Why I’m a Fan of Freemium

I have reviewed a number of freemium apps during my time here at iPad.AppStorm, and have come to notice that this particular revenue model tends to polarize opinion, with people either strongly for or strongly against it. I fall into the former camp, and firmly believe that the freemium model is a worthwhile addition to the App Store. Want to know why? Hit the jump to find out!

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What is Freemium, Exactly?

Freemium is a business model by which the core functionality of an app is available for free, but a premium is charged to unlock advanced features via an in-app purchase.

People are more inclined to download an app if it is offered for free, and then inevitably end up getting hooked, spending real life cash on virtual currency and whatever else takes their fancy, which is how the developer makes its money.

Patience is a Virtue

It would seem that the most popular way of getting people to part with their hard earned-cash is by making them wait, which is not surprising considering that we live in an era of instant gratification and demand immediate, well … everything. Personally, I don’t mind waiting, especially if it will save me money in the long run.

Freemium apps will not rob you blind unless you let them. All you need is a little patience, is that too much to ask?

Playing the waiting game in The Sims FreePlay.

Ka-Ching!

One complaint that I hear fairly often when discussing the freemium business model is that the developer is making money out nothing, but how so? Developing an app takes time, and as you well know, time is money. I would imagine that the same amount of work goes into designing both a free and premium app; the only difference being is that one charges a fee upfront, while the other does so gradually over a longer period.

Sure, in-app purchases can occasionally be a little on the expensive side (I’m looking at you, Theme Park), but more often than not, these purchases are not essential to progress through the game. Popular titles such as The Sims FreePlay and the aforementioned Theme Park that would usually cost a fair amount to buy, are now free to play in their entirety, albeit at a slightly slower pace.

Theme Park is just one of the many apps that have embraced the freemium revenue model.

Parental Control

I think that we have all heard about that kid who blew an insane amount of cash on in-app purchases by now, perpetrating the myth that the freemium revenue model is an evil, money-grabbing scam. Unfortunately, this could have just as easily happened if a child was let loose on the App Store in possession of a password, downloading premium apps without their parents’ knowledge.

Unauthorized purchases are easily preventable.

Unauthorized purchases can be easily prevented by simply making use of Apple’s Restrictions and keeping your account password to yourself. Yes, it really is that simple.

Keeping it Fresh

Now, is it just my imagination or do freemium apps get updated way more often their premium counterpart? Take video game giant Electronic Arts, for example. Almost all of Electronic Arts’ freemium apps have been updated recently, whereas a lot of their premium titles have not been touched in over a year.

Middle Manager of Justice has been updated for Valentine’s Day.

Regularly updated content is a big part of what makes freemium apps so darn addictive. There is always something new to keep you coming back for more! With premium titles, I feel that a lot of developers stop caring once they have taken your money, which is a real shame.

Have Your Say

What do you think? Would you rather to pay for an app outright, or do you prefer the flexability of the freemium model? Drop us a comment and let us know!


  • http://pauladupont.com Paula DuPont

    I love freemium. It’s like pay-what-you-want, which is becoming a popular model elsewhere. If I like an app enough, I’ll invest a couple of bucks to either get the pro features or speed up the game. Sometime I’ll even do that on a free app when I don’t really need to because I want to toss a dollar into the hat, so to speak.

    When it doesn’t work is when the app is completely stripped down and absolutely everything that makes it worthwhile is behind a pay wall. At that point, the app should have been a paid app to begin with. Then the developer does look like they’re trying to trick you.

    But on the whole, I really love freemium. When done right, it’s a great thing for consumers and developers.

    • http://x111.com Jos

      But that’s the problem, more often than not it isn’t done right, and it’s not pay-what-you-want but pay-or-gtfo. I’m ok with freemium if the free mode gives me the full experience and I can opt to do a bit of IAP to progress faster, but if IAP is an absolute hard requirement for progress that’s where I draw the line. That’s why I think the article is a bit naive in mentioning EA’s freemium apps as being a fine example of how often freemium apps get updated as EA is a prime example of the worst kind of freemium. They HAVE to frequently update their apps because the IAP sadly IS the whole gameplay experience. It’s also why EA’s entire mobile library doesn’t even come close in revenue to Clash of Clans, a freemium game that does give you the full experience for free but dangles the IAP carrot in front of you to just get ahead a little quicker to be more competitive. But unlike EA’s titles it’s not an absolute must for progress.

  • Brady

    I have spent money on freemium games before. I enjoyed the idea of having a competitive edge. It didn’t take long for me to realise that this had nothing to do with players’ skills or game quality. Now, if a game makes me wait longer than its loading screens, I will automatically delete it. Developers who make freemium games with waiting times should be ashamed. Make quality games and you will get quality fans.

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