We’ve all experienced it. You download a game that’s in the top 10 free (or paid for that matter) in the App Store chart only to find the game is horribly pay to win. Even if you’ve managed to avoid the game, going mobile gaming forums or Reddit aren’t much help. The topic of pay to win, when in the context of a specific game, usually ends up in an argument. Fortunately, with the right know-how, you can avoid the “pay to win” argument. It just plain isn’t worth having. Follow these five steps and you may never have to waste your time with a pay to win iOS game again. None of these alone are dead-giveaways, which is why it’s important to consider all five before investing your time and/or money on a mobile game.
Read Third-Party Reviews (but Consider the Source)
This tip could also read “ignore the App Store user reviews.” There is irrefutable evidence that App Store reviews can be gamed, and positive reviews are bought and sold. That’s why leaving the App Store and in favor of third-party reviews is a good start. Even if you do look at external reviews, the matter of choosing the right site isn’t exactly a no-brainer. Review sites often accept money for reviews or exchange reviews for site advertising. Find several sources you trust and check game and read their reviews before making a purchase or even spending time on free mobile games. The exception here is paid games. Since the paid list is harder to game, the App Store reviews will be much more honest and believable. In general, players who pay to download a game don’t also want to run into paywalls inside of it. In these cases, the App Store reviews are probably enough of an indication, but feel free to check out the review sites as well, just in case.
Look at the Game’s In-App Purchases
The App Store provides a list of the most popular in-app purchases for each game. Look at the list and keep an eye out for anything that looks like currency: gems, diamonds, and gold should all be red flags. Typically when a game has non-pay to win IAPs they’re usually direct purchases, rather than bought with in-game currency. For example, in Plague Inc., if you want to unlock one of the extra diseases, you just pay to unlock it, rather than buying gems then spending 100 of them to unlock the disease you want. On the other hand, if the top in-app purchase is something like “remove ads,” first off, we hope it’s a free game, and second, that usually means it’s ad-supported and NOT IAP supported. If you find that a game is both pay to win AND has ads, holy-hell, that is one greedy developer.
Ignore the App Store Ranking
Just because a game is in the top 10, that doesn’t mean it’s actually good. This applies more to the free list than the paid list. As mentioned above, the App Store can be gamed, and unscrupulous developers can spend their way to the top through the use of of download bots. (These bots generally don’t exist on the paid side of the App Store, since downloads require a purchase.) Additionally, many games prompt players to review their game before bombarding them with aggressive IAPs, ensuring only happy players are leaving reviews. High-scoring reviews plus top of the free list means LOTS of downloads. It’s a vicious cycle.
Analyze the Top Grossing Rank Ratio
OK, I guess you have to look at the App Store ranking a little bit, just don’t view it as an indicator of quality. Rather, look at where your target game is ranking on Top Grossing versus where it’s ranking on the free or paid list. For example, Clash of Clans is constantly on the top of Top Grossing, but it’s only 37th on the free list. Not a good sign, especially when you consider the top game on the paid list, Minecraft, is 36th on Top Grossing, despite its $6.99 price tag. Again, this isn’t always a sign of pay to win, but it’s definitely a sign of aggressive IAPs.
Consider the Developer That Makes It
This is perhaps the most telling aspect of a pay to win game. Companies that make pay to win games tend to keep making pay to win games. In general, when a profit-loving company finds a profitable business tactic that gels with their corporate culture, they tend to attempt to replicate that success. Today, the biggest companies that are actively making pay to win games today include King, Supercell, Machine Zone, EA, Zynga and others. Downloading a game by any of these developers all but guarantees a pay to win experience.
Pay to win games aren’t for everyone, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad games or that the practice is immoral. Use these five methods to identify pay to win games if you find that business practice particularly unscrupulous. If not, consider this: pay to win games and IAP supported games in general have to rely on the game actually being fun in order to encourage players to spend money on it. Our advice: spend money when you feel you’ll get an appropriate amount of entertainment for it, but don’t support business practices that you object to.