The freemuim game model has been one of the most controversial market trends in the gaming industry. As real gamers, Trey Parker and Matt Stone critically dissect the model in the recent South Park episode “Freemium Isn’t Free”.
To recap the episode; a free Terrance and Phillip mobile game is developed then pushed on users with addiction problems. Stan falls victim to this and soon is spending over $200 on in-game purchases. Meanwhile Terrance and Phillip are outraged that such game has been made so they go to the Minister of Mobile Gaming who in reality is the Canadian Devil.
The free-to-play model works by developers making a cheap game and releasing it on the market for free. For the player to advance, they have to wait for hours to complete a task or pay for it to be finished. Players could also pay for trivial stuff or to unlock hidden sections without having to wait for hours.
While gaining traction in the industry; the practice has been denounced by gamers as a parasitical setup to milk consumers just to advance in a mediocre product. Those who support or give-in to this business models are known as casual gamers , which is why they are despised by real gamers. So its no surprise that real gamers like Parker and Stone would use their show as a platform to critic the system.
The episode was also a jab at several other popular shows that have released free-to-play mobiles games in last few months. The Terrance and Phillip game presented is an obvious parody of The Simpsons and Family Guy mobile game that share a similar premise. Meanwhile the duo chose to support a real AAA title that was released in the spring and was highly praised by critics and gamers.
Not helping the argument in favor of the free-to-play model has been its support from Peter Moore, Chief Operating Officer of Electronic Arts. For several years he has advocated the model as the future while denouncing critics of being resistant to change.
It is because of his support of this gimmick that has made Moore one of the most hated figures (that’s the most polite label) in the gaming industry while EA’s reputation has become toxic among gamers. Its also no coincidence that the Minister of Mobile Gaming featured in the episode looked a lot like Moore.
The free-to-play model is a parasitical model that for years has been praised by the industry and supported by casual gamers in the media. Parker and Stone have finally given a voice to real gamers who have been denouncing this practice for years.
What are your thoughts on the South Park episode “Freemium Isn’t Free”? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.