Namco Bandai Says Freemium Games Are Hurting High Quality Titles – Gives Consumers Unrealistic Pricing Expectations


If you fancy yourself an Android gamer, you’ve probably noticed the growing trend of “free” titles landing in the Android Market. More and more game publishers are switching over to the free-to-play or “freemium” business model, offering their games free of charge — but with a catch. Players soon learn that a game is sometimes unplayable without buying various in-game items via in-app purchases to progress.

I have a love/hate relationship when it comes to freemium games in the Market. I think when executed correctly, a game can be enhanced by in-app purchase. For instance, when buying upgrades or power-ups — things that enhance gameplay. Where things turn sour is when an in-app purchase is practically required just to progress in a game and that’s where players are get salty, resulting in low ratings for the app.

If free-to-play games aggravate you as a consumer, a few game publishers aren’t too particularly fond of them either. Namco Bandai is one such game publisher who had some rather harsh words to say about this new “free-to-play” business model that’s been sweeping the nation. During a videogames conference in Europe, Oliver Comte, Namco Bandai’s senior VP for Europe said he believes free-to-play games are hurting the industry by giving consumers unrealistic pricing expectations that bigger triple-A titles cannot possibly compete with.

“Free-to-play games can’t be high quality. We need to put certain value on certain work. When you’re a big company, you can’t take risks too quickly, you can’t make a change just because there’s a fashion for a couple of years; you want to be there in 20 or 30 years.”

I would definitely disagree with Mr. Comte when it comes to the quality of freemium titles. I’ve seen plenty that are more full featured and graphically impressive than anything Namco Bandai can churn out although, I do believe he’s right in saying consumers are beginning to expect every title to come with a $0.00 price tag.

That being said, developers have to make their money somehow — whether through ads or in-app purchases — so remember that the next time you leave feedback in the Market. Developing ain’t easy and freemium games don’t seem to be going away anytime soon. Would be nice to see developers being offering 2 versions of their games — full priced and freemium. Now, that’s a trend I could get behind.

[Via IndustryGamers | PocketGamer]

Chris Chavez
I've been obsessed with consumer technology for about as long as I can remember, be it video games, photography, or mobile devices. If you can plug it in, I have to own it. Preparing for the day when Android finally becomes self-aware and I get to welcome our new robot overlords.

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  1. While I’ll drop 7.99 on a game I want in a heartbeat, I’d never buy a .99 gun or something in a free game, even if I really liked the game. I rarely install free games anyway…if it’s worth playing, the devs should have no problem setting a price up front. I don’t want to be nickled and dimed to death buying powerups to finish what is quite literally a glorified cell phone game.

    Words with Friends is a perfect example…I’d happily buy a 2.99 version of their app to unlock all the features and get rid of ads, but I’m not going to spend the money in-app to do that. It’s just principle. I don’t mind being sold a game, but don’t give me a game and then charge me to play it. It seems dishonest.

    1. Very well put!

    2. Took the words right out of my mouth (or keyboard, as it is). I have absolutely no problem paying $5 bucks for a game, or $10+ for great titles.  I would have easily payed $10 for the new GTAIII or Shadowgun.  They are great games and I have spent hours playing them.  Heck, I used to pay $7 to $10 bucks to get crappy games on my  old Razr (V3M, not the new one).  And he makes a good point when he says that free games give consumers unrealistic pricing expectations.  Just look at some comments in other posts or reviews that start with “I’d never pay $XX for a mobile game”.  Now compare the price of android games to what you’d pay for a PSP for DS game, which arguably might not be as good (eg.Shadowgun is way better than some game for my PSP that I payed $50 for).  $5 to $10 bucks for a great game on my DX2 or Xoom doesn’t seem like too much.  In fact I think I’m getting a great value for my money.

  2. While I agree and disagree on certain points to certain extents, I will say that this is a great article. I see you guys get a lot of crap in the comments, but as far as technology blogs go, Phandroid is a great site with some great editors. Even though there are a lot of typos :p it’s the idea and feeling of an article, and I think this one is great! Keep up the good work guys! (For what it’s worth, this is the only tech site I check multiple times daily)

  3. I find it highly amusing that someone from high and mighty Namco would have the audacity to talk about the quality of games when the full library of Namco games like Dig Dug, Galaga, Popeye, and Burgertime IS NOT currently available for Android. I suggest before you talk about someone’s condition, take out the trash out of your own.

    1. all it shows is that they don’t like that they aren’t able to exploit people – that is literally was this is the definition of. Basically “how dare you all compete!”

  4. Quick. Lets pass the SF2PA (Stop free 2 play act)! Nver mind it doesn’t have a nice acronym, it’ll never pass!

  5. I don’t get to into the freemium games myself. I would rather buythe full game and enjoy it without having to pay anything when I get to a certain point. I am a loyal customer to certain developers, such as gameloft. Other games like shadowgun, riptide, and gta3 are well worth the money too. I do feel though, that it would help to release a demo of your game for free, so when it comes to paying for the game, the customer knows what they are getting and feel more comfortable with the purchase. I also think the google could release a new section in the games, for demos only

  6. I never buy any app that costs more than $0.99.

  7. I think there are indeed niggles to work out in the freemium market woth policy and what not but saying they are bad and low quality is pure ignorance, there are many high quality apps, just look at how popular F2P is on the PC, there are some epic titles that only charge for appearance customisations and extra xp boosts, take battlefield heroes, firefall both amazing quality with a good micropayments system for extra stuff not detrimental to unfair gameplay or quality and enjoyability (lol new word)

    1. The thing is, a lot of the F2P PC games started out under the more conventional subscription model and only switched to free to play later… 

      On the other hand, the games being churned out on the mobile platforms are F2P from the beginning. Some of them are very good, but I’m also frustrated by the fact that they seem purpose-designed to constrict the person who can’t or won’t spend a lot of money.

      The sad part is that in the end, you’ll pay a lot more for a “free” title than for a paid game, with the costs for upgrades and DLC.

      1. Oh don’t get me wrong I agree. The games I mentioned were developed and maintained under the F2P model, granted Battlefield Heroes is owned by EA and a DICE spin off and Firefall is developed by a team of devs set up by the ex-design lead of WoW. So those titles have “pedigree” behind them, so a very unfair comparison to mobile app games on Android/iOS etc :P

        But yes they do manage to ruin gameplay and your wallet by putting in horrible enforcing payment methods to make the game rubbish unless you do so.

        Things do need to change there or they should just not do a free game in the first place. I prefer to buy the game outright on my phone but do enjoy the high quality F2P PC titles that aren’t ruined by XP buying models :) such as BFH and Firefall.

  8. I like the model Asphalt 6 HD uses. (technically is isn’t a free game but a somewhat similar model.could be used on free games.) Basically you can play through the whole game without in app purchases. However, if you’re the impatient type, can’t get past a level, or cant get five stars on one you can buy a few extra stars/cash/etc. I could see a slight adjustment on that model working well for freemium games. Basically I agree with the articles take on what makes a good freemium game.

  9. I hate freemium apps, especially those that you have to buy stuff just to keep playing the game. I don’t mind having people pay for upgrades, (which I would never do) but don’t nickel and dime us to play the game. I have no problem spending $5 or so on a quality app, especially if there is lite version so I can try it (which is essential on Android, to see if it works on your phone/ OS number).

  10. I have but one thing to say. APKTOPS.COM <33

  11. Not that I entirely disagree with the “we want it free” mentality being a problem. Still, this is pretty funny coming from the company who charges $60 MSRP for a Gundam Blu-ray with only a single 45 minute episode on it.

    Their entire company is built on unrealistic pricing.

    1. Ugh… I’m tired of $60 games in general. That’s one reason I haven’t bougth Skyrim yet; I simply refuse to pay $60 for a video game.

      Well, that’s not entirely true: I’ve paid that much for collector’s editions, but that’s when I’m getting stuff above and beyond just the game.

  12. honestly i don’t pay for games. i pay for food, clothing, gas, etc.. etc. and i love the “freemium” games that i have. i don’t mind ads so long as they aren’t intrusive; angry birds and hanging/words with friends are great examples of “doing it right”. the devs get paid and i get a great game, free of charge to me. in app purchases? not gonna happen, but some people will do it and i don’t mind them being there if it’s something i can do without in-game. if it’s not then i just uninstall and move on; i don’t really see it as something to give a low rating over. 

  13. I just hate when people install a free game or app, then complain because it has ads or you have to purchase other parts.

    1. Yeah, I just want to scream “well, duh, you idiot!” every time someone complains about that.

  14. Glu Mobile has been a pretty big time abuser in this field. I enjoyed Eternity Warriors and Contract Killer: Zombies up until it got impossible to progress any further due to needing to by items that I refused to pay for. I’m already a big doofus for having dropped loot on FB games in the past. I refuse to be anymore of an idiot by paying 4 or 5 bucks for a non-existent sword or armor in a game that I will grow tired of in less than a week.

  15. Personally, I still like the Shareware model – which is really no different than the “free demo” model we see now; it just has a different name.

    Truth be told, I think that the Shareware model is still the most perfect method of distributing software. Unlike modern demos, which are often very limited, shareware software was usually fairly functional, even if some features were locked. This allowed the people who couldn’t afford it to still get some use out of a product, and the developer still made money when a product was worth buying.

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