straight forward. If you want to replenish energy, you need to spend gems which you can purchase with real world money. Upwards of over $100 for 3,125 gems. That's an oddly specific number. And like the Eurogamer article points out, the streamer found themselves in a similar situation where your character's energy depletes in the first action scene in the Devil's Snare. Players are expected to build energy by completing certain tasks. However at this point in the game you do not have enough to complete the first action sequence. What happens then? Well your avatar is left in a precarious position of being strangled while you decided if you want to drop $$$ on gems to replenish your energy - or you wait it out IRL time for your energy to return and try again. (Parents beware. Don't download this game without monitoring it with your children as the in-app purchases are relentless.)

Regardless of your age, this is unsettling to see your avatar put in such a position. If you want them to be saved quickly, you have to drop money on gems. And if you don't, are you a monster for waiting it out so you can continue to play? To make the game more of a mind-screw, this happens within 30 minutes of starting the game and you have an 8 hour limit to complete the task. Even if you are not playing the game, the in-game clock continues. There's a good chance that you'll have to replenish your energy multiple times before you succeed. Thus spending that full 8 hours to complete this one task.

The "freemium" aspect of Harry Potter: Hogworts Mysteries is not worth it if the first prompt to buy gems is when your avatar is being strangled after 25-30 minutes of gameplay. It's no surprise that people are uninstalling the app. Come on mobile games. You are better than this.

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