Have IAPs (In app purchases) ruined tycoon / city builder / buy & sell games on mobile ?
It's the year 2021 and mobile gaming is a popular as it has ever been, with over 3 million apps in the app store and longtime Rivals Google play holding near to a third of that figure.
As the industry gets more and more saturated with 700+ of apps added every day to the app store, the competition is as fierce and aggressive as ever and players attitudes towards the way games are played and payed for has changed significantly.
Gone are the days you would buy an app for a one time cost and enjoy the full game... now in 202, it's expected in 99% of mobile games for there to be a pay gate somewhere.... at some stage... and some would argue this expectation is a good thing, Developers can shamelessly add pay gates, in app purchases and premium in game currencies without standing out because... well... everyone else is doing it.
And yes Apple Arcade was a subscription service created by apple which was made to combat this problem and offer a service with a library of premium games with no pay gate and yes there re a few tycoon-esque games on there but primarily family and indie games and ok that's great and all but what about the non apple arcade developers who want to create a tycoon / city builder game which is not pay to win... you may say this request is suicide and in this current climate you could nto possibly survive in the mobile space without in app purchases....
Now going back to the app store, see now there is a stigma or an expectation that mobile games released with city building and tycoon elements :
Expectations players have of mobile games released with city building and tycoon elements :
A) The player will assume it will be a "Pay to win" game
The assumption will be that there will be a pay gate , premium in game currencies and an energy system also would be expected where users might have to fork out cash to carry on playing for extended periods at once..
B) The player will assume the game will "Lack Quality and Depth" compared to a steam release
When we think "Hay Day", "Adventure Capitalist", "Clash of clans", "Kim Kardashian's Hollywood" or any other iPhone game with tycoon / building elements we think 5 minute casual time wasters with no real story or depth... Its usually assumed these will be an entirely casual affair...
C) The player will by default, assume it is "Based in real time"
The player will by default assume the game is based in real time, expecting money to be earned while away form the app and the cogs of the games world to still be turning when they close the app...
D) The player will assume the game wil be "online with SOME multiplayer elements"
Even if its just visiting other players not so developed worlds for an ego boost or a high score board with friends, players now expect some sort of online competition or collaboration.
D) The player will assume there will be "social media integration"
Alot of players will expect to be greeted with a social media sign in using either Facebook,instagram, twitter or another major social media platform. This is so they can play and compete with friends.
Now you may be thinking ok but this is clearly what people want otherwise it wouldn't be as successful.. but if that is the case then why was apple arcade created? surley this means their is a small glimmering hope that SOME of apples users / player base have had enough of IAPS.
So does a one off pirchase game with Tycoon / City builder elements , No Social media integration, No real time time or online elements have any feet to stand on?
and more importantly why create a game like this in 2021?
I want you to think back, what are some of the best / your favorite tycoonesque / city builder games of all time and I don't mean just mobile gaming I mean overall. For me a few of my favorites are :
1. Rollercoaster Tycoon 1 & 2
2. Side Miers Pirates
3. Hospital tycoon
4. Zoo tycoon
5. Insaniaquarium (Not technically in this genre but it has all the elements)
would these games be the same if they where launched on mobile and had in app purchases or pay gates.. .well probably
And you notice 100% of the titles above, (Apart from being shamelessly old-school) all of them were launched on pc, and most of them have ported to iPhone / app stores, And the ports of course are modified to fit the IAP culture - apart from a handful of carbon copies which are available of the greats on app stores ( such as the original rollercoaster tycoon ).
So what is the answer to this problem? the above evidence would suggest the best thing to do would be release on pc / console first, gain a following and then create an IAP version for mobile app stores. This is correct however if your looking to release an unknown city builder / tycoon game on mobile with no in app purchases or an established fan base then you may be disappointed.
So Have IAPs ruined tycoon / city builder games on mobile ?
well yes and no, of course the answer is wholly subjective however if you are a dev who likes the good old days of buy once pay never again then yes the IAP culture has made it harder to stand out, especially when you are providing something which does not stack up to player expectations.
Like everything, Times are constantly changing and fast and the attitudes towards the way we pay for games is constantly changing also so if you are the "Anti-IAP" type perhaps all you need to do is sit tight and see what the future brings...